There may be more detail in your photos than you think

Sometimes you may be happy with a photo – perhaps a flash photo of friends, or a photo of a bird against the sky, like here. Flash pictures often show the people in the front row just fine, but the ones in back are dark and hard to even recognize. hawk-E1Photos of back-lit subjects might make nice silhouettes but are a little too dark to show all the detail.

Cameras do a marvelous job of taking the work out of photography, but you can improve the photos more often than not after they come out of the camera.

Here is a photo of a hawk. The sun was high in the sky and what we see is the shaded side. Not a bad photo you might say – considering the luck in getting it.

You can see the red tail feathers and nice detail in the wings. The camera did a pretty good job.

The dark areas, almost black in this shot,  may contain more detail than is apparent when the photo is seen on a monitor or even printed as is.

Windows Live Photo Gallery makes it easy to improve your photos. Clicking Auto adjust lightened the dark areas a bit – it was a good improvement. hawk-E2

The manual adjustments can make it even better.

Photo Gallery, in the Adjust exposure panel, has four sliders and also two histogram controls.

Brightness affects the whole photo and makes it either lighter or darker. The Contrast control can make the dark areas lighter and the light areas darker or vice versa.

The Shadows control only affects the darker areas, it can lighten them or make them even darker.

The Highlights control works similarly but affects the lighter areas.

For this photo I set the Shadows slider almost fully to the right to lighten the dark, the shadow, areas.

The histogram shows the distribution of the pixels from full black on the left to full white on the right. The vertical scale shows the relative number of pixels of that shade. Note that in this photo of a hawk against a blue sky there are two humps or curves. The low, spread out curve on the left shows the pixels of the hawk, the big spike is the blue sky.

There are two sliders below the histogram. The left one lets you set the black level. Slide it to the right and every pixel that is to the left of the indicator will be set to black. The right slider lets you set the white level. Every pixel on the histogram that is to the right of the indicator will be set to full white. The nice thing is that once these settings are applied, the pixels between the slider settings will be spread out over the full range from black to white.

For this photo I moved the white level slider a ways to the left. There were no pixels there, so I did not turn any areas into chalk white. The effect was to spread the pixels out, lightening the photo and the sky.

There is no best setting for any of these controls, just play with them until you are happy with the results. I click Revert to original quite often to permit me to start all over.

Enhancing your photos is fun to do. It is even nice when your friends say that you take good photos.


© 2011 Ludwig Keck

Fun with Food – pictorially speaking

Someone else started posting photos of food, the pictures looked so appetizing that I just had to wade in. Let me start with the menu:


LJK_3170-1024Let’s set the table.

The photos here are just for fun. As such no elaborate efforts were employed, not even a tripod. When flash was used, it was on-camera flash, with just a paper napkin as a diffuser in one of the shots.

Mind you, my dear reader, Café Ludwig is a blog, not a place to eat, so, no reservations, please.


LJK_3175-1024 LJK_3160-1024

How about spaghetti tonight? With a pleasant little chianti? Or maybe a chicken curry? Just a sandwich, perhaps? Or a “hurricane” dish – pantry food!

LJK_3177-1024 LJK_3183-1024

Oh, my, I used the same placement in two photos. Microsoft Word 2010 “Picture Tools” to the rescue:


The Background Remover needed just a little help around the plate – maybe a couple of minutes at most were spent on “lifting” the plate. A rectangle shape with a texture fill serves as the new placemat.

Using Picture Tools provides so many artistic effects that I couldn’t help playing with my food:

How about a couple of posters for Café Ludwig?




Ready for dessert?

LJK_3185-640 pudding-WA02 (854x1280) pudding-WA05 (427x640) pudding-WA09 pudding-WA08 (427x640)

Just one “fruit-on-the-bottom” pudding – all these artistic affects – you have also seen a version in the banner at the top. Microsoft Word 2010 shares these “Picture Tools” with Excel 2010, and PowerPoint 2010. Always handy when you want to play around with your photos – or your food. The banner was made only partially in Word, the capital letters were customized in Paint.

Bon appétit !


© 2011 Ludwig Keck


Photos and Albums in the New SkyDrive – organizing

Organizing your photos is an important part of getting your SkyDrive albums just right to show of your work. This means creating albums, moving photos from one album to another and re-arranging the order of the pictures inside an album.

With the many recent updates to SkyDrive the methods and tools for these tasks have changed, so here is a review of these procedures.

Albums in SkyDrive should preferably be arranged in a “flat” hierarchy – no albums inside albums. SkyDrive-16Although putting an album inside another is easily done, you cannot upload from Windows Live Photo Gallery to an album that is inside another. The sharing settings of an album will also apply to any sub-albums inside, this might not be what you want. When viewing photos you can step only through the pictures in the current album, there will be no indication that a sub-album is available.

That said, albums inside albums will show slide shows of their photos on their tiles – charming to say the least.

Creating an Album

You create an album in SkyDrive that is located in the current album of folder. See Photos and Albums in the New SkyDrive – uploading for details on creating an album and uploading photos.

