Photoodles – 5

Using Microsoft Office for Photoodling

The photo tools in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint in Microsoft Office offer some wonderful ways of wasting time honing creativity. In this article we take a look at selecting parts of images, and layering of images.

Here is a really fast and easy photoodle. A photo of a hibiscus blossom. It is an ok photo as is, but we’ll make it into a quick work of art.

When I plan to work up areas of the same image differently, as we will do here, I insert the “picture”, click on it, press Ctrl-C then Ctrl-V and I have copied and pasted a copy of it. When an image is selected, click the Picture Tools tab to show the ribbon with all the options.

My “base image” is blurred with the  Artistic EffectGlass“, and then darkened with the Corrections tool as you can see in the illustration here.

On to the copy of the image to demonstrate Background Removal.

As soon as you click on Remove Background the app attempts to follow the instruction. For many photos that works amazingly well, as it does here. The color overlay shows what will be removed. Here it missed just a couple areas on either side of the blossom.

Use the Mark Areas to Remove tool to indicate what is to be removed. Just a little line inside the area will do. The app looks for borders and removes the marked shade with a fairly wide tolerance. Here it took just two short swipes. Click Keep Changes and the job is done.

On some photos the background remover tool has to be directed a bit more. Here is another photo, this one rather busy. Again I duplicated the image. The second one, the one where I do my selection, will need to be mover over the first one. To allow that the icon nect to the picture is used to select the “Over Text”  option as shown in the illustration here.

You can see it missed badly on this photo. There are a number of areas to keep and others to remove. With the Mark Areas to Keep and Mark Areas to Remove tools the job this accomplished in short order. As soon as you mark an area the selection is made. Keep using the tools until the desired part of the photo is selected. The parts under the color will be turned white.

Now back to the first-inserted images that will serve as the new backgrounds. For the hibiscus I selected the Glass effect as I explained above. For the old-man dancer I used Line Drawing as shown here.

Now all that is left is to drag the selected images over their backgrounds. That is straightforward. When the images align you even get the final proper positioning done and it is shown with indicator lines.

The final works of art have to be preserved with screen captures. Sorry there is no way to export the stacked pictures as an image.

Here are my masterpieces.

A bit of cropping and reprocessing into a larger image and we get this. How? That another story.


© 2018 Ludwig Keck

Shadows in flash pictures

Bring out what’s hiding in the shadows

Pictures taken indoors with on-camera-flash usually have dingy, dark backgrounds. There is little that can be done about the behavior of light. An object at twice the distance from the flash will get only a quarter as much light. That means it will be darker in the picture.

There is no need to live with that problem. Post-processing, just a little bit of adjustments, can substantially enhance such photos. That is what the Shadows slider in Photo Gallery can correct substantially. With some judicious use of the Hightlights slider, and maybe a bit of adjustments with the others, a flash photo can be made to look quite good.

Here are a couple of screen shots to illustrate what can be done with a flash picture.


This is the oroginal photograph, just the way it came from the camera. It looks like what you expect from a flash picture, the objects close to the camera, the table and chairs here, are properly exposed, things farther away look progressively darker.

Next the picture with some enhancements.


The Shadows slider was moved all the way to the right to make darker areas of the photo lighter. Sometimes such a drastic adjustment may turn out to be way too much, but for this picture it worked well. The Highlights slider is moved a little to the left to make the lightes areas a bit darker. The Contrast slider was also moved to the right jut a little bit to increase contrast.  Note how much lighter the far wall is, it looks almost normal they way you would see it.

Other photo editors have similar tools. Sometimes they have different names. In Picasa the Fill Light slider brings the details out of the shadows. The Shadows slider makes intermediate toned areas darker. Careful use and a little trial and error will help you get the best pictures out of your flash photos.



© 2016 Ludwig Keck

Slide Shows compared

Showing your album as a slide show can come in handy in many situations. Most online photo sharing services offer a slide show feature with automatic advance. Since Windows Live SkyDrive recently disabled this feature I have received many inquiries about how to present photos automatically.

Here is a comparison of a photo album as presented by Flickr, Picasaweb, myPicturetown and Shutterfly. The album, consisting of 16 reduced-resolution images (1024 pixel horizontal dimension), was uploaded to each photo sharing service.

Here is the set of photos and below are links to view the album – and run the slide show – in the three services:


view Flickr album

view Picasaweb album

view myPicturetown album

view Shutterfly album


My impressions:



There is a short download delay, but the images download rapidly. The slide show runs right from the link, no need to click a play button. The slide show does not automatically cycle after it has played through. The default setting is to scale images to the browser window or to the full screen(F11). The option menu calls this quaintly “Embiggen small things to fill screen”.

It is possible to get to the author’s “Photostream” with a keyboard shortcut (“m”).



The slide show has to be manually started with the “play” button in the control strip at the bottom. Tools for managing the slide show timing are right there. The images are not enlarged beyond the actual size. For this album the photos do not fill a large screen but are surrounded by black.

Not scaling has the advantage that the photos do not become unsharp as is the case when they are enlarged beyond their actual pixel size.




With this service there is a significant download delay before the album appears. The slide show does not start by itself but is started with the “play” button (lower left). The slide show goes immediately to full screen and the images are scaled up to fill the screen.

Accompanying the slide show is a music track. The viewer can turn the music off or make another selection (from 5). By default the show recycles and starts over again and again.



The Shutterfly slide show starts right away. Images are not enlarged beyond their actual size. The show plays just once and must be manually repeated.

