Tag Archives: Software

Using Tiffen Dfx3 to Create Custom Studio Lighting Effects

I got several comments on yesterday’s post asking how I was able to create the background color and lighting effects in my otherwise boring head shot. After all, I only used a single light for the image and the background was a blank wall about five feet behind me. The trick I used was Tiffen’s Dfx 3 software, which I think is an indispensable tool for home studio photographers.

First of all, it’s important to note that I used an 85mm lens to take this image; doing so threw the background completely out of focus. That’s desirable for head shots where you want to tweak the background color/look later. I processed the RAW image (Nikon NEF file) in Lightroom 4.2 to open up the shadows a bit (note: click on any image below to see a larger view).

I did initial RAW processing in Lightroom 4.2 to open up the shadows in the image.

Then I sent the image to Tiffen Dfx 3. Side note: when using Dfx3 from Lightroom, choose Adobe RGB 1998 as your color space, as ProPhoto RGB may, in rare circumstances, cause color banding within the Dfx3 environment. Continue reading Using Tiffen Dfx3 to Create Custom Studio Lighting Effects

Nik Software HDR Efex Pro 2.0 Hands-On Review

Badlands sunrise, processed in HDR Efex Pro 2.0

Some of you may have noticed that I’ve recently been posting a lot of HDR photographs here and on my G+ page lately. Part of the reason is because I enjoy being creative, and HDR is one of my creative outlets. The other reason is that I’ve had the opportunity to test the latest version of Nik Software’s HDR tone-mapping software, HDR Efex Pro 2.0, which was formally announced today and is available now.

At first glance, version 2.0 might seem like a minor revision, with subtle improvements to the interface and control sliders. However, I can honestly say that after testing HDR Efex Pro 2.0 for the last few months, I will not be going back to version 1. My HDR images are consistently better across the board with version 2.0; they have better color, better sharpness, and superior tone-mapping effects.

Continue to my hands-on review of Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro 2 Continue reading Nik Software HDR Efex Pro 2.0 Hands-On Review

Adobe Creative Suite 6… Stand-alone upgrades vs. Creative Cloud

Today, Adobe announced the pre-release of Adobe Creative Suite 6, their newest version of their digital creative applications, including Photoshop, InDesign, and Dreamweaver (all products I use often). The new thing about this release, however, is Adobe’s “Creative Cloud.” For a monthly subscription price, you can get access to everything Adobe offers, plus some options not available in the stand-alone software packages.

If you are a Photoshop user, you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons of upgrading (Adobe Buying Guide). I know many photographers who still use Photoshop CS3 and are happy. With every release, Adobe offers many new features that will appeal to some, but not others. For example, if you rely on Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) via Bridge or Photoshop, then you sometimes need to upgrade to get compatibility with current cameras (sigh). The Nikon D4 and D800, for example, are supported in ACR 6.7 (currently in release candidate beta), but if you want to use the new 2012 processing engine (available in Lightroom 4), you’ll need ACR 7 in Photoshop CS6. Photoshop CS6 includes some new content-aware features (useful if you do heavy cloning and retouching), auto-saves, and new blur tools. Continue reading Adobe Creative Suite 6… Stand-alone upgrades vs. Creative Cloud

Choosing a RAW converter– My Karma ran over your Dogma

Which image is better? (Click to enlarge)

It seems like no matter what you do or where you go, you can never escape the incessant drone of “my product is better” posts out in cyberspace. Name a photo product, and you’ll find fanboys (and girls) trumpeting the merits of their particular choice in gear, software, whatever. We live in a world where product diversity and competition is fierce, but one thing is completely evident to me: when it comes to RAW processing software, you really can’t go wrong with most of the popular choices out there right now.

The one thing that has started to irk me, though, is the beating of drums from people who claim Product A is superior to Product B based on no provable fact. Case in point: Nikon’s Capture NX. In 2005, I compared all the major RAW converters from a Nikon user’s perspective as part of a multi-part segment for The Image Doctors podcast. At that time, we were able to discern clear rendering quality differences between Capture NX and Adobe Camera Raw (ACR). Ah, but times have changed.

Since 2005, ACR has evolved better demosaic algorithms, new features, and camera profile settings that give you results that are at least as good, in my opinion, as what you can do with Capture NX2. The same is true for Aperture, Capture One, and other RAW processors. While there is no doubt that Nikon’s engineers understand the NEF format best, the argument that CNX2 somehow produces a superior conversion to everything else has gotten pretty weak over time. When I look at NEFs I’ve converted with Capture NX2 using standard settings and compare them to ACR conversions with similar settings, I don’t see anything between the two resulting images that would indicate that one is somehow “superior” to the other. What I see are two slightly different images, but neither one is “better” or “worse” in terms of detail, artifacts, or other obvious quality issues.

So what does that mean for you, the photographer, who is trying to filter through all the chatter and pick a RAW processing tool? Remove the subjective component of “conversion quality” from the discussion and instead look at features and workflow. Continue reading Choosing a RAW converter– My Karma ran over your Dogma

Master the Art of Sharpening in Capture NX 2

I’m pleased to announce the immediate availability of a brand-new video workshop from Luminescence of Nature Press™.  Sharpening Techniques for Capture NX 2 is a comprehensive instructional video in crystal-clear 720p HD that covers all of the major sharpening methods in Nikon’s Capture NX 2.  I’ve even made the QuickTime movie file easy to navigate, because I’ve added chapter markers to it.  The 1280 x 720 resolution of the video file means that you’ll have no trouble whatsoever seeing the menus and other screen items as I walk viewers through all the sharpening techniques in Capture NX 2.

In this training video, you’ll learn:

  • How sharpening works
  • USM Tool
  • High Pass/Overlay filter
  • Advanced control over sharpening with blending modes
  • Selective/Creative Sharpening Techniques with brushes/control points
  • Practical examples of landscape, portrait, and high-ISO sharpening in Capture NX 2
  • How to perform output sharpening for print and web destinations in Capture NX 2

To learn more about Sharpening Techniques for Capture NX 2, please visit Luminescence of Nature Press