Photoshop Tutorial: Selection Tools for Beginners

One of the most important processes for any Photoshop user from beginner to professional to understand is making selections. Selecting a specific part of a photo is essential to photo editing. Like any other process in Photoshop, there is more than one way to go about it.

If you look in the top left of the toolbar, you will find the marquee select tool just adjacent to the move tool. This tool defaults to rectangular marquee. This is the simplest and most intuitive of all selection tools, but is not without its limitations. With this tool selected, you simply click and drag to make square/rectangular selections of any proportion.

By clicking and holding the left mouse button on the marquee tool, a side panel drop-down menu will give you a choice of three other versions of the tool. These are: the elliptical tool, which allows you to make circular and oval selections, the vertical marquee tool, and the horizontal marquee tool. The latter two of these are not particularly useful.

On the toolbar, just below the marquee tool, you will find the lasso tool. This tool is only slightly more complex than the marquee tool, but much more powerful. By clicking and dragging, you can use the lasso tool to make a selection in any shape whatsoever. Releasing the left mouse button will make the selection active.

Just as with the marquee tool, you can bring up a drop-down menu by holding down the left mouse button on the lasso tool, bringing up two other types of lassos. The polygonal lasso works slightly different than the standard lasso but can be used to select complex shapes. By clicking, you set the start point. Each time you wish to draw at another angle, you click again. The selection is complete when you click at the start point, closing the selection. The next lasso tool is the magnetic lasso. This is the most useful tool for extracting specific elements of a photograph. The magnetic lasso automatically follows the contours of an object by the differences in light and dark. The sensitivity of the magnetic lasso is determined by the percentage of the edge contrast, located in the action bar at the top. Just like the polygonal lasso, you have to click back on the start point to close the selection.

The last of the selection tools is the magic wand which is located just to the right of the lasso tool. The magic wand makes selections according to similarities in color and saturation. If you click on a photo with magic wand, you will notice that it automatically selects a patchy group of color. By holding down the shift key, you can add more to the selection by continuing to click. Lowering the tolerance level in the action bar restricts the variance in color and contrast that the magic wand selects.

That's pretty much it. One last trick though: right clicking after making a selection will give you some extra options like: inversing the selection or feathering the selection (softening the edges).…

Three Places to Buy a Macintosh Computer in Phoenix, Arizona

Right now, Macintosh computers are still nowhere near as common as Windows-based computers. First, they have a higher price of admission. And not as many retail stores carry them. In the Phoenix area, there are few choices. Here's what you can expect from them.

The Apple Store – There are five Apple Stores in the metro Phoenix area. Each shares the same "we're hipper than you and we know it" vibe that was pilloried in an episode of The Simpsons (curiously enough, this episode is not mentioned on the Apple Store Wikipedia page – interesting). The employees are a bit saccharin, but gamely try hard when confronted with a technical challenge beyond a mere sales pitch. Here's where the Apple Store really falls down, though – big crowds can monopolize the sales staff. And guess who has to ring you up? The same people who are occupied trying to sell product. I roamed the store recently for about 10 minutes, searching for someone I could pay (I had a wireless keyboard and a seven-port USB hub in-hand). No dice, no takers, not even a "can I help you?". I re-shelved the products and walked out. I still have yet to buy anything at a Mac store despite a few attempts. It's almost as if people want to be seen at the Apple Store. And Apple seems perfectly content with the spectacle.

Best Buy – The scene here is typical big-box fare. There's also a dearth of software and hardware options for the Mac crowd. Best Buy seems more interested, really, in iPads than in desktop computers. It's scarcely worth mentioning, and will likely appeal only to fans of the anonymous chain store flavor.

MacMedia – This retailer's two locations are scrubbed clean of the wild-eyed evangelism and slickness of the Apple Store. Sales staff members will actually admit to familiarity with the Windows world, and will offer answers beyond "Mac is better." Being a small staff, you might have to wait your turn for other customers. But the staff will acknowledge that you're there, and that they'll help you out as soon as possible. The selection is solid – and a bit more varied. The Biltmore Apple Store is moments from my home and walking distance from work, while MacMedia's Scottsdale location is at least 10 minutes away. So far, I've made all my Mac purchases there. It's not salesmanship and flash like the Apple Store – MacMedia is a more conventional and service-oriented shopping experience.…

Overcoming Fear – Upgrading My Computer

Just the other day I accomplished something that had been nagging at me for the past year. I went out and purchased a memory upgrade for my iBook computer and actually installed it myself, with nobody there to help me.

