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Equipment, Software & Technique

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Alligators, Babies and More

January 20, 2015

Alligators, babies and more were the target of my shoot last Sunday at the Myakka State  Park. Recently, this has become our go to spot for hiking and general immersion in nature. It is really quite beautiful to see and be in “old Florida”. One of the few natural habitats in my area (southwest Florida) that has not been infiltrated by non indigenous plant species. Everything from palm and oak trees, Spanish moss, exotic birds and of course alligators grow freely, protected and uninhibited there.

We are always on the lookout for alligators. It is easy to spot their hangout spots  always close to the shoreline and filled with sun. The vegetation is brown amongst tall green grass and literally all smashed down from their endless lounging.  Luckily they seem to hangout on the opposite side of the river as the hiking trail. But one never knows when or where they may cross over, which adds to the adventure of the hike. Often times we see them in water; their partial snout and eyes just right above the waterline taking it all in or maybe spotting prey. Lets hope not human.

This past week, I had my Canon 5D Mark II camera with the 70-200 f2.8L lens. I used a mono-pod for stability and even though the wind was pretty kicked up, I was happy with my images. It is hard to go wrong with that lens. Give it plenty of shutter speed and the rendering is beautiful.  Although I love nature and totally enjoy being in it,  I will admit, unless I am with a group of photographers, I am not much of a landscape photographer.  It requires a level of patience I currently do not have. There as such wonderful landscape photographers, professional and amateur that know how to capture the essence of a scene. I am much more of a zoom in on the details type of person/photographer. This I believe is illustrated with my portfolio at

Regardless, I had a blast on Sunday and here is a shot of the alligators we saw. This shot contains a momma and baby alligators off to the right somewhat concealed in the vegetation. Very fascinating!

Alligators in the wilds of old Florida

alligator, babies

Momma with baby alligators.

Thanks for reading.  Make it a great day!

More of my environmental prints can be viewed in Nature Made in my Portfolio.


Equipment, Software & Technique

Creating Borders Around Images

October 13, 2014

Creating borders around images can do a lot to enhance an image and make it stand out. This is especially important for viewing on the web whether you have your own website or using Pinterest, facebook or other social media outlets or image sharing sites. It can be a simple as putting black borders around an image or something a bit more complex with multiple borders and simulating a frame. Below are three quick steps to putting a border around your image using Photoshop CS6.

Creating Image Borders

1) Give some thought to the final size you would like your image. Using Pinterest as an example, I know one of their pin sizes is 735 x 735 pixels and pins look good with a 8 to 10 pixel border. For this example I will use a 10 pixel border in black.


Image Size Screen in Photoshop CS6

2) Open the image in CS6 and go to Image > Image Size and resize the image to 725 x 725 pixels x 72 pixels.If your image is not square format, you could use the Crop Tool and crop an interesting portion of the image and link the Pin to your posted image. If you use the crop tool, be sure to click the Option to Delete cropped pixels located on the top of your toolbar.


Canvas Size Screen from Photoshop CS6

3) Final step is to go to Image > Canvas Size and expand the Canvas. First make sure Pixels is selected in the drop down menu and enter 10 in the Width and Height. This will change your total image size to 735 x 735 pixels. For the Canvas extension color field use the drop down menu and select Black or one of the other choices of White, Grey. You may also want to select a custom color using Other option and Color Picker to select the color you desire. If the Canvas extension color option is dimmed and you are unable to make a selection your Layer is probably not locked. The canvas extension will appear transparent after accepted. Just add a blank Layer and fill that layer with whatever color you want for your border.  Either way works beautiful and creating borders around your images gives you a great tool for finishing off your images.

Here is an example of a pin I created using the above three simple steps.


Thanks for reading and more of my work can be viewed on

Follow me on twitter: @susanmcanany


Equipment, Software & Technique

Tips for Shooting Fireworks

August 18, 2014

Just back from a vacation that included shooting fireworks. Although, I didn’t have a tripod with me, I did manage to get a couple of keepers. Without a tripod, the trick is to make sure you are very stable in your stance. I sat and used my arms as a two legged tripod resting against my knees. The goal is to be stable enough to deliver a sharp image at slower shutter speeds. Holding your breath when clicking the shutter helps too. That is how I was shooting that night.

Here are a few other tips on how to photograph fireworks.

1) Increase the ISO on your camera. Many newer cameras deliver low noise at ISO 800 and above, so I would not hesitate to use those speeds on your camera. It will help tremendously with higher shutter speeds and sharper images.  In addition, if do you need to reduce noise, there are options in Photoshop, Lightroom and several Plug Ins such as Topaz Labs DeNoise and Nik’s Define that would accomplish that task. But often with the dark night as a background for the fireworks, noise is not very obvious.

2) Set your camera to Shutter Priority and for the image below I used a shutter speed of .5 of a second. You may need to increase this amount based on your quickness with the shutter release and if your camera is on a tripod. A longer shutter speed will let in more light, which also will lighten the dark sky. You could also use the Bulb setting on your camera that allows you to manually determine your shutter speed.

