Strange Sounding Photography Terms Explained

Photography is full of technical terms, from simple and easy to understand words to highfalutin jargon. Then there are also the funny, strange sounding words that make us smile as we wonder what it means. I gathered a list of these terms that may sound silly but are quite important in the language of photography:

hot shoe Strange Sounding Photography Terms ExplainedScrim – this is thin material (usually fabric, but seamless paper is also used) that is placed between the subject and the light to reduce its harshness or intensity.  It can be made of a gauzy, almost transparent sheet that becomes part of a diffusion panel when it is fastened on a frame. Scrims are quite handy since they are lightweight and portable, they don’t cost much and they’re very effective. Scrims are often used for outdoor shoots when you don’t want the glare of the sun to cause blown out spots or make your model squint.

Hot shoe – this is when, after hours of walking around taking pictures, your shoes and feet start to get hot. Kidding! This term refers to the clip at the top of your camera where you attach your external flash unit. It electrically links the flash to the shutter mechanism and synchronizes the two when the shutter button is triggered.

Snoot – ‘Snoot’ sounds like ‘snout’ and come to think of it, it does look like one. This is a cone shaped shield or cylinder that is attached to a light head such as a flashgun to project a concentrated light beam to the subject. It prevents light spill and allows you to direct the light to a smaller area than if there was no snoot.

Parallax – this is the image difference between what you see in the viewfinder and what the lens sees and captures. The viewfinder is not in the same exact spot as the lens, more often than not it is an inch or two above it, and so there is a variation which gets more noticeable the closer the subject is to the camera.

GoBo – slang for ‘goes beyond optics’, a gobo is something that changes or blocks the beam of light as it leaves your light source. There might be areas in your setup that you do not want lighted and this is where a gobo can come in handy. These can also be used for effect, such was with colored glass gobos or metal gobos formed into shapes (like stencils) which will create similar shadows shapes that adds to the elements in the shot. If your light beam can be adjusted from soft to strong light, it can then either make the shapes soft and diffused or hard and well defined.


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Photographing Fruits and Vegetables

bananas Photographing Fruits and VegetablesAre you at a loss for a subject to shoot? Why not pick some very common subject matter and see if you can present it in interesting ways? Challenge yourself with little exercises in composition, lighting, and creativity. What better way to do this than to start by photographing common vegetables and fruits. They make such great potential subjects because they come in so many varieties, from long purple eggplants to broccoli sprouts that look like miniature trees; from small bright berries to giant watermelons. They are also very accessible. You can get them in the market, if you don’t already have them in your refrigerator. Among other things, you can mash, slice, dice, puree, cook, chop, carve, squeeze, or shred them.

Fruits and vegetables are usually full of fascinating textures, shapes and colors. By using strategic composition and lighting, you can show them off successfully.

peppers Photographing Fruits and VegetablesClose up or macro shots, for instance, will direct the viewer’s eyes to the intricate details. These details may not be obvious or even interesting if seen at a regular distance. But by showing how the fruit or vegetable looks like up close, then the viewer gets to notice and appreciate what he or she would normally miss. The skins or surfaces are usually textured and peeling or slicing them off will show further details and textures.

These objects also make fantastic still life subjects. You might have noticed a lot of still life compositions of fruits and vegetables in other art forms, especially in painting and drawing. They allow the artist to practice capturing how they catch the light, how their varied shapes and forms flow in the frame, and how their colors complement each other. Aside from all these, they are universally recognizable. There is no need to explain what they are, so the artist is free to simply depict the beauty of their existence.

Fruits and vegetables can be photographed in the studio or indoors where lighting conditions are controlled and onion Photographing Fruits and Vegetableswhere they have been rinsed to remove specks of dirt. But shooting them outdoors, still clinging to the stem or root and a part of nature, is another effective way of portraying them. Taking advantage of it being in its natural habitat and soaking up the sunlight can make for some wonderful shots.

There are many ways to use lighting to show off the best features of fruits and vegetables. Window light is a great light source especially for still life shots since indirect sunlight, plus sidelighting, can introduce mood and drama. Intense light might make fine details disappear but can also make strong patterns more prominent. Backlighting can turn them into silhouettes or can illuminate them better especially if they are transparent or not very opaque.

