“Icelandic landscape 13″ by shchukin, on Flickr
Many of our recent challenges have focused on practicing our close-up skills, so it’s nice to take a step back every now and then to look at the big picture.
This month, get out and celebrate the natural world with a great landscape photo. Keep in mind that you don’t have to be in an exotic land to get great landscape shots. With a little creativity, you can often find interesting spots fairly close to home: a playground at dusk, a local running trail in the morning light, even a long, straight stretch of road can make for a compelling shot.
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Our May Photo Challenge gave us glimpses of many interesting homes, buildings, architectural details, and engineering wonders. Here are the images that stood out to our panel of judges.
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Blackberry Cobbler by Back to the Cutting Board, on Flickr
I admit to being the type of person who buys cookbooks based solely on how pretty the photos are. A beautifully executed shot of blackberry cobbler covered in ice cream? That’s not just fruit and sugar, my friends. To me, that is the joy of summer and family vacations gone-by wrapped up in a single mouthwatering image.
For the month of July, see if you can capture your own beautiful food shots. Keep in mind that you don’t have to personally cook the food that you photograph. Bring your camera to the local farmer’s market, bakery, or ice cream store to find your own inspiration. Or consider this your excuse to track down the perfect summer cocktail. You can call it research.
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When we decided to dedicate the April Photo Challenge to our furry and feathered friends, we had no idea just how much of the animal kingdom we’d get to see. In addition to many wonderful and humorous shots of dogs and cats, we were also treated to wrinkled elephants, lazy lions, curious cows, mesmerizing jellyfish, and much more. It was truly a treat judging this month’s entries. Kudos to everyone who participated!
Here are the images that got the top votes from our judges.
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"workstation" by striatic
As a photographer, I find that one of the hardest things to do is capture a really great portrait. For one thing, we humans aren’t great at sitting still. We blink. We fidget. We look in the wrong direction. Heck, I’m lucky if I can even keep my son in the same room as the camera.
Perhaps this is why I’m so drawn to successful portraits—images that really seem to capture the spirit and personality of the person being photographed. I know how much work likely went into getting that deceptively simple shot.
This month, try to capture an interesting portrait of someone in your life. It can be a family member, a friend, your favorite barista—even yourself.
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The March Photo Challenge let us get up close and personal with some stunning flowers, bugs, textures, and rain drops. It was a great collection, and we definitely had a tough time narrowing down our winners. Many of our top picks stood out not only for their composition and selective focus, but also for the interesting story or intimate feelings they suggested to us.
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I know that we are very behind on posting winners to our March Photo Challenge. I promise it hasn’t been forgotten! As Rick mentioned the most recent newsletter, I’ve been on a bit of an adventure the last few weeks. Specifically, I’ve been busy moving my family from our beloved, foggy San Francisco Bay all the way to New York City. (I’m just hoping that my sanity got packed away in one of the many unmarked boxes waiting for me.) But we will have the March winners posted soon, with April winners quickly following. Thank you all for being patient.
Now on to May! The theme for this month’s Photo Challenge is Architecture. Take a closer look at the buildings, homes, and other structures around you this month. Try to see them in a new way. In particular, keep an eye out for interesting angles, repeating patterns, and unusual perspectives.
*, by Peter Writer (500px.com)
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The May/June issue is in the mails, winging its way around the world. US subscribers should receive their copies by May 10, Canadian subscribers by May 15, and delivery worldwide should be complete by May 22. The extras for the magazine have been posted, as has the full PDF; you can find those files and the magazine’s link list on the May/June 2012 issue page.
The cover photo for May/June is from subscriber Dan DellaChiesa. Congrats, Dan, on a lovely shot!
This past week, we also sent out the April Letter from the Editor email, which includes notes about our new email notifications system–check out the “Get PET Site Updates” box on the bottom right side of this window–and the magazine mailing schedule for the rest of 2012.
If you have your email preferences set so that you don’t want email from us, you can find the April edition on our From the Editor home page. If you didn’t get the email, check to make sure that it didn’t get trapped in your junk folder, or double-check to make sure that we have your correct email address on file, by logging into the site and clicking on the Profile link next to your username above.
For many of us, our pets hold a special place in the family—at times ranking a few notches higher even than some of the two-legged members. I remember many mornings as a child waking up to find my dog snuggled under the covers with me, her head resting on my pillow a few inches from mine.
Hello, kitty by bloomgal, on Flickr
For the month of April, your challenge is to capture a good photo of the furry, feathered, or scaly members of your household. Don’t have an animal friend at home? Take this as an opportunity to visit a local zoo, aquarium, or dog park—or to simply take a long walk with your eyes open to the tiny creatures all around us.
