Tag Archives: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

Whose Vision is it, Anyway?

AKA: Did you “Photoshop” that?

When I was growing up in the early 80s, you really had only two choices when it came to making prints from your film. You could either take it to a lab (or drugstore), or do it yourself. While at-home darkroom work was fairly reasonable for black and white film (and I’m glad my dad built a darkroom for my mom in our garage), color film was really not feasible for most home processing. So the rolls of color print film went off to the drugstore, with mixed results.

I remember driving out to the Mojave desert with my Nikon EL2 and a roll of print film, looking to photograph comet Hale-Bopp. The good news was that I actually captured shots of the comet. The bad news was that the print lab assumed I’d woefully underexposed my film and returned photos with gray skies instead of black. Fortunately, I was able to use a flatbed scanner and my rudimentary knowledge of Photoshop (this was the mid-90s, you know) to get reasonable-looking images.

Today, most of us aren’t shooting color print film, but the idea remains the same. You can choose to let your camera be the lab (i.e., the drugstore) and rely on its rendition of colors and contrast, or you can work on your images yourself. The good news is that most cameras offer a variety of preset color and contrast settings, like “standard,” “vivid,” and “portrait.” But does the camera really know which tones you want accentuated and those you want muted? I think not. That being said, our cameras do a pretty reasonable job of rendering images that look fairly similar to how the scene appeared at the time, which brings me to the point of this article. Is a “faithful” rendition of the scene a compelling photograph, or would you like to convey a different sense of feeling. After all, the camera simply records data; it’s up to our brains to interpret it.

A couple of months ago I was in Alaska on a cruise with a group of clients. One of the signature stops on the cruise was Glacier Bay National Park, a place that’s fairly inaccessible except by boat or float plane. As it turned out, by the time we arrived at one of the signature glaciers, the air was hazy and the angle of the sun created quite a bit of haze. This is what my camera saw:

Johns Hopkins Glacier, Glacier Bay, Alaska, as interpreted by my OM-1 camera.

Frankly, that’s more or less how the scene looked. The glacier was somewhat back-lit, and there was a lot of haze in the air, reducing contrast. Meh. Had I been shooting a documentary or on a photojournalism assignment, this image would have been perfectly reasonable to use right out of the camera.

Needless to say, I like my landscapes to have impact and feeling. So of course I processed the photo to get more of what I felt. For example, had I been using black and white film, I’d have considered using a yellow filter to cut through that blue haze and add contrast to the mountains. After processing, I ended up with this:

Johns Hopkins Glacier, processed in Lightroom and Photoshop (click to enlarge).

Which one do you prefer? In reality, it doesn’t matter. Because you get to have your own opinion and your own style. The bottom line is this: If you let your camera do your processing for you, your choices for output will be quite limited. You don’t need to build a darkroom in your garage to have the creative freedom once enjoyed by the masters.

Sensor Plane #10: Moving to Lightroom

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I’ve been extremely busy this summer with field workshops and writing a new Lightroom guide, but I’m back to bring you all up to speed on what I’ve been doing. In today’s episode, I want to discuss frequently asked questions about moving to Lightroom from other programs.

Specifically, I address:

  • Where does Lightroom store my images?
  • Why do my images look different in Lightroom?
  • Does Lightroom require sidecar files?
  • Is Lightroom only for raw files?
  • Where is the “save” button?

I also discuss the advantages of using a database (catalog)-based workflow program, like Lightroom, over traditional browser/editor workflows. Lightroom offers significant advantages for image viewing, browsing, editing, and printing.

Don’t forget to check out the fall series of Digital Underground instructional photo tours that I’ll be leading together with Deborah Sandidge. Join us this fall in Las Vegas, NV and San Antonio TX!

 

 

Using Glamour Glow on Skies and Clouds

I used the Glamour Glow filter on the sky (right) to tone down the harsh look of the clouds in this HDR image.
I used the Glamour Glow filter on the sky (right) to tone down the harsh look of the clouds in this HDR image (click to enlarge).

Of the 55 filters in Color Efex Pro 4, one of the most versatile is “Glamour Glow.” This filter creates a softening effect with a mild glow that is most often used in portraits. However, I’ve found it to be a perfect choice for smoothing out skies in HDR images and landscapes. To get this effect, you’ll want to add the Glamour Glow filter in Color Efex Pro 4 and dial up the saturation slider a bit. Then, use Control Points to restrict the effect to just the sky. You may need to use a combination of plus (+) and minus (-) Control Points to get the look just right.

Here’s a video tutorial of how I use Glamour Glow on HDR/Landscape images:

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Master all 55 Color Efex Pro filters with the complete guide from Jason Odell
The Photographer’s Guide to Color Efex Pro 4.

Understanding the Camera Calibration Module in Lightroom

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Adobe Photoshop Lightroom relies on the Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) rendering engine to convert camera RAW images. The default color and contrast settings are something called “Adobe Standard” which look different than what you might see on your camera LCD when reviewing your images. However, Adobe offers alternate Camera Profiles which emulate the as-shot settings from many Nikon and Canon DSLRs. You’ll find these settings in the Camera Calibration panel in Lightroom and ACR.

In this example, I have placed an image of a Colorchecker card on the screen so you can see how the colors and contrast change between camera profiles. For this image, I get options based on the Nikon D800 that I used to capture the RAW file. Note that you can only make profile changes to RAW files. If you see “Embedded” under the profile option, it’s because you’re looking at a TIFF or JPEG image in Lightroom. Choose from any of the profile presets in the drop-down menu to change the baseline color and tone curve of your image, and you can fine-tune it with the sliders if you wish.

If you have a ColorChecker card, you can use the ColorChecker software from X-rite to create a custom profile for your camera. Each custom profile is specific to the camera you use to create the image. You can further tweak those profiles using Adobe’s DNG Profile Editor software (free download from www.adobe.com).

Once you have a profile that you like, you might wish to change your defaults to always use that profile going forward. If you do change your default settings, note that ANYTHING you modified in the Develop section gets applied, so keep your adjustments minimal (Calibration, sharpening, lens corrections) so that you don’t over-process your images. Defaults are only applied automatically when you import new images into Lightroom. Existing images will not be changed; you’ll have to adjust them manually or use the “Reset Settings” option in Lightroom to do so.

Busting Nikon D800 Myths: Is Abject Fear Stifling Your Creativity?

Sweeping skies over Badlands National Park, South Dakota. Nikon D800e with 16-35mm Nikkor lens, 74s@ f/22, ISO 100.
Sweeping skies over Badlands National Park, South Dakota. Nikon D800e with 16-35mm Nikkor lens and Singh-Ray 10-stop solid ND filter; 74s@ f/22, ISO 100. According to the Internet, I should not have used these settings with this camera (Click for a larger view).

I have a Nikon D800e. It’s an amazing camera and I love using it. Maybe you have one, too. But if you handle the camera based on some of the sage advice offered up around the interwebs, you might be missing out. While the advice, from a pure technical standpoint, might be valid, it might also be causing you unnecessary stress. Let’s take a look at three common technical warnings for D800 users.

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