 

 


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Sharpening Images and the Unsharp Mask

One of the most often used and abused post processing tools are the sharpen filters. When applied properly, sharpening can boost the image by making it look crisper and more defined. However, there is a tendency to go overboard with this and the image can come out looking unnatural and ‘oversharpened.’ There is the popular misconception that if you sharpen a blurry image, it will magically appear clearer. What does happen is that the blurry image will just look more terrible. 

Sharpening works by exaggerating the contrast of the object’s edges, giving the viewer the impression of distinct delineation. There are many ways to do this. You can sharpen the entire image in one click with the Sharpen filter or you can use the Unsharp Mask for more control over how defined you want the sharpening to be. Some people prefer to use the High Pass Filter or the Smart Sharpen. Whichever method you use, just remember to be light-handed when sharpening since too much can make the image look unnatural with distorted pixels. One tip would be to sharpen only certain areas in the shot instead of the whole image. For example, if your image is of a bird flying against the cloudy sky, sharpen only parts of the bird while leaving the sky untouched to keep it looking smooth. 

An image edited with a simple Sharpen filter:

sharpcomp Sharpening Images and the Unsharp MaskWhen editing your image, always leave sharpening for last. Sharpening in the middle of editing is not advisable especially if the image might be resized later on. For full effect, do it when you have settled on the final size of your image. If you’re planning to sell your shots in a stock site, try not to sharpen your images at all. The buyers of your image might want to resize the shot and if there is obvious sharpening, they might be turned off from buying the image. Microstock sites have reviewers who peruse every single image that is submitted for possible photographic defects. They are very particular with photos that look too sharpened and I have had shots rejected because of oversharpening even though I hadn’t sharpened them at all.  

Sharpening might not make blurry images clearer but it can make images with soft edges appear better defined, and this can make a world of difference in your shot.

Let us use one sharpening tool and see how it works:

The Unsharp Mask is a quick process to emphasize the acutance (edge contrast) of details and it is controlled by three settings:

Radius – this defines the section to be sharpened. If you choose a low radius, only the pixels close to the edge will be sharpened and if you use a high radius, the larger the affected area. If you start seeing unsightly halos around the edges, it means you’re setting the radius value too high and is an indication to decrease the radius value. 

Amount – The edges of details have a lighter and a darker side and this setting controls how much contrast is applied. The light areas become lighter and the dark parts become darker when you increase the percentage amount.

Threshold – this limits the amount of sharpening that is applied to the image by determining how close pixels should be in order to be considered as edge pixels.  If there is little difference between pixels in a certain area, such as skin tones or an empty sky, then the threshold can be set to leave these areas from being sharpened. 

The settings to be used vary with each shot. Image size plays a big part in this case. For an image with a small print size, you would not need to increase the settings by a big margin before the result quickly becomes apparent.  The bigger the image size, the more you can increase the setting values. 

Step 1:

For this tutorial, Adobe Photoshop CS2 is used. Open a copy of your original image and create a duplicate layer. A keyboard shortcut to create a layer is Ctrl + J for Windows and Command + J for Mac.

Step 2:

beeselect Sharpening Images and the Unsharp Mask

 

 

Make a selection using the Lasso tool. Choose only the areas that need sharpening and leave the rest of the image untouched. In this example, only the bee’s wings, antennae, upper part of the body and the edge of the leaf were selected.

 Step 3:

 beesmartsharp Sharpening Images and the Unsharp Mask

Open the Unsharp Mask dialog box under Filter>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask. The box shows a preview of a selected area, the three settings and the preview checkbox. If you check this, you will also get to see a preview of how your adjustments will affect the image in the main screen.

If it is your first time to use the settings, you can experiment first with how they work. Try dragging each slider one at a time to the opposite side of the bar and, although the effect will be exaggerated, you will have a good idea of how each one will affect the image.

