Category Archives: Quick-Tip

Save Time with Sharpen and Noise Presets

beautiful time
Creative Commons License photo credit: I, Timmy

A lot of photographers produce a ton of photos, and those photos usually need some amount of post processing to at least make them look natural. Those who are doing stock photography process a lot of photos, but a lot of us also post a decent amount to blogs or photo sharing websites. It doesn’t take too long to figure out that saving time during post is good.

So in this article, I’m sharing a small tip for using Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw presets for sharpening and noise reduction settings. These are settings that generally don’t change much between photos and they can effectively be applied to batches of photos to save time. I should also note that this tutorial is based on Adobe Camera Raw, and Lightroom should be very similar (though I don’t have the software to confirm that). If you guys see any huge differences, let me know and I’ll update the article.

HOW TO CREATE YOUR PRESET

Here are the basic steps in Adobe Camera Raw (similar to Lightroom) for creating a sharpen and noise reduction preset that can be applied in batches. Screenshots for each step are shown below — click for larger versions.

  1. Pick a good baseline photo — well exposed, somewhere around ISO200-400 (unless you typically shoot somewhere else), a shutter speed of 1/125 seconds or faster (again, unless you typically shoot somewhere else), and with good sharp focus.
  2. Open it up for processing, zoom to 100% or 200% in a sharp area, and go to your “Detail” panel with the sharpening and noise reduction settings. You can see my before and after settings for my baseline photo.
  3. Adjust the sliders until you get a decent result. Don’t over-do it — over-processed photos are much more noticeable than under-processed photos.
  4. Now save the settings in a Preset by going to your preset panel and creating a new one. Uncheck everything except for “Sharpening” and the two “Noise Reduction” boxes.

Create -  Step 1 Create -  Step 2 Create -  Step 3 Create -  Step 4

HOW TO APPLY YOUR PRESET

Now that you have a preset (or set of presets for various cameras and/or ISO settings) you can apply it to many photos at the same time. With Bridge, you can select the photos you want to adjust, right click, go to “Develop Settings”, and choose your preset. Within Adobe Camera Raw, you can select the photos you want to adjust, go to the “Presets” panel, and choose your preset. With Lightroom, you can probably do it either way but it’s been a while since I used Lightroom and I no longer have the software installed — so you Lightroom users will have to correct me if I’m wrong.

Apply with Bridge Apply with Adobe Camera Raw

WHAT ELSE DO YOU PRESET?

You can save pretty much any setting as a preset with Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw. So what do you guys have in your list of presets that you use all the time? Lens corrections? Camera calibration? Basic settings? Black and white conversions? Do share!

Win a Free Lens Rental

Some time ago, we gave out a few free lens rentals via BorrowLenses.com — and now we’re doing it again! We’ll give out a one week equipment rental to two different winners (see details below for entry). This is a cool deal as the holidays approach, and it’s a good way to try out some new equipment or even use it for a paid shoot or personal project.

BorrowLenses.com

If you haven’t checked them out in a while, they have a few new things happening. First off, they’re selling some of their equipment as the bring in new stuff — not a bad way to pick up a new lens or camera body at a discounted price. Also, you can get a 10% discount as a first time customer if you use the code “First10″ when placing an order. And finally, BorrowLenses.com is offering a membership program to the heavy users — $99/year gets you a full-time 10% discount on orders, increased availability of rental items, and no cancellation fees. Not a bad deal if you’re shooting a lot of paid projects that require top quality glass. They’ve also been bulking up on lighting equipment for you Strobists, and they now do sensor cleaning for you dSLR users.

For the rental giveaway, here are a few ground rules:

  • You need to be in the US.
  • The order will need to be made online and you will need to provide a credit card number. This won’t be charged but they will need it to ensure you don’t run off with their lens :-). BorrowLenses.com is a reputable business but if you don’t feel comfortable with this condition please don’t enter.
  • The offer excludes super telephoto lenses and pro camera bodies.

To enter the raffle, just leave a comment and tell us you’d like to win! I’ll draw two winners on December 12, 2009 — so get your entry in right away.

