The seventh episode of the PhotoNetCast is ready to go! In this one, we discuss photo editing. Some people hate it (i.e. Photoshop), and some love it. But whatever your position on the topic, everybody seems to have an opinion about it — and the four of us are no exception.
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A recent comment by reader Libeco got me thinking about something I discovered a while back. The comment had to do with opening RAW images as “Smart Objects” in Photoshop and duplicating them for certain effects. My response: beware your file size.
Photoshop Documents (.PSD files) can become very large if you’re not careful. I’ve managed to create files that were over 500MB in size (I’ve even had some approach 1GB). This can be a serious issue if you have many Photoshop Documents hiding in your archives. Think about this: if you shoot 4GB of photos in a single outing, it would only take 8 Photoshop files (at 500MB) to double your used hard drive space. So however many photos you thought you could keep on your hard drive, cut that number in half… or more.
As I go through some examples of file sizes, keep in mind that I’m using 12MP photos brought into Photoshop with 16 bits/channel and Adobe RGB color space. So without further ado, here are five great ways to create monster Photoshop Documents that will devour your hard drive:
1. CREATE A PHOTOSHOP DOCUMENT
Photoshop can turn a 18MB RAW file into a 70MB PSD file in no time flat — and that’s without even doing anything to the photo! So here’s a tip: if you can create a finished photo with Lightroom or ACR, don’t push it into Photoshop out of habit. One of my unprocessed RAW files takes up 18.2MB of disk space. Once I’ve processed the file in ACR it takes up 18.2MB — plus it’s completely non-destructive.
Photoshop is intended to give you the ability to apply localized image adjustments via layers and layer masks. It also has other uses such as blends, effects, and some other Photoshop techniques you can’t get from ACR or Lightroom. But if you’re using Photoshop to apply some curve adjustments and maybe boosting the saturation, you’re missing the point of the RAW processing software.
Smart objects are great tools in Photoshop — they allow for added flexibility with certain features and effects within Photoshop. But that luxury comes at a small cost in file size. Using the previous example, but with a smart object as the base layer, our 70MB PSD file turns into a 74MB PSD file. While an extra 4MB isn’t going to kill you, too many unnecessary smart objects will start to add up.
3. DUPLICATE LAYERS NEEDLESSLY
Sometimes duplicate layers are needed to ensure non-destructive adjustments. But duplicating an entire layer of information seriously bulks up your file. Going back to the original example file, I added a single duplicate layer. This resulted in a 109MB PSD file as opposed to our 70MB file! So you can see how just a few of these duplicate layers or copies of layer merges can turn your file into a little monster.
The thing about RGB color space is that it contains color information for the red, green, and blue channels. The thing about black & white photos is that the RGB channels are identical, which is what creates “grayscales”. So when you save and work with a b/w image as if it were a color image, you’re wasting 2/3 of the color information and increasing your file size by 3 times.
Opening the same file as a grayscale image through ACR (and keeping the 16 bits/channel on our 12MP image), we end up with a 23MB PSD file as opposed to our 70MB file. So my suggestion: do the grayscale conversion with your RAW processor rather than Photoshop if at all possible. Certainly, there are instances when you’ll want to use black and white conversion techniques that require the use of color channels in Photoshop, but just be aware that your file size will be larger.
This one is a real killer, and it’s easy to overlook. Photoshop allows you to maximize compatibility of your files so they play nice with older versions of the software. This is handy if you are working with clients or customers who are not up to speed with their software updates, but most of us will never need such a feature.
There is a setting under the “File Handling” option in the “Preferences” dialog for this compatibility issue. Allowing Photoshop to maximize the compatibility will turn our 70MB PSD file into a 123MB PSD file. So if you don’t need that added feature of backward compatibility, turn it off and save yourself some disk space.
WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?
The big message I want to get across is not that Photoshop is a bad thing or that you should avoid big files at all cost. My main point to all of this is that you should be aware of what you’re creating while using a tool like Photoshop. Keep an eye on your file sizes, check your settings, weed out the unnecessary stuff, and use leaner methods if at all possible.
What else can you do to ensure a smaller footprint on your hard drive?
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.
Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.
We pillage, we plunder, we rifle, and loot,
Drink up, me ‘earties, yo ho.