Since the Radius setting is the most essential of the three, you can start with that and then adjust the Amount and then the Threshold. Once you are satisfied with the adjustments of the three settings, the outcome should be an image that is more defined than the original, yet with the appropriate areas kept smooth and unaffected. The result most likely will be subtle but still apparent, especially when compared to the original such as in this side by side comparison:

beeunsharp Sharpening Images and the Unsharp Mask

What happens if you go overboard with the Unsharp Mask? Unattractive and obvious effects begin to happen. If your radius value is set too high, halo artifacts begin to appear. These are very light and bright outlines near the edges of details. Jagged edges and pixelation might also occur along the edges. There is more visible noise and graininess which is most evident if you oversharpen sections with no edges. This is the reason why none-edged areas are too be avoided when sharpening. 

beeoversharp Sharpening Images and the Unsharp Mask


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Tips on How to Turn Abstract Concepts to Effective Stock Images

The stock image industry is filled to the brim with all kinds of images that cater to a global market. The intent is to cover the customers’ image needs. A lot of these are for straightforward images such as product shots but there is also a huge market for images that present an abstract concept, such as a visual representation of the concept of ‘business’ or ‘health’.  Oftentimes, these kinds of shots are harder to capture since you are trying to transform an idea into something more concrete, which is the image. The following are three popular abstract concepts with helpful tips on how you can create stock photos that represent them:

concept1 Tips on How to Turn Abstract Concepts to Effective Stock Images1. Love – put your own spin to cliché images that show the concept of love such as people hugging or kissing, red paper hearts, heart balloons, chocolate hearts and the like. Although your image may be perfectly exposed and composed, it could get buried under the thousands of similar images from other good photographers. Instead of a young couple kissing, why not make it an old couple instead. Instead of composing some chocolate hearts on a white background, why not have someone about to eat the chocolate heart instead. By going a step further, you are separating yourself from the pack. Keep in mind that the concept of ‘love’ has many levels, such as ‘familial love’ and ‘romantic love’. Try to compose shots which portray various kinds of love.  Examples of images that convey ‘love’ are a father holding his baby, a child and her pet, and a mother hugging her elderly parent.

concept2 Tips on How to Turn Abstract Concepts to Effective Stock Images2. Health and Fitness – nowadays, people of all ages are very health conscious and there are millions of products and services that offer the concept of a healthy lifestyle. The concept of good health is dear to our hearts and images that convey this are widely popular. When creating a shot, first imagine what you would consider as promoting health and fitness. Common topics would be diet and exercise so the next step is to use a subject or shoot a scene that shows this. People jogging, vitamin pills, gym equipment, and healthy looking people exercising are some examples. Again, the trick is to avoid shots similar to what others are offering. Play with your camera angle, the framing, the depth of field, etc. to further push your concept.

concept3 Tips on How to Turn Abstract Concepts to Effective Stock Images3. Work/Business – the most common stock images that show the concept of business are people in business attire, briefcases, office desks and handshakes.  There is nothing wrong with having a good quality stock image that shows any of these examples but you must remember that the competition has similar images of their own. To add your own creative touch, why not make use of workers that are less noticed and who normally do not wear business suits to work such as fishermen or construction workers.

Whatever concept you are trying to present, always keep in mind that these are for stock and as such, need to have commercial and resale value. Customers should be able to use them to promote their own products and services. Also the idea should be immediately clear to the customers and not make them wonder what is the message you are trying to get across.


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More Tips on How to Turn Abstract Concepts to Effective Stock Images

In the world of stock photography, it is ideal for buyers to have access to commercial images that represent their need, whether that is an image of a bicycle or one that represents a concept. As stock photographers we would find it easy to take photos of actual objects because they are visible, tangible and therefore we can take an actual image of them. Yet how about abstract ideas and concepts that we know exist but not in the physical sense? To portray them in an image would take skill and preparation because your image needs to send a message across to the viewer. In a previous article we wrote about three abstract concepts and how they can be manifested in a photograph. Let us look at more abstract ideas and find out how they can visually appear as well as the cliche shots to stay away from.

concept4 More Tips on How to Turn Abstract Concepts to Effective Stock Images1. Joy/happiness – an effective exercise is to visualize the concept. What images enter your head when you think of the word ‘happiness’? People smiling, laughing and celebrating are common visuals. Try to think further to imagine what they are celebrating or smiling about. You can have a photo of a person smiling, which would be fine but generic, and you can also have a person smiling while looking at a child playing. The second image includes the reason for her expression and gives you even more concepts that you can include in your keywords such as 'child' and 'play'.

