8 Tips to Better Photo Composition A Matter of Memories
Back to the basics with this one — a nice refresher on some simple things you can do to improve your composition skills.
Photography 101.4 – Exposure and Stops digital Photography School
In this fourth installment of Photography 101, Neil Creek goes over the concepts of exposure (including the exposure triangle) and stops as it relates to exposure.
10 Mighty Tips for Macro Photography Shutterbug Source
If macro is your thing, or if you want to learn more about it, check out this collection of articles related to macro photography.
Are photographers really a threat? guardian.co.uk
Bruce Schneier makes some pretty good points about photographers and terrorists, and how our society is making something out of a lot of nothing.
Who Is Stealing Your Photos Online? JMG Galleries
Info & review of TinEye image search and the benefit it provides to photographers tracking image usage. Invites available for private beta of TinEye.
Last time we talked about preparing our files to be processed. So now it’s finally time to start doing some photo editing! In this article, we’ll be focusing on the first round of processing using Adobe Camera RAW software.
Be aware that I’m using my own RAW workflow as an example for our series of articles. There are some differences between RAW and JPEG, and I’ll try to point them out along the way. The way that I intend to present this material should help close the gap between the two formats, but call me out if I miss something on the JPEG side of things.
In our last article, I mentioned I would be using a RAW workflow for this step. Processing RAW files is really a snap with Adobe Camera RAW (ACR), and it doesn’t have to take a lot of extra time or effort.
Also in a recent article, I showed the difference between RAW and JPEG, unprocessed and processed with ACR. The purpose of this article was two fold: to show the difference between JPEG and RAW, and to introduce the notion of processing JPEG files with a RAW processor such as ACR. So regardless of which format you prefer, the following steps are still applicable. Do note though, that processing JPEG files with ACR is a new feature found in the CS3 bundle.
If you recall in our last installment of this series, I pointed out that I keyword my photos with lighting conditions. I also said that this would save us some time when it came to processing the files. Here’s why.
Similar lighting conditions will result in similar white balance. By grouping photos according to the lighting condition, we can process each group more quickly by bulk processing the white balance settings.
With that in mind, to begin the bulk processing I’ll filter my photos by lighting condition, select everything that is similar, and open them in Adobe Camera RAW. This can be done with a right-click and choosing “Open in Camera Raw…” or via the menus (File >> Open in Camera Raw…) or by pressing Ctrl+R. This loads all the selected images into ACR, and you can see their thumbnails at the left of the screen.
SETTING THE WHITE BALANCE
On the ACR basic adjustments panel, you can basically start at the top adjustments and work your way down. So white balance is one of the first things you want to establish. There are four basic ways to set white balance, but whatever method you choose, it would be wise to have a calibrated monitor.
At this point, if you’re processing photos with very similar lighting conditions you can select all the images and apply the white balance and other settings to the whole batch. I won’t go through each method of setting white balance in ACR (because this series is about Bridge), but here’s an overview:
The first (and simplest) method for setting white balance is with the “Auto” setting. This tells ACR to do its best in determining the correct white balance for each photo on an individual basis. The second method for setting white balance is with one of the “Presets” (not available with JPEG) — daylight, cloudy, shade, tungsten, fluorescent, etc. These settings are usually close enough to use as a starting point, but I’ve noticed that they often need some tweaking to get them spot on. The third method for setting white balance is with a “Custom” setting on the adjustment sliders. Here, you can warm things up (yellow) or cool them down (blue), and add some green tint or magenta tint. With this method, a calibrated monitor is especially important. The final method for setting white balance is by sampling a part of the photo. To do this, use the “White Balance Tool” and select something that you know to be neutral gray. This is why studio photographers will shoot a “gray card” prior to photographing their subjects — it makes setting the white balance a no-brainer.
I typically start with a preset and adjust from there. Sometimes I’ll use the sampling method, but I don’t always have a good neutral source to work with. But whatever I happen to do, I always flip through the images in ACR to double check my bulk settings — there are always a few that need some further tweaks.
OK, so the white balance is set and we’re ready to move on. The next step is to adjust the exposure settings (the middle portion of the “Basic” palette). Here, you can adjust your exposure, recovery, fill light, blacks, brightness, and contrast. I won’t get into what each of those adjustments does, but I encourage you to experiment with them.
Since I’m only doing a first round of processing on my images at this point, I don’t spend a ton of time adjusting these values. The purpose of this step in the workflow is to get the white balance correct and to make the images look more “natural” rather than looking like the dull RAW files that come out of your camera.