[UPDATE 12-8-09] You can enter multiple times by doing any of the following:

  1. Leave a comment on this post. (1 entry per person)
  2. Retweet (Via your Twitter account) “Another lens rental contest! http://bit.ly/56AGTp Retweet and post the RT as a comment for a second chance to win! (via @BorrowLenses)” Post the RT and/or (preferably) the link to your RT here in the comments (as a separate comment from the #1 entry method). (1 entry per person)
  3. Post about this giveaway on your blog, in a forum, or any other appropriate avenue — just don’t spam the forums and other public spaces. Then leave a comment (again, separate comment from your other entries) with a link to your post. (1 entry per person)

So there you go — 3 ways to improve your odds at winning.

[UPDATE 12-13-2009] The raffle is over, and the winners have been chosen. See my follow-up post for more details.

Buy and Sell Photo Gear at RutsCameras

I tend to buy cameras and equipment from time to time, as I’m sure most of you do too. In my case, I’m usually scouring eBay for good deals on old film cameras or darkroom equipment. eBay is a great place for this, but I have more than one issue with it from a photographer standpoint.

RutsCameras

Jeff Rutman also had issues with existing sites and services dealing used photography gear, so he did something about it. RutsCameras is a camera & equipment auction site similar to eBay, but it’s only for photography stuff. He’s just getting it started, but it could be a very good marketplace if enough people get on board. Here are some of the strong points of this new site:

  • IT’S FREE! At least for now. I know, “free” usually sounds too good to be true, but this guy seems legit. No seller or buyer fees.
  • NO JUNK! The problem with eBay is that you have to wade through tons of crap in order to find what you’re looking for. No more searching for a camera model only to find 800 listings on a screwdriver of the same model and 3 camera listings buried in there.
  • SWAP GEAR! I noticed on a few of the listings that swap offers were accepted. I would assume that this means you can swap gear if you have something the seller is looking for too. Pretty cool option.
  • JEFF LISTENS! He actually wants feedback and suggestions when it comes to shaping the site. This is way cool because you’re more likely to “have it your way”. The site even has a forum for feedback and general discussion.

At any rate, I just wanted to give a shout out to RutsCameras in case some of you are looking to buy or sell photography stuff. I haven’t tried the site myself (I don’t have anything to buy or sell at the moment), but I’ve been poking around for a day or two. If you’re looking to buy or sell any time soon, maybe give it a try. And, as with any online venue, make sure you read the fine print and that you understand what you’re signing up for.

Build Your Portfolio With Local Gigs

Love triangle
Creative Commons License photo credit: Pensiero

As a short extension to Christine Howell’s guest post, How to Become a Sports Photographer, I’d like to rehash a very important point she made. As she was talking about the importance of gaining experience, she stated “… you will be better off on the sidelines of your local high school baseball game than in the stands at the World Series.

But this concept of working local gigs to build a portfolio and work your way up is applicable to just about any type of assignment photography (and other types of paid photography). Here are just a few examples of using local and amateur events/jobs to get some experience.

SPORTS – As Christine mentioned, start shooting local games just for the experience. There are all sorts of local leagues just about everywhere you go.

CONCERTS – Similar to sporting events, there are a lot of local concerts and shows in most cities and urban areas. A show might cost you $10 or $15 to get into, but you’ll probably be able to get shots from any spot you choose (just make sure the venue is cool with cameras).

WEDDINGS – If you want to get into wedding photography, start off by hooking up with a wedding photographer and tagging along on a couple jobs as a backup photographer. As your comfort level rises, start taking on lower-budget weddings and working your way up as you become more sought after.

FINE ART – Start participating in local art shows, fairs, and contests. The most important thing is to get your work in front of people’s eyes, and you’ll be familiarizing yourself with the standards of the industry at the same time.

And as a comment in Christine’s article, Kevin Winzeler gave a great piece of advice for becoming a better sports photographer: “… getting experience in the sport you’re shooting; even at a small level.” Absolutely! This applies to other sides of photography too — shoot the things you enjoy doing yourself and it will show in your photos.

What are some other photography examples of working your way up from local/amateur to global/professional? (I suppose this applies to just about everything in photography, but let’s share some specific examples)

(Flickr) Galleries of Iran

Last week, I reviewed David Burnett’s 44 Days: Iran and the Remaking of the World. At the end of the review, I mentioned that I had two copies to give away (courtesy National Geographic) and the books would be handed out as prizes in a mini-contest. The requirement was to curate a gallery of “Iran” using Flickr’s new feature. So here are the entries received, and the winners of the two books.

