Digital Photography and Processing Essentials

If you are reading this in an email, please click on the title to read the full blog entry online.

Two weeks remain for you to sign up for the April 6th program on “Digital Photography and Processing Essentials” at the Hershey Library. The program will start at 9:30 a.m. Please sign up at the library if you can, but you will be welcome at the door as well.

The program will take you through fundamental photography information such as camera settings and understanding how digital photography captures images. We will look at differences in shooting in raw vs jpg, Adobe vs sRGB color spaces, determining exposure, reading the histogram and other essential first steps to good captures. Continue reading “Digital Photography and Processing Essentials”

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Getting the most from YOUR raw files!

Imagine for a moment that you know everything there is to know about processing a raw file. No?

Which exposure in a bracketed series is the best?
Which slider should you move first?
When should you set the white balance?
What are black points and white points?
How do you best control contrast?
Can lens distortion be controlled automatically?
Why am I shooting raw in the first place?

Most seminars are valuable because you are exposed to processing steps you are not very familiar with. But you soon forget what you saw, mostly because you watched someone process an image nothing like what you normally capture. What if you could watch someone process your images, and learn something of real value?

Continue reading “Getting the most from YOUR raw files!”

Beyond Global – Refining YOUR Images

I will be offering a class at the Hershey Library on Saturday morning October 13th. Rather than the usual demonstrations of how I made a particular image or used a special technique, this will be a class where your images are the source material. Requirements for participation are that you bring at least three images on a jump drive, including brackets if available, and be willing to have your images used for demonstration. You will be given the final result as a psd on your drive so you can study what was done after the class.

Continue reading “Beyond Global – Refining YOUR Images”

Processing YOUR Images

Photography starts with seeing something interesting. Then we capture it with our cameras and either preserve it as a personal memory or share it with others. Anything is fair game when it is a personal memory. Sharing images can be casual, but more often than not it is to make an impression on others, either as an artistic statement, or possibly in a competition.

Digital capture is pretty straight forward and today’s cameras do a pretty good job of making a good image. Moving a good image to something better is where craft enters and the end game is your personal art.
Continue reading “Processing YOUR Images”

Post Processing in Photoshop

Intermediate to Advanced Post processing in Photoshop

“Great artists don’t just happen, any more than writers, or singers, or other creators,” … “They have to be trained, and in the hard school of experience.” – Georgia O’Keeffe

Digital photography has made making a decent image pretty easy. Using ACR or especially Lightroom allows you to render the basic color and contrast of an image very well. But, the primary purpose for which they were created was preliminary global adjustments. Global adjustments are those which address the overall image in terms of color and contrast, but do nothing to address specific issues in smaller local areas. Yes, many of the tools added to ACR and Lightroom were put there to make some of these modifications possible, but the real tool for image polishing is still Photoshop.

Many photographers are satisfied with what they can accomplish with basic raw processing. In some cases it is all that is needed. But the refinements to an image that can push it over the top still require more work. What we are finding when we shoot is the “raw” material (pun intentional) needed to produce a good photograph.

The good news is that Photoshop post processing is really not complicated. The bad news is that Photoshop post processing is really complicated. It is not complicated in terms of the mechanics, but it is complicated in that many of the processes are simply not intuitive. They need to be learned, and that learning is a curve that can be rather steep. That is experience. Like any craft, it requires time to get to know what can be done.

Like anything worth the effort you first need to learn to think in Photoshop. If you take piano lessons you learn scales first, you do not sit down and learn to play a complicated piece of music. In Photoshop you need to learn the scales too. Layers and masks are really not that difficult – the second time. Blend modes and other more exotic tools require more time, just like playing the piano with both hands. Some of the ways to use Photoshop tools, like making selections, are a never ending learning process.

The advantage of knowing how to use the tools and options in Photoshop is the ability to mold an image into something better than what the camera handed you. Some of the techniques are actually pretty simple to use, but first you need to know they are there. Blend modes are like that, and I guarantee you that I can show you in a very short time – like 15 minutes – ways to use them that you will love and use immediately in your processing workflow. Others require deeper thought to apply to your work, but you have to start somewhere. If you don’t know it is out there, you can’t use it.

I will give a presentation to the Hershey Camera Club on May 3rd. The primary topic will be selections, but any presentation in Photoshop always covers larger ground. No technique stands alone. The program is open to the public.

I will present a workshop/seminar on Intermediate to Advanced Photoshop Post Processing on Saturday, May 19th from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Hershey Library. Cost for the program is just $45. The program will include Layers and Masks, Curves, Selections, Blend Modes and much more. I will address controlling the image while avoiding bad practices. There are tools in Photoshop (eraser, burn, dodge) which are simply not worth using as they are not modifiable. Imagine being able to get better results without the pain of backing up in history.

Please email me if you wish to attend so I can inform the library and make appropriate plans for the seminar. Locals can sign up and pay in advance at the library. Learning Photoshop is an adventure, and I hope you will join the experience.

High Pass Sharpening

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.
A detailed explanation of this technique is in an article on my Learning Page.
A detailed explanation of this technique is in an article on my Learning Page.

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).