Friday, September 23, 2011

Fun with QR code

I've been playing around with QR (i.e. "quick response") code lately. You know, those little black and white patterned boxes that you are supposed to scan with your smartphone in order to get more info, go to a website or whatever. I started to imagine how you might embed QR code into home life. The first thing to come to mind was how cool it would be to have some modern pillows that had embedded information. Your décor could speak to your guests even more than it does now.

Now, I'm not about to appliqué a real pillow just to try it out, so I did some photoshop mockups:

This one says "Home Sweet Home." If you have a smartphone with a reader (I use Scan), you just have to scan it and the hidden message appears as text on your phone. Try it.

Here's another:
That one says "Be awesome today!"

If you were so inclined, you could take a traditional craft and update it with code. Cross-stitch or embroider a quote, for example:

"Women who make a house a home make a far greater contribution to society than those who command large armies or stand at the head of impressive corporations. —Gordon B. Hinckley.

Yep. It says all that.

Or how about an Amish quilt?

"Before Prozac, there was quilting"

But what does all of this have to do with photos? 
Check out this amazing QR code portrait that embeds 9 years of a radio show (or rather, links to all of the episodes) into a giant mosaic. I'm not sure I would take on a project that ambitious, but I can imagine having regular photos with additional info embedded, or just the QR codes as links to entire albums online. Here is my ABC Paris collection:

 In a few days, I will post a tutorial on how to manipulate QR codes in ways that link them to photography.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Basics of the Photoshop Text Toolbar/ Character window

This is not a tutorial that is going to throw around terms like "ligature" and "kerning" and "tracking" and so on. For those kind of typography basics you can read elsewhere. My purpose is simply to make you aware of the existence of the character window and to show you that working with type in Photoshop is not as complicated as you might think.

So for the sake of demonstration, I took this photo of my daughter's stuffed dog (who apparently can't rest without a sleeping mask)...

and then I took a random "sleep"-related quote (by William Blake, I think) to use as text. I have pretty ambivalent feelings about the result, but it does show that you can manipulate text in a lot of ways without even creating a bunch of different text layers.

There is a good chance that you don't have the handy little "character" window visible, so first you will need to make sure it is selected from the window menu:
Now you will see all kinds of options that will help you work with text. Here, I have highlighted just a few (I warned you about the lack of official terminology):
So we're ready to type something and play around with those settings. First, hit "T" to get the text tool. Then, click and drag (as opposed to just clicking) to create a text box that will help contain your text. Whenever your text box is active you can drag the handles to resize it.

The first thing I do is simply enter the text in a size you can read. Don't worry about formatting yet:

When you start adjusting words, remember that you are free to change individual words within the group without creating separate text layers for each word. Just highlight whatever word (or letter or group of words) you want to change, and then adjust the settings for your highlighted selection in the character window.

I decided to highlight "Think" and increase the font size.

(Note: You aren't stuck with 72 pt as your highest setting. You can type any number at all in the box)
Then I did the same for the other imperatives and also added a return at the end of each sentence.

At this point, I know I will want to make more changes (colors, fonts, etc.)  I know that the automatic spacing between those returns is not to my liking, so I can highlight those four lines (I could just as easily do two or three) and make adjustments. Make sure you highlight what you want to change first:

Now, instead of "auto," I can adjust the settings from the pull-down menu or type in whatever number I want:

Look what happens when I set it at 20 pt:

And here is what 72 pt looks like:

Type in various numbers and you quickly get a feel for the effect.

Not only can you adjust settings of individual letters and words, you can even select and adjust the spaces between words. You really just have to experiment, as I did below:
You can see that I highlighted individual words and changed their color by clicking in the color box in the character window. I also changed fonts and experimented the spacing between lines. You can see, for example, that the "Think/Act" lines and the "eat/sleep" lines are close together, but that I made more space between the two groups. All of these changes were made within a single text box, just by messing with the settings in the character window:

You can see in the layers shot above that I added a white layer as the background and then decreased the opacity of the photo layer to 35% so the image wouldn't compete too much with the text. Then, above that layer is the text, and finally, the curves layer was just an afterthought. Final result? meh. whatever. I'm not sure that quote even makes sense to me. Mine would be more like "Be groggy in the morning. Eat in the noon. Eat again in the evening. Stay up way too late writing blog posts at night."

There are all sorts of cringe-worthy errors that I'm sure you typographers are noticing (but seriously, if you're a typographer, why would you still be reading this?), but hopefully my little tutorial has helped demystify that character window.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ex post facto influence

Paris, 2011

To quote Wikipedia, "An ex post facto law (from the Latin for "from after the action") or retroactive law is a law that retroactively changes the legal consequences (or status) of actions committed or relationships that existed prior to the enactment of the law."

I'm adopting the Latin term to describe retroactive influence, specifically, an influence that affects the way you assess a photo that you have already taken. 

Have you ever looked at a photo you once ignored and reassessed it in light of work you had appreciated elsewhere? That is what happened to me today. I was sorting through some Paris photos for a project and my eyes stopped when I came across the photo above, not because it was what I needed for the project but rather because it made me think about the following Saul Leiter photos I had been looking at the night before:

Not that my photo is as good as Leiter's or that it was inspired by him at the time I took it. Two immediate differences: 1. there is no human presence in my photo and 2. the tones in my photo are less warm and saturated. In Leiter's photos, the angle of the hand or of the head draws in the viewer's eye. The slight glimpse of humanity haunts the photos. It makes me wish someone had been sitting in that blue car when I took my photo.

But my point is that I might never have noticed my photo today (which, although it is no Leiter work of art, still really pleases my eye) had I not been admiring Leiter's work last night.

Last night I had been thinking how I would like to do some photos inspired by Leiter. Today, I realized that I already had—retroactively. And that, dear reader, is my tale of ex post facto influence.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

ABC Paris prints prices reduced

Prices Slashed JUST IN TIME FOR...anything. I don't usually do promo stuff on my blog (although maybe I should), but since I just cut prices on my ABC PARIS galleries I thought I should advertise it. If you have been reading my blog for at least a year then you probably remember when the project got covered by DesignSponge and Black Eiffel.

When I first started the project (15 years ago!) it was something you didn't see every day. Now, of course, there are a lot of alphabet photos out there. I still like mine, though, because I worked on it for so long, because I started it when my oldest son was a baby, and because the photos are little pieces of my favorite city.

I've been working on less commercial projects lately, but I've never been an art snob. I am thrilled if anyone enjoys something I do enough to hang it on a wall. I have the poster version of ABC Paris in my office. I wish it could be less expensive (it's $75), but since it is an actual 24x36 inch photo print (as opposed to cheap poster paper), that's already a low price (and it looks amazing).

At one time, the project was meant to be a little coffee table book. It was almost picked up by Assouline publishing, but it fell through and I decided to cannibalize the project by doing the individual letter prints, the poster of the original alphabet, and the prints with quotes that would have gone in the book.

I've decided to lower prices on everything in order to make the prints more accessible. 5x5 inch prints are only $8. Feel free to tell your friends :)