Hiding your email addy from spambots

email400-2Papers by Zoe Pern

Once in a while there comes a need for each of us to post our email address online.  It might be so we can enter a drawing,post it in a forum, or on our blog or website so people can contact us if they need to.  Most of us know that we don’t want to post the ACTUAL email address because we will start to get spam.  Did you know that there are spambots out there that crawl the web in search of email addresses?  Once you post your actual email address you will start receiving spam…unfortunately.

One way that people will post their email address (which I’m sure we have all seen) is to post it in code by using the words AT and DOT instead of the symbols.  Sometimes people will use (  ) as well.  This tip that I am going to share was shared with me a couple of years ago by Dianne Rigdon and it’s super easy too!

When I want to post my email online, I just go to THIS SITE and obfuscate my email, or in other words, make it so it works for people but not for the spambots.  Just enter your email addy in the box, click  on “Click to Obfuscate” and then copy the html into the comment portion of a blog, post in a forum, or the html portion of a blog post.  It will show up like this:
steph@thedailydigi.com

But only PEOPLE will be able to see it…NO BOTS!!

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One of the Coolest Things I own

checkitout

This past summer I made a very impulsive purchase, but one that I love. I was reading about different camera equipment and saw something about a Remote Control Timer. I have had a small hand help remote and I had read things about a cable release cord, but I didn’t know anything about this. I was intrigued!

canon-tc-80n3

I purchased the Canon TC80N3 Timer Remote Control which worked for my camera (a Canon 20D). This is both a remote control and a timer. According to the description, it can be used as a “self-timer, interval timer, long-exposure timer, and exposure count setting feature. The timer can be set anywhere from 1 sec. to 99 hrs., 59 min., 59 sec.” Basically, what it means is that you can use it as a regular self timer (so you can take your own photos without having to RUN to get into place. You can also use it as a long exposure camera (so if you are taking pictures of something that needs a long exposure time you aren’t stuck holding down the shutter button) and my personal favorite — the interval timer.

You can set the camera to take pictures at set times. You can take photos as fast as 1 a second (great for getting a bunch of great group shots while people chat and get into place). You can also set it for longer and record amazing things like watching a day lily bloom or watching snow accumulate on your deck. The possibilities are endless!

The day I was MOST excited to have this remote was Christmas morning. I really wanted to be a part of the day rather than just being behind the camera. So, I set the camera on a tripod, set it on auto (see, there are times when auto mode is a good choice), and set the timer to take a photo once a minute. I let it go all morning long! I still had my other camera with me to take close up shots, etc., but really, I was able to sit back and enjoy the day and know it was being preserved! It even caught this shot — you kind of forget that the camera is still going!

n734255764_1353488_3558Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

I encourage you to check it out and save your pennies. There are so many ways this product can be used! (Just make sure you get the right one for your camera!)

UNZIPPING FAST

zip-folder

For many digi scrappers, one of the dreaded parts of downloading new goodies is unzipping them. How many times have you downloaded some new supplies, but not unzipped them right away, only to come back later and find out the file was corrupt? One of my (Steph’s) favorite discoveries after I started digi scrapping was ‘Unzip Them All’. It’s an app or utility that will unzip several zip folders at one time.

I have been using ‘Unzip Them All’ for three or four years now, but have since found out that there are many decompression utilities out there, that have a lot of really great features. After reading Heidi’s very thorough review of ‘Extract Now‘, I have thought about trying it out, but I still stay with ‘Unzip Them All’, not because I think it is the best out there, but because it’s already on my machine and it works for me. The interface on ‘Unzip Them All’ is pretty basic, but it does everything I want. I like that I can tell it to keep the zips or delete them after they have been unzipped (I usually keep them until I make sure there were no corrupt files). It also can handle A LOT of zips at one time without slowing down my system or crashing it. If you currently are not using a decompression tool, you might want to take the time to read Heidi’s review or these great reveiws I found here on several different free tools or these reveiws on both free and pay utilities. (UPDATE: after trying a couple of different unzipping utilities, I keep going back to UnzipThemAll. It’s interface isn’t pretty, but it works and doesn’t do more than I want/need.) Find sources to download UnzipThemAll here.

