Monthly Archives: December 2008

2008: Best Articles of the Year

Creative Commons License photo credit: psd

You had to know this was coming… everybody does it at the end of the year. I did the same type of post last year, and I think it’s a good idea to touch back on some of the more important articles and discussions. Once again, I’m excited to see how far we’ve all come in just one year and I’m equally excited for the next year. Epic Edits has been online for almost 2 years now, and I’m truly thankful for the community that has formed here. A big thanks to all the regulars, the commentators, and the supporters — without you guys, this place would be nothing.

The thing that always amazes me about the community here on the blog is how diverse the group really is. We have everything from beginner to professional, film to digital, and we come from every corner of the globe. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to collaborate with.

Now for you stats junkies… In the course of this last year, we’ve had about 1,400,000 pageviews, 800,000 visitors, and 640,000 unique visitors! In the lifespan of the blog, we’ve had about 2,200,000 pageviews, 1,300,000 visitors, and 1,100,000 unique visitors! We’re also up to about 4,600 RSS subscribers, which isn’t bad considering we had less than 2,000 at the same time last year.

OK, so 2008 is pretty much over and we’re heading into 2009. Here is a selection of articles from the last year that you ought to check out.













NOW ON WITH 2009!!!

I Need Two Photos for a Magazine Article

Over the last few months I’ve been writing articles for Soura Magazine. The articles are reposts of articles here on the blog, but updated and modified to fit better with the magazine. My next article is due very soon and I’m lacking two photos because I’m unable to contact the photographers. Here’s the article we’re republishing: Warning: These 9 Photoshop Techniques May Result in Great Photos.

I’m missing the following photos (refer to the article here on the blog to see the example photos). The other 7 photographers have already agreed to allowing use of their photo.

    A photo that looks older than it really is. Desaturated colors, imperfections, and even digital photos shot TTV.
    A photo with texture applied.

If you’d like to have your photo published in the next issue of the magazine, leave a comment with a link to one or more photos for me to review. I’m not asking to grab the rights for the photo, I just need permission to publish it in the magazine — by leaving a comment with a link to your photos, you grant me the right for this one-time use. I’ll contact you if I select your photo, and I’ll need the image at or above 1500px on the long edge.

I can’t offer any payment for the image use at this time, but I can have the publisher send you a copy of the magazine when it comes out. And yes, I will be, and have been, using my own photos for the magazine articles without payment — so I’m not asking anybody to do something I wouldn’t do myself. Its just a cool magazine and I’m happy to contribute.

Again, leave a comment with a link to your “vintage” or “texturized” photos if you’d like to be published (with attribution). I need to have the article and photos shipped off before the new year, so the selection process will be quick.

Exposure-Blend and Shine-Be-Reduced Photoshop Actions

This article and project entry comes from Martin Kimeldorf. The content in this post comes from the PDF documents that Martin put together for his actions.


Exposure Blend Example, by Brian Auer

Photo by Brian Auer showing (L) under exposed, (M) over exposed, and (R) exposure blended image using Martin’s action.

Most people find the outcome of my little action to be very similar to Photomatix… certainly cheaper… and I think a bit easier since you just mouse click away. I don’t charge for this action as re-payment for all the people who helped me along the way.

Put the camera in Aperture Priority or Manual and set to your preferred f-stop and ISO. Use auto-bracketing to take three frames with different exposures: normal, under exposed, and over exposed. Make sure the auto-bracket is set so the images are at least 1.5 stops apart from normal.

The following notes are also embedded in the action to prompt you.

Prepare a file with two images labeled as Under and Over Exposed. Place both the under exposed and over exposed image in a new Photoshop file. Neither file should be locked as a background layers, so unlock any background layer by double clicking on them. Make sure the over exposed layer is labeled as such and sits on top of the under exposed file.

In the end you will get 3 image version to choose from:

1) The basic Composite or exposure blend
2) the same composite with shadow recovery applied
3) The shadow recovery image with soft light blend applied for more contrast.

You then take your final image and apply noise reduction if needed and then sharpen.



Install this Action in your Photoshop program (see sample at the end). Run the action, and then “paint away” the shine from the areas that offend your sensibilities. Paint away distracting shines from flash on nose, cheeks, foreheads.

