I am back from Indiana where I gave a seminar on Photography, Lightroom and Photoshop. Many thanks to a great group of people at the Goshen Photography Guild for their support for the program which sold out the available seats. The venue was great and the experience was wonderful and fun.
The day after the seminar a group of us went after images at Michigan City along the lake with the Chicago skyline visible (slightly) in the distance. Some were hoping for a sunset with the skyline, but cool air and wind were there instead.
As is typical when giving a seminar, you never know how the questions and overall flow will go until it happens. I wanted to include a section on image sharpening which time did not allow. So, I want to direct people to my Learning Page for more information and in particular the two articles, Smart Sharpen , and the High Pass Filter for sharpening images. There are, of course, many other ways to sharpen images, but these two are both powerful, versatile, and the most used.
The two gulls in the photograph above were surprisingly cooperative considering the exposure time for the image was 20 seconds. This was done with the aid of a neutral density filter that allows the moving water and clouds to appear as smooth tones rather than fine detail, while stationary content is registered in a normal manner. Great fun.
If you are moving to the CC version of Photoshop one of the first steps you may want to take is to move your presets from an older version. Depending on how many presets or changes to the default presets are part of your workflow this can be a bit of a project. Fortunately, there is an easy way. Under the Edit menu is an option labeled Presets and in the fly out is the Migrate option. When you choose this the existing older version will be found and you will be asked if you wish to migrate the presets from there. Pretty simple.
If you are moving presets from an older version into CS6 you will find information here for similar options.
This can save you a lot of work if you have brush presets, actions, workspace, or a variety of other presets including gradients, tool presets and much more. I recommend visiting the Preferences settings on occasion to make sure you are familiar with what you have decided to modify to your liking. The preferences can get corrupted over time and reviewing them and resetting them can often resolve minor operating issues.
Photoshop CS6 used ACR 7.x as its raw processor. Typically, when new versions of Photoshop and Lightroom were released a new raw engine would also be released and further updates to the previous version would not happen. If you updated recently you should notice a change, and a good one. While Lightroom is now LR5, the new version of the raw processor is 8.x, but that upgrade has been made compatible with CS6 and you should see that available when you open a raw file.
While compatibility updates such as camera support and such will be available in CS6, new features will not show up in the CS6 raw interface. New features will be limited to CC and Lightroom. However, the compatibility of CS6 with ACR 8.x will mean a better experience if you are a Lightroom user and “Edit In” CS6. You will not be required to “Render Using Lightroom” in order to use CS6, especially if you use Smart Objects as the ACR 8 engine will be able to handle instruction sent from Lightroom. Newer features, however, will not be available for edit from a smart object.
I posted an article with more information on the Learning Page of my website for those of you who may want to know more.
On my Learning Page (see link in the main menu) I have posted a new article, the second in a series on blend modes. This time we explore two members of the Darken group. These apply to both Photoshop and Elements users. They are simple to use, and valuable additions to your tools for controlling your images. Please read the article, which is short and to the point, and try the techniques yourself. I will be running seminars very soon on advanced techniques for processing fine art images in Photoshop and Elements. The blend mode article will be good foundation material for getting you up to speed before attending one of these seminars, especially if you are an Elements user.
I recently spoke to the Hershey Camera Club on the subject of lighting and on-camera flash. This is a subject that can get pretty involved and I was hopefully able to impart a sense of the scope of the subject to those who attended. Feedback on the meeting was good. I would like to run a hands-on shootout on flash photography at some point in the near future. If you think you might be interested in such a seminar, please send me an email using the link on the Learning Page. No obligations at this point, but I would be interested to know how many people may find this interesting. It may be that there will be two events, one for beginners who do not have hand held incident light meters and want to learn to use the flash actually on the camera, and a second more advanced seminar for meter owners including off camera flash. The techniques for marrying flash with ambient light can be confusing, but I can teach you the concepts of the technique pretty quickly if you are interested in more control over your lighting.
Local area events coming up very soon include the Harrisburg Camera Club Spring Workshop April 13, and the Camp Hill Plein Air event May 18. More detailed information on both of these events are in the newsletter on the Learning Page of my website.
A common failing in many images is non-existent or badly done sharpening. I hope if you are working in digital imaging that you already know to avoid the three filters that actually start with the word “sharpen” in the filters list. Smart Sharpen and Unsharp Mask are much better choices. In addition is a technique not shown in the sharpening options, but using a filter that “passes” high frequency information. In real world terms that means “edges” to a photographer, and is the opposite of a “low pass” filter, which is Gaussian blur. This is a fairly simple and easy to use sharpening technique, especially for portraits.
The technique requires a blend mode be applied to the layer as well as the high pass filter itself. This is best done on a merged visible layer at the top of the layer stack saved as a psd. That makes it easy to remove and replace should the image need to be repurposed, resized, or otherwise manipulated. In a finished image it can be applied to a duplicate layer. The primary decision for all sharpening is output destination and size. The sharpening for a small web image will be insufficient for a high resolution file aimed at producing an 11×14 inch inkjet print. Conversely, the print sharpening will be far too aggressive for the web image.
The High Pass technique essentially finds edges and when coupled with a contrast blend mode like Overlay results in increased contrast at the edges giving the appearance of sharpening of the image. Smoother areas of the image are ignored which helps to make the process even more valuable. For example, High Pass sharpening of about 1 pixel on a portrait will sharpen the eyes and hair while ignoring the skin.
The effect can be reduced by using the Soft Light blend mode and/or reducing the opacity of the sharpening layer. Small images can use High Pass settings as low as .3 pixels, and some larger images can benefit from larger radius settings. Experimenting and analyzing the results is something the beginner needs to do to gain an understanding of how the process works.
Find the dialog under Filter | Other | High Pass and choose a setting appropriate for the image size. When you click OK the layer will turn gray with slight lighter and darker edges defining your subject edges. Change the layer blend mode to Overlay to start, and click the layer on and off to see the effect. This is best done with the image on screen at 50% or 100%. A 50% view more closely shows the result as it will appear on a print. Edges you would prefer remain unsharpened can be masked off if needed.
A full article explaining the technique with illustrations is on my Learning Page (see link at top). Check in there (refresh your page if needed to get the latest version).
You sometimes need a current representation of your file to make selections. I work a lot with Color Range for selections, and it is convenient to make a merged visible layer to use as source material for this. If you are not familiar with this technique, simply make the top layer of your psd the active layer and then use “merge visible” in the layers drop down adding the (<alt>) [<option>] key to prevent the layers from flattening. The keyboard shortcut is (<ctrl> <alt> <shift> E) [<cmd> <option> <shift> E]. This creates a new layer at the top incorporating all the layers below into a single layer, much the same as flattening the file but retaining the file layers below it.
I use this merged visible layer as the source for making the selections. If there are several adjustment layers at the top of your stack you will discover that selecting with a non pixel layer as the source will result in no pixels being selected. Making the merged layer and using it for the source will solve the problem.
Once your selection is made you can add an adjustment layer, or jump the selected pixels to a new layer for more work. With this done I drag the merged layer to the trash. This keeps you from expanding the file size for one thing, but also eliminates the loss of the ability to modify the layers under the merged layer. Keeping your pixel layers at the bottom helps you maintain flexibility.
Another good use for the merged visible layer is sharpening. I use a merged visible layer at the top of the stack for sharpening at the end of the process. This layer can easily be removed if necessary to make changes in the file, or modify the sharpening technique. Sharpening can also be adjusted based on output and sizing parameters. Adding a mask to the sharpening layer allows local sharpening, and adding layer style modifications using BlendIf can protect highlight and shadow areas from clipping with some sharpening methods.