And for those who may have overlooked the contest, there’s always next time! Just remember that I usually try to give out a few free copies when I do book reviews.

BOOK WINNERS

These two galleries really caught my attention and the curators will be receiving a copy of 44 Days: Iran and the Remaking of the World. All of the galleries were outstanding, and I had a very tough time choosing only two winners. Ultimately, the two winners were chosen not only for the images, but because they conveyed a sense of enlightenment with respect to the subject.

COLORS OF IRAN, BY JOHN MILLEKER

John put together a brilliant display of images that showcase the amazing colors to be found in the various landscapes of Iran, and it was apparent that he was surprised to see the results of his own gallery.

Colors of Iran, by John Milleker

ENCASED IN MY OWN IGNORANCE, BY THE_WOLF_BRIGADE

This gallery showed a great amount of thought and consideration from the_wolf_brigade, and it was quite clear that he was moved by the exercise.

Encased in my own ignorance, by the_wolf_brigade

So congrats to John and “the_wolf” for curating these two galleries — the books are in the mail, I hope you enjoy seeing David’s perspective of Iran!

OTHER ENTRIES

These three galleries are by no means any less impressive than the others, and I’m quite impressed with the thought put into them. I’m sorry that I can’t give out more books to these folks, and I appreciate their participation.

IRAN – PLACES, BY CHARLES CONNER

Iran - Place, by Charles Conner

ARCHITECTURE OF IRAN, BY JEREMY BROOKS

Architecture of Iran, by Jeremy Brooks

IRAN IN BLACK AND WHITE, BY SIGMUND

Iran in Black and White, by Sigmund

And again, my own gallery for the purpose of this project:

FACES OF IRAN, BY BRIAN AUER

Faces of Iran

The Best Camera

You may have heard the saying “The Best Camera Is The One That’s With You” at some point in your photographic adventures. I don’t know who coined the phrase, but I do know who is re-popularizing it: Chase Jarvis. And how is he doing it? With is phone, of course!

So Chase created TheBestCamera.com as a central hub for this whole thing. It’s a place for people to share their photos created using the iPhone app. The application looks really cool, and I’d expect nothing less from somebody like Chase. I’m only disappointed with two things: 1) No iPhone for Verizon customers, and 2) No awesome photo applications for Pocket PC phones. But, neither of those things are Chase’s fault, so I’ll just keep my frustrations bottled up for the time being.

But even though I can’t use the app, I still plan on buying the book that goes along with all of this. Chase put together a photo book of his iPhone images and it looks fantastic from what I can tell! The Best Camera Is The One That’s With You is 256 pages of lo-fi inspiration. If you’ve seen Chase’s iPhone work in the past, you know what to expect. If you haven’t… well, go take a look. You could almost convince yourself that these were taken with a toy film camera and they fit right in with the Lomography vision.

The website, the iPhone app, and the book are all quite impressive accomplishments for Chase. But I think he’s doing something much greater: Chase Jarvis is steering the direction of modern photography (at least one branch of it), and he’s driving it with his enthusiasm for art. He’s making the point that great photos can come from any camera and that having your camera in your pocket at all times is more important than having the most powerful gear on the market. And all of this started because he decided to start taking photos with his iPhone every day — in other words, a personal project of his that turned out to be much more (and on a related side note, our latest PhotoNetCast episode is on the topic of photography projects).

The concepts of using lo-fi equipment, shooting often, taking your camera with you everywhere, shooting from the hip, capturing every day life, and just getting the shot are not new concepts. Just look at the cult following of Lomography. Chase is taking these same concepts and modernizing them. Instead of shooting with a Holga or Diana, he’s shooting with an iPhone — not exactly the best cameras on the market. In both cases, the images produced are not technically outstanding, but they do have a certain artistic quality that can’t be found elsewhere.

At any rate, take all this as you will. I know these types of photos and ideologies don’t appeal to everybody, but I’m guessing that most of you will find some part of it interesting (and maybe even inspiring). For more information, check out the following links:

Improve Your Productivity With Labels

I included this topic in the Guide to Adobe Bridge: Organizing a while back (has it really been over a year?), but I wanted to mention it again. This quick little tip is aimed directly at the users of Adobe Bridge and/or Adobe Lightroom, though it may apply to other photo organization software as well.