Now, I have a system in place and download everything to the same folder, I unzip the files and then delete the zips (once I am sure that everything uzipped okay). It makes it easier to know if a file is corrupt right then while I am still downloading. It is also really nice to be able to use my goodies right when I want to and not have to wait for them to unzip first. The very best part of using a decompression utility though is only waiting a few seconds for ALL of my zips to unzip!!

Ali has some great information on downloading and unzipping as well: Scrapbooking With Your Computer: Downloading, Unzipping, and Organizing Digital Elements

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Sharing Files

filesharing2
(stitching and tab by Robin Carlton)

It is probably easy assumption to make that since you are paying for digital scrapbooking products, they are yours to do whatever you want with. The biggest difference between paper and digital products though, is that when you purchase digital products, you are not just paying for the products themselves, you are paying for a license to use them. The license is often in the form of a “terms of use” text docoment inside of the file. A “terms of use” or “terms agreement” is something very common in all types of digital products, artwork, and software that is downloaded from the internet (not just digital scrapbooking supplies). If you have questions about file sharing that you would like to see answers to here, please email me at steph@thedailydigi.com

So, what is okay and what is not okay? We wanted to help our new friends (and some old ones too 😉 ) understand, so you don’t unintentionally do anything illegal.

Can I give FREE digital scrapbook supplies to friends/family? No. The reasons sites and designers offer free products is to help promote their sites and designs. If you want to share them with your friends, send them a link to the page/site that has the download (do not link directly to the download itself, especially if it is hosted on a file sharing site such as 4shared).

Can I send links to free products included in a newsletter? No. Usually designers offer this as a benefit to their newsletter subscribers only, so honor that and tell your friends to sign up for the newsletter instead.

Can I give people my login information for a store and have them download the products themselves? No. This means that two people are getting the products for the price of one. It is the same as going into a store and paying for one item and stealing one for your friend.

Can I transfer my files to a friend or family member’s computer? No…usually. Some designers are okay with people that are family members AND (not or) living in the same house, using digital supplies on more than one computer, when in doubt it is always a good idea to email the designer.

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Scrap Faster (and easier!)

computertipsandtricks

In my four years of scrapping, I have had the opportunity to meet quite a few of my online friends. I have met designers, fellow scappers, store owners, creative team members, and friends.  It is always so fun to get spend face to face time with people I usually only get to interact with online. In July 2007 I travelled to Chicago for summer CHA.  After a fun night in the city with some digi friends, I got back to my room, excited to finally meet my long time internet friend Hollie.  When I walked in, I saw her sitting in a nice comfy chair, leaned back with her Wacom tablet on her lap, scrapping away.  Her laptop was on the table in front her, far from arms reach.  I stood there, quite confused, wondering how she was scrapping. I asked, and she told me she doesn’t need her keyboard.  Utterly confused, I let it go and we got to know each other “in real life.”

That moment has come to my mind often since that night.  Addicted as I am to my keyboard shortcuts, I really can’t fathom someone taking my keyboard from me. Personally, I hate the thought of having to click on every tool I want to use and got through menus for every function I want to perform.  Instead, when I scrap, my hands work furiously together…my mouse in my right hand (yea, I gave the pen a try and didn’t like it) and my left hand is on the keyboard, pecking at keys without thought. Keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop/Elements are a complete necessity to me.  Hollie may be more comfortable in her chair but I am convinced that I can get the work done faster 🙂

There are lots of ways to learn keyboard shortcuts.  You can hover over tools and see the shortcut in parentheses, you can look on drop down menus and see the command listed, or you can look at written lists of shortcuts. As extensive and helpful as these lists are, they can be overwhelming!  When I was first learning them, I made a list of ones I wanted to learn (starting with tools and commands I used most often).  I put them right next to my computer and when I had to perform the action, I looked at my cheat sheet and practiced.  When I wanted to learn a few more, I wrote those on sticky notes and put them on my computer. In time, I knew most of them by heart!  I still have many more to learn, but I am thrilled with the way my workflow has sped up and I hope yours can too!