Most people leave shines on hair and lips and pupils. This will be done by creating a second duplicate layer over your original layer. Then you can brush in the amount of “shine removal” that you want. Here are the steps to follow for removing the shine, AFTER the action is run.

1) A new adjusted layer is placed above your original, and is masked (blacked) out.
2) While viewing at 100%, select a soft WHITE brush, Set the brush so it is slightly larger than the shine area, and Set brush opacity to 30% opacity
3) Then paint over the shine…on the black layer mask.
4) For real finesse, select the layer mask by holding down the Command Key and click on the layer MASK. This will make the selection come alive with marching ants. Then apply a Gaussian blur of about 4 to this mask to soften the edges.


Photo Backup: Software

Creative Commons License photo credit: Nevin

We’ve talked extensively about backup hardware, but that’s just one part of a total backup solution. Software is important too — it allows you to manage multiple backup devices, schedules, and file revisions. Each software package offers different features, and each photographer had different requirements, so it’s best to do your homework before picking a backup software.


In the next article, we’ll pull everything together and talk about strategy.


Backup software simply provides a means to duplicate data across multiple pieces of hardware. When dealing with thousands of files, this software is critical to keeping track of everything. Although the concept of duplicating data is simple, there are a number of more complex features included with most backup software.

The most important feature of backup software is the ability to do incremental backups. This means that after the initial backup, subsequent backups only include new or modified files. Without this feature, each backup would take an excessive amount of time and disk space.

Another important feature of backup software is scheduled backups. Most of us have too many things to remember on a daily basis, so allowing the software to automatically backup your photos (or remind you to do so) is a major convenience.

Other features in backup software might include compression, encryption, remote access, synchronization, and more. Some backup software also allows you to keep multiple revisions of your data, allowing you to dig back to several file versions earlier.


There’s really not much to it once you get the hang of your software. Usually, you’ll go through some kind of “wizard” with a series of dialog boxes. You tell the software which files/folders to backup, where to put the backup, how often, and any other options for compression, revision control, encryption, etc.

Some people like to backup once per week, once per day, etc. Others like to constantly keep their hardware synchronized. Either way is fine as long as you know the risks of each. Backing up at some time interval leaves gaps that are open to data loss — say you backup every Friday, you could have a failure on Thursday and lose nearly a weeks worth of work. On the other hand, constantly synchronizing your hardware takes care of these gaps, but it makes your backup hardware more vulnerable to failures such as lightning strikes, fire, and theft.

Depending on the volume of new photos you produce, you should find it easy to set your frequency preferences. And if you do a big photo shoot, you can always run a one-time backup to ease your mind.


Like I mentioned already, when it comes to backing up your photos the software is important too. Without a good backup software, you don’t have a feasible means of utilizing your backup hardware. Find something that suits your needs, and keep the points I mentioned above in mind.


Feed readers will have to visit the site to view the selection of products.

In addition to the items shown below, most operating systems have backup software included. This would be a good place to start, but you may find that the software lacks certain features when compared to 3rd party software. Most external hard drives also come with some type of backup software included, but again, the feature set may be limited.

Link Roundup 12-27-2008

Well, the year is winding down… but photography is still happening on the Internet! Here are some links from the week.

Action and Preset Project Extended

Due to the holidays being a crazy time of the year, I’ve decided that we should extend the deadline of the Action and Preset Extravaganza to January 12, 2009. So that gives everybody an extra 10 days to submit their project entries at a chance to win some great prizes.

Let me just remind you all that the project entries don’t need to be elaborate. It could be something as simple as a few little steps in a Photoshop workflow, some creative little layer adjustment, or anything else you can come up with.

The idea behind the project is that the collection of all these little bits will create a very useful resource for other photographers. So get to it! Let’s see some actions and presets!

Happy Holidays, 2008!

Brian Auer | 12/12/2008 | San Diego, CA | 75mm * f/5.6 * 1/400s * ASA50
[See the print scan at Flickr] [See the film scan at Flickr]

I just wanted to wish everybody a happy holiday this year! I hope you all get to take some time off, relax with friends and family, and do whatever it is you usually do over the winter holidays.

This is our family portrait for the 2008 holidays. I decided that I wanted to shoot it on medium format b/w film, so I loaded up the old Minolta Autocord TLR (vintage 1956) with some Ilford PanF Plus (ASA50). We decided to head up to the cliffs above Black’s Beach in order to get a nice backdrop. Rex freaked out the whole time because he was convinced that he would slide down the cliff at any moment.

