In case you haven’t heard, Neil Creek is running a project right now called “Iron Chef Photography – Fork“. The whole idea is to take a photo of a simple object (a fork) and to make it interesting. The project is also a competition, and I’m one of three judges who will be reviewing the project entries. The deadline for the project is March 24th, so you still have a little bit of time to get your entries in to Neil.
The concept of the project is really inspiring — taking a common everyday object and making something interesting of it. As a judge, I can’t participate in the competition portion of the project. I wanted to do my own shot just for the fun of it, but I’m preparing to take a short-notice trip this weekend and I have a ton of things to get in order.
In the last poll, I asked “What Photo Editing Software Do You Use?” About 40% of you said Photoshop and another 30% said Lightroom. These are both expensive pieces of software to own and keep up with, and reader Steve Crane was wondering how many of the Photoshop users were actually purchasing the software.
So this week, let’s see if we can be honest with our voting and find out what percentage of Photoshop and Lightroom users are pirates. Seriously, answer honestly — I’m not going to track you down and report you to the authorities. I have better things to do with my time. But I am really curious to see the results of this one.
I’ve got four different polls below, and you can vote on all of them if you’d like. If the polls start giving you problems, just reload the page and you should be good to go.
Remember, answer honestly for the sake of the poll!
As photographers, we can all agree that the camera is one of our most important tools of the trade. But photography is much more than taking pictures — that’s the easy part. Photos need to be managed, organized, and processed. Thus, an equally important tool for the digital photographer is the photo management software we use. Having tried several methods of file management, I’ve settled on Adobe Bridge as my choice software.
In this article, my goal is only to introduce the concept of using Adobe Bridge as a file management tool. I won’t get into any of the specific features or operations — we’ll save that for the next several articles in this series.
Adobe Bridge is a piece of software that can prove to be crucial for digital photographers. I think Adobe makes a clear statement as to what Bridge is all about:
Adobe® Bridge CS3 is a powerful, easy-to-use media manager for visual people, letting you easily organize, browse, locate, and view creative assets. Available in all six editions of Adobe Creative Suite® 3 software and all professional Adobe creative applications, Bridge provides centralized access to project files, applications, and settings, as well as XMP metadata tagging and searching capabilities.
At its roots, the software is a file viewing and management tool. As photographers, we can rely on Bridge to work with our photographic files, including JPEG, TIFF, and RAW formats. We’re all familiar with browsing and viewing files from within our operating systems, and Bridge works in much the same way but with so many more features.
Not only can we view files and folders, but we can also add many levels of organization and structure to our photo collections. Bridge offers the ability to manage metadata and to find files by utilizing that metadata. The software also integrates with Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Camera Raw so that our photo editing tasks and workflow become extremely simple and streamlined.
WHAT CAN BRIDGE DO FOR YOU?
Bridge offers the ability to view, edit, and search files and file metadata… not just some of it — all of it. On the surface, it looks very similar to a typical file browser. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find that Bridge offers access to information you didn’t even know existed. Camera settings, keywords, author information, dates, times, locations, genres, categories, titles, descriptions, copyright, and the list goes on.
The software also allows you to interface with your operating system file structure and organize files as you see fit. Entire collections of photos can be created, tagged, labeled, renamed, moved, and accessed via Bridge. File management and photo editing tasks can be automated for increased productivity. Photos can be processed in large batches, and metadata can be modified much in the same manner.
The whole reason for applying all of this extra information is so we can find our files when we need them. Adobe Bridge is well geared for advanced search capabilities. Search results can be further filtered and refined to reduce the amount of extra information presented. Collections can be created to give you quick access to common search queries. But being able to locate files based on metadata relies solely on your willingness to spend the time and effort applying that data to the photos.
WHY IS BRIDGE BETTER?
Adobe is an industry leader when it comes to photo processing software. Based on our recent poll regarding photo editing software, 40% of you use Photoshop and Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) as your main processing software. Another 28% use Lightroom, and 4% use Photoshop Elements. This gives Adobe nearly 3/4 of the market share. Clearly, Adobe is a trusted brand with a huge following of photographers. My fears of Adobe products disappearing any time soon are quite low.
As an Adobe product, Bridge integrates seamlessly and fluidly with Photoshop and ACR – it is the bond that ties everything together. The software gives you the ability to automate and batch process photos with Photoshop and ACR. The software interface is simple and intuitive, and though it provides a lot of bells and whistles, the controls aren’t overbearing or in the way.
The other great thing about Adobe Bridge is that the metadata is applied directly to the files (or accompanying XMP files in the case of native RAW photos). This means you won’t have transfer issues in the event of switching computers, updating software, or even switching software. Many other pieces of software rely on database systems to keep track of files, which can prove to be a headache in the event that the software ceases to exist.
With the current Creative Suite products from Adobe, Bridge is not offered as a standalone software package. It is included with most of the CS3 product lines, including Photoshop. So if you want to get your hands on Adobe Bridge, you’ll need to first get your hands on Photoshop.