I have found some great websites that have detailed information on keyboard shortcuts for various programs. Since we all use different computers, different programs, and different versions of those programs, you are best up looking up the information you need.  These sites can get you started.

THIS SITE has a printable pdf document for Photoshop Elements (PC and Mac).

THIS AMAZING SITE has printable pdfs for the following programs (both PC and Mac):

  • Photoshop CS4
  • Photoshop CS3
  • Photoshop CS2
  • Photoshop CS
  • Photoshop 7
  • Photoshop 6
  • Photoshop 5
  • Adobe Bridge & Adobe Camera Raw

HERE you can see a list of shortcuts for Paint Shop Pro

Don’t try to learn them all at once — take the actions you do most often and write those out.  Then, as you learn those and are using them without thinking, add some more.  In time, your knowledge will build and you will be scrapping and editing photos faster (even if less comfortably!)  Here is a list of my most used shortcuts. You can print this list along with the shortcut for your computer and program and go from there.  Don’t get discouraged…it gets easier with time and before you know it, you will wonder how you ever lived without shortcuts!

keyboardshorcuts

DOWNLOAD PDF FILE HERE

Or, if you are a visual person and use a Mac and Photoshop, you can try one of these cool keyboard skins, available at the Photojojo Store.  They fit right over your keyboard and let you learn as you peck!

keyboardskins2

keyboardskins

No matter which way you choose to learn, you will be amazed at how second nature using shortcuts can become.  I love being able to just hit a key and move on!  Give it a try and see what you think!

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P.S.  A big congrats to some winners of some great coupons!  Random.org picked some great people! Thanks to everyone who challenged themselves to a MORE WITH FOUR CHALLENGE! Here is what they won:

Christie won a $10 gift card to Pineapple Plantation Designs.  Love the outcome of her truly taking on the MORE WITH FOUR challenge!

Side by Side won a $10 gift card to Melissa Bennett Designs for this layout, where she replaced two of her title letters with other elements

Becki won a $10 gift card to Shabby Miss Jenn Designs for this cute layout, using materials all from THE DIGI FILES no. 1

Kate Teague won a $10 gift card to Flergs for this layout (which, if you are already craving chocolate from Sunday’s post, you may not want to see it!)

Congrats, ladies!  Email me at janet [at] thedailydigi [dot] com to claim your prize!

My browser is HOT, HOT, HOT

computer-tips-and-tricks

One of the cool things about running my own website is getting to see the “back end” of things. I am able to get all kinds of information on my site, who reads it, when they read it, what they click on, how long they visit, and more. I really had no idea that website owners can see this information. It is really very useful, though. I am able to learn about my readers and what they like (and don’t like).

One of the many things that I am able to see is what browser my readers are using. The other day I was looking at the stats and I was astounded to find out that almost half of you still use Internet Explorer. I really, really thought that everyone knew of the advantages of Firefox over Internet Explorer, but apparently, that is not the case.

So, today’s COMPUTER TIPS AND TRICKS is all about Firefox. If you think your web browser doesn’t matter, then keep reading. And if you already use Firefox, then scroll down to see some of the amazing add-ons that will make your web experience even better!

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There is so much information on the web about Firefox and its superior features for safe (and fun!) web browsing. The latest version, Firefox 3, has some truly amazing features. I won’t go into great detail here because there is so much already out there. Do a quick Google search and it is easy to see why more and more people are choosing Firefox (and I really want my readers to be some of them!)

There is a great review of the most recent version of Firefox HERE.

