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Photoshop Tip: Adding Depth, Drama and Focus To Your Photos

Modern cameras and smartphones have made it easy for photographers of any skill level to take interesting pictures. The ease of use is great, but it has come at the cost
of truly understanding how a camera is functioning, as well as some basic practices for achieving an effective photograph. Here’s my tip on a quick Photoshop tip to enhance your photography editing skills.

The human eye needs help knowing where to focus when viewing photos. Most smartphones don’t give you the option to select what to keep in focus and what to have blurred out leaving you with a photo like the one below:

girl in woods

I found this photo on Creative Commons. It isn’t terrible, but there is way too much in focus making it difficult to know where the focal point is intended to be. Here is a way to artificially fix this after taking the photo:

Using Photoshop, open the photo you want to edit. Duplicate the layer (Cmd-J on Mac). While selecting the new layer go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.

photoshop gaussian blur

Adjust the slider to increase or decrease the blur of the top layer. Increasing it too far can make the image look unrealistic.

Next, create a layer mask (click the square with the circle inside located on the bottom right) on the layer you just blurred.

photoshop layer mask

With the mask selected, choose the Brush Tool (B), and with black selected as your color begin brushing away the areas you would like to remain in focus. Black removes the spots you paint, and white adds them back in, so you are never permanently deleting the parts of your layer.

photoshop brush tool

Some photos are more difficult to fix than others because of the distance covered in them or the amount of things that need to share the same space in focus. Try utilizing pen tool path selections, varied brush weights and different opacities of your brush to create believable post-camera blur.

Here is my final photo. It isn’t perfect yet, and could still use some lightening, darkening and color correction to be stronger, but the subtle blurring of foreground and background information helps lead the eye to the intended subject. See what you can come up with on photos you already have using this simple trick!

girl in woods 2

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Your Marketing Needs Some R & R… & R

Marketing Help Did you ever have those moments as a child when you were hanging out with your friends and your parents would try to act cool and hip with the hopes of relating to you? Or perhaps you’re the parent, trying to find ways to connect with your child. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, the kid gets embarrassed and shuts the parent out, which is followed by a frustrated parent, and then nobody wins. When it does work, the kid grows closer with the parent and life goes on.

In today’s ever-evolving marketing world, brands are constantly seeking ways to be the parent  and relate to their target audience (i.e., the kid). Think about it, have you ever seen an advertisement you were able to relate to? In the long run, it probably positively influenced your buying habits. On the other side of that token, have you ever seen an advertisement that was targeted toward you and it made you feel frustrated or offended? In the long run that probably influenced your buying decision negatively.

How do you create messaging that’s going to show the best results? Start with some R&R&R. No, not rest and relaxation, but relevance, resonation and relatability. Understanding these three R’s and how it pertains to your brand and your target audience will help you and your brand meet your marketing objectives

To ensure that your brand message is relevant, first clearly identify your target audience. Doing so will give you a clear picture of who you need to craft your message for. After this, do some research both offline and online to understand what is relevant to that target audience.

For example, let’s say your target audience members are males between the ages of 40 to 55 who live in Appleton, Wis. After doing some online research (using search engines and social media insights) and having some face-to-face conversations, you discover that this target audience is interested in personal investing, fishing and the Green Bay Packers. Most of them are married with kids and make more than $50,000 per year. Now you can begin to craft a message that is relevant to them based off their interests and demographics.

Include the other two R’s: resonation and relatability. If you get this part wrong, it will be like the parent trying to fit in with the kid and his or her friends only to fail (no pressure or anything). First  determine what attributes of the message will resonate (i.e. stir up some emotion) with your target audience.

If we use the example of the die-hard Packers fan and father, begin brainstorming a message that will speak to them and cause them to feel an emotion. A video of a father and son playing football perhaps? At the end of the day, the message and brand needs to cause some kind of an effect on the target audience, so it resonates with them.

Lastly make sure the brand and message is relatable. If the message is too outdated or too forward, you can quickly lose the attention of your audience. To ensure you’ll be safe, run your message by a few members of your current customer base who fit into the target audience to get their thoughts and feelings on it.

Understanding the three R’s of your brand will help you craft a brand message that meets your marketing objectives and adapt with the changing market.

Your competition is working hard to discover ways to better create brand messages that resonate and relate to your shared target audience. How do you stack up? If you’re interested in teaming up with the experts at Candeo Creative to craft your brand message, contact me and let’s get started!

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Improving Your Skills While Improving Your Creativity

Have you ever felt like you were spinning your wheels with the same routines and practices? When you’re  a designer, maintaining creativity is crucial. I often feel deflated if I’m not creating new things and improving my skills, so it is important for me to push through moments of “creative block.” There are a few things that I’ve learned to help me escape from the mental treadmill and continue being productive.

Study Other Designer’s Work and Ideas

Consider Jim Jarmusch’s quote when dealing with creativity, originality

and how you should feel about using others’ work as inspiration:

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination …  Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery — celebrate it if you feel like it.”

To be truly original is next to impossible. All things are largely inspired by what has been done before, and because of this, looking at as many examples as possible should be encouraged as long as it is used to push the ideas forward and take them to a new place not originally done by the artist/author/designer/etc. Here are a few websites to browse when searching for inspiration: Behance, Dribbble and Designspiration.