concept5 More Tips on How to Turn Abstract Concepts to Effective Stock Images2. Peace/serenity – sometimes an image does not have to show an actual scene or subject to convey a certain concept or emotion. Abstract images can be very effective to represent abstract ideas. When we think of peacefulness, a calm sea or landscape might come to mind. But an image that shows only shapes and colors such as shades of blue can evoke a strong sense of tranquility in us. These abstract photos would be ideal for PC wall papers, magazine background design for text boxes and even actual prints for display.

concept6 More Tips on How to Turn Abstract Concepts to Effective Stock Images3. Wealth – money is the first thing we picture out when we think of wealth. Images that show coins and bills are a dime a dozen in the stockpile. For your image to have a edge over the millions of other photos that also show money, your composition must be more unique and should send a message across to the viewer. For example, you can have a straightforward shot of a pile of bills. You can also be more creative and have a hand sticking out from the pile of bills as if someone is drowning in money. You can also have a shot of a dollar bill with one end burning up in flames. For more impact, make that a hundred dollar bill if you can spare it. To play it safe you can add flames to the bill in Photoshop or other similar photo editing program.

Whatever stock image you plan to shoot, make sure it sends a strong message of the abstract concept, that it has your creative touch and that it displays great composition and proper lighting.

 

 


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The Don’ts of Photography

There are a lot of do’s and don’ts in the art and craft of photography. In other articles, we had given lots of tips on the ‘do’s’, or what you can do to further improve your skills. In this particular article, we will focus on what NOT to do when practicing the craft:

Do not get stuck with shooting the same kind of images – part of polishing your photographic skills is to shoot images that take you out of your comfort zone. This allows you to discover new ways to shoot your subject, dont1 The Don’ts of Photographyfrom the lighting to how to compose it. It also gives you the chance to see your subject differently and with a creative eye. If you always take landscape shots but rarely use your camera for macro or close up shots, why not try switching styles for a change and see what lessons you can teach yourself. 

Do not ignore the manual mode – if you always use the auto mode, you would know that it can be quite convenient and easy to use since the camera decides the ‘appropriate’ settings needed. However, it can also be limited and the result may not be exactly what you would have wanted the picture to turn out. Using the manual mode would give you much more control over the camera settings and thus, the outcome of the shot. 

dont3 The Don’ts of PhotographyDo not wipe the dust off the lens with the edge of your shirt or a paper napkin – please resist the temptation to use your shirt, a piece of tissue, a table napkin or anything else that is not meant for cleaning lenses. They may look clean and spotless but their very fibers could be rough enough to leave scratches on your sensitive glass. 

Do not cover the flash with a finger – this is a common error with compact cameras where the flash is located at the corner of the camera and very close to where you would normally grip the camera when taking a shot. Always be aware of anything that might block the flash as you are taking your photo. 

Do not place a person right in front of a pole, a light post or a thin tree – doing this would give the illusion that the person in the picture has some unattractive appendage growing out of his or her head. Always be aware of your background and how you are positioning your subject in relation to it. 

dont2 The Don’ts of PhotographyDo not forget to charge your camera’s batteries – have you ever experienced a situation where you are about to shoot a once in a lifetime moment when your camera’s battery suddenly dies? Or a time when you go to an event and turn on your camera to take pictures and your camera will not even start? It can be frustrating to say the least and unless you have a spare battery on hand. 

Don’t leave home without a camera – a lot of great photo opportunities could be missed for the simple reason that you did not have your camera with you at the time. Try to have a camera with you when you go out, you never know what rare photographic moments you may encounter and want to take a picture of. A phone camera or a simple point and shoot is sufficient for the job. 


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Another 10 Ways to Turn Your Photographs in to Cash

Here are more useful ideas that may just turn you a fast buck for those photographs you have stored in your computer. Who knows, you may have a gold mine just waiting to be discovered.

1. Customize your own writing paper – many fancy writing paper come with printed designs, why not your photographs. Create your own stationary and notebooks that have your very own images printed on them and sell them in stores or online.

tocash5 Another 10 Ways to Turn Your Photographs in to Cash2. Offer your work to furniture stores – furniture stores always need a mock up living space to show their customers what their merchandise would look like when set up in their homes. There’s no better way to add a homey touch to furnishings than framed photographs. This is also a great opportunity to marker your art.

