the elusive show/hide layer shortcut

Photoshop Hide Show Layer Keyboard ShortcutHeads up – it’s geek-out time now.

One of the things that’s always bugged me about Photoshop is that there is no keyboard shortcut for showing/hiding the current layer. A lot of times, I like to quickly do some before/after checks to see if the adjustment layer I just added is working. Usually I’m clicking on the show/hide eye icon to do this.

The most recent version of CS6 supports conditional actions. So now you can do something akin to “if this, do that, otherwise do that”. This is perfect for creating a show/hide layer option. Here’s how to do it:

First, create 2 actions. One is called Show Layer, and the other is called Hide Layer. For the Hide Layer action, have a new layer selected (anything other than the locked background layer), start recording the action, and then go to the Layer menu and select Hide Layers. Stop recording. For the Show Layer action, do the same thing, except make sure the layer is not visible when you start recording the action.

Now that those actions are created, create a new action called Layer Toggle (or whatever) and start recording. For the first step, click the arrow at the upper right of the action palette and select “Insert Conditional”. The conditional action window will pop up. Make it look just like this:

Photoshop Hide Show Layer Keyboard Shortcut Image 2

Stop recording and give that action a keyboard shortcut. You should now have 3 actions like this:

Photoshop Hide Show Layer Keyboard Shortcut Image 3

And you’re done! From now on, when you hit that shortcut, Photoshop will look to see if the current layer is visible. If it is, it will make it hidden (and vice versa). I’ve got this assigned to a button on my Wacom tablet and it’s working great.

A few days with the Fuji X-Pro1

About a week ago, I decided to rent the brand-new Fuji X-Pro 1 for a few days. It was on a whim; I had not played with a Fuji X100 before, and so I didn’t know really what to expect. My professional cameras to this point have been the Canon 5d and 5d mark 2, plus a stint with a 20d several years ago.

Photographers have talked about the retro feel of the body, and there’s no denying it. It has a definite Leica sensibility. Large, metal dials on top of a tank-grade metal body. APS-C sized sensor. About 18 megapixels. Having not spent a lot of time with either Leicas or retro-ish cameras (before they were considered retro), the feel of the X-Pro 1 was new to me. But I quickly got used to it as the benefit of a smaller-than-a-5d-body mentality kicked in.

One of the biggest benefits of the X-Pro 1 (other than its new, interchangeable lens mount), is its hybrid viewfinder. When you are looking through it, you can either see a LCD version of your scene (the EVF, or electronic viewfinder), or an optical version with some informational overlays (the OVF, or, wait for it, optical viewfinder). They both have good and bad points. The EVF mode definitely shows more information, but it seemed more difficult to focus for me. In low light, however, it excels. The OVF is interesting because you are not seeing directly what the lens sees – you are looking through a viewfinder that’s a little bit off axis. So, you have to learn to adjust for that (but it wasn’t that difficult).

Both viewfinder modes suffer from some sort of polarization issue. Meaning, when I use the camera with my polarized sunglasses on, I can’t see either the EVF or the information overlays in the OVF. I’m sure there’s a fancy name for this issue. It goes away when you rotate your camera vertically, but I thought it was weird to have this issue in a camera that has a rubber protection piece specifically for eyeglasses. All you ‘togs that sport those self-shading glasses may want to take note.

And let’s talk about that focus. Zack Arias originally thought this camera would be his DSLR killer. It’s not, at least not completely. Overall, the image quality is awesome and I could see using it as an additional camera for a lot of jobs. Just not any involving motion, because the focus is too slow. One way around this I found is to pre-focus on an area and wait for the moving subject to pass through. With enough light and a tight-enough aperture, I was able to get some good results. In fact, the X-Pro 1 beats my 5d2 in fps by at least a full frame. But there were several times I thought I had achieved focus, only to discover later that I was way off:

What tha? I have 5 other images exactly like this, just from this spot.

Over the few days that I had the camera, I got better and learned to give the camera the time it needs. I even brought it along on a portrait session:

Manual focus is near impossible in a motion shoot, as it’s a focus-by-wire system. Turning the focus wheel doesn’t actually rotate the lens elements. The super-smart Fuji computer does that, just slowly. This might be something fixed in a future firmware update.