So… I usually just select all the images I’m working with and hit the “Auto” button (and as with auto white balance, each image is set individually by ACR). This gets things to about 90% of where they need to be. Certainly, many of the photos could benefit from more detailed adjustments, but it’s not worth the time and effort if a good portion of your photos will never be seen by anyone else.
Once again, I take a quick run-through of all the photos to make sure the software didn’t make some terrible choices. Every once in a while it does, and I’ll have to manually adjust the photo to bring it to a presentable state. But again, don’t get carried away with this stuff — it’s supposed to be quick.
After applying the basic settings for white balance and exposure, you can jump into some other things — I typically don’t, but you might want to depending on your camera and your photos.
You can apply bulk adjustments to your saturation, tone curves, and sharpness if you’d like. Also, if you use a lens that needs consistent corrections for fringing or vignette, you can bulk process your images to save a lot of time. Honestly though, beyond white balance and basic exposure settings, I don’t mess with much. All I want at this point is to be able to view the photos in a more “natural” state so I can determine which photos will require more of my time.
When you’re all done making bulk and individual adjustments in ACR, simply select all the photos and hit “Done”. This will apply those settings to the XMP metadata and Bridge will update the previews for those photos. So you’re not actually making any changes to the photos, regardless of whether you’re using JPEG or RAW. The best part is that the new adjustments are stored along with the original settings. If you open one of your images back up in ACR it will look exactly as you left it, but you can also revert back to “As Shot” by using the pull-down menu on the palette menubar and choosing “Camera RAW Defaults”.
Let’s say you either don’t want to pull hundreds of images into ACR at once, or you simply forgot to include some photos. With Bridge, there’s an easy way to apply those processing adjustments outside of Adobe Camera RAW. This method also works well if you just want to change white balance settings across multiple images.
First, you need to select an image that you want to copy the settings from. Once you do that, you can copy those settings to memory by pressing Ctrl+Alt+C or by using the right-click menu or “Edit” menu and looking for the “Develop Settings” option. Now, select one or more images that you want to apply some or all of those adjustments to and press Crtl+Alt+V (or use the menus again) to paste the settings. This will bring up a dialog box that asks you which settings and adjustments you’d like to apply. Pick the ones you need and apply them — that’s it!
Another thing this is useful for is spot removal. I won’t get into it, but if you have a dirty sensor it’s something you might look into to help you tame those dust bunnies.
After running through your various lighting groups, you should have a full set of processed photos. They won’t be fully processed, but they should be in a better place than when you started. For some of you, this level of processing suits your needs just fine. For others, you’ll want to really dig into things and give some special attention to certain aspects of the photo.
In the next article of this series, we’ll go back to Bridge and take a look at how to efficiently keep track of your photos in their various stages of post-processing. If you’re anything like me, you’ve got some photos that are waiting to be worked on, some that are being worked on, some that are complete, and some that you want to revisit. I’ll show you how I use labels and collections to keep track of things.
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.
Yes, I’m still alive. It’s been a busy week for me, and I thought it was kind of funny (though reassuring) that a few of you emailed me to see if everything was alright. I’m still around, I just had to take a mini-break from the blog to catch up on some other stuff. So while I finish catching up with my stuff, you guys can catch up on your reading. And before we get to the links…
PHOTOPHLOW GET TOGETHER THIS SUNDAY — Be there! I need a screenshot of our voting process for a guest-post I’m trying to finish and I can’t really do that without some help from you guys. So if you’re on photophlow and you’ll be near a computer, come join in for a bit… the whole thing will probably be around 2 hours.
February Challenge PhotoChallenge.org
Join Trevor and I in the February Challenge by photographing a different color each week. As with the December Challenge, I’ll be posting my daily adventure here on the blog and on Flickr.
PROJECT: The View From Below Neil Creek
As a photographer, it’s important to think about the uncommon perspective, and get out of the habit of shooting from the same height all the time. This photography project asks you to take and submit a photo from less than 30cm (12in) above the ground.
Snow – How Many Ways Can I Describe You My Camera World
A great little exercise in create thinking from Niels. When we think of snow we tend to think in terms of white and then whiter. But snow when shot at lower light setting can display some brilliant and vibrant colors that you would not normally associate with snow.
DPReview Launches Lens Reviews Digital Photography Review
DPReview’s new lens reviews are the result of months of intense research, development and testing, including the development of new test charts and proprietary analysis software designed to overcome the limitations of existing systems.