Sometimes we get busy with things and the photo archive keeps filling up. If you don’t have time to process all your photos immediately, you should at least label the photos and/or their containing folders rather than try to remember which photos have been processed. Simply adding a color-coded label to my folders and photos has saved me a ton of time by eliminating the need to sift through thousands of photos each time I want to process a few.

Folder Labels

As soon as I create a new folder in the archive, it gets a red label (that’s my “To Do” color). As I start to work on photos in that folder, I’ll change it to yellow (“In Process”). And when I’m done, I’ll change it to green (“Complete”). These labels at the folder level keep me on track and tell me which sets of photos are being worked on or still need work. As you can see in the image above, there’s no guessing at what needs to be done next.

Photo Labels

I do the same type of labeling system with my photos — red, yellow, green. One of the first things I do after importing is apply red labels. These are the photos that I’ll consider for processing at some later date, usually 1/4 to 1/3 of the full set. Now, using your label filters, you can weed out the junk and focus on the good stuff. After a photo has been processed and exported, I’ll apply a green label so I don’t have to keep looking at it while processing the unfinished photos. This method also gives you a sense of accomplishment as you watch the red counter go down and the green counter go up over in the filter panel.

What do you use to keep track of your unfinished and finished photos as they stack up in the archive? Labels, tags, stars, folders, something else? Everybody seems to have a different way of handling these things, so I’m curious what’s working and not working for others.

Trading Cards for Strobists!

Strobist Trading Cards, Vol. 1

I’m a self-admitted non-Strobist — “fake” light scares me when it comes to photography, and I haven’t yet taken the initiative to learn my way out of this phobia. So anything that can bring lighting techniques down to my level is welcomed with enthusiasm. I’m fairly certain that these trading cards from Zeke Kamm and David Hobby are the best way to reach (and teach) people like myself.

What’s that? Trading cards? Yup — bite sized gold nuggets of wisdom! These guys put together a pack of 24 cards (same size as baseball cards) with amazing photos on one side and lighting diagrams on the other. This is a great way to teach the subject — one example, one diagram, and one explanation. Each card displays a unique setup with unique results.

The really cool thing about the cards is that they cover a wide variety of setups. We’ve got everything from strobes, softboxes, gobos, umbrellas, flashlights, gels, bounce cards, natural light, and lights from the hardware store! The cards not only show you what equipment you need, but how to position it to achieve the effect displayed on the opposite side of the card. This is super-handy because positioning is just as important as the actual equipment.

Sample Card 1-0 Sample Card 1-1

The images on the cards mainly cover subjects such as portraits, still life, product, and food photography. But they even include a few macro, landscape, and various other topics. Hey, if nothing else, the photos are pretty amazing by themselves!

Sample Card 2-1 Sample Card 2-0

I would recommend this deck of cards to any photographer wanting to learn about “Strobist” techniques in a simple and straightforward manner. You basically get 24 different lighting lessons for less than $1 each. Not a bad deal! Visit the following link to get your own set!

STROBIST TRADING CARDS

Disclaimer: Zeke sent me a pack of the cards at no charge for the purpose of reviewing them and providing feedback. I was not payed for this review and I’m not in any way affiliated with the product owners or distributors. I just think they’re dang cool!

Center Your Subject for Action Shots

Porsche Battle

We hear a lot about things such as the rule of thirds and not centering your subject for better composition. But there are times when you should actually center your subject to ensure that you get the shot. Action shots are typically a one chance situation. This can include sports, racing, performances, etc.

The problem with these action scenarios is that the main subject is usually moving quite fast and you only have one opportunity to capture a given moment. Spend too much time thinking about composition rules will ultimately result in missed shots. Here are a few reasons why you should think about centering your subject (and some tips for action shots):

  • It’s easier for your AF camera to focus on the subject when centered — nothing worse than a sharp background and blurry subject. The caveat to this is if you have your camera set to spot focus somewhere other than the center.
  • Most manual focus screens have additional feedback at the center of the frame — use it!
  • Center your subject and you won’t miss a shot due to over-thinking the composition.
  • Leave a bit of extra room around the main subject so that you can crop for better composition later.
  • Use continuous AF to track the action — especially when the subject is moving toward or away from you.
  • Get the dang shot!

What do you guys think? Good advice? Bad advice? What would you add to this?