Tag Archives: post-processing

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.

The Image Doctors #113

Creative Ways of Using The Texture/Clarity/Dehaze Tools

If you do any post-processing of your images, you’re probably familiar with the Clarity, Texture, and Dehaze sliders (in Lightroom, and elsewhere). However, these tools become extremely powerful when used to enhance or diminish detail and contrast in your photos, including creating effects that you might not have thought of before. We’ll describe how these tools work, and offer some use cases for how you can put them to work to enhance your own photos.

Moving to Macphun: Tips for Nik Users

Luminar from Macphun can be used to create dramatic effects and is an effective replacement for many Nik Collection plug-ins.

With the recent announcement that Google will no longer support the Nik Collection, I’ve started using Macphun’s suite of editing tools more and more frequently. Most specifically, I’ve jumped feet-first into their newest editor, Luminar. I’ve found it to be an excellent choice for photographers who are familiar with the Nik Collection suite. You can read my initial thoughts on Luminar here.

Here’s why I’m moving to Macphun:

  • Macphun Software applications use the latest technologies for image adjustments and special effects
  • Macphun products are compatible with Lightroom and Photoshop, plus you can use Luminar as a stand-alone editor (it even opens most RAW files)
  • Luminar offers a full complement of tools and effects filters that in many cases replace multiple Nik plug-ins, including Color Efex Pro 4 and Silver Efex Pro 2.
  • Built-in layer support for selective editing and effects partitioning.
  • Smart “erase” and noise-reduction tools, along with clone stamp
  • Smart Filter support in Adobe Photoshop
  • Luminar for Windows will be released this fall
  • It’s a full-featured image editor with lots of effects filters for under $60

Get Luminar for Mac Here
Get Luminar Public Beta for Windows Here

Learning to Love Luminar

While there are several Macphun software plug-ins available for Mac users (and they are excellent), Luminar is so incredibly flexible that it can take the place of most of the other filters, provided you know where to look. Because Luminar is coming to Windows, too, it’s the one Macphun product I think you should be familiar with. Here are some tips for getting the most out of Luminar. Continue reading Moving to Macphun: Tips for Nik Users

The Photoshop Techniques Every Lightroom User Should Know

lr-psDespite the fact that I’ve owned a copy of Adobe Photoshop since the 1990’s, I’ve rarely made a big deal about it in my workshops and presentations. That’s because the cost of ownership presented a huge barrier to amateur photographers. Moreover, Lightroom has become quite powerful in its own right; many users simply find they didn’t need to leave the Lightroom editing environment.

If you’re using Lightroom via the Adobe Photography Plan (Creative Cloud subscription), then you’re getting the complete version of Adobe Photoshop right along with it. If you have access to this powerful tool, you ought to know how to use it (at least in terms of your photos).

There are so many tools in Photoshop that it’s easy to get lost and intimidated. However, there are a few things that Photoshop lets you do that you can’t do in Lightroom, and for certain photos, those tools can be tremendously useful. Read on to see my list of “go-to” tools.

Continue reading The Photoshop Techniques Every Lightroom User Should Know

Finish Strong.

The “Secret Sauce” for Fine-Art Image Processing

Nik Collection plug-ins have been my "secret sauce" for creating images with impact after processing RAW files in Lightroom.
Nik Collection plug-ins are my “secret sauce” for creating images with impact after processing RAW files in Lightroom.

Photography, like any other medium, is a craft. In woodworking, you produce a finished product through a serial application of sandpaper, working from coarse to fine. The best finish is only obtained after using the finest-grit sandpapers, sometimes even between coats of lacquer. So it is, too with photography.

Your camera settings apply the foundation of the image, but they cannot refine the image in the same way your editing software can. Even seemingly small adjustments can be the difference between a snapshot and a gallery print. For years, my “secret sauce” has been to finish images with the “Big 3” Nik Collection plug-ins (Color Efex/HDR Efex/Silver Efex).

For a limited time, my collection of PDF guides to the Nik Collection by Google are available for only $9.99 each. Or, you can purchase the set of three guides for only $24.99. No coupon code necessary!

Each PDF guide is user-printable and also includes a set of installable custom presets for the Nik Collection plug-ins.

Nik Collection PDF Bundle
Includes all three guides listed above

*Special Note: These products contain multiple files and are delivered as a ZIP archive.  To download the files to an iPad, you will need  a free ZIP utility, such as iZip for iOS. Android users should consider using WinZip. Otherwise, download and extract the files to a Mac or PC and then transfer them to your tablet device.