Since Bridge comes with Photoshop, you’ll need a computer that can run Photoshop. The latest versions of Photoshop are becoming evermore taxing on computer resources, so a fairly quick computer is needed (processor, RAM, hard drives, video card, etc). Bridge is also a resource-taxing piece of software. The ability to handle a large number of large photo files relies heavily on your computer, so make sure you can meet the minimum requirements for Photoshop.
Often, just meeting the minimum requirements will prove to be frustrating at best. I recently upgraded my entire computing system and I’m still finding ways to tax the hardware with Bridge and Photoshop. Currently, I’m running a Windows Vista PC with a 3GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 6000+ processor, 3GB of RAM, and a SATA II hard drive (3Gb/s). I still run into occasions when I need more juice. If you’re not serious about getting a capable computing system, you’ll find yourself doing a lot of waiting and getting frustrated.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
Now that the introductions are out of the way, we can move forward with some specific features and operations in the software. In the next article, I’ll cover the Bridge workspace setup, important settings, and importing photos (if time permits).
If you’re currently using a different piece of software to manage your photos, read through my next several articles and ask yourself if you can (or even want to) do the things I’m showing with your software. Also look at your own software features and ask me if Bridge can do something similar — everybody has different wants and needs in software, and I can’t possibly guess all of them.
Yet another week of awesome photos from the Epic Edits Flickr Pool! What’s really awesome, though, is that the group continues to grow week after week. A big thanks to all those who stick around, and a big welcome to those who are just joining us!
WAY too many good things out there this week! Here’s a sample:
Lighting Gear Week Photoshop Insider
A great series on lighting equipment, how to use this stuff, when to use it, and other lighting options. Scott Kelby covers different topics on Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, and Day 5.
Feeling Adventurous? Photodoto
Don’t you hate it when you’re out enjoying some outdoor sports and you wish you had your camera? Here are some tips to get you a little more comfortable with taking your camera along.
Photography 101 – Light and the Pinhole Camera digital Photography School
A great introduction to light and how cameras record information. Neil steps through the basics of a pinhole camera to set the stage for more great tutorials to come.
“Evening Blues” – A Cool Photoshop Tutorial Digital Pro Talk
A great video tutorial from David Ziser on how to use several basic Photoshop tools for correcting tone and color balances between specific areas of an image.
When to Use Exposure Compensation Beyond Megapixels
A good primer on exposure compensation, what it does, and when to use it.
Digital photography has been a revolution. The clumsy stage of major innovations, breakthroughs, and failures seems to be a thing of the past. Cameras are reliable, fast, friendly, and affordable. Digital storage is cheap and expandable. Software is usable and powerful. Everything is just perfect, right?
Wrong. Nothing is free in this world. With each step forward, we pay a price. Sure, digital cameras are great… but what about the headaches they cause? The more photos we capture and store, the harder it is to keep track of them and keep them safe. Many new photographers don’t realize this, but a year or two down the road they’re going to find themselves in a sticky situation due to poor data management techniques.
I can hardly imagine that many people have a foolproof plan laid out for photo management the instant they buy their first camera. The need doesn’t become apparent (or necessary) until you reach a certain critical mass of files. And the brutal realization for this need usually crops up shortly after you decide that you want to make money from your photos. But that’s the catch, you never can tell if that’s where you’re heading until it’s too late.
Experienced photographers will tell you that photo management is very important… yes, we’ve all heard it. Again, this advice doesn’t become obvious until it’s too late. It’s easy to find reasons for skimping on the data management, but it’s hard to find time to fix our mistakes. I often wish I could send my past self a piece of advice:
When it comes to data management, do it right the first time… and do it religiously. Do your research and take the advice from the experts — they know what they’re talking about. Spend a few extra minutes managing your photos NOW, and save yourself hours LATER.
While I’m in no place to call myself an expert at this point in my photography career, I feel that I can offer some bits of expert advice on certain topics within data management. Neil’s series on Image Organization really helped to drive home a lot of things that I knew I should be doing. From that point forward, I’ve been developing and refining my good habits and practices.
I’d like to expand on Neil’s articles, but with a heavy emphasis on my most important tool for file management. I now use Adobe Bridge to manage my photos and I can’t believe I haven’t been doing this for the last several years. In the course of the next few weeks, I’ll cover topics directly related to using and utilizing Adobe Bridge — sort of a user guide, tips, tricks, and reference.
By the looks of our current poll on Photo Editing Software, nearly 40% of us use Photoshop/ACR. For those folks, Bridge is at your fingertips. We also have over 25% Lightroom users — and (from what I’ve seen) it looks like Lightroom shares many common features with Bridge and Camera Raw.