One cool thing about this old camera is that it has a self-timer — about 15 seconds or so. I set it up on the tripod, focused on the wife and kids, set the exposure using the sunny 16 rule, and fired a few off. After developing the film myself, I went and bought a pack of 6″ x 4″ papers to print on.

Using my cheap-o Voss 75mm enlarger lens, I set it to f/8 and exposed the paper at 3 seconds with a #2 contrast filter. The photo you see above is a scan of the print. And I’m finding that my film scanner does a pretty good job at matching the darkroom prints.

So there you have it — in the height of the digital age, I managed to pull off a family portrait using completely analog techniques. Merry Christmas!

Flickr Resizer Photoshop Actions

I find resizing photos for web output to be one of the most boring and repetitive tasks in post-processing. My workflow consists of only creating JPEGs as needed, and deleting them when they’ve done their deed. My photo archive also consists of RAW (from the dSLR), TIFF (from film scans), and PSD files, in both AdobeRGB and grayscale color spaces.

So with all these requirements, I found that a Photoshop action is the way to go. I process a big batch of photos with Bridge/ACR, and I use a batch process to create all my Flickr files at once. The really cool thing about the action I’ve created is that it doesn’t care what kind of file you have or what color space it’s in. The output is always the same — 800 pixels on the long edge, sRGB, a quality of 12, etc.


The action was built to be fairly robust against an array of possible image settings and file types. The main idea behind the action is to be “hands free” so it can blast through a big set of photos with no interaction from the user.

The action first flattens any layers that may be present. Then it moves on to scale it down while still in the original color space and bit depth. After downsizing, the action converts to RGB mode just in case you were working in LAB or grayscale. And since the intent is to create images for the web, we then convert to sRGB color space. And so we can save as a JPEG, we then convert to 8 bits. Now it’s time for output, so the action saves the file to a set destination at high quality while maintaining the original file name and metadata. The last step is to close the image without saving so it can move on to the next one if using a batch process.

If you don’t have things like layers or other color spaces, the action just keeps going without warning you — it’s no big deal, those steps are just to make it more robust.


The action is intended to be customized for each person using it. At a minimum, you’ll want to change the location of the saved file. I put my Flickr exports in a folder on my desktop, but you can put yours wherever you want.

To change the location of the saved files, first open up a file to work with. Then go into the action and uncheck the last two lines — “Save” and “Close”. Run the action. Now double-click on the “Save” command to modify it. When you do this, you’ll see a save dialog box. Simply navigate to the folder of your choice and press “Save” — don’t mess with the file name or you’ll end up saving every single image in the future with the same exact name. After you re-record this step, you can check the “Save” and “Close” lines and you should be in business.

You can also do the same type of thing with the “Image Size” command if you want something other than 800 pixels. Just make note of which action you’re editing (horizontal or vertical) because you have to type the values into the corresponding box (width or height, respectively).


As I just mentioned, there are two actions. This is to take care that vertical and horizontal images maintain a common maximum size. If you run a vertical image through the horizontal action, you’ll get a photo at 800 pixels on the short edge rather than the long edge. And square cropped photos don’t care which one you use.

You can run the action on single photos if you’d like — just be aware of the “Close” command at the end of the action. Uncheck it if you don’t want to close the image after exporting.

The best way to run this action is with a batch process. You can do this from Bridge by selecting the photos you want to export and clicking “Tools >> Photoshop >> Batch…” You can also do it straight from Photoshop by clicking “File >> Automate >> Batch…” Either method gets you the same dialog box. Then you pick the action from the drop-down menu. If you run it from Bridge, all you have to do is hit “OK” and it starts running. If you run it from Photoshop, you’ll have to tell it where to get the files from too.


I hope some of you will find this useful with your workflow. I know it saves me a ton of time! This article is one of my own project submissions to the Action and Preset Extravaganza.

Something Newer: A Photo Project

A little while back, I wrote about a really cool project going on over at Well… it seemed like people were pretty excited about it, but participation has been lower than expected. So Udi expanded the scope of the project to include photos on the theme of “friends.”

You can still go out, swap gear with other photographers, and write about the experience to enter the contest. But now you can also enter a “friends” themed photo into the DIYPhotography pool at Flickr. Be sure to check out the project page for full details on participation and prizes.