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We received many wonderful (and humorous) interpretations of “Home” this month—including a former ocean-dweller’s home, dogs anxiously waiting at home, an ice fisher’s home away from home, and a little bear in need of a home. Thank you all for sharing a little glimpse into your lives and your imaginations. Here are the winners of this month’s photo challenge.
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Don’t get me wrong: I love a sweeping landscape shot as much as the next person. But there’s something beautifully intimate about a photo taken from a few inches away. Perhaps it’s because our instinct for personal space means we typically crave a buffer of a couple of feet—especially in Western cultures—so photos taken from within this “comfort zone” feel very personal to us. Getting close is also a great way to focus on interesting details that many of us overlook.
Crystal Forest by Monteregina on Flickr
For March, try to examine the world around you from a new perspective. Whether it’s a flower, a bug, or a line of freshly sharpened pencils, see what details stand out to you once you get in close. This is also a great opportunity to practice playing with abstract shapes and colors to create an interesting composition.
When thinking about your shot, here are a few things to keep in mind.
- You don’t have to have an DSLR with an expensive Macro lens to take great close-up shots. In fact, most compact cameras offer a Macro mode that will let you focus from a very short distance.
- When shooting up close, sharpness matters. I recommend using a tripod if you have one. If you don’t, try to find a way to brace the camera to make it more stable.
- If your camera lets you manually control focus, turn this feature on. This will let you be more precise about which part of your object is in focus.
Need a little inspiration? Check out this Flickr collection tagged with keyword “close-up” or Web Design Ledger’s “40 Amazing Examples of Macro Photography.”
Any subscriber can participate in the monthly P.E.T. Photo Challenge. In addition to photographs, you can also submit collages or other images you’ve created in Photoshop Elements. Submissions must follow a few simple guidelines:
- You must take the photo within the challenge month (after all, there’s not much challenge in digging through your library to find an old photo).
- You must own the rights to any image you submit. (If you use third-party frames or embellishments, please make sure this usage is allowed under the sale terms.)
- You are encouraged to interpret the theme creatively, but keep in mind that photos that seem entirely unrelated may get overlooked.
You can submit your entries to either the P.E.T. Gallery or Elements Village Gallery. When uploading your image to the Elements Village Gallery, please enter the phrase “Photo-Challenge” exactly as shown (without the quotes) in the Keywords field. For the P.E.T. Gallery, please enter “Photo-Challenge” in the Caption field when uploading the photo.
When the month is over, we’ll showcase our favorite entries on the website. A few entries may also be featured in the magazine. (You can see the top picks for all of our past photo challenges.)
Wow. Our January Photo Challenge ended up being as much of a challenge for our judges as it was for you. With so many wonderful black-and-white images submitted, it was tough to narrow down the list to a mere 10. Kudos to everyone who participated this month. While we’ve singled out our favorites here, I encourage you to take a stroll through the PET Gallery and Elements Village Gallery for many more wonderful and inspiring examples.
Congratulations to all of our Top Picks! I think each of our finalists makes great use of the black-and-white format—with a strong contrast in tones, excellent composition, and a simplicity that beautifully showcases the photo’s subject.
Don’t forget that our February Photo Challenge is still going on. The theme is “Home.” All submissions need to be in by March 1st.
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The February edition of our monthly Letter from the Editor email was sent out today, and should be winging its way to subscribers’ In Boxes over the next day or so. I’m sorry we were so late this month; we have been juggling way too many things, and the newsletter was a casualty of that.
If you don’t receive the email by the end of the week, and think that you should have, here are three things to check:
- Is it in your Junk or Spam mailbox? We’d like to think that our newsletter is chock full of good stuff, but sadly, some mail programs or filters might not agree.
- Do we have your correct email address? Every time we send a newsletter, about 10 percent of the emails “bounce,” or are undeliverable, due to a bad or incomplete email address. You can check this (and change it) it by logging in and clicking the Profile link above, next to your username.
- Have you set your email preferences so that you don’t want to get email from us? If so, you can either read the email via the Letter to the Editor home page, or you can check the “I’d like to receive occasional information from Photoshop Elements Techniques” box on the Profile page.
If you’re wondering about the magazine, the March/April 2012 edition is now at the printer, and will start mailing to subscribers at the end of February. US subscribers should receive their copy by March 9; Canadian subscribers by March 16; and all worldwide delivery should be completed by March 25. The “second mailing” of the January/February issue went out last week to recent (late December and January) subscribers, and delivery should be complete by the end of next week. (If you didn’t get your issue, send us a note via our Contact Us page and we’ll take care of you.)