Video of the Week – I showed this once before, but I felt the need to share again. I think I’m going to pick up one of these a700′s from Sony in the very near future. It’s not my ideal camera, but it’s the closest thing to the KM 7D right now. Plus, I don’t feel like waiting another year for the flagship model to come out only to have to drop 5 grand on a new body and all new glass (since it’ll be full frame). So I’ll likely be shooting with the a700 for another year or two until I can justify more expensive gear.
This week’s photoblog is another special edition. The photo once again isn’t mine, but it’s one that I processed. Ryan Goodman ran a project asking his readers to revisit and retouch one of his photos. I’m a little late in getting around to doing the project, but the deadline is January 25 — so you still have a bit of time to get an entry in if you’re interested in participating.
I wanted to give this one a go with black & white, and after checking the sky on the underexposed version of this image I knew I wanted it to be kind of dark and looming. So here’s how I went about it.
To see the original files, check Ryan’s project announcement page. The RAW files were all cropped and rotated as seen in my final output.
0 EV Base Layer
Processed in ACR for overall brightness, contrast, etc. This layer serves as a base layer to build upon.
-2 EV Composite Layer
Again, processed in ACR. I masked out the layer and “painted in” the areas I wanted to darken via the mask. Then I set the blending mode to Multiply in order to help darken things up even more. I darkened the sky heavily, and the water a moderate amount — leaving the rocks and the fuel depot alone.
+2 EV Composite Layer
Again, processed in ACR. Just like the previous layer, I masked out this layer and started “paining in” the areas I wanted to lighten via the mask. This one was all focused down in the water and rocks. Then I set the blending mode to Linear Light at 60% fill to add an interesting contrast look to the rocks.
Black and White Conversion
Photoshop CS3′s Black and White adjustment layer set to “Red Filter”.
Fairly strong “S” curve to bring out the contrast.
Contrast Layer Blends
Duplicated the output thus far twice. One layer was set to a Linear Dodge layer blend with 16% opacity and 70% fill (to lighten the highlights). The other layer was set to a Multiply layer blend at 10% opacity and 100% fill (to darken the shadows).
Unsharp mask at 100%, 2.0 pixels, and a threshold of 1.
I think I’ve gone through full-cycle with my preference for ISO settings on my camera. As a newbie, I primarily had the camera set to ISO AUTO because… well, it was just easier. As my skill level increased, so did my utilization of the camera controls. For some time now, I’ve been setting the ISO value manually while shooting in aperture priority mode. Manually keeping your ISO as low as possible is a great way to ensure high quality images, and I’m not disputing that it’s totally necessary with certain types of shooting.
But very recently, I went back to shooting ISO AUTO to evaluate the trade-offs between convenience and quality. What I found was that my camera limits the ISO value to 400 or lower when in AUTO mode. A comparison of an image shot with my camera at ISO 400 versus ISO 100 tells me that there are very subtle differences in quality, sometimes unrecognizable (especially with black and white conversions). But convenience alone isn’t the real reason I’ve gone back to ISO AUTO.
The camera sets itself to the lowest possible ISO value based on the lighting conditions — so with bright scenes, I’m still shooting at ISO 100. I also found that the camera won’t let the shutter speed fall below 1/60 seconds as long as it has enough room to bump the ISO value up to the next level. This is nice because it keeps me out of that 1/15 to 1/45 area, which most of us would still shoot at but is very prone to producing soft images. Another neat thing about ISO AUTO is that the camera will set the ISO value to things other than 100, 200, or 400. I noticed some of my low-light shots coming out at ISO 100, 125, 160, 200, 250, 320, and 400 — so it’s actually giving me a finer control over the exposure.
What do you guys think? Is ISO AUTO just for newbies, or is it actually useful for the skilled photographer too? I’m curious to hear how other cameras deal with ISO AUTO, so if you’ve messed around with it drop some insights into the comments.
Before we get to the list, be sure to check out my super-cool guest-post on “Going with the Grain” over at ADIDAP (we swapped posts for Christmas). I’ve always liked grainy photos, so I put together a little information on the subject and picked out some CC photos to help make my point.
20 More Photographs Taken at the Exact Right Angle Sawse
What’s the most critical element to taking amazing photographs? One device has been at the heart of producing some of the funniest and strangest pictures around: proper angle. Sorted into three categories, here are 20 awesome perfectly angled photographs!
Great Olan Mills Photos List Of The Day
Ridiculously funny stuff. Really terrible portraits from studios like Olan Mills and Sears, and the author’s commentary is just the icing on the cake.
Videos of the Week — I love street photography. This first video is an educational piece. The second is an inspirational piece from Felix Lupa (also on Flickr). The good street photos make you smile; the best ones make you laugh.