Now I realize that on the surface this may seem like a minor and insignificant event, but for someone like me, who has always lived in fear of making mistakes and as a consequence, relinquished responsibility for my actions by relying on others to take care of things, doing this with my own two hands was a huge undertaking.

Computers (especially Macs), after all, are expensive machines and should not to be trifled with. If there is a problem and ignoring it is no longer an option, then leave it to the professionals. As far as upgrading the system, forget about it! Just save up and buy a new one.

I use my computer all the time, mainly to write and surf the Web. While I am reasonably competent at installing software or downloading attachments, I am not a techie, not by a long shot. I count on the fact that when I push that power button, my computer turns on without a glitch. If something goes wrong, I’ll simply turn it off and try again.

So for me to take the initiative and actually modify the hardware was nothing short of a revolution. This, of course, got me to thinking – what exactly was I so afraid of? Why am I always making such mountains out of molehills?

Well, at the root of it all is fear of the unknown, coupled with the fear of doing something wrong, not to mention the dire consequences that I’d been conditioned to believe were awaiting my every mistake. Whether or not I actually made the mistake was irrelevant.

So rather than assert myself and take control of the situation, and thus my life, I generally choose to defer responsibility (and thus the blame for any problems) to someone else. Namely an “expert.” What constitutes an expert is often times anybody but myself, regardless of their level of expertise.

When I look around me, I get a sense that I might not be alone. After all, entire industries have sprung up around this concept of fear. It seems to have become socially acceptable to be afraid and, as a consequence, turn to an “expert” for guidance and advice on how to do just about everything.

Bear in mind, I fully acknowledge the importance of an expert in certain areas. I go to the doctor when I’m sick, and when I need legal counseling I talk to a lawyer, even though he’s charging me two hundred dollars an hour.

But I think it’s fair to say that things have gotten a bit out of hand, and in the grand scheme of things, it seems like we’ve simply given up on just thinking for ourselves. This need for expertise has invaded all aspects of our lives, including how we interact with our loved ones, what foods we’re supposed to eat, and which clothes we’re supposed to wear. We even turn to experts to tell us how to be happy.

And of course, let us not forget about parenting.

Marketers have shamelessly targeted the vulnerable parent, praying on their fears, fanning the flames of their anxieties to induce them to spend their money on goods and services that make unfound (and often times ridiculous) claims while undermining their confidence to do even the most basic things. I read about a mother and father who went so …

Film Versus Digital Photography: Consider Cost and Longevity

Click on any site devoted to photography and you will find a question that will be answered, or attempted to be answered, by everyone. That question is, "Which is better: Film or digital photography?"

The debate over this almost always starts with cost and how digital is cheaper. Is this true though? Factor in the costs of a darkroom compared with the costs of a computer and the digital darkrooms, such as Photoshop, Corel Photo and the multitude of other programs, it most likely balances out.

Camera costs are next. Digital cameras are going down in price and becoming more widespread. The same is happening with film cameras but film has the additional cost of film but digital has the one time cost of memory so digital does win out. However durability and upgrading is an issue.

A film camera can last generations but digital cameras come and go with the newest model and technology. As said, there is the cost of film but it does balance out in time with camera replacements and upgrading.

The next question is quality. Digital photography is making advancements in the quality of prints but there is still the question of how long the prints will last. In a hundred years will there be a record of digital prints like there is still a record of the pioneers of photography today, we do not know for sure but there is speculation. There was the same speculation back when the medium of photography started but the negatives are still there, with changing technology we do not know if memory cards will be.

All of these points about "which is better" are mute. This is because of one factor that is overlooked in all debates about film and digital that is quality and beyond the quality of the print, camera, and so on.
Put a camera in the hands of a monkey on the streets of New York or France and they will get lucky every once in a while. It does not matter if the camera is film or digital, however a digital camera on full auto settings will help. Then again the same could be said for film.

Any art form, whether it is photography, painting, or whatever, is about emotion, skill, and one last aspect that is so simple it is infantile. For art to become art all that has to happen is for someone to come along and call it art.

Sitting in storage at the Tate in London are tin cans with crap in a can. The reason thousands of dollars was spent on crap in a can was that a critic or someone called it art. Whether or not it is art is debatable but at the end of the day it is still just crap in a can.

A painting professor I know once said, "Art is art and junk is junk. You can take junk and turn it into art but you cannot take art and turn it into junk. What art is is art and what junk is is junk. Art is art and junk is junk and that is all there is to it."

Photographers can debate about whether film or digital is better. It is the quality of their work that matters. What also matters is how people feel about the work or the emotion that the work brings.…

The Changing Face of Computer Service

The field of servicing computers has changed with time. Previously there were only hardware issues and compatibility problems between various pieces of hardware. Now there are more numbers of software problems. Basically the transition is from ‘something broke’ stage to ‘how do I do this’. The computer industry has changed also. Plug and play technology has resolved major configuration and compatibility issues. The cost of computers has also come down in a big way.

