Monday, March 1, 2010

Scrapbooking Workflow- Part 2: Working with Photos

Welcome to my little (errr, long) tutorial/explanation of how I organize my photos and get them ready to scrapbook. This post could also be called "In Which Melissa Looks Like She's Completely OCD." Because, really, I probably am.

So let's just jump right in, shall we?

The Problem: I take waaaaay too many digital photos (okay, so I don't actually believe that there is such a thing as too many photos) and need a way to organize them.

The Tool: Picasa. And my MacBook. And a server. But, really, just Picasa and any old computer with a big enough hard drive will do.

The Process: I organize my photos by event, or for all of those little photos that don't fit into an event, I organize by month. For example, here's a screen shot of my Picasa library. There are all kinds of photos for 4th of July, birthdays, sporting events, plus a folder for each month.

My MacBook did come with iPhoto, but the new version of the software has a funky wacked out way of organizing pictures into folders under the hood, and I don't like it. Picasa gives me just enough control to make me feel comfortable that I could find my pictures without it if I had to. And it's faster and easier to use than iPhoto. And it lets me upload straight to Blogger and has some great editing features built in. Picasa represents everything that is right and good in the world (at least as far as organizing digital photos goes). Picasa is also free- you can download it here.

Let's stop here and talk backup for a minute. You are backing your photos up, right? Either by copying them to CD/DVD, to an external drive, or to an online service (I like Carbonite)...preferably two of the three, just to be safe. DO NOT trust that your photos are backed up just because they are on Shutterfly or Picasaweb. Picasa often resizes your photos as you upload, so what you get back are not the originals. And you can't download photos again at full resolution from most printing services. Make sure you're backing up with an actual file backup service.

This is my backup setup...We have a server in our house, which is really nothing more than a computer with two really, really big hard drives in it that are shared out over our network. This also happens to be the computer that carries our Carbonite backup subscription. All photos and important files go on this computer, so they get backed up automatically. It also serves video and iTunes music out to the rest of the house, but that's another story. In addition to the Carbonite backup, it also gets backed up periodically to an external hard drive.

I keep photos that I still need to scrapbook on my laptop as well as on the server just so they're more easily accessible. This set of photos from my 5K last summer is one set I still need to work on, so let's take a look at them, shall we?

When I want to scrap a group of photos, I flip through them in Picasa and choose the ones that I want to print. I don't edit them here since Picasa is not so great if you want to crop to exact dimensions. Instead, I right-click on the photo and choose "Show in Finder" (I think it's "Show on Disk" in Windows).

This opens the file for me in a Finder window, and I can then open it in Photoshop Elements.

I repeat this process until I have all the photos from an event that I want to scrap open in Elements.

In this case I have 6 photos, 5 of which are vertical. At this point I go into my stash of ideas (because basically everything I do is a scraplift of some sort) and find a layout that accompanies that many photos in those orientations that I want to use as the basis for my page. I'll go over how I save and store all of that stuff next time, so for now let's just jump ahead to the page that I'm going to copy.

The Problem: Photos need to be cropped to match my chosen sketch.

The Tool: Adobe Photoshop Elements (I use version 6, but I've done all of this in version 2 as well)

The Process: All of the photos in this layout will be 4x6, which is really easy for cropping and printing. I probably should have planned ahead a little more and picked a sketch that had odd sized photos, but I really don't feel like doing all those screenshots again. :) So I'll show you at the end of the post how to handle non-standard photo sizes (unless you're printing at home, in which case you probably already know how to do all of this).

For now, let's pick the crop tool from the left-hand toolbar.

A set of input boxes will appear across the top of the photo area. Set the width and height to match the photo size that is needed- in this case 4" and 6". Set the resolution to 300 dpi. It is very important that the resolution always be 300 dpi so that the pictures will print at the proper size.

On your photo, draw the crop box until you're happy with what the finished product will look like, then press the Enter (Return) key to save your changes. At this point you can do any edits/color corrections. If you want to save the finished photo, make sure you use Save As... and save a copy in a separate location on your computer from the original- otherwise you'll overwrite the file.

Just for grins, here's an example of cropping to a non-standard photo size. The crop tool automatically constrains the proportions of the crop box to the size that you specify, so it's super easy to get any size you want from your photo.

Continue cropping until all of the photos have been processed. Since these will all be 4x6 photos, you can just save them to a folder on your hard drive and upload them as is. But what if they've been cropped to something other than a 4x6? They can't be uploaded in those odd sizes because print labs will take another crop of them to fit them on a 4x6.

Let's take a look at a bunch of 4x3 photos that I need to print.

These are already cropped, so all I need to do is get them into a 4x6 format to be uploaded. To do that, first I need to create a new 4x6 canvas. On the File menu, choose New->Blank File...

Set the dimensions, and make sure that this canvas is set to 300 dpi!

Click the OK button, and the new canvas will be created.

Choose the Move tool from the tool palette. Click on one of the photos that you want to print and drag it over to the new canvas. You'll see its outline until you let go of it over the canvas...

...and then it will pop up on the new sheet.

Now, you could just print the photo this way if you wanted to, but if you rotate this layer you'll be able to fit another 4x3 image on the canvas. So, let's go to the Image menu and choose Layer-> Rotate 90 (degrees) left (or right, it doesn't matter).

Then move the image until it snaps into the top (or bottom) of the canvas.

Then choose another 4x3 photo and drag it onto your new canvas.

This one doesn't need to be rotated, so just position it properly.

Now we need to save this new file, so go to the File menu and choose Save As...

In the Save As dialog, choose a JPG file type (most photo printing services will not accept a PSD), give your file a name, and choose a location to save it.

I always choose to save my images with the maximum quality (12).

And now your new image is ready to send off to be printed! Just a note- you can do this with any size canvas- 5x7 or 8x10 or 11x14- that your printing service provides. Also, if you print at home, set your canvas size to your printer's allowable print area and then fill it up to get the maximum usage from your paper. When the photos come back from processing or come out of your printer, just cut them apart and you're ready to scrap!

The next installment of this series will cover how I organize sketches and ideas for pages, and then I'll move on to the fun part- packing the page kits!

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