3) If possible, use a tripod or situate yourself where you can use your body as a tripod.

4) Use a lens with a wide focal length. For this image I used my Canon 24-105mm lens and shot at 24mm. If viewing an elaborate fireworks celebration, a wider lens would be beneficial. You would pick up more of the sky and the fireworks.

5) Once the camera is set up, try to get a feel for the timing of the fireworks and keep your camera positioned at the area where they go off. If you can use a remote cable release this is easy to do. When you see them hit your spot, press your shutter.

6) Be aware and adjust the camera settings as needed depending on your results.

Good luck and have fun!


Thanks for taking a look. More of my work can be viewed on my website.



Equipment, Software & Technique

Blur Photo Border using Photoshop

March 31, 2014

Here is a quick and easy technique to blur photo border using Photoshop. I found this is helpful in portraits to bring more emphasis to the subject matter similar to adding a vignette. It is also helpful diminish any distracting details that may be in the background or  to blend an expanded canvas with the original photo.

1. In Photoshop, copy your Background Layer or click on the Background Layer to convert it to Layer 0.

2. You can use either the elliptical or rectangle tool to isolate the area you want in focus. Personally, I tend to use the elliptical tool more frequently. It seems to blend better for me.

3. Feather the area between 5 and 10 pixels. You may have to experiment with the amount depending on your subject and composition.

4. Invert your Selection by either using shortcut keys Shift/Command/I or the top toolbar Select > Inverse.

4. Create a Layer Mask by clicking on the Add Layer Mask icon on the bottom of the Layer’s Palette.

5. Create the blur using the Gaussian Blur filter. On the top tool bar select Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. You will also have to experiment with amount to get the your desired effect.

6. If the blur is too intense, use the Opacity Slider to decrease the amount on the Layer Pallete. If you would like to remove the blur from certain areas, use your brush tool on the Layer Mask  and paint in black the areas you want to remove or in black for areas you want to add the blur.

As with much of Photoshop, there are many ways to do one task or effect and to blur photo border is no exception, so experiment with this technique and other Blur options available under the Filter Toolbar or also with the Blur Tool.

Thanks for reading and happy editing. Visit my gallery to view more of my work.




Equipment, Software & Technique

Photoshop Merge Up Technique

October 23, 2013

If you edit using multiple layers in Photoshop, the use of the Merge Up technique is very helpful. It eliminates the need for saving multiple copies of an image in various stages of editing.  Also, not only does it save on disk space, but helpful for finding, organizing and retrieving edits associated with an image.

To use Photoshop to Merge Up Layers is actually quite easy. First, select the layers you would like to Merge by clicking on the first and last layer in the Layer Palette while holding down the Shift Key. Once selected all of your layers will be highlighted as illustrated below:

Photoshop Layers SelectedNext, hold down the Alt/Option Key and go to the top toolbar in Photoshop and select Layer > Merge Visible.   mergevisiblePhotoshop will then create an additional Layer, which I always rename Merge-Up.

Merge Up Layer

I hope you find this helpful and more of my work can be viewed at


Equipment, Software & Technique

Copy Layers in Photoshop

August 9, 2013

Have you ever had a situation where you needed to copy the layers in Photoshop from one image file to another? I can’t say I do this often, however, I did have a recent experience where after I had done a significant amount of work removing a trash can from an image only to realize the color profile of the image was of sRGB  and not Adobe RGB or Prophoto which I usually use.  My thoughts were do I let it slide, redo the work or figure out how to get those layers into a different file. The beauty of Photoshop is the multiple ways there are to do something and to Copy Layers in Photoshop is a prefect example.

Here is the image with the trashcan.  Removing the trashcan took several layers of copy and pasting different portions of the image to hide it.  It was pretty straight forward.

archesTo copy the layers in Photoshop from one file to another select the layers you want to copy in the Layers Palette. This is easy to do by clicking on the top layer you want to copy, hold down the shift key and click on the bottom layer you want to copy.

Next, either right-click once the layers that have been selected or click on the tiny down arrow in the upper right hand corner of the layers palette and select Duplicate Layer.

layer optionsYou can also use the Top Toolbar in Photoshop and select Layers > Duplicate Layers.

In the Duplicate Layer window, name your layer and select the file under Destination Document name. It is best to have both files open on your desktop so you file names appear.

Duplicate LayerYour layers will then be copied from one image file to the other. You may need to do some masking or adjustments if the details in the second file are not exactly the same. But on the whole this is a very easy way to save a whole lot of work. Here is the image I am currently working on with the trash can removed.

arches with red door

Thanks for reading and you can view more of my work at Susan McAnany Photography.



Equipment, Software & Technique

Non Destructive Dodge & Burn in Photoshop

May 2, 2013

Here lately I have been focusing on taking my Photoshop skills to another level and I came across some great information about how to Dodge and Burn using Photoshop non destructively.  For those of you photographers that have never been in the darkroom, the dodge and burn tools originated there. The concept is to control the light from the enlarger as it hits a piece of photographic paper.  Allowing more light to reach an area of the paper would increase the exposure or darken that area of a photo This technique was called “Burn” or “burning it in”.  Alternatively, you could also block the light from hitting the photo paper using a piece of paper or your hand and this was called “Dodging”.