3. Offer your images to software companies – software companies are always in need for stills to use in their packaging, discs and backgrounds. Sift through your files of images and look for possible options you can offer to software companies.

tocash6 Another 10 Ways to Turn Your Photographs in to Cash4. Use your images as book covers – every year is another batch of kids moving onto the next grade and many students opt to personalize their school books by covering them in attractive paper. Print out your images on paper and market them to students to use a covers for their school books.

5. Print your images on bags – anything and everything can be placed on a bag to liven it up, why not your images. You can even design you own tote bags that can be made to order that can be personalized. Offer portrait photography services for your customers and you can print their pet or child on a bag.

6. Enlarge your images based on flat screen TV sizes – almost every household has a flat screen TV since its prices dropped, the demand for it sky rocketed. Most of them can display uploaded images and can be used to accentuate a whole room instead of hanging there drab and flat, it can be a colorful center piece.

7. Use you images to tell a story – not every story teller needs to be a graphic artist. Photography is a visual art form that can also be used to illustrate a story.

tocash4 Another 10 Ways to Turn Your Photographs in to Cash8. Use your images as a wallpaper design – almost every household has a computer and every computer needs a desktop wallpaper. Sell them online as downloadable images that any computer owner can use to liven up their monitors.

9. Offer your services to organizations – every organization that stands for a cause needs images to fire up their purpose to gain more supporters. Check out your local neighborhood organizations and start matching your images to their cause and market it to them.

10. Offer your specific images to auctioneers in various buying and selling websites – images help sell anything. There are numerous online buy and sell websites that have customers that need images of practically anything and everything. Photograph images of your own thing at home that are commonly sold online and offer them to sellers.

Whatever type of images you have stored there just waiting to be discovered, you’re sure to find some use for it. You just may be surprised at the earning power you images may provide. It would make a nifty side line for you.


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Using Facebook to Market Your Photo Business, Part 2

In order to have a steady stream of customers, you need to find way to market your services as a photographer. Get in with the times by promoting your photo business online in probably the most popular social networking site in the world, Facebook. We have written previously about how to use the features of Facebook for just that purpose and here are several more tips to get you going:

fb2 Using Facebook to Market Your Photo Business, Part 2Upload videos to share your ‘behind the scenes’ process – photos of how you set up your images are great but video footage of them are even better! Take advantage of the video option to share how you do your photo shoots, how you compose and light up your subjects. Video sessions are extremely popular and highly informative since clients can get to see exactly how your creative process works, from the preparations to the final result. For fans who want to learn more from you, you can also use video tutorials. There are some instructions that are easier understood when shown through a video tutorial rather than by reading them.

Build a solid client base – the strength of Facebook is in relationship marketing and less so at direct selling. Build connections and relationships with your clients and potential clients through regular interactions. You will have more success in getting sales this way plus a lot of regular and satisfied clients.

Invite people to your event by creating an event page – in case you are organizing or hosting an event for your photography business, use the Facebook event option to invite prospective and current clients. Having an event page allows you to spread the word to a large audience without much effort. It also allows others to RSVP so you know who are going and who cannot make it. This is not a substitute for formal (as opposed to virtual) invitations but it is a convenient way to make people aware of your event. The events page includes the details of the event such as date, time and location. You can also place a profile picture such as an image of the event poster. Another feature is that one can leave public comments which can be read by others and if these testimonials are positive and complimentary, then they certainly add to the appeal. You have the option to show the guest list so that others can know who else is planning to attend.

Try using the Facebook advertisement feature– with this option, you can create advertisements that appear on the pages of your target audience. This is another effective way to promote your business as well as increase awareness of your presence in the industry. Facebook does a great job of guiding you in setting up your ad campaign, and you have control over how much you want to spend to keep it running. You can set a limit to the ad budget and Facebook will stop showing your ads once you reach that limit. If it is your first time to use this feature, it would be wise to set up one advertising campaign at a time while you are learning the ropes so you can fully concentrate on it.


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More Fantastic Family Portraiture Tips

Shooting group portraits, especially those of your family, can be challenging since you are dealing not just with a single model, but several of them. Each member would be different in height, looks and personality and not only will you be focusing on how to create the shot but also how to successfully direct the family to pose. We previously explained some tried and tested family portraiture tips, and here are some effective suggestions you can use as to how to take great family portraits:

presto44 P1050391BW More Fantastic Family Portraiture Tips1. Vary the eye levels of your subjects – visually pleasing group shots usually have the subjects at different heights. Have some people sit while others stand. This will lessen the sense of monotony in the shot.