So I’ll lead some discussions on targeted topics and functionalities within the software, and I’ll rely on you more experienced folks to fill in the cracks and expand upon what I present. For those of you with access to this software, listen closely as the discussions go on and don’t take the advice lightly. And for the folks who don’t use or plan on using these pieces of software, listen up anyways — you may need it someday.
I’m looking forward to it, but is anybody else interested?
This one was taken on the Torrey Pines State Beach near my home in San Diego. The feet actually belong to my Mother-in-Law. I spotted her walking along the water near sunset and I couldn’t resist trying to get some “walking on the beach” photos. I shot about 7 or 8 in rapid-fire mode and this one turned out the best from all of them. The reflection turned out better than I had hoped, and the moment in mid-stride made for an interesting photo.
All of the following post-processing steps were done with Adobe Camera Raw — no Photoshop was used on this photo.
Untouched RAW Image
This is what the image looked like straight out of the camera. Not a lot of color to begin with, so black & white was a natural choice for me.
Black & White Conversion
Before doing anything, I switched to grayscale. I pushed the red, orange, yellow, green, and aqua to negative compensation while the blues, purples and magentas were pushed in the positive direction.
I left the white balance set at a temperature of 5100 and a tint of -1. I left the exposure near zero, while I boosted the recovery to 33, fill light to 41, bumped the blacks up to 34, increased the brightness to 76, pushed up the contrast to 19, and I ramped the clarity all the way up to 100.
Tone Curve Adjustment
Using the parametric tone curve, I set the highlights to +22, lights to +49, darks to -33, and shadows to -47. This gave me the strong contrast I was after, and I actually pushed a few (very few) of the shadows off the histogram. Overall, the image is heavy on the darker tones.
Vignette and Sharpen
In the lens correction menu, I set the vignette to an amount of -70 with a midpoint of 20 — and this gave me the strong frame around the subject. As a last step, I set the sharpening under the detail menu to an amount of 50 with a radius of 1.5 pixels.
When it comes to printing, there’s a HUGE difference between producing something on a cheapie inkjet printer and having a professional print your photo on a sophisticated piece of equipment. Don’t get me wrong, printing your own photos is fine and dandy for the family photo albums and whatnot. But when you want to hang something on the wall (especially if it’s somebody else’s wall), there’s nothing better than working with a professional to produce exactly what you want.
Some weeks ago, I needed to print a photo that was destined to be signed and shipped off. I found a local printer, went over to his place, and spent about an hour or two preparing and printing the image. I’ve purchased my own prints from places like ImageKind in the past, but that doesn’t even come close to the experience and quality you’ll get from sitting down next to the person printing your photo and working through the details.
We talked about the different papers he had to offer, looked at sample prints on each medium, popped open the image on his computer, sized it with Genuine Fractals, and put the finishing touches on the noise and sharpness. When we were ready to print, we ran a test strip just to make sure that everything looked perfect. Once I was happy with the outcome, we ran the entire image. The little white gloves went on, the photo was trimmed, dried, rolled, and packaged.
In the end, I walked away with a much higher quality image than I could have gotten from any online shop, and it didn’t cost me any more than I would have otherwise paid. The actual print was a little more expensive, but it balanced out with the fact that I didn’t have to pay for shipping (or wait for it). So if you’re considering having some of your work printed for display and showcase, I’d suggest you find yourself a local printer who you can visit in person and work with.
I’ve chosen to go with Oscar Medina from San Diego Photos and Prints. Oscar is a photographer and artist who purchased his own printers because he wanted that extra level of control. Since he doesn’t use the printers 100% of the time, he opens up his services to local artists in need of fine art prints and giclee reproductions. His prices are fair, and he definitely knows what he’s doing with the hardware and software. If you live in the San Diego area, I’d suggest you give him a try — you won’t be disappointed. If you don’t, you can still give him a try — he’ll ship orders too… you just won’t get the one-on-one interaction with him.
What’s your experience with professional printing? Can anybody else out there relate to what I’m saying?
I ran this same poll a while back, so it’s probably due for another round. I like to know what you folks are using because I tend to get carried away with my own preferences. For the poll this week, vote for your MAIN photo editing software. I know many of you probably use a combination of things like Lightroom and Photoshop, but try to vote for whatever you use most often. And for the purpose of the poll, don’t worry about which version of the software you’re using — you can leave that information in the comments if you’d like.
And Wow! Definitely check out the results from last week’s poll titled “What Camera Mode Do You Use?” We had nearly 460 votes on that one, which is the most votes any of the polls have had. Out of all those people, it turns out that around 50% shoot in “Aperture Priority”, while another 25% shoot in “Fully Manual” mode. Check out the poll results to see where the rest of the votes landed.
Day after day, I’m constantly amazed by the Epic Edits Flickr Pool. Choosing photos each week is getting to be increasingly difficult for me — but not because of time constraints or anything. Its just that there are so many good photos submitted to the pool every week, I feel terrible for having to cut out so many of them just to keep the number within reason. Seriously gang… really great stuff all around.