Today’s pieces of software have become complicated and sophisticated while getting bigger and resource-hungry all the time. It has come to a point that the average user is not able to figure out most of the things when using the software. The vendors who sell the software provide lackluster support for their products. These affected users then turn to the local computer repair outfit. The queries range from being unable to sync iPods to unable to login to Gmail.

The local repair shop is able to fix computers physically and they are usually expected to know all the software that is out there. Sometimes the local shops do know about major software, but they cannot keep up with all the available software. It is possible to figure the new software out but time costs money. The software vendors know this, so they charge a per incident cost for support. They thus avoid having to do phone support as many users would go to some other less expensive way of troubleshooting the problems. The software vendors cite controlling support costs as the reason.

That is the next factor, the cost of providing the service. To be able to keep pace with all software that is out there requires constant training and upgradation of systems and all that costs cash. There is also the cost of operating vehicles, insurance, the general business costs and it all adds up quickly. Training and experience is what separates the $15/hr computer technician from the one who charges $100/hr.

The final point this discussion leads to, is the cost of the service or repair. Computers, once they are one to two years old, are not worth more than what a repair would cost. In the case of software, some hours of software troubleshooting can cost more than the software itself. So what are the cost options of a computer service company? They can’t afford not to charge for what needs to be charged. They can absorb the costs but not for too long as then they would be out of business. They can cut back on the quality of service and people but that won’t be good for the customers.

As a computer user, your choices are to fix problems yourself in a DIY manner, contact the vendor’s technical support, or pay your local computer repair outfit. It can be a Catch-22 situation for both the technician and the consumer. No matter which way is adopted it will cost them both. This is the modern face of offering computer service as a business.…

Creating Seamless Textures from Scratch in Photoshop

The steps in this guide will show you a few of the tricks in Photoshop designers need to know in order to create seamless textures. Before I start laying out the steps, it is important to consider what it is about a texture that makes it seamless.� A texture is just a detailed image that can be applied to an object (such as a web site's background, a video game character model, and countless other things).� A seamless texture means just that – it has no seams.� What are the seams of regular textures?� Most textures with seams are obvious; the edges of the texture are seams.� If the right side of the texture doesn't match with the left side, there is a seam.� However, even some supposed "seamless" textures have seams, which tells us that seams don't always exist just on the borders of the texture.

Think about it.� If the only requirement for a seamless texture is that the right side has to match the left side, then we could just mirror the image and we would have a seamless texture!� But sadly, the seam would still be as clear as day.� While going through this guide, keep in mind that while a texture can technically be "seamless", the human eye is exceptional at discerning patterns and creating a satisfactory seamless texture can be a lot of work.

One – The Photoshop Secret to Seamless Textures
Follow these steps:

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  • Click File > New (CTRL + N).
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  • Set Width and Height to 512 pixels.
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  • Set Resolution to 72.
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  • Set Color Mode: RGB Color (Anything but Greyscale).
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  • Click OK.
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Now that you have your canvas open, you're entitled to the secret of creating seamless textures in Photoshop.
There is a filter in Photoshop called Clouds (Filter > Render > Clouds) that does something useful when used on a canvas whose size is a power of two (…128, 256, 512, etc…).� It creates a seamless "Cloud" texture.

Two – Create the Base
Follow these steps:

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  • Using the Swatches Pallete (Window > Swatches), find the "20% Grey" swatch, and click on it (Hover over or double click the swatch to see its name).
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  • Press 'x' on the keyboard to swap foreground and background colors.
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  • Using the Swatches Pallete, click the "45% Grey" swatch.
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  • Use the Clouds Filter (Filter > Render > Clouds)
  •  

Let's take a look at what we have so far: not much, right?� Right.� If anything, it looks like an up-close picture of some rain clouds.� Unfortunately, we're not making rain cloud textures, we're making the base for our metal texture.� So, we need the image evened out a little bit.� For our purposes, we can use the High Pass Filter (Filter > Other > High Pass) to achieve this effect.

