Week 9 – Cartoon a Photo & Automate w/ Actions and Droplets


I was recently asked,  “Do you know of a way to convert a portrait to a cartoon?” My reply of course was, “Why not use Photoshop?” Instead of purchasing some online specialized tool, why not research something you can do yourself with Photoshop. And, not only that! Why not automate all of your creative Photoshop steps so that you can convert any photo to cartoon style with a flip of a switch. Photoshop has this capability built into it with Actions and Droplets. You can save all of your best Photoshop moves and formulas in customized Actions. You can save Actions or download other peoples. If you have an Action that you need quick access to you can save your Action as a Droplet. A Droplet is an executable applet that you can simply drop images on and the Droplet will execute Photoshop and the specified Action.

Actions are also an incredibly powerful automation tool. On one occasion I ran an action on a folder of over 1000 images which were all sized, converted and saved.

Week 9 Assignment: Creatively alter an image, record the process as an “action” and save it as a “droplet”

1) Watch the video tutorials below
2) Create and record your own photographic transformation as an Action.
3) Try running your Action on the same photograph and then on a different photograph. Does it have any errors?
4) If you have errors don’t give up. I have always had to troubleshoot my recorded Actions and re-record the process a few times, simplifying the moves and attempting to avoid errors. You don’t have to get it to work perfectly.
5) How would you create an “Action” that would create a frame around an image?
6) Once your “Action” is working when you play it, you can create a Droplet.exe file from (see video for instructions).
7) Note: When you are running filters on your image make sure your foreground and background color chips are set to black and white respectively. The results of many filters depends on the selected color chips

8) Note: Some people have noted that you have to be running Photoshop with administrative privileges (right click “Run as Admin”) in order for the Droplet to be created.
9) Note: When emailing your “droplet.exe” file you may need to change the file extension to .bak or .txt before zipping the file and attaching it to your email. The reason is that email servers like to block executable files in attachments because viruses are frequently transmitted that way. Viruses are executable files.


Turning it in:

To turn in your assignment post before and after jpg images to your online photo album and then post links to them in Blackboard. To post your Droplet you will need to zip it first. If you cannot get your Droplet or Action you can submit your .psd Photoshop file.

Note: Most email and file or content sharing systems do not allow you to attach an .exe file, this is because an .exe file is an executable program and viruses are also executable programs and usually transmitted by email attachment etc..

Week 12 – Sharpening, Brightening, and Shadows/Highlights

Week 12 Assignment 1 – Sharpen an Image

The ability to sharpen an image and make it look like it isn’t blurry in the details is very important. Before we had digital photography it was a tedious process to create an unsharp mask. You basically created a blurry reverse copy of your original negative and then pre-exposed your paper with it using an enlarger. All that to sharpen your image creating more details or lines in your image. Photographers would call it local contrast, kind of like contrast in the details. Today with Photoshop it is so easy, it is almost criminal. There is a reason photographers went to so much trouble to create unsharp masks for their images, because they make them look so much more detailed.

Lynda Tutorials you need to watch:

Deke McClelland – Photoshop Top 40

  • 5. The Sharpen Filters (must see!)
    Deke turns the image into a smart object so you may want to watch number 18 Smart Objects too!

Chris Orwig – Photoshop CS5 for Photographers

      • 10. The Masking Panel
        Masking and selective sharpening (must see!)

YouTube/DansCourses Video Tutorials:

In this video, I demonstrate the unsharp mask filter and the sharpening tool

Turning it in:
Due Date: End of week 14
I want you to sharpen an image and post before and after JPGs to your Picasa account and the DansCourses.com Forum. Deke converts his image into a smart object before using the sharpening filters. Smart Object is a great tool but it makes the Photoshop file very large and impossible to email me as an attachment, so you will need to save your final before and after images as JPGs and then post them to Picasa and the Forum. Thanks!

Week 12 Assignment 2 – Selectively Brighten or Sharpen an Image with Layer Masks

In this assignment you will duplicate your background layer, lighten it with levels, then selectively reveal the highlights or lightened areas using a layer mask and a paint brush. Please use my video tutorial as your example for this project. Send me your Photoshop file so I can check your layer mask. You can also use this same technique to selectively reveal sharpening or selectively apply levels or curves.