Here is what computer critic Paul Thurrott says about it:

“Mozilla Firefox 3 is the fastest, safest, and most feature-rich Web browser available on any platform and I recommend it to one and all. This is one area where Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux users can simply agree: Firefox is without peer, and regardless of which browser you’re currently using–be it a previous version of Firefox, any version of Internet Explorer, or, heaven forbid, Apple’s buggy Safari–you need to upgrade to Firefox 3 immediately. I recommend Firefox 3 without hesitation and without caveat, as it is one of those very rare software products, and a key tool in my own personal computing arsenal. No software is perfect, but Firefox is close enough. Highly recommended.”

Another in depth review of the top browsers (Firefox, IE, Opera, and Safari) while they were all in beta, had this to say: “Firefox remains the best browser on the whole, with great features, impressive improvements all-round, a revised bookmarking system and thousands of add-ons to make it easy to perfectly customize. The improvements in performance are stellar, it’s got some well-integrated features that everyone will use (resumable download manager, tag-ready bookmarking) and it offers, overall, a better, richer Web experience.

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If you are already using Firefox then here are some great ways to make your use of Firefox even better!

One of my favorite features of Firefox features is the new Star icon. It is located at the end of the address bar, right next to the RSS icon. Click it once to store the page’s URL as a bookmark; click it twice to assign the bookmark to a new or existing folder. You can also give it tags: short keywords to help when searching through your bookmarks. Use the new Library feature to create and store searches. It makes bookmarking so easy!

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Firefox is most widely known for its endless ability to customize your browsing experience. Add-on after add-on are available to do some pretty amazing things. I want to show you some of the great ways you can use Firefox. Here are some of the most popular (or just coolest!) ad-ons. Try one (or ten!) today!

Themes: Check out all this cool themes you can have to make your viewing experience better or even just prettier 🙂

Look at my pretty pink browser bar!

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Ad block Plus: Ever been annoyed by all those ads and banners on the internet that often take longer to download than everything else on the page? Install Adblock Plus now and get rid of them. (Just note that this will disable all banner ads at places like DST so if you like the banners, don’t use this. You CAN disable and enable with a click of a button, though.)

DownThemAll: The first and only download manager/accelerator built inside Firefox! (Never be annoyed with multi-part downloads at your favorite scrapping sites again!)

FoxMarks Bookmark Syncronizer: If you use Firefox on more than one computer, you’ll want Foxmarks. Install Foxmarks on each computer, and it works silently in the background to keep your bookmarks and (optionally) passwords synchronized. Foxmarks also keeps your data backed up and safe from computer failures. If you’re away from your computer, Foxmarks allows you to access your bookmarks online by logging into my.foxmarks.com. (Okay, this is so, so, so hot and I just learned about it. Just the other day, I had to get out my laptop and email myself links to some bookmarked sites because I didn’t have them on my desktop. No more of that nonsense for me!)

StumbleUpon: StumbleUpon discovers web sites based on your interests, learns what you like and brings you more.

Cool Iris: Full-Screen, 3D — Cooliris (formerly PicLens) transforms your browser into a visually stunning, lightning fast way to search, discover, view and share online photos, videos and more. Our unique “3D Wall” lets you effortlessly zoom your way around thousands items on a single, ever-expansive wall. It’s the fastest way to search and enjoy Google Images, YouTube, Flickr, Hulu, and hundreds of other sites. See HERE for a list of all features and supported sites. (Check this out…you can do a search for something like cribs, Hawaii, or alphas and it will bring up images from all over the web in a cool 3D wall of photos. Here is a search I did for “Project 365” with a search in just Flikr.)

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WOT: WOT, Web of Trust, warns you about risky websites that try to scam visitors, deliver malware or send spam. Protect your computer against online threats by using WOT as your front-line layer of protection when browsing or searching in unfamiliar territory. WOT’s color-coded icons show you ratings for 20 million websites – green to go, yellow for caution and red to stop – helping you avoid the dangerous sites. Surf safer and add WOT to your Firefox now.

InterClue: Ever wanted to know what was behind the link before you clicked? Interclue tells you everything you need to know before you open yet another tab.

Read It Later: Read It Later allows you to save pages of interest to read later. It eliminates cluttering of bookmarks with sites that are merely of a one-time interest.