When the 7-year-old tells you to work it, you work it.

The built-in picture style modes are cool – I found myself shooting black and white and film simulation images in-camera a lot. You can also have the camera record multiple simulations at the same time (say, a RAW and a black and white.) Those are fun. Speaking of RAW, I couldn’t test that as there was no RAW support for the files in PS or Lightroom, and you can’t download the Fuji software from their site (update: a recent Adobe update has appeared to fix this.)

So, after 4 days with it, I was sad to see it go. It does have a personality to it that you immediately feel when you hold it. It’s hard to describe. You find yourself wanting to make the camera work despite all of its idiosyncrasies. It has charm. Or it’s dope. Or tight. Or whatever you kids want to call it. It’s the camera I would take on a trip when I want great quality without the size of my 5d. Quiet and not intimidating.

Here are some samples, processed with VSCO via LR 4 (thanks a lot, Ben).


One on One, Part One.

Debbie emailed me last November from Atlanta. She’s a wedding photographer and was looking for ways to change things up in her lighting and the post-processing of her work (including her portrait work as well). A “creative bootcamp”, as she put it, in her initial email. She asked if I did any workshops. I didn’t have any plans for one anytime soon. She began suggesting that she be a ‘guinea pig’ for a full-day one-on-one training thing. We emailed back and forth, and it finally worked out this past Friday. She came into town and we spent all day covering lighting and post production. I had no secrets – we opened every image she wanted and I discussed in detail what I was thinking on set and I how I did the work in Photoshop afterwards. We talked about lighting modifiers, how they affect the light, and how to get more efficient use out of her gear.

We also enjoyed an Italian lunch at Mandola’s. I probably would have been there that day anyways because I like fresh mozzarella (being half-Italian and all).

Debbie showed up with images that she wanted to discuss, and she took great notes:

And I made use of a whiteboard to, well, “sketch” things:

It was a great time! I could see doing it again.



10 ways you can kick your photography to the next level this week

Start a personal project
Some photographers do a 365 project (where they take an image every day). Unless that idea is super-appealing to you, I’d instead look for a way you can merge photography with an interest you find fascinating. Perhaps you volunteer at the local animal shelter, or you are an expert on Ford Mustangs made before 1984. Whatever it is, build a personal project out of it. I recently started one of these based on a shoot from over a year ago. It’s more of an endurance event than a short period of focused work, and I’m looking forward to the end product!

Take a class
This could be something as simple as a short workshop, a dvd/video class, or even a conference. Specifically seek out one that covers something you don’t know. Don’t get caught only going to classes that you know your friends will be at (this is super-important at conferences.)

Trade for practice
Come up with an idea for a shoot, and trade that (for free if necessary) just to get the practice in doing it.

Read non-photo-specific things 
It’s easy to collect a list of photo blogs in your rss reader to lean on for inspiration/etc. Try instead to read books about creativity and business that don’t specifically deal with photography. Some of my recent favorites include The War Of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle by Steven Pressfield and The Power of Full Engagement
by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz.

Inside-out learning (on a lens, modifier, etc)
Pick a lens, modifier, or light, and spend a weekend learning as much as  you can about it. Some photographers recommend using that piece of gear exclusively until you know it inside and out.

Flat-out copy
Find a photo you love and spend the time to create an image exactly like it. Don’t worry about putting it in your gallery (since it’s a copy). The exercise of creating the image will be a great learning experience, and eventually you will take a small piece of that technique and merge it with your style.

Reach out to someone you admire
Social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus have made people more accessible than ever. Find you someone you admire and reach out to them. You don’t need to send them a 5 paragraph email with a ton of questions. A quick “Hi – I really enjoy the work you’ve been doing!” can get the door open to future communication.

Force variation (at least 5)
Along the lines of inside-out learning mentioned above, try forcing variations on yourself. Shoot a subject the way you would normally, and then force yourself to get 5 different looks of the same subject. You could try different angles, lighting, nighttime vs daytime, lenses, etc. Getting into this practice is good for you, because it always comes in handy on jobs for paying clients.