We just started going through all of the entries from January’s Black & White Photo Challenge and we’re excited to see that so many of you participated! I hope you had fun (and got in some good practice with black-and-white conversions). We’ll announce the winners—and the lucky recipients of Matt’s book—in a couple of weeks.
In the meantime, we’re turning our focus for the February Photo Challenge to our most intimate space: our homes.
For many of us, our homes are an extension of ourselves. But with that familiarity, comes a form of blindness. Because we know our homes so well, we often don’t truly see what’s around us—including the everyday beauty of simple objects and treasured spaces.
My son adopted this moving box as his home shortly after we moved last year.
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If you’ve been contemplating entering the January Photo Challenge—and I hope you are—it’s time to get cracking. There are just a few days left to capture and submit your best black-and-white image.
To help get you motivated, we’ve got a special treat for you this month. Each of our Top Picks for the January Photo Challenge will receive a free copy of The Photoshop Elements 10 Book for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski. This great book offers step-by-step tutorials for the most common photo-editing tasks. And Scott and Matt aren’t just wonderful teachers, they are also skilled photographers. This is a great addition to any photographer’s bookshelf.
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Light is an essential element for any photo, so for our December Photo Challenge, we asked you to turn a source of light into a main component of your image. The resulting entries offered a wonderful variety of lights, including cozy store fronts, exploding trees, and the always gorgeous Northern Lights. After much consideration, here are the top picks from our judges for the December challenge.
Don’t forget that the January Photo Challenge is going on right now. The theme is Black&White. Get your entries in my February 1st to be considered. As a special incentive this month, KelbyTraining is awarding free copies of Matt Kloskowski’s The Photoshop Elements 10 Book for Digital Photographers to each Top Pick in the January challenge. So get shooting!
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In the December 2011 Letter From the Editor, we introduced a new feature – Ask Liz. With so many messages filling our customer service email account, I decided to help lessen the load by asking our subscribers to send their more specific editing questions my way. Since then, I’ve received an amazing amount of emails and I wanted to share a few with you:
1. Liz, I am looking for a watercolor tutorial for Photoshop Elements 9 please, as close to a realistic look as I can possibly get. -Rose
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Happy 2012! I hope the new year proves to be a happy and inspiring one for each of you. If you’re looking for a good resolution that won’t take up a lot of time—or forbid you from eating cookies—why not join the monthly PET Photo Challenge? It’s a great excuse to get out with your camera, exercise the creative side of your brain, and practice your shooting skills. (Just be careful not to get cookie crumbs on the lens!)
For the January Photo Challenge, we’re focusing on the basics: Capture and process a beautiful black-and-white image. That’s it! The subject matter of the photo is up to you, as is the method you use to process it. (I recommend shooting in color, even when you plan to create a black-and-white image. The extra image data will give you more options in the post-processing stage.)
framed by Björn Bechstein, on Flickr
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Happy New Year to all of our PET subscribers!
We’re just now coming out of our Christmas holidays, and I wanted to let you know that the PDF of the January/February 2012 issue has now been posted online for downloading; you can find it on the website’s Magazine page, along with the 51 other back issues that are available free to all members. (It seems crazy to me that we’ve published 52 issues, along with more than 1,100 tutorials here on the site.)
If you haven’t yet received your issue (and you were a subscriber prior to Dec. 1), you should receive it by Jan. 8 (US), Jan. 15 (Canada), and Jan. 22 (UK, Australia and other locations). If you subscribed after December 1, 2011, we’ll be sending out the second mailing of the January/February issue at the end of this month.
We’ve also posted our first video of the new year, Matt Kloskowski’s Get Better Black and White Photos, which is a great alternative to Elements’ Convert to Black and White command. I find that techniques like Matt’s give you so much more control over your photos, and really help make them pop.
We have a bunch more articles and videos tagged with black and white; you might find them helpful, especially since the theme for this month’s PET Photo Challenge is “Black & White.”
Take care, and all of us here at Photo One and Photoshop Elements Techniques wish you the best for a peaceful, happy and trouble-free 2012!
The January/February issue is in the mail, and if you’ve received yours already, the January/February issue extras are here for your downloading pleasure! The full issue will be available for download on January 1.
As the holiday season enters its peak, it’s a great time to take and share pictures with the people in our lives who mean the most to us. Despite the often oppressive weather and flurry of last minute responsibilities, this is an excellent time to capture beautiful moments both inside and out, if only we remember to look for them.
From all of us at Photoshop Elements Techniques, thank you for being part of this community, happy holidays, and we wish you the best in the New Year!