Tag Archives: Photoshop

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.

A is for Aesthetic

Understanding the creative aspect of lens aperture

Shallow depth of field provides subject isolation and sets images captured with dedicated digital cameras apart from those captured with smartphones.

We all learn in Photography 101 that the aperture setting is a physical property of the lens, and you can vary its size to control the amount of light entering your camera. Usually, we think of aperture as it relates to the rules of exposure.

Back when I was shooting film and early digital cameras, it was considered ideal to have a “fast” lens (meaning one with an aperture of f/2.8 or wider). Why? because with limited ISO options (remember film rarely was faster than ISO 800 and early DSLRs got noisy in a hurry above ISO 400), a fast lens meant you could shoot hand-held in dim conditions without a flash.

Today, ISO no longer limits most photographers. Sure, images are still cleaner and have greater dynamic range at a camera’s base ISO, but you can shoot above ISO 6400 these days pretty much with impunity. That means you have much more creative latitude to choose the aesthetic of your shots by varying the lens aperture.

Continue reading A is for Aesthetic

Long Exposure SKy Replacement Pack

Transform your photos with these royalty-free sky replacement images

Create images that recreate a long exposure look with my Long Exposure Sky Replacement Pack

I’m happy to announce the immediate release of 30 royalty-free replacement sky images. Each image allows you to create the look of a long exposure image with your own photographs.

  • 30 long exposure skies
  • Royalty-free
  • 24 megapixel file resolution
  • Personal and commercial use license
  • Compatible with Adobe Photoshop, Luminar, and other editors that support layer compositing

Camera RAW 13.2: Super Resolution

Double the size of your RAW files without losing detail

Today, Adobe released Camera Raw 13.2. Like most updates to Camera Raw, this one includes new camera and lens support. However, Adobe has added a new feature in Camera Raw 13.2 called “Super Resolution.” This new feature uses AI technology to double the linear pixel dimensions of your image files, including RAWs. The result is an image with 4x the resolution of the original with remarkable detail preservation. This new feature creates a “supersized” DNG format raw file from your camera raw image that can be opened in Photoshop. This new feature is not yet in Lightroom, but it will be arriving soon.

Dealing with a blown-out moon in landscape photos

Using Photoshop to create natural landscape photos that include the moon

In landscape photography at twilight, the moon will most likely be blown-out. Here’s how to get a natural moon exposure in your images by using Adobe Photoshop.

When photographing landscapes at twilight that include the moon, proper exposure can be nearly impossible to achieve. That’s because while the dim light of twilight requires a relatively long exposure, the moon requires nearly a sunny-16 exposure. As a result, there is no one camera exposure setting that will get the scene right. Your options are:

  • Under-expose the scene and recover shadows & highlights in post
  • Properly expose for the landscape and blow out the moon
  • Bracket exposures and combine them in post

All of the above options have drawbacks. In an under-exposed image, you’ll be prone to getting noise when you try to recover shadow details, and you may or may not be able to recover detail in the moon. If the moon is very small in the frame (as with wide-angle lenses), you can make the conscious choice to just allow it to blow out completely. Bracketing exposures is another option, but I’ve found that traditional exposure blending or HDR tone-mapping just doesn’t quite produce the results I’d like, because the blown-out areas around the moon often bleed into the sky or are exacerbated by thin clouds.

Recently while I was in the field, I decided to try a variation on exposure blending. I captured two shots: the first was exposed only for the moon, and the second shot was properly exposed for the landscape. I then used Adobe Photoshop to combine the images, but instead of just blending them (as with a traditional composite), I had to completely remove the blown-out moon from the landscape photo using Photoshop’s Content-Aware Fill tool.

Video: Processing Landscape Photos with the Moon (Photoshop)