If you haven’t rented gear before, it’s worth the effort. Most online rental houses have the process down when it comes to shipping you gear and making it easy for you to return it. With some sites you can get a special deal on weekend rentals (3 days for the price of 2, etc). And be sure to check out any local companies in your area that rent gear. I use a mix of online and local rental options, and I will always be renting certain types of gear vs. buying. I love online and Texas Grip locally.

Break from social media
This is the toughest one in this list, and I find myself struggling with it all the time. When I find myself spending too much time on social networking sites, I try to remember that there are plenty of incredible photographers who don’t have any interest in social media. Go try to find Dan Winters in some social network online, for example. Realize that great photographers get great ultimately by doing, not just by networking.


I hope some of these have been helpful. If there’s a technique that has helped you out recently, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

Building a Portfolio Book

I recently finished putting together my portfolio book, and I’d like to share a little walkthrough of it.

The process of putting this together was longer than I had originally planned. It all started by going through images from the last few years and figuring out what worked. A lot of this process was with Natalie Ogura, who has a very strong background as a producer as well as a set stylist. I’ve brought her on for commercial shoots before and was excited to to work together again. We culled images for the website, and then I used those images as a starting point for the book.

When it comes to book printing you have a ton of options. While it would have been easy to go to the companies I’ve used before for weddings, the problem with those books is that they are permanent: no changing out pages without sending the books in (and paying a nice change fee.) Ultimately I decided to go with Lost Luggage. While they do high-end custom work for clients, they also produce a series of standard portfolio books that allow you to trade out pages easily. They had just the look I wanted.

I also had to make some decisions when it came to printing. Lost Luggage sells matte paper that is pre-drilled and works perfectly with their books. I did a test run with their paper, but in the end wasn’t happy. I felt that paper with a slight gloss would work better since my images had a more contemporary, commercial look to them. Lost Luggage didn’t sell any paper like that, so I went on a paper hunt.

I was immediately drawn to Hahnemuhle. I just loved how the prints looked with their paper! It had enough of a sheen but wasn’t glossy. My first round with that paper was Photo Rag Pearl. The paper was rated as 320 gsm (which is a measure of its thickness). That paper was incredible, but once I printed the book, I noticed that the paper was too thick. The book couldn’t lay flat, and became unwieldy. Fortunately, Hahnemuhle makes a version of the same paper at 285 gsm, and it was much better.

Here’s a video walkthrough of the book:

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Regarding the video, creating it was pretty straight-forward. I put a 5d Mark 2 on a c-stand (held by a Manfrotto magic arm). The camera was running tethered to a laptop. On the laptop, I was using the Live View feature of Canon’s EOS Utility. This allowed me to watch it while recording to make sure the book was straight and the pacing was good. For lighting, I used a single ring flash behind the desk. Here’s a setup shot:

Overall, I am really happy with the book, and the response by those that have seen has been great!


Announcing some PS actions!

I’m excited to announce that I’m making my luminosity mask action set available at for everyone. What’s a luminosity mask, you say? It’s a way to select parts of an image based on brightness. For example, you might want to darken the deepest shadows of your image a little more. Or, you might want to warm just the highlights of your image. This action set will do it. With it, you can select 5 brightness ranges including Super Darks, Darks, Midtones, Lights, and Super Lights. Once selected, use the included color toning actions (or any of your own actions) to enhance your image.

I use these on my images, because I don’t want the heavy-handed approach of adjusting the entire image at once. You could do similar work with curves, but it’s a lot easier having Photoshop select the tonal values for you!

The Luminosity Mask action set features 11 luminosity mask actions + 4 color toning actions. This action set is available for immediate download. To get an idea of what you can do with it, check out the video below!

If you’d like to purchase the action, just click here to head to the store. The price for the action set is $59, but if you enter your email where requested on the store page, I’ll send you a discount code which will get the price down to $45. The discount code is good until Monday, February 21st.

By |February 15th, 2011|Products|0 Comments