Optimize photos for your digital scrapbook

Your photos are the centerpiece of your digital scrapbooking pages, giving your friends and family a sense of what you felt that day. The vibrant colors, the light on the faces, or the majesty of the landscape all tell aspects of the story you capture on the page.

Use an artist’s eye to choose your photos. Think about the way you usually look through your photos. If you’re a parent, you may look through photos of your kids with a sense of love and maybe laughter—enjoying the smiles, remembering specific moments. But when you’re choosing the images for your scrapbooking page, concentrate on using your artist’s eye. This means looking for photos that show the central image clearly and have a vibrant crispness. You choose a photo that includes the kids, but also offers an interesting angle, a pleasing light, or another distinguishing feature that brings color, visual interest, or lightness and humor to the mix.

Go for consistency—and variety. There’s no hard and fast rule about how many photos you should include on your scrapbooking page, but for best results—unless you want to include a number of thumbnail-sized images—one large photo and two or three smaller photos will be plenty. When selecting photos, remember that both consistency and variety are important. You want the photos to all have a unifying theme—perhaps they were all taken on the same day and part of a series, or they all relate to a specific theme or event that is central to your narrative. Variety helps people understand why you are using multiple pictures. The big moment might be captured in a large photo of your son receiving a baseball trophy, but the other photos on the page might also show an image of him at bat in a recent game and a picture of him horsing around with the team afterwards.

Use the power of the crop. Cropping is a digital scrapbooker’s best friend because it enables you to focus others’ attention on the aspect of the image you most want them to see. Cropping lets you remove irrelevant elements. The process of cropping an image is a simple technique in most image editing software. In Photoshop CS4 ( ), you begin by selecting the Crop tool, dragging the portion of the image you want to keep (the rest of the display is masked with a dark screen so you can see this clearly); then click the Commit button in the Options bar (the green check mark) to complete the crop. You can also create a Crop Preset to apply the same crop values to other images you add to the page.

Resist the temptation to show the entire tableau. Rather, crop to reveal the most important part of the story.

Get the red out. Red-eye is a perennial problem is many peoples’ photos. Red-eye occurs when the camera flash reflects off the retina of the eye. Most photo editing software includes a feature to help you eliminate red eye; in Photoshop CS4 display the tool group behind the Spot Healing Brush tool and click Red Eye tool. Click in the red eye to remove it.

Adjust images your way. Photoshop CS4 includes a set of adjustments you can use to tailor—to a remarkable degree—the different characteristics of the images on your page. You can also make all kinds of changes to page elements using options in the Layer Style dialog in Photoshop CS4. Experiment with these and other image options to see what best suits your page. A few adjustments can make a big change in the way your image looks.

Frame your work. You can easily add a frame to your images. In Photoshop CS4, you’ll find the command you need in the Actions panel. (If necessary, display the panel by clicking Window and choosing Actions, and click the side arrow to choose the default selection of frames.) Click the frame you want to apply and click the Play Selection button (with the arrow) to add the frame to the image. You can then add the framed image as a new layer on your scrapbook page and arrange and enhance it (by adding a shadow, lighting, and more) as you’d like.

These are just a few of the techniques you can use to make your scrapbook photos shine. While we use Photoshop CS4 for this example, and the instructions are specific to this version, note that you can achieve similar image editing results with Adobe Photoshop Elements ( ), iPhoto '09 ( ), and the previous version of Photoshop. Alternative image editing programs such as Acorn ( ) and Pixelmator ( ) also give you cropping and red eye removal capabilities. Using the variety of tools and options in your favorite photo editing software, you can easily enhance your images so that they inspire others and help them feel like a part of your story.

[Katherine Murray is a technology writer in Indianapolis and the author of Creative Digital Scrapbooking (Peachpit Press).]

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