Morning Coffee: Keeps track of daily routine websites and opens them in tabs…(Seriously, could this be any more hot?? I go to the SAME places EVERY day…what a time saver this will be for me!)

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PermaTabs: Turn tabs of your choice into permanent tabs. PermaTabs can’t be closed accidentally no matter what you click (even actions like “Close other tabs” will not affect them) and will stick around between sessions.

ColorZilla: With ColorZilla you can get a color reading from any point in your browser, quickly adjust this color and paste it into another program. You can Zoom the page you are viewing and measure distances between any two points on the page. The built-in palette browser allows choosing colors from pre-defined color sets and saving the most used colors in custom palettes.

Session Manager: Session Manager saves and restores the state of all windows – either when you want it or automatically at startup and after crashes. Additionally it offers you to reopen (accidentally) closed windows and tabs.

ColorFul Tabs: The most beautiful yet the simplest add-on that makes a strong colorful appeal. Colors every tab in a different color and makes them easy to distinguish while beautifying the overall appearance of the interface. An essential…

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And finally, the IE tab. For those ancient sites that still insist you use IE (because they don’t know how much cooler Firefox is!) you can install the IE tab which eliminates all the other reasons to keep using IE by forcing Firefox to render a page using the Internet Explorer engine. You must have IE installed on your machine for this plug-in to work, but the convenience and saved resources can’t be beaten.

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One thing I LOVE is that I can enable and disable these add-ons with a click of a button. Sometimes I am in the mood and sometimes I am not!

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So, are you convinced yet? There are SO MANY reasons to use Firefox. I hope that you are intrigued enough to try it! If you do it for no other reason…at LEAST do it for security reasons. With anti-malware, parental controls, anti-virus software, clear private data, customize security settings, add-ons, password manager, pop up blocker and MORE, Firefox is by far the safest (and hottest!) way to surf the web!

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A Bright Idea

a-bright-idea

George Bernard Shaw said, “If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.

Ideas are meant to be shared. When we have ideas about things — ways to make life better, ways to have fun, ways to express creativity, ways to relax — it is too hard to keep them to ourselves. When we have learned something important or something that works or a solution to a problem that many have, we just want to share it. We want others to have the information too. Why keep something so good to ourselves?

Here at THE DAILY DIGI we will be bringing you some bright ideas. Whether it be teaching you how to organize digital photos, how to get out of scrapping rut, or how to plan out an anniversary album, we will be here to share the wonderful ideas of the digi scrapping community with you. But remember,

“An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea.” — Buddha

So don’t just read about the ideas — make them part of your life!

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Today’s bright idea is about backing up…I know…we have all heard the stories about OTHER people losing data, right? Or maybe you, like me (Steph), have had the misfortune of having hardrives fail. Let me share with you my story and then, the Bright Idea


computerdisaster1

I (Steph) have never been very good at backing up to CD’s and DVD. I tried, but it just became too much, so I came up with a pretty good system for backing up my files that worked for me. I had two little portable external hardrives (EHDs), one for photos and one for digi supplies that I used on my laptop. I backed them up to a larger non-portable EHD that was attached to my desktop. Whenever I downloaded photos from my camera, I downloaded them directly to the larger EHD and then copied them to my portable EHD for use on my laptop. Suddenly, without warning, my little EHD with my digi supplies died. I hadn’t been as good about backing it up, so I did lose some supplies, but I was able to get most of my links reset. I bought a new EHD and kept the same system for transferring photos from my camera, but again wasn’t very good about backing up my new EHD. During February 2008, I got caught up on all of my printing and just a couple of days later, that new EHD died. Because of my system for transferring photos, I did not lose any photos, but did lose some layouts (I had just printed them, but have lost the digital files), and again some supplies. I decided that enough was enough and I signed up for Mozy’s online backup. It took less than 10 minutes to set up my account and get the backup started and then, about a month to get all 160 gigs of photos, layouts, and supplies backed up, but I did get them securely backed up onto Mozy’s servers. After that, the system automatically backed up when I scheduled it to.