The controls at the top of the photo remain even when full screen mode (F11) is selected.



The viewer of these slide shows cannot get to other parts of the author’s shared photos, except for the Flickr show, as noted.

Obtaining the web address, URL, of a slide show is just a matter of starting a slide show when you are signed in to your account and copying the address from the browser address bar. This is not available for a show in myPicturetown. For that service, the address is obtained by a “share album” feature (it sends an email with the URL).


Which photo sharing service provides the best slide show?

That depends, of course, on your preferences. All of these photo sharing services, and there are many others, do things a little bit differently. We all have our on individual likes and dislikes. If you would like to share your opinion, please comment on this post.


© 2011 Ludwig Keck

When AutoFocus Fails

Modern digital cameras have marvelous autofocus systems. So good, in fact, that most of the time the autofocus mode is more accurate and certainly faster than manual focusing. Some cameras detect faces, even eyes, to focus on and can almost out-think the camera user.

There are circumstances, however, when the autofocus system can’t tell what you want to focus on. LJK_3352-P-800-blogSubjects behind windows or fences are classic examples, although many cameras have even mastered those situations. Here is an example of a photo that had to be manually focused. The deer is among shrubbery with leaves in front of and behind the deer. Autofocus simply could not select the the intended subject.

The camera is likely to select the closest item in the focus area. This can result in missed focus even when the subject is not obscured.

LJK_3301-P-BlogMy second example shows such a situation. There is no way for the camera to know if I want the pretty flower or the butterfly.The flower was closer to the camera and that is what the autofocus system selected (this photo is cropped, both subjects were much closer to the frame center in the original).

Most cameras have a “close up” mode which causes the focus system to use just a small area in the center. For this photo that would have worked. OK, I intentionally set the wrong mode to get this illustration.

LJK_3497-P-blog-300Autofocus works so well that many users don’t even know how to focus manually. Some cameras do not even allow manual focus. Learn how your system works, know where the switch is located to select autofocus or manual focus.  So when that unusual situation presents itself, click to “M”, focus and get the shot. Don’t forget to reset the switch to autofocus so the camera is ready for the next photo.


© 2011 Ludwig Keck

Photos and Albums in the New SkyDrive – uploading

Many changes have been made to SkyDrive and the way you use it. Instead of rolling out a new version, updates have been released piecemeal and more can be expected. This article reviews how to use SkyDrive for your photos as it works in August 2011.

There are two ways to upload photos to your Windows Live SkyDrive: From SkyDrive – I call that pulling up, and from Windows Live Photo Gallery – my term is pushing up.

Uploading in SkyDrive

imageEven signing in has changed, so let’s start there.

When you go to there is standard sign in with text boxes for your Windows Live ID and password. No longer can you select an ID from several choices. There is a “Keep me signed in” check box so you will be signed in automatically next time you open your browser.image

On your Windows Live Home page the menu bar now includes SkyDrive. The drop-down menu offers choices for Documents, Photos and more. You can just click on SkyDrive and it takes you to a view of all of your contents. The contents may be shown as a list of “tiles” – small thumbnails. Tiles of photo albums play slide shows of the contents.


As the illustration here shows, document folders are depicted as folders. Each tile also shows the name of the folder or album. Click on an album tile to open the album.

imageIt still is not possible to upload a folder with contents. You create an album or a folder by clicking the little folder icon above the contents listing.

To add photos, navigate to the folder where you wish to add files and click Add files.

If you have Silverlight installed a page opens that invites you to drop photos into the folder. This works beautifully. Open Windows Explorer to the pictures folder you want to upload. In Windows 7 you can clip Windows Explorer to one edge and the browser to the other and just drag the thumbnails from one to the other. You can select multiple photos and drag the “pile” over.


imageNote that there is a size control option in the upper right of the folder page. The default upload size is 1600 pixels (max dimension). You can also specify  that the photos are uploaded in their Original size or a small size called Medium (600px).

Upload actually starts when you drop the thumbnails. Once your selection is complete click Continue and allow the process to finish.

If you do not have Silverlight installed, or if that option is no longer available on your computer, you will see an upload page that looks like this:



When a Browse button is clicked a “Choose File to Upload” dialog opens. Unfortunately, only one file can be selected at a time, so you have to go through this multiple times.

Uploading from Windows Live Photo Gallery

A much easier way to upload is the other method which uploads photos from Windows Live Photo Gallery. You do not need the browser open, but it works best when you have selected “Keep me signed in”. Similarly you should sign in to Photo Gallery – this too is “sticky” and you will not need to do it each time.

Select the photos you wish to upload. Remember that Ctrl+A will select all the photos being displayed. Then click on the SkyDrive icon in the Share group of the Ribbon (Home tab).


Caution: Be sure that you have selected just the local folder from which you wish to upload. You can inadvertently select photos from multiple folders and they will wind up in just one SkyDrive album.


A “Publish on Windows Live SkyDrive” dialog allows you to select the destination album. The first choice allows you to create a new album.

You can specify who can see your photos in a new album. The default is Everyone (public).

As with the other method, you can specify that the process resizes your photos or uploads in the original size.

Click Publish to  start the actual upload process. On completion you will be offered to view the SkyDrive album.




imageDid you know that you can clip your SkyDrive to your Windows 7 taskbar? Drag the little SkyDrive icon that shows in front of the URL in your browser down to the taskbar and release. You can also release it on your desktop for a shortcut. With SkyDrive on your taskbar it is just one click away.



© 2011 Ludwig Keck