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Vivid Light Photography, digital and film photography online
Handy Photoshop Tools 
You Might Not Know About 

by Jim McGee

Photoshop is a huge program. For the new user it's daunting and at some point experienced users tend to find the functions they use most often and stop exploring.

So in this month's digital darkroom column we're going to show you three little Photoshop functions that can be useful to photographers and that you may have overlooked. They're real time savers for those mundane tasks we all find ourselves doing.

Contact Sheets 
If you've ever looked at a directory full of image files and wondered what the heck was in it you're not alone. Short of buying a program like Digital Pro or some other file organizer Photoshop gives you a cool little tool for keeping track of your image files. It's an old fashioned contact sheet.

Just click on the file menu, choose Automate, and then choose Contact Sheet II. This opens up a window that allows you to choose a source directory (with the option to include sub-directories) and choose how large you want each thumbnail to be by picking the number of rows and columns per page. The default is to use the filename as the title of the image. If your images are already organized in some way on your hard disk you can print out each of your directories along with file names into a book so that you can find images at a glance. Thumbnails are also useful if you're burning images to CD and making labels. Just change the paper size and number of thumbnails to fit the label on a CD case and you can see at a glance what's inside.

Save for Web 
Are you building your own Web site? Emailing images to clients? Submitting work for electronic publishing? If you answered yes to any of these questions you'll want to take a look at the Save for Web function. Also located on the file menu, Save for Web opens a window that provides an easy to use set of tools that allow you to optimize an image for display on the Web. With this tool you can dramatically reduce file size while with no discernable difference in image quality. That means faster downloads and more responsive Web pages. In the example here we've chosen JPEG high and a 60% quality setting. The result is that the file size has been reduced from 312k to a 52k file that will load in 10 seconds over a 56k modem.

Different settings will work differently on individual images. If you process a lot of images your best bet is to find a conservative setting you're comfortable with and apply it to all of your images.

Picture Package 
Let's say you get that perfect picture of your wife or child and you want to share it with others. You could go to all the trouble of doing multiple resize operations and saving each copy of the image to a separate layer of an image file or you could just use the Picture Package function in Photoshop. This tool is set up to automatically resize and layout combinations of common print sizes such as 3x5, 5x7, 8x10, and even wallet size photos. You can even include captions and copyright information on each sheet. For those times when you want to share images with family and friends or if you're making prints for clients or model portfolios this function is a little lifesaver.

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