2. Make subjects interact – have the subjects in your family photographs get closer together. Minimizing the gaps between the subjects provides a sense of closeness. A family setting should connote a sense of intimacy and love. Ideally have each member hug, hold hands, or touch the person closest to them. Body language links people together and this is the perfect example to relay feelings or emotional impact when looking at the photograph. When your subjects are lined up for a photograph, position them at slight angles to each other and make sure that their shoulders overlap so that they will not look awkward. When dealing with large groups in a single shot, break them down into smaller groups to make it easier for you to coordinate the shot. You can arrange them in a diamond, zigzag or triangular formation.

family6 More Fantastic Family Portraiture Tips3. Make sure your subjects do not blink during the shot – when shooting group photographs, the hardest part is not having at least one of them blink. It is easy to reshoot for small groups but for larger groups, it is next to impossible. It does not help to shoot in continuous mode because one is bound to blink. Do a countdown to make sure that everyone is aware that you will be clicking the shutter button any moment so that they will be conscious and will not blink. A really useful tip is to tell all your subjects to close their eyes at the same time and do a countdown, then open their eyes all at once. This will surely guarantee that they will all have their eyes open at the same time without needing to blink.

4. Choose a lens that has the right focal length – the most eye-catching portrait images are created using lenses without zoom, known as prime lenses. Some zoom lenses can also give you great close-up shots. Wide-angle lenses can make subjects wider than they actually are while telephoto lenses have the reverse effect and can make your subjects appear flat. Beautiful portrait images can be captured using lenses with focal range of 50mm-100mm. Having a shallow depth of field blurs the background and brings the focus to the subject. 

family2 More Fantastic Family Portraiture Tips5. Get your subjects’ attention – when you are dealing with grown-ups and teenagers, getting their attention for a few seconds will not be as difficult compared to when you are dealing with babies, toddlers and older children. You will need to capture the attention of younger subjects to get a good shot. You may have to try hard to make them laugh, to the point of being silly. You can ask a whole group of children to do something fun together. This will give you a candid as well as a fun image. Best of all, this can make the children comfortable for the next shot. 

On a final note, remember to include yourself in your shots because you are also a part of the family. Use your tripod, a cable release or a camera with a shutter timer. While composing the group position, leave a space for you to fit in before the timer starts counting down. 



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How Pictures are Combined

Combining two or more pictures in a single frame enables digital photographers to come up with great artistic images that cannot be otherwise done with a single photograph of an image. This type of manipulation can be considered a distinct art form all on its own. By combining pictures, you can use your older images you have stored in your computer to create unimaginable artistic pictures and use it as your creative medium.

combine1 How Pictures are Combined

This type of manipulation will take a lot of creativity and imagination on your part because it requires more than the usual tidying up of an image. This can be used  for more than artistic interpretation but to create an actual believable image.

combine2 How Pictures are CombinedPlacing several shots in a single image is not at all difficult. You can take multiple exposure shots to replace a sky in a landscape to give your photograph a more dramatic impact.  For example, if you were to use a portrait, it would be useful to combine two frames from one shoot. If you photograph two models at the same time, it is difficult to make them look at their best at the same time. By combining pictures, you can merge a facial expression from one shot into another to get a perfect pose.

A technique used in photomerging is isolating each element using layers to be able to do small corrections in each piece of the jigsaw puzzle without affecting the image as a whole. Each piece may need its own distinct adjustments, effects and distortions. Layers are then arranged in groups or folders. The layers work within a folder enabling adjustments to not affect other elements. The folder will then act as a master layer that interacts with each other by using various blending modes, masks and opacities.

Layered Montages are separate images that have isolated elements in its own folder full of layers. This will allow you to remove each element in turn with respective adjustments.

Advanced blending such as in Photoshop will enable you to control the exact densities at which the blend will become visible. This further allows you to specify what areas you want the blend to affect whether it be light tones or dark tones within an image. This is also known as auto-masking. This can create effects that are impossible under natural circumstances.

 

 

 


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