Moving and Copying Photos

Moving photos from one album to another in SkyDrive is fairly easy for one photo. Unfortunately, there is no way to select multiple photos to be moved, so the procedure has to be repeated. imageClick on a photo imageyou wish to move, it will be shown large. If you don’t see the info pane on the right, click on the left-pointing arrow in the upper right. In the info pane are a number of links. To move a photo to another album, click Move. If you wish to copy a photo to another album, so that you will have the photo in the current album as well as in the destination album, click Copy. The remainder of the procedure is the same for moving or copying. The next page presents a list of all the folders and albums on your SkyDrive. Click on the destination album. If that album contains more albums, you will see them on the next page. SkyDrive-17SkyDrive-18

Note the choices: Move this file into …, New Album, and if there are additional albums they will also be shown. You can create a new album at this step. Click the Move this file … (or Copy this file …) when the desired album name is shown. After a short delay, while the action is performed, the destination album will be opened.


Above the thumbnails you can see a message describing the action just performed. You can also see the path of the current album. Click on the a album name in the path or SkyDrive to get to another album.

Move an Album

imageYou can move albums around just like photos. In album view, when thumbnails or the contents list are displayed, the info pane offers a Move command. This works just like the move process for a photo, except that the entire album can be moved to another album. You cannot copy an album – something not normally needed anyway.

NOTE: This is not available for primary albums, only for albums inside albums.

Rename an Album

Note that there is also a Rename command to change the name of an album.

Delete a Photo

imageWhen a photo is displayed by itself, the info pane also offers a Delete command. This works just as you would expect.  A delete confirmation is required, there will be a message dialog about like shown here. It advises that you are about to permanently delete an item from your SkyDrive and you have the option to click OK or Cancel.

Delete an Album

imageWhen in album view showing thumbnails there is not a delete command option in the info pane. I have wondered if this is intentional or an oversight. imageThe procedure for deleting an album requires an couple of additional steps. Above the thumbnails in the upper right area, there are a couple of icons, one offers Thumbnail view, the other Details view. Click the Details view icon. You are now presented with a list of the contents of the present album (or SkyDrive). Move the pointer to  the album that you wish to delete. While the pointer is on the item line, to the right of the entry there is a “Show information” icon, image . Click this icon. The info panel will provide information for this album and also include a Delete command.

Arrange photos

You may wish to arrange the photos into a particular order. In SkyDrive is is easily accomplished. Any time you are in an album the info pane includes an Arrange photos command. If you have Silverlight installed and are using the 32-bit Internet Explorer or another browser, a very neat drag-and-drop method is available.

With the pointer over the thumbnail you wish to relocate, just press down on the left mouse button and drag the thumbnail to the desired location. Note how the thumbnails move apart to make room for the newcomer. The thumbnail in the original position will fade out.


There is another method. It is the only one with 64-bit Internet Explorer or if Silverlight is not installed. It may also be the only method by the time you read this, as continuing changes to SkyDrive are released.

You can also bring up this alternate method by clicking “standard arrange photos page”. This method may seem complicated at first view. Each thumbnail has a number and you need to renumber the order. It is easier that it appears.


The instructions are to number the photos in the order you’d like them to appear in your album. Note the number of the photo where you want to place another photo. Then replace the number in the number box of the photo to be moved – it is a plain text box, you know how to replace and type text. In the illustration here, I want photo 6 in place of photo 5. So I enter 5 in the box of photo 6. Press Enter and the photo instantly is relocated and the thumbnails are renumbered. The procedure is not as pleasant as drag-and-drop, but just about as fast.


After the thumbnails are in the order you like, click Save.

SkyDrive is a bit different in the way things work, but after some practice you will be proficient in organizing your photos so you can show them proudly.



© 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


Screens and dirty windows in front of your camera lens

Sometimes the conditions for taking pictures are very marginal but the photo is a must. Such was the situation recently for me. We have not had any rain lately and even the deer that live around our neighborhood were getting desperate. It was after dinner when a doe wandered to the bowl of water I have sitting our for the chipmunks and small birds. It was unusual and I wanted a photo. The only view was from a window with a heavy screen. There was a good deal of light falling on the screen from a window behind me.


Here is the result. The exposure was 1/15 sec , f/5.6 at ISO 1600. Marginal at best. Note the histogram, nothing on the black end as the illuminated screen provided glare and nothing on the high end as it was dark and there was not enough light for a hand-held exposure. My lens was as open as it goes at the zoom setting I used.

Those little controls on the histogram are the salvation for shots like this. I moved the bottom one up to just were the histogram curve starts and the top one down enough to brighten up the photo. A little bit of added contrast and a small boost of  color saturation was all, I did not crop the photo.


DeerMuch more acceptable, don’t you think? As a record of the event it will serve just fine. I only managed a few exposures. Our guest only stayed for a long drink and then scampered back into the woods. Maybe I should have told you, this drinking bowl is in our front yard! You can see a little more of the lawn in the parting shot.

The moral of this story is this: Don’t let screens, veils, or dirty windows stop you. Even in impossible situations, take the photo. Then use a bit of processing magic to bring out the picture.



© 2011 Ludwig Keck