Fast forward to last month when I lost yet another EHD. We were on vacation and I only lost one days worth of photos that were not yet backed up to Mozy. When I got my new little EHD (a different brand from all of the others this time), I just right-clicked on the Mozy icon on my desktop and selected restore. Within 3 days, I had all of my photos, layouts, and digi supplies back and on my new EHD!! I could have cried with joy!

The peace of mind that I now have by knowing everything is backed up on an extra EHD and also backed up online has been huge! I no longer worry about what will happen if I lose things, because I know the chances are much lower than they were before. It’s not an IF but WHEN will your computer/hardrive die?

Bright Idea…

Which online backup solution is for you? I have linked below to a couple of articles that might help, but it seems that most digital scrappers use Mozy or Carbonite. Both are very affordable, right around $50/year with unlimited space. The biggest difference is that Mozy will backup your EHD’s as long as they are attached to your computer during a backup. Carbonite does not recognize EHD’s but the backup is more real-time where Mozy backs up once a day at a scheduled time (that you select).

Here is an article on how to choose an online backup service

Here are some reviews of online backup services

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Don’t Lose a Thing

computerdisaster1

ETA: I have switched my online back up method since writing this post. You can read about my newest system and why I switched for more information.

Imagine all of the photos, layouts, and memories you have stored on your hardrive. What would happen if the drive they were stored on died? Do you have them backed up anywhere? What would happen if you had a natural disaster in your area and something (heaven forbid) happened to your home? Do you have an offsite backup of all of your files?

Hang around any digital forum for a day or two and you will see a thread titled something like this, “I thought it would never happen to me” or “Digital Tragedy”. The reality is that it WILL happen…your hardrive WILL bite the dust! Everyone THINKS it won’t happen to them, but hardrives are not meant to last forever!

I (Steph) have never been very good at backing up to CD’s and DVD. I tried, but it just became too much, so I came up with a pretty good system for backing up my files that worked for me. I had two little portable external hardrives (EHDs) one for photos and one for digi supplies. I backed them up to a larger non-portable EHD that was attached to my desktop. Whenever I downloaded photos from my camera, I downloaded them directly to the larger EHD and then copied them to my portable EHD for use on my laptop. Suddenly, without warning, my little EHD with my digi supplies died. I hadn’t been as good about backing it up, so I did lose some supplies, but I was able to get most of my links reset. I bought a new EHD and kept the same system for transferring photos from my camera, but again wasn’t very good about backing up my new EHD. During February 2008, I got caught up on all of my printing and just a couple of days later, that new EHD died. Because of my system for transferring photos, I did not lose any photos, but did lose some layouts (I had just printed them, but have lost the digital files), and again some supplies. I decided that enough was enough and I signed up for Mozy’s online backup. It took about a month to get all 160gigs of photos, layouts, and supplies backed up, but I did get them securlely backed up onto Mozy’s servers.

Fast forward to last month when I lost yet another EHD. We were on vacation and I only lost one days worth of photos that were not yet backed up to Mozy. When I got my new little EHD (a different brand from all of the others this time), I just right-clicked on the Mozy icon on my desktop and selected restore. Within 3 days, I had all of my photos, layouts, and digi supplies back and on my new EHD!! I could have cried with joy!

The peace of mind that I now have by knowing everything is backed up on an extra EHD and also backed up online has been huge! I no longer worry about what will happen if I lose things, because I know the chances are much lower than they were before. It’s not an IF but WHEN will your computer/hardrive die?

Which online backup solution is for you? I have linked below to a couple of articles that might help, but it seems that most digital scrappers use Mozy or Carbonite. Both are very affordable, right around $50/year with unlimited space. The biggest difference is that Mozy will backup your EHD’s as long as they are attached to your computer during a backup. Carbonite does not recognize EHD’s but the backup is more real-time where Mozy backs up once a day at a scheduled time (that you select).