In Photoshop’s Toolbar there are two tools called the Dodge and Burn Tool and apparently using these two tools are fairly destructive to pixels of an image thus not very good for image quality. If you are concerned with IQ, Here is a quick and easy way to to dodge and burn your image non destructively. It is also good for creating a vignette on an image.

1)   Create a New Blank Layer by going to Layer > New > New Layer or by clicking on the New Layer Icon at the bottom of the Layers Palettenew layer icon photoshop

2)   Fill the layer with 50% grey Edit > Fill . Your image will turn gray at this point. Don’t panic.fill screen photoshop

3)   Create a Layer Mask by clicking the icon on the bottom of the Layers Palette.mask tool icon4)   Invert the Layer Mask  – CMD/I. Your image should now reappear and your mask will turn black.

5)   Select the Brush Tool (b)brush, tool, photoshop

6)    On the Layer Mask, paint with Black in areas you would like to be darker or “burn in”. Use the x key to switch to white and paint any areas you would like to be lighter or “dodge”.

Thanks for reading and more of my work can be viewed on my website or at my Etsy Store.


Equipment, Software & Technique

Photoshop CS6 – Why did I wait so long?

February 13, 2013

I finally broke down and purchased  Adobe’s Photoshop CS6 and now I am wondering why I waited so long. Although I spend a lot of time on the computer, I would rather be in the studio than installing and reinstalling software and plugins. That is not high on my priority of things I like to do.  With that said I have to admit I am finding a lot of great new features in Photoshop CS6 and I am sure more to come.  I love the new darker user interface of CS6 and many of the tools seem much more intuitive, like the Crop tool. While keying in your size, it shows a visual of how the Crop will look. From there you can make further adjustments. The Patch tool now has the Content-Aware feature similar to the Healing Brush in Photoshop CS5 and the Mini Bridge will display a filmstrip, which could be helpful with opening images. Although, I tend to open my images directly from Bridge. I need a slightly larger photo than a thumbnail for the selection process. I am eager to see if any enhancements have been made to the Brush tools.

However, the main reasons I upgraded was for better computer performance and I am happy to report my tower is once again a screamer.  Also, I read Adobe will only offer upgrades from the previous version of Photoshop otherwise a new purchase is required or a move to the Cloud, Adobe’s newest marketing idea.  So I figured might as well take the plunge. If you haven’t yet, I think you should also.

Thanks for reading and happy editing!

Check out my fine art prints at

Equipment, Software & Technique

Printing Computer Screenshots – The Easy Way to Print a Screen on an Apple Computer

January 14, 2013

Ever want to print data off a website without all of their header, footer, etc information or maybe a complete webpage or open web pages on your desktop. Well, if you use an Apple computer,  below are a couple of different ways of printing computer screenshots:

1) To select specific areas of the screen, press the CMD/SHIFT/4 keys and you will get a cross hair on your screen. Use your mouse or Wacom to select the area you would like to to print. When you release the click, your selection will be captured to a file on your desktop. You can then send the file to the printer.

2) To print all web pages open on your monitor use CMD/SHIFT/3. Again it will generate a file on your desktop to be sent to the printer.

3) To print one web page of multiple pages open on your desktop press CMD/SHIFT/4, and spacebar. A small camera icon appears that allows you to select which page to send to a file on your desktop. Just send that file to your printer.

Personally, I find the first option most useful when printing computer screeshots and happy to share this information.

To view more of my work, please visit

Equipment, Software & Technique

Adobe Photoshop Blending Modes Shortcut Key

November 14, 2012

Toggling through Adobe Photoshop Blending Modes using a shortcut key is very useful and easy to do.  Here lately, I have been making a conscious effort to streamline some of my keystrokes while working in Adobe Photoshop by using the shortcut keys Photoshop offers and also programing my Wacom Intuos 4. I must admit it has helped. Not only is it helping with speeding up repetitive key stokes but also with my body mechanics on the computer.  One shortcut key that I have found particularly useful is for changing Photoshop Blending Modes in the Layers Palette. I often find I do an edit on a New Layer, but the Normal Blending Mode just doesn’t look right. By toggling thru the various different Photoshop Blending Modes, my art takes on a different look. To utilize this function, first select the Move Tool (first one on the Photoshop Toolbar), then press the Shift and + (plus) key to toggle through all of the different blending modes. You can also use the Shift and – (minus) key to reverse the order.

There are many shortcut keys preassigned in Photoshop. You can do a quick search on the internet to find a list. In Adobe Photoshop you can also go to Edit>Assign Shortcut Keys to view or change any shortcut key. It is one of those administrative tasks that does pay off with saving time during the editing stage of your images.

Happy Editing!

More of my work can be viewed on my website, Susan McAnany Photography.