We kidnap and ravage and don’t give a hoot,
Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.
So here it is… the one week results from our previous poll on software piracy. In that short time, we’ve had nearly 500 photographers cast their votes and the outcome is quite interesting. It looks like Adobe’s high-end photo editing software packages (like Photoshop and Lightroom) are hot items in the pirated software market.
I’m not here to make judgments or anything — I’m just presenting the results from our little study. I’d also like to mention that my computer is 100% free of pirated or “borrowed” software and that the poll results are no indication of my own habits.
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Each of the results below have two graphs. The first is a measure of how many of us use a particular piece of software: users versus non-users. The second graph takes the users and splits them into pirates and non-pirates. Also, I’m going to leave the polls running for a while to see how things progress over time.
Wow… I expected the number of Photoshop pirates to be high, but not quite that high! 58%?!? So for every legal copy of Photoshop, there’s a pirated counterpart… and then some! An equally interesting observation from the poll is that 87% of the people who read this blog are Photoshop users of some sort. I’m sure we represent a higher density population of Photoshoppers, but my guess is that well over 50% of digital photographers have access to Photoshop.
Although Lightroom isn’t quite as popular as Photoshop with the general public (with only 58% of the voters), the users of Lightroom are just as willing to pirate the software. I assumed that Lightroom would be less pirated because it’s newer software and because the price is slightly lower than that of Photoshop. I assumed wrong. Then again, if you’re going to pirate a copy of Photoshop, why not Lightroom too?
OTHER SOFTWARE USERS
We have quite a few “other software” users in the mix too. I didn’t break down the polls into every piece of software on the market, so I clumped everything other than Photoshop and Lightroom into this category. Interestingly, the rate of piracy (at 38%) is much lower than with the high-end Adobe products. I can’t imagine that other software would be more difficult to steal, so this lower number is probably a factor of popularity, price, and availability.
FREE & OPEN SOURCE USERS
And out of the four groups in the poll, this was the only one with absolutely no piracy. Go figure. I’m actually impressed at how many people use free and open source software for photo editing — 64%! And only 19% of those are using the software that came with their cameras. The rest is all open source and freeware/shareware. Good for you guys! Although, there’s probably some percentage of free software users who have pirated copies of commercial software.
What do you guys think? Are the results surprising? Should Adobe care about this? I’m sure they’re aware of Photoshop and Lightroom being pirated, but I wonder what their position is on the topic.
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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!
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.
Do you have some sequence of edits, mouse clicks, or keystrokes that you find yourself doing on a repeated basis, day in and day out? I certainly do. One of my most repeated pieces of Photoshop work is saving something down for Flickr.
First I have to flatten all the layers. Then I size it down to 800 pixels on the longest dimension. Then I convert to sRGB color space. Then switch over to 8-bits. Then, finally, I can save it to a “Flickr” folder on my desktop for uploading. Oh, and then I have to close the file. This is painful if I have even more than one image to process. So I made a couple of Photoshop actions to make quick work of it.
I made one action for horizontal aspects and one for vertical aspects because I set a specific dimension for downsizing. If I use the horizontal action on a vertical photo, I’ll end up with something that’s 800 pixels on the short dimension. The other handy thing about the actions is that the files get saved to the same folder every time, so I don’t have to specify anything in the save dialog box. It’s definitely handy for me!
If you haven’t made your own actions before, you’re missing out. It’s seriously easy, and you can get quite complex with them if the need arises. A Photoshop action is just a record of a sequence of post-processing steps. If you work on a photo, you’ll see that Photoshop keeps a history of what you’re doing. An action is very similar to that history, but you can play it back on different photos to make the program do the work for you.
In a follow-up article, I’ll show you how to make a Photoshop action and I’ll use my “Flickr save” action as an example. I’ll go through the basics of creating the action, runtime options, and talk about some other examples of what you can do with them.
Saturation is one of those things that we tend to either ignore or overdo. In some color images, it’s the actual colors that account for the interesting-factor — and in those cases, saturation processing is very important.
I have the sneaking suspicion that most of us (yes, I’m at fault too) will use an RGB saturation adjustment layer (or an ACR adjustment) to boost the color saturation. This is probably OK for very small adjustments on the order of less than 5 or 10%. Once you go beyond that, you’ll start clipping the color highlights and end up losing tone details and textures.