Here is an article on how to choose an online backup service

Here are some reviews of online backup services

Using Flickr As a Back UP

Computer Tips & Tricks

computer-tips-and-tricks

By nature of the hobby, digital scrapbookers spend a lot of time on their computer. It’s kind of hard to scrap without it, huh? However, even if we feel comfortable on our computers and can scrap a page with relative ease, there are always things we don’t know and always things we can learn to make things go faster, to do things better, to make our pages and our photos look their very best.

COMPUTER TIPS AND TRICKS will be a regular feature here at THE DAILY DIGI. Whether you want to learn how to get the most out of Photoshop or are trying to decide between a Mac and a new PC, TDD will be there to give you tip, tricks, tutorials, and a whole lot of fun. If you are new to digital scrapbooking, be sure to check out the section we have created especially for you — in it you can find software recommendations, information on making your first layout, and where you can print these layouts once you are done.

Novice or seasoned veteran…COMPUTER TIPS AND TRICKS will be sure to bring you the information you want and need.

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Today I want to show you one of the best (and easiest!) things you can do to take your photos from good to great.  You’ve probably seen it a million times without realizing what made a specific photo really stand out.

The vignette.  The word has lots of meanings but in the context we are talking about (photography) it means, “any process by which there is loss in clarity towards the corners and sides of an image.” Loss of clarity may not sound like a good thing, but I promise you, it is!  You see, when you have a loss of clarity towards the corners and sides of an image your eye automatically is drawn toward the center of the photo.  Most often, the center is what you want to highlight. By reducing the clarity of the outer parts of the photo, the subject of the photo can truly stand out.

Take a look at this photo:

family_before

It’s a good photo, right? Color is good. Exposure is good.  Composition is good.  However, we can make it even better with a simple vignette.

family_after

The difference is subtle but delivers lots of impact!

Here are a few more examples of good photos becoming great photos.

momandgirl

mom_baby

Now lets look at an easy way to do this yourself in Photoshop/Photoshop Elements:

First, select your photo.  I chose a photo of some friends of mine that I took a few weeks ago.  I love the photo (and the people in it!) so I wanted to make it something they would truly love.

thegirls_before

First, you need to select your Marquee tool (keyboard shortcut M). You can use either the elliptical (oval) marquee or the  rectangular marquee tool.  For this photo, I chose to use the elliptical tool.  I made a selection around the area I wanted to stay clear. Since my subjects weren’t quite center, I nudged the selection up a bit using my arrow keys.

marquee_selection

Now I need to feather the selection so that there is a gradual shift of color rather than a harsh line.  I went to the top of the screen and chose Select>feather> and then set my pixel amount.  The amount of feathering can really depend on the look you are going for and the resolution of the image. As good rule of thumb is 100 pixels for a high-resolution photo and 50 pixels for a low-resolution photo.

feather_selection

feather_selection_100pix

Now I have the subject of the photo selected, but that is not the part of the photo I want to change.  I want to change the outer edge of the photo rather than the center so I need to inverse my selection.

inverse_selection

Now the outer edges of the photo are selected.

Now I will copy and paste this selection onto a new layer (PC: Ctrl+C then Ctrl+V,   MAC: COMMAND+C then COMMAND+V).  Now my selected area is on its own layer.

feathered_layer_330

I am now going to change the blending mode of this layer to multiply, which will darken the pixels.

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This is what it looks like now

vignette_toodark

In my opinion, the vignette is a little too dark and too noticeable.  So, I will lower the opacity of the vignette layer until it looks right.  I set the opacity to 70% to get this:

thegirls_after

Now, I just need to merge the layers and I am done.

merge_layers

See the difference?  Subtle but oh-so-powerful.

BEFORE:

thegirls_before3

and AFTER:

thegirls_after1

Now, don’t fret that this will take you forever.  Once you get the hang of it, it goes really fast.  I timed myself and it took me 27 seconds (using keyboard shortcuts for most menu choices).

So there you have it…one little trick to take your photos from good to great…all using our favorite little sidekick…our computer!

janet_sig5