The moment

Henri Cartier Bresson is well know for the concept of “the decisive moment”.

My Picture of the month the other month (Sept) is a good example of this.

Dancing in Air
Dancing in Air

Where people are involved, there is often a particular moment that makes the image stronger.

Photo Walk
Photo Walk

Heading to the shops Jubilee Dress

Try to anticipate the moment where the composition is strongest and capture that moment.  You will capture stronger images for it.

Compositing and Backgrounds

Alice

 

I always like where possible to get things right in camera.  The above shot was taken outside in the garden, the sun was a light source but I also used a Elinchrom flash head and large softbox on a C Stand, the flash was actually the main source and the daylight as fill, but often its just not possible to do this kind of thing as the location is not suitable.

It is in situations like this where compositing can be the answer.  You take a photo outside to use as a background and take the main photo in the studio.  You then combine the two using photoshop.

Below is a quick fantasy composite that is not intending to be realistic to show what I mean.Composit

The key to making a realistic composite is making the lighting match and shooting with the intention of making a composite.

Composit Candidate

 

The above shot would make a likely composite.  The plain background was due to a seamless infinity curve in the studio, would make it easy to select just the model and place it on a background.

For the backgrounds I have never had a lot of success but then I read some tips on Scott Kellby’s blog about shooting for backgrounds.

Check it out and have a go, I know I will.

http://scottkelby.com/2013/how-to-realistic-shallow-depth-of-field-backgrounds-for-compositing/

Profiles – Camera Profiles

An area that is often missed is that of camera profiles.

Colour Checker

Building a custom colour profile for your camera is relatively easy with tools such as the X Rite ColorChecker, but today Adobe tend to build very good camera profiles into their products. If your a studio worker then photographing a grey card at the start of your session and getting your white balance correct, plus using the built in profile in Photoshop or Lightroom will get you accurate colours.

Colour Checker
Adobe built in Profile
Colour Checker-2
Custom Profile

Which do you prefer?

 

Profiles – Printers

The GardenOnce your screen is calibrated, what about your printer? Well the output of the printer generally depends on the inks and the paper. You can get calibration devices to scan your prints and build custom profiles but today there is an easier option. Many of the top paper manufacturers have prebuilt profiles for there paper on there websites. Its just a matter of downloading and using.

With a correctly profiled screen and printer, plus using techniques such as soft proofing one can get prints that are close to what you see on the screen.

Profiles – Screen

Profiling your screen is possibly the easiest thing to do. Its also absolutely essential, unless your know the colours you screen is displaying how can you know what you are doing during the editing process.

X-Rite are possibly the best know company in modern profiling technology.

The first step to profiling your screen is to get hold of a measuring tool, for as little as a £100 you can now get a simple screen calibrating tool

Spyder 4

Its a simple USB device that measures the output from you screen, the software flashes up known colour values and the calibrator measures the output value, it then generates a screen profile for your computer. This profile then ensures your screen displays colours accurately.

Profiles, Camera, Print & Screen – Introduction

Profiling is a key element of modern digital post processing.

Many people just shoot and publish either on web or paper, but getting your images to look right can be tricky if you do not fully understand all the elements.

Using the correct colour space, shooting RAW, calibrating your monitor are all essential elements to shooting digital and getting good output. Then there is Camera Calibration Profiles, Print Profiles etc. For beginners it can quite a minefield.

There is also the fact that not all monitors are created equal and laptop screens are inferior to desktop monitors, and while it may seem contrary to common sense, Black & White photography needs even higher end monitors then does colour.

A few years ago trying to get all these elements correct would prove extremely challenging but today things are a little easy.

High quality monitors which can approach the AdobeRGB Colour Space are now available well under £1000, cameras have a setting for AdobeRGB, and Software tools like Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop support work spaces like ProPhoto RGB, to maximise range of colours and tones available while editing.

Its a fact that while people understand that the computer screen can display a different set of colours and a wider dynamic range it is not better or superior to a paper print. Then there is the web, many browsers while capable of handling colour management some do not. sRGB is still the colour language of the internet and a picture in a web browser is a poor substitute for your own calibrated screen showing your own work in Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop or Apples Aperture, or a fine print.