Follow these steps:

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  • Start the High Pass Filter (Filter > Other > High Pass).
  •  
  • Set the Radius to ~16.
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  • Click OK.
  •  

At first, it might look like High Pass only made the image darker.� But I assure you, there was more done.� Don't believe me?� Copy both layers and set the contrast up higher (Image > Adjustments > Brightness / Contrast).� Before High Pass, the image had bright and dark colors grouped together unevenly.� After High Pass with Radius 16, they are much more evenly mixed.
The High Pass Filter evened the cloud texture out for us so we can use it as a base of our texture, instead of just a solid grey (we could use a solid grey, but that's… boring).� The …

Filmmaking Crew Breakdown – Director of Photography

Upon stepping foot on my first professional film acting gig I was a giant ball of nervousness. My role in this production was quite small. I was what is called a day player, which means my character was only seen in a single scene, and while I had several lines I wouldn't be needed for more than a single day of filming. After running through my lines with the actors, and getting prepped at the hair/makeup trailer and wardrobe came the time to rehearse on set.

While I knew the director from his previous works, I was baffled by the sheer number of crew members. My eyes skimmed the room and noted a variety of faces whose curves were marked with stress and worry; except for one. He was standing by the camera reviewing its placement, and he had the most pleasant disposition about him. After rehearsing the scene, I felt brave enough to approach him to ask his title. He was the director of photography, and while I was vaguely familiar with his duty on set he took the time to further delve into what his profession is and his specific role on the film set.

The director of photography, also known as the DP, is one of the most important members of the directing unit, and as an actor you should understand how his hands shape the final product of a film.

Primary Responsibilities

In the most foundational basis, the director of photography is responsible for overseeing the production of all moving pictures within a film. While his responsibilities may sound similar to those of the cinematographer or the director, they couldn't be more different.

The director of photography spends a significant amount of time talking with the cinematographer and director in order to obtain their visual desire of the film, and then decides what filming equipment and labs to use in order to best capture their vision of a film.

Not only does he select the actual equipment, but he also has a direct role in selecting other professionals who will work in directing unit, such as the camera operator, camera assistants and other minor crew members.

In order for a film to be successful, the movie director and the director of photography must work hand-in-hand as their roles in a production directly shape the final product. Thus, as an actor you should take your notes not only from the director, but also from the director of photography as these professionals are technically one-in-the-same.…

Easy Ways to Speed Up Your Windows XP Computer

We all have experienced issues of slowness with our Windows PC's. That, or we've experienced the slowness of our parent's PC's when we visit them and get the dreaded request to fix their problems. While we all know that the first step is to run a virus scan, that isn't always going to fix the issue of a slow PC. With today's powerful anti-virus software, a PC is far more likely to succumb to non-viral malicious software such as spyware and trojans. These aren't normally detected in the virus program you're running. Besides that, installing and uninstalling programs, switching and swapping files, and even simply browsing the internet can add things into you system that slows it down. Your system backbone, the registry, can easily get clogged up, and it is very dangerous to try and clean it up yourself. So what can you do? There are many advanced tutorials on the web that can help, but may be too in depth for some users. Follow these tips to keep your PC running as smooth as it did when you first bought it.

Tip 1: Don't be afraid to wipe out and start over.

Formatting the hard drive and starting over can be one of the most feared processes to the general user. What most don't realize is that when you format your drive and reinstall windows, you're wiping out all acquired spyware, viruses, system errors, and user errors. The PC is being reverted back to the way it was when it was purchased. For those who know how to do it and don't have any critical data, this can be the quickest fix for a slow machine. However, if you have data that is important, it will need to be backed up on a flash drive, or a cd. You will also need to know how your machine is reformatted. Most of the time a quick email to tech support can get you the steps, and they are generally easy for anyone to follow.

Tip 2: Anti-virus, Service Pack 2, Spyware Blocker

These are very basic necessities for a secure system. You need a strong anti-virus running to keep your system intact. What people don't realize is, choosing the wrong security software can slow your computer down in itself. If your computer is 4-5 years old, DO NOT purchase Norton Internet Security or McAfee Internet Security. Both of these programs are overkill, and they use too many resources on machines that only have 256 RAM. Simply purchase Norton Anti-Virus or McAfee Anti-Virus. These keep viruses off your system without dragging down your resources. Neither program comes with a firewall, but if you have Windows XP with Service Pack 2 (SP2), you already have a decent firewall.

To find out whether or not you have SP2, right click on the 'My Computer' icon and click Properties. It should tell you that you have Windows XP Home, Pro, or Media Center, as well as what Service Pack you have. It is critical for a machine with an internet connection to have SP2, as it tightens the security of the system. SP2 can be obtained by clicking 'Windows Update' from your programs list, or by visiting microsoft.com.