Find your weaknesses

Another way to push your creativity is to discover areas where you are lacking. During my last semester in college, I grouped all of my work so I could see it as a whole. I realized that I was almost exclusively using sans-serif typefaces.


There were also a few colors that I was using more than I had realized as well as a few that I used far less than I expected. I used this information to make a conscious effort to play with serif fonts, avoid the colors I’d overused and design from a different perspective.

Try a different design style

Use illustrations. Use photography. Use only typefaces that have been abstracted to the point that they appear as shapes instead of words or letters. Try a very rigid, blocky and modern style on one project, then try a very organic and flowing style on the next project.

The more styles you are versed in, the stronger your overall skillset will become. Knowing that you’ve accomplished a look and feel in the past can be beneficial when you have a client that is looking for something specific. Don’t be a one-trick pony!

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Photoshop Trick: Black And White With Pops Of Color!

There are times when you just need to quickly edit a photo or graphic but don’t know where to start. In this short blog, I will go over how to turn images black and white, as well as turn images black and white with areas in color.

Making a color image black and white:

There are two different kinds of black and white transformations within Photoshop, destructive and nondestructive. Destructive black and white images, means turning the image black and white where you basically write over the existing color. This method causes you to lose the existing color of the image. Nondestructive means transforming the photo to black and white, but you do not lose the color incase you need to return it to that state.


Open your photo in Photoshop.


Go to image > Mode > Grayscale


After you click Grayscale it is going to ask you, “Discard color information?” Click yes. This is where you lose the color of the photo and can’t get it back unless you start over. Once you click yes, this is what you should have:


If you want to make the photo slightly brighter or have a little more contrast: Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast. If you are satisfied with your image go to File > Save.

Nondestructive black and white photo with selections of color:

Using this method you can have a black and white photo with pops of color. This is a very popular technique with many ways to achieve it  in Photoshop. Here is the simplest way for you to get the effect:

Open your color photo in Photoshop. To the right of your entire Photoshop window, go to your layers panel and right click on the “background” layer. Choose the “duplicate layer” option to create a second layer of the same image. Once you have that created and have that layer selected, click Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation.

hue saturation

Drag the Saturation down to -100 or all the way to the left. Click OK.


You should now have two layers, one with a colored image and one with the image in black and white. While on the black and white image layer, use the eraser tool to erase the section of black and white that you want to be colored.


To increase or decrease the size of the erasing tool use the bracket keys on your Mac keyboard. *[ ]*

When you have completed this, your image should look similar to this:

orange flower

Stay tuned for more Photoshop tricks!

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How To Get The Most Out Of Your Brainstorming Session Part 2

candeo creative team think room

How do you take your team’s brainstorming session from a rain drizzle to hurricane? Check out part one of how to get the most out of your brainstorming session!

Keep an Open Mind and Atmosphere

Not every team member needs to be a creative genius to be a part of a team brainstorming session. All forms of thinking should be welcome, as long as nobody is stagnating the creativity level. Don’t invite company heavyweights who might inhibit expression or dominate the flow of ideas. Like I mentioned earlier, it is important for everyone to feel comfortable in a brainstorming session. Each team member needs to be open minded. If there is someone who makes you feel judged or makes your ideas feel inferior, maybe it is best if they are left out. Brainstorming sessions need to be kept as positive as possible. If someone has a great idea, tell them! Giving compliments to teammates when they are deserved reassures team members of their value and it also ensures a positive environment.

Client Awareness

Make sure everybody participating is on the same page. Start your meeting with the creative brief as well as consumer and industry insights. I think this information is put to best practice when all team members have had the time to brainstorm and prepare on their own time before collaborating in a group setting. Make sure this information is available before the group brainstorming session begins and reiterated at the start. It is important that everybody on the team has an understanding of the client, the industry and the target market. Make sure you have a clear objective to guide your brainstorming session.

Give It Time

Don’t make the campaign concrete until the team has had a day or two to think through the details. Sometimes it takes a while to process everything that the team has discussed. My best ideas come right before bed as I am trying to fall asleep. Sometimes it’s better to sit on an idea instead of forcing it right away.

Take Note

Write down all of your ideas from the brainstorming session. There are many ways to go about this. You can assign one of the team members to take notes as ideas come. As the team member who is in charge of taking these ideas and putting them into practice, I prefer seeing people’s ideas from their own standpoint. We have different ways of doing this at Candeo Creative. Sometimes we will give each member a dry erase marker to write down all of their ideas on a separate window. Then we collaborate and talk through each idea to formulate the strongest concepts on a separate window. We will then take pictures of each individual thought process as well as the collaborated window with the marked up recipe for a successful campaign. We also utilize our chalkboard wall. We generally start with a main idea and have team members write out their thoughts and ideas that support it as it is brought up in our strategic conversation. Both tactics are good ways to visually see the evolution of ideas and it allows for team members to build off of each other.

No Idea Is Too Crazy

My team members will probably vouch that I have proposed some pretty outlandish and crazy ideas in my time; some of them work very well and some of them are ultimately too over the top. But the reason that some of these seemingly outrageous ideas work is because another team member may be able to build off of that concept and tame it down in a way I would have never thought of. Don’t ever be afraid to say something seemingly too crazy. In my experience, some of the best ideas are conceived from kookiest concepts.

If you are a member of a creative team, this is often the most enjoyable aspect of the job. It allows for creativity to grow in ways that can be much more difficult individually.

How does your team tackle the creative process?


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