In this video I use layer masks to selectively brighten an image

Turning it in:
Due date: End of Week 14
Send me your Photoshop file (.psd) as an email attachment so I can check your layer mask.
Week 12 Assignment 3 – Fix a backlit photo using the Shadows and Highlights tool

In this assignment you will fix an image that is too dark and too light. This can happen if you take a portrait shot where the sun or light is behind the subject. We call this being “backlit” and it forces the foreground to appear too dark and the background to appear possibly too light. Pretty much everyone who shoots photographs has run into this situation.

Lynda Tutorials you need to watch:

Chris Orwig – Enhancing Digital Photography with Photoshop CS2

  •   16. Expanding Exposure
    Understanding shadows/highlights (must see!)
    Using shadows/highlights 1 (must see!)
    Using shadows/highlights 1 (must see!)

YouTube/DansCourses Video Tutorial

In this tutorial I use the Shadows and Highlights tool

Turning it in:
Due Date: End of week 14
Correct an image that is backlit (the foreground darks are too dark and the background lights are too light) using the Shadows/Highlights tool.Post before and after JPGs to Picasa and the DansCourses Forum.

Famous Photographers – Sandy Skoglund

Sandy Skoglund

Sandy Skoglund’s work is collected in museums and shown in galleries all over the world. Sandy has taught photography at some of the most prestigious art schools in the country. Her work is also very narrative, but the stories or the fiction in her work take on the form of dream imagery or the surreal (that which lies underneath reality) more than history and mythology. Sandy Skoglund’s photography is unlike many earlier photographers that worked at capturing the moment or having photography be a window to reality like Elliot Erwitt or Cartier Bresson. Instead of a photography that is reactive to the environment around her Skoglund fabricates or makes her reality by building sets and constructing elaborate spaces that she then photographs. In this way, along with the other narrative photographers that we looked at earlier (Wall, Sherman, and Crewdson) Skoglund’s photographs are more proactive than reactive.

One thing that is interesting about her work is that the truth value of the photographic image (is it real or not?) is turned upside down. When you look at her work, not including the True Fiction Two series, you think that you are looking at extreme digitally manipulated images when in fact she has actually photographed a real environment. The images that you see in the “The Cocktail Party” and “Revenge of the Goldfish” are not just digital creations and trickery they are actual constructed installations meticulously crafted, painted and then photographed. Amazing!

  1. Click here to see a PBS interview of Sandy Skoglund and a discussion of her creative process and her work: http://watch.thirteen.org/video/1616019357?ref=nf# 
  2. Click here to see Sandy Skoglund’s “True Fiction Two” series from 2004: http://www.sandyskoglund.com/pages/imagelist_fl/2004fl/index.html
  3. Click here to see her photographs from 79-84. Make sure to look at “Radioactive Cats” and “Revenge of the Goldfish” : http://www.sandyskoglund.com/pages/imagelist_fl/1979_84fl/index.html
  4. Click here to see her photographs from 92-95. Make sure to look at “The Cocktail Party” and “The Wedding” : http://www.sandyskoglund.com/pages/imagelist_fl/1992_95fl/index.html

Answer the following questions:

  • Color is very important in Sandy Skoglund’s work. How does color contribute to what she is trying to do in her images.?
  • How is color functioning in the True Fiction Two series and why do you think she uses it the way that she does?

Creative Assignment – A Narrative Photograph

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Overview – Narrative Photography Assignment

In our day to day lives, we experience many narratives and myths, stories, that are woven so deeply into the fabric of our culture that they function as unconscious codes effecting our attitudes and behaviors. We as people are very much shaped by these stories and cultural codes. We don’t necessarily need to know what the stories are to be effected or changed by them.   

{loadposition adposition5} Many photographers enhance their images, creating interest, meaning and depth by accessing and referencing these narratives in their photography. I call these photographers narrative photographers; their photographs tend to tell stories that the viewer needs to figure out. The image leaves you asking what is the story? Their images are loaded with myth, symbol and story. 

Some of my favorite narrative photographers are:

Jeff Wall

http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2007/jeffwall/ – This website was created for his one person major retrospective at MOMA. It has excellent reproductions of his work and great notes to accompany the photographs. After you enter the site, make sure you spend some time looking at "The Destroyed Room," 1978.  When you read the notes by clicking the small "+" button below and to the right you discover that the photograph is an allegorical recreation of a Delacroix painting the Death of Sardanopolis. As you read about the work you realize that "The Destroyed Room" is functioning on deeper narrative levels then just a room of destroyed stuff. First off, it isn’t even a room it is a set, constructed and fabricated for the photograph itself. This adds to the narrative nature of the photograph, the whole thing is a staged scene, so the truth value and objectivity, so inherent to photography in general, takes a back seat to the narrative or story. Also, Jeff Wall states that he sees the Photograph as a sort of tableaux morts or as I would call it a still life. This succeeds to further entrench the photograph in the history of art and its tropes. By the end you realize, that notions of death, Romanticism and Mannerism and the whole history of art and painting is being referenced in this work. Before you leave the site, make sure you look and read about "Picture for Women – 1979" which references Manet’s The Bar and "Dead Troops Talk – 1992" which is a digital photographic montage based on the Russian war in Afghanistan. In the end you realize that all of his images are in a dialogue with painting and the history of art. The dialogue with painting is always present due to the fact that his images are huge, some of them more than 5 feet tall, and are lit up, backlit tranparency slides, within light boxes, wow!

Cindy Sherman

{loadposition adposition6}http://www.masters-of-photography.com/S/sherman/sherman.html – Cindy Sherman is the most highly paid female artist of all time. That is not by chance, her work has been extremely influential in the art world. Her photographs are narratives and stories and a lot more. Her photographs show the way women are depicted in the media, TV, film and advertising especially. The deal with the cultural narratives that result in negative stereotypes that women are defined by. She uses different methods of calling attention to this condition. One of the ways she structures her images is by using herself as the model to play all of the roles or narratives in all of her images. In each photograph, there is a tragic heroine that is in fact herself, in this way the images do not just function solely as stories, but also as self portraits. The interesting point is that there is no "self" in the self portraits because she is always playing a stereotype or role. Philosophically this asks the question, what is a women, where is the feminine? The answer is in the TV.     

Gregory Crewdson

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5157819 – This is a great radio piece about Crewdson’s work done by NPR. You can listen to the audio of the radio story to.
http://www.whitecube.com/artists/crewdson/ – This site has a nice article as well as images.

Sandy Skoglund – 

Click here to learn about the photography of Sandy Skoglund (5 points for a comment) – A narrative photographer whose imagery focuses on the surreal and the imaginary

Creative Assignment:  A Photograph Based on a Famous Narrative (20 points)

Create a photograph that is based on a well known narrative or story. Your photograph can be based on either:

  1. a myth (popular, cultural, literary, or urban),
  2. a fairytale,
  3. a famous scene from a movie,
  4. a famous work of art (like a famous painting or sculpture),

Your finished image can be enhanced and manipulated in Photoshop by adding objects, backgrounds or creative color liberties.

The idea is that when our brains process images, we automatically cross reference our ideas against cultural constructs, more specifically stories handed down over generations. You can see this, when thinkers like Freud and Jung, claim the "Oedipal Complex" or the "Electra Complex" which are based on the stories or "narratives" handed down, in those cases, from Greek Mythology. So I am asking you to make an image that is loosely or tightly, based on a myth, or well known narrative or fairytale, it can also be based on a previous work of art. You see this all the time in art, i.e. art that references previous works of art.

The goal of the image is not necessarily to achieve a realistic or faithful reproduction of a narrative story, but to achieve a metaphorical or allegorical re-interpretation of one. Think of it like quoting a famous fictional narrative but doing so subtly.

Turning it in:
Due date: Finals Week

Important Note! – For this assignment, do not use the same fairy tales or stories from the example images below:

Submit your image in Blackboard before or during Finals Week!

Examples of "A Narrative Photograph" assignment from photo1 film class (click to enlarge):


Can you tell what narratives are depicted in these photographs?
Does this add interest and depth to the images?

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Animate an Image Sequence in Photoshop


The goal in this project is to make an animation from a sequence of images. You can import video to layers in Photoshop or you can find a sequence of images and paste each image to a layer, like I have done in this project. You can see a small unfinished version of this exercise saved from Photoshop as an animated gif file (File > Save for Web, and choose .gif file format). The images are taken from the work of famous photographer Eadweard Muybridge.




Follow the project and my process by watching my video tutorials below:

Newly Added Videos for this Project! Take it further!

This is my finished animated gif file


How to work with Layers in Photoshop CS5

These videos will help to explain the concept of Layers in Photoshop

In this video, I explain the concept of layers and I show you how to create and delete layers in Photoshop. I show how to reorder the stacking of the layers by dragging one on top of another. I also touch on the concept of transparency and how we can create different kinds of layers like a text layer.

In this video, I show you how to combine two images on separate layers in one document. To do that, I use two different methods, drag and drop, and copy and paste. I also touch on layer tips and erasing to transparency.