Last but not least, you should have a spyware program to protect your system. It is possible to download Lavasoft Ad-Aware SE Personal for free from download.com. This program does not keep spyware off your machine, but if run once a week it can clean out any acquired spyware. It's great for speeding up a system. However, there are spyware programs that run in …

Windows XP Tricks for Speeding Up Your Computer

Is your computer running slower than it used to, and you're certain you don't have a virus? There can be a lot of common problems behind this. My previous XP article discussed reducing the number of startup programs on your computer; this article will cover a few of the more common issues, such as Some of the effects that slow your PC are:

1–Oddly enough, your own desktop wallpaper can be the culprit. A blank wallpaper will work the best for speed, if not aesthetics. Right-click on the desktop, click the Wallpaper bar and choose this option.

2–Movement or sounds when starting up your computer will also only slow your PC even more–even the startup/shutdown sounds. Removing the unnecessary sounds is another way to speed up your computer. Use the control panel to accomplish this.

3–Also, try getting rid of extraneous shortcuts on your desktop. Removing these will cut down on the startup time of XP. Unlike the programs themselves, the shortcuts are unwanted and safe to remove. Successfully removing the shortcut will give you the following message: "Are you sure you want to delete this shortcut?" This will let you know you're deleting the shortcut and not the program.

4–You may have added too many extensions to your browser (this is especially common in Firefox, where installing addons is so easy.) They add up and slow down your computer's speed, so removing the unnecessary ones will help you give it a boost.

5–For some reason, MS images can end up all over your computer, taking up space you could use and slowing you down. Try to organize your photos, keeping the ones you want and getting rid of the others.

6–Use the built-in search option to look for files you don't want. XP lets you search for files by their type; such as all photos with .gif extensions. You can find all the .gif files on your computer, and remove all the unwanted image files. You can do the same for almost any file type, including sounds and written documents. Just make sure you aren't removing files you need; if you find yourself in doubt, it's better to leave that file alone.

7–One overlooked reason for a slow computer can be simply too many bookmarks in your browser's file, along with the browsing history and cookies. With the "tools" section of the browser you can control these problems and delete any unneeded information. Doing this once a week should help keep your speed maximized.

These seven tips are only meant to improve your computer's performance if you have no virus. Don't use them if you think your PC might be infected, and try to get some anti-virus software ASAP.…

Computer Review: HP EliteBook 6930p

It might not soar like a bird, but the EliteBook offers a similar scratch-resistant anodized aluminum body similar to aircraft skins. Internally, the lid hides a honeycombed magnesium frame which explains why it doesn't buckle when stressed. Plying a brushed-metal coat, the semi-rugged EliteBook is definitely elegant enough to warrant some looks. Starting from 2.1kg, the EliteBook is comparable to Lenovo ThinkPad T400 which weighs in at 2.13kg. As a professional laptop geared for mobility, the 6930p is still a shade lighter than some of its adversaries, like Toshibas Tecra M10, for example, which tips the scale at 2.44kg.

As the cream of HP's business crop, the EliteBook's pointstick and touchpad are generally responsive. Additionally, the Synaptics-driven touch pad is fashioned with a matte surface, making it easy to maneuver with even with clammy fingers. Characteristically, we have no grouse with the keyboard, whose keys offer adequate travel and subdued clicks.

Software-wise, the EliteBook comes bundled with HP's regular ProtectTools Security Manager software package. It provides the usual safety measures like disk encryption as well as data backups for the busy executive. There's also a nifty business card reader application in Presto!'s BizCard 5 for organizing stacks of name cards. Just use the webcam to snap one and you're done. On the hardware front, if you're prone to mishaps, the EliteBook also offers shock protection for its hard disk (3D DriveGuard) and a spill-resistant keyboard. Physically, our review unit came adorned with a Core 2 Duo P8600 2.40GHz CPU, 3GB RAM, an 80GB SSD and an integrated Mobile GMA 4500MHD GPU, making it more than sufficient to undertake conventional business applications. Carting a 141-inch display with a 1280 x 800 pixel native resolution, the 6930p continues the lineage of most business notebooks with its matte screen surface. Observably, the widescreen panel managed to reduce a healthy amount of glare and offers liberal viewing angles. While the Ambient Light Sensor feature may mute the brightness levels by a fair bit, its screen is still a joy to use. Connectivity-wise, the 6930p is no sluggard with its Draft-N WiFi adapter and Gigabit Ethernet port.

With great batteries comes greater endurance. That's mostly true with the EliteBook's 6-cell (55 WHr) battery which lasted an enduring minutes on our DVD playback test. For this specific model, HP has thrown in an extended battery pack, and the mammoth 12-cell did go the distance with over fifteen hours of mileage.

In the end, the HP EliteBook might not sprout wings and fly, but you should rest easy knowing that your money's well spent especially in the ranks of resilience and performance.…