But have no fear, there is a better way! The LAB (Lightness, A, B) color mode is quite useful for making higher quality adjustments to the saturation. I’m guessing that most will avoid LAB editing because it seems less intuitive, or because there’s no immediate need to use it. In reality, it’s no more difficult to use than the RGB color mode. So if you have an image that’s begging to be saturated, try out this technique and I’m certain you’ll find just how powerful it can be.
I’ve put together a Photoshop action that might help speed up the whole process. Laziness is usually why I’ll opt for the RGB saturation method vs the LAB method, so this action should make the process less tedious. Just apply any touch-ups or adjustment layers to your original image like you normally would, select the top layer when you’re ready to bump your saturation, and run the action. This action basically takes care of everything, but it gives you the ability to adjust the LAB curves half way through the execution. After getting the LAB curves adjusted (as outlined in step 4 below), you’ll be presented with a “Duplicate Layer” dialog — You MUST select your original document from the second drop down menu for things to work correctly. Give it a try, and let me know if there are any problems with it. Also, before you run it, you might want to run through the steps below just to get a better idea of what it’s doing.
1. OPEN YOUR IMAGE IN RGB MODE
The RGB color mode is the most common to work with, so I’ll assume that most of us use this as our default. We can still work in RGB even though we’re doing adjustments in LAB color mode — it’s just a little extra work. So open up your image as you normally would and apply any touch-ups such as spot removal or any other cloning or cropping. Once you’re comfortable with the base image, we’ll start looking at the color and contrast.
You can also go a different route than what I’m showing here — you could actually start up in LAB color mode straight out of the RAW file (for those of us processing RAW), skip steps 2 and 3, go straight to boosting the saturation, and just convert back to RGB when you’re done. What you want to avoid is excessively switching back and forth between RGB and LAB color modes.
2. RGB CURVE ADJUSTMENTS
After applying my touch-ups, a curves adjustment is usually the first thing I do. The RGB curve is great for increasing contrast using the traditional “S” curve as I’ve shown here. This adjustment also gives the appearance of increased saturation too, so it’s a good idea to apply it and dial in your contrast prior to adding any color saturation.
3. OPEN A COPY IN LAB MODE
Make a copy of the visible image by doing a “Stamp Visible” command (Ctrl+Alt+Shift+E). This gives us a single layer that contains all of the underlying adjustments we’ve applied. Now take this layer and duplicate it to a new document. Once in that new document, change the color mode to “LAB”. Why not just change the color mode in the original file? You’ll lose any RGB-specific adjustment layers such as the curves adjustment we just applied (go ahead, try it and see what happens). OK, so now we’re working with LAB and we’re ready to boost the contrast.
4. LAB CURVE ADJUSTMENTS
We’ll do the saturation adjustment with a curves adjustment layer, but this time we’ll be adjusting each channel individually. Start with the “A” and “B” channels and make the adjustments as shown in the screenshot. Be sure to pull each side of the curve in equal amounts, otherwise you’ll end up with some funky color shifts. Same goes for adjustments between the two channels — try to keep them in the same ballpark. The last step is to go back to the “Lightness” channel and put a slight “S” curve into it to fine tune the contrast after adjusting the saturation. Again, extra contrast adds to the appearance of extra saturation.
5. COPY BACK TO THE RGB IMAGE
Once you’re happy with your saturation adjustment, you can merge the layers, stamp visible, flatten, etc. to give you a single layer with all of the color information. Now copy that layer back to your original image — it should convert itself back into RGB when you copy it over.
Once you’re back in the original image, you’re pretty much done with the adjustment. You can now toy around with masking and opacity settings to get the final look you’re after. If you’re seeing localized spots that seem too saturated our out of place, you can just brush over them on the mask with a low opacity brush until you get the results you need.
A COMPARISON OF THE RESULTS
Now for the fun part — let’s evaluate just how much better this technique is from a standard saturation adjustment that most of us are familiar with. Sometimes the old RGB method will work out better for you, but in my opinion, the LAB saturation is much more natural with deeper colors and less highlight clipping.