If there’s one thing I’ve learned while transitioning to a hybrid Project Life process from a fully-digital process, it’s that hybrid (i.e. a combination of digital and traditional methods, if you’re not familiar with the term) requires a lot more advanced planning and preparation! When working on a digital page, you’re free to make mistakes over and over again thanks to the magical “undo” button. However, when it comes to hybrid, put a bunch of letter stickers on a photo to create a title and you’re stuck with it unless you want to tear the photo all up while trying to remove the stickers if you decide you don’t like the way it looks (not that I speak from experience or anything, *cough*!) Since there’s so much additional planning involved, it’s taken me a few months to find my rhythm. But after a bit of trial and error, I’ve finally landed on a somewhat consistent process.
This week, I’ll be sharing a series of posts about this process. For part one and part two, we’ll focus on the digital stages… how I prepare my photos and how I plan my layouts. For part part three, I’ll share how I assemble and embellish my pages. Be sure to check back for the other parts of this series throughout the week, or sign up in the sidebar to the right to receive new blog posts straight to your inbox so you won’t forget!
Hybrid Project Life Process – Step 1: Choosing the photos
While I do have a digital camera, I never use it. 100% of the photos I use in my Project Life pages come from my iPhone 6 or my husband’s. I use the Dropbox app to automatically back up and import my phone photos to my computer. So my first step when I begin preparing a new month of Project Life pages is to open my Dropbox folder on my computer and find all the photos from the month I’m working on. By default, the file name of the photo includes the date, so this is easy to narrow down. But if for some reason I can’t tell when a photo was taken, I refer back to my phone’s photos in “moments” view. I select all of the photos that I want to use, choosing the best one if there are several similar photos (you may already know this, but you can select multiple photos by holding down the control key on a PC or command key on a Mac as you click), and choose “Open with Photoshop.”
Step 2: Editing the photos
Once I’ve selected all of the photos I want to use and have opened them up in Photoshop, I do a bit of editing. I’m not a Photoshop pro by any means, so I only do very basic things like adjusting the image size and cropping out unnecessary background clutter like I did below to remove the distracting trash can and power line on my photo of the Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans. I also adjust the image to correct for overly-dark or yellowish lighting. I don’t edit my photos to the point of blurring out blemishes, brightening up eyes, or any of the other edits a professional photographer might work on that would be located elsewhere in Photoshop.
The features I typically use to adjust my photos (aside from the crop and re-size options) are found by clicking on the “Image” menu and mousing over “Adjustments.” Many times, adjusting to fix one problem causes me another problem, and since I’m learning as I go and am not a professional, I just play around a bit until I find that perfect balance. The features I use most often are:
- Brightness/Contrast: As you can see in my original image, the lighting was not great. The sky was bright, but the cafe was very muted. I bumped up the brightness just a bit to help with this issue.
- Exposure: Adjusting the brightness caused the sky to be whited out almost completely, and I didn’t want to lose that bit of blue in the photo. But adjusting the exposure of the entire picture would have caused the cafe to become darker again. So using the pen tool on the left toolbar, I created a path around only the sky portion of my image by clicking along the edges of the sky to create new path points until I got back to the first point and connected the path. Then, I right-clicked inside the path I had just created around the sky and clicked “make selection.” Once I had the sky selected, I went back up to the adjustments options in the Image menu and selected exposure, bumping it back down a bit until the blue started to show up again. Using the pen tool to create a selection like this is a great way to apply edits to only a certain portion of a photo. You can also play around with the gamma and offset corrections in the exposure setting to improve the look of your photo, although this part is always just a trial and error process for me, rather than a technical know-how!
- Vibrance: If you just want to give a little bit more of a boost to the colors that are already present in your photo, you can increase the vibrance setting. I nudged mine up just a bit to bring out the green of the stripes on the awning and the blue in the sky.
- Shadows/Highlights: Sometimes the overall exposure on a photo is okay, but you just want to brighten up the dark spots a little more or tone down the brightness. You can do this by adjusting the shadow and highlight settings until you achieve the balance you desire.
- Photo Filters: If a photo is overly-yellow or orange due to artificial lighting, I use a cooling filter to balance it out (you can use any white space in the photo as your visual guide for this… just keep adjusting until it looks like a true white rather than a golden or blueish color). Likewise, if a photo is overly gray or blue, I might apply a warming filter. For this photo, I selected “cooling filter (82)” and set it to 7% just to bring out a little more of the blue sky.
At this stage, I don’t worry too much yet about editing based on which size of pocket each photo will go into, I just edit the photos to make them look their best. Then I save each edited photo in a folder labeled “6-June2015” (for example), so that the folders stay in chronological order rather than being sorted alphabetically by month name.
Want to see more of my process? Check out the rest of the posts in this series:
Do you edit your photos prior to having them printed, or do you use them as is? Let’s chat about your photo preparation process in the comments!