Shades Of The Departed

April 5

A Monthly - Weekend With Shades - Column

This is our granddaughter Cecilia enjoying some ice cream. We get to enjoy this delightful moment because her mother is never far away from her camera phone and regularly captures little events like this. For a mother of four, a camera phone that can capture and email a photo in two quick steps is the tool of choice. For the grandparents who receive these precious pictures in our mailbox, it's a wonderful gift that brightens our day. For the family historian, not so much.

While camera phone technology is improving, these photos are - and will probably continue to be - much lower resolution than a normal digital camera. Trying to transmit a 10MB photo across a broadband connection takes lots of time so you can imagine the effort (and data transfer costs) across a mobile phone connection. As a result, we are limited in what we can do with these photos.

One way around these limitations is to do what I did and turn the photo into photo art. This can turn less-than-perfect photos into family treasures. It can also turn a simple photo into a special gift. And, if you already own Photoshop Elements (Win & Mac) or Corel Paint Shop Pro (Win), you already have the tools to get started. Both offer filters and effects which will turn your photo into a painting, poster or sketch in a few quick steps. The new family treasure above was created with Corel Painter Essentials 4 (Win & Mac), which is also included in the current version of Paint Shop Pro. I opened the photo, chose the style I wanted (chalk sketch here) and it did the painting for me. Once it finished, I did some quick cleanup and it was ready to go. The photo that once could only be printed at "wallet" size is now a portrait printed on watercolor paper headed back to mom and dad. Now, the size limit is my printer - it only prints letter/legal sized paper. This portrait file could easily be printed on 11" x 17" if I had the capability.

Not all photo art requires any great photo-editing skills or software. This piece was created using only the simple editor in iPhoto. I gave the original black and white photo a sepia effect and added the matte effect to create the oval frame. I then printed it on iron-on transfer paper and ironed it onto one of those cheap canvas boards (cardboard with canvas glued to it). This is a small (6" x 8") board so I was able to get two copies of the photo printed on one sheet of transfer paper. This example was the first try. You can see the line at the top of the board where the edge of the paper left a mark. A few simple adjustments and the second try became a gift for my sister (the little beauty on the left). The imperfections of the iron-on process, combined with the roughness of the canvas, gives the result an interesting grunge effect that adds even more interest to the piece.

Photo art can be an inexpensive way to create a personal gift that will not soon be forgotten. One family member ordered 10 sets of notecards from one of the online photo-processing sites using a different photo for each set. Since each set contained 10 cards, she could quickly rearrange them so each set had 10 different photo cards inside. As a result, she had 10 delightful gifts at a cost of approximately $8.00 each. Years later, I'm still talking about that gift.

So, where do you find inspiration? Start with the software creators. Both Adobe and Corel have built online communities around their products. Here you'll find tutorials to teach you how to use the effects and filters included in their products along with ideas for putting those techniques to use. There are all kinds or resources for ideas. Here's just a few:

You'll be amazed at the number of ways you can turn a simple photo into a work of art. Even better, you'll be even more amazed at how easy many of them are. Most of all, you'll be pleasantly amazed at how much your family and friends will love your efforts.


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