The best way of learning is to attend a good course on the subject but the next best thing is to purchase the series of video tutorials on the website Luminous Landscape.

Over the next few posts i’ll attempt to offer an introduction to the art of profiling, because without it no matter how you edit your photographs you are working in the dark.

Which Packages for Post Production

Where possible I have tried to standardise on as few post production software packages as I can.

The majority of my work is all done in Adobe Lightroom but sometimes you need either the added power of a third party plug-in or application or its just easier to do in some packages.

I feel its better to be a master of one package and try to do as much as I can in it.

Postproduction - Flat JpegIn the above photograph you have a basic flatly rendered JPeg, I have just added a crop to tighten up the image. I then ran it through my usual Adobe Lightroom work flow and I was pleased with the result but I still felt it lacked a little zing.

Postproduction in Lightroom
Postproduction in Lightroom

So I exported it as a tif into Photoshop CC to see what I could do with it in there. Now starting with a colour image there are at least four different ways to process an image to make it Black & White, including some very advanced techniques using LAB mode and also creating separate layers each Black & White based on the luminance values of each of the Red, Green and Blue Channels. All of which give very advanced control. Here through I just wanted the image to have a bit more pop and zing!

Dodge and Burn, Overlay method
Dodge and Burn, Overlay method

First of all I thought I would do a little more dodging and burning to improve the local contrast of a few areas. Now the dodge and burn tool in Photoshop is not the best and can cause issues and colour shift. Not too important with a Black & White image but still there are better ways of accomplishing this.

Now this technique is one that I learn’t from a printing tutorial by Jeff Schewe. Create a new layer and fill it with 50% Gray.

Photoshop CC 50 Gray

Now set the Layer mode to Overlay. Now to lighten parts of the image just paint on this lay with white (Dodge) and to darken parts of the image, just paint on this layer with black (Burn). Using a soft edged brush you can quickly and easily fine tune the image.

The next part is the contrast. I want the darker parts of the image to have a real boost in the contrast. I do this with a curves adjustment. While this has been possible in Lightroom since V4 it is more controllable in Photoshop.

Levels
Levels

For the dark portion of the image I have added two control points to steepen the curve and thus the contrast. I have added a third control point to bring down the mid-tones and return the highlights back to normal. For this image I felt the contrast in the mid-tones was still a little to high so I added a second Curves layer to bring it back under control.

I finished the image with a little sharpening.

Photoshop Dodge and BurnSo here is the finished image and this months “Picture of the Month”. I did try and reproduce this just in Lightroom but I could not get the same degree of control and the image lacked contrast.

Waddington Air Show – metering for planes

This weekend its the annual Waddington Air Show.

Waddington Air Show

Whether you have the latest SLR’s and big fast glass or a basic compact, with its mix of static displays and flight demonstrations, there is plenty for everyone to photograph.  One common disappointment is that often the photographs come out too dark.  Shooting into the bright sky can fool many light meters.  Back in the old film days I would switch to manual and take a reading from a grey card I would place in front of me to meter off.  The same light falling on the grey card was also falling onto the aircraft and this would give me a good basic exposure.

In case your wondering about the shot above, its a rather poor composite of two different shots I took when the Red Arrows flew over Lincoln.  A bit of fun you might say in Photoshop.

LR5 Beta Lens correction Modes

No Correction
No Correction

The Beta for Lightroom has been out for a few weeks now, and there are some nice touches. For those wondering yes you can buy it as usual and not have to subscribe to Adobe’s Creative Cloud.

Vertical Correction in LR5
Vertical Correction in LR5

The last couple of days I have been playing with the new Lens correction tool. In the new Beta its actually a lot more then that. You can as well as correcting for lens issues you can correct for verticals as seen above but also do level correction as seen below.

Level Correction in LR5
Level Correction in LR5
Full Correction in LR5
Full Correction in LR5

Full corrections are also available and finally Auto, which you can see below. It can prove quite useful for correcting architectural shots. It can prove more challenging when there are people in the shot or if the correction needed is extreme, but it is a useful additional tool to the photographers tool box.

Auto Correction in LR5
Auto Correction in LR5

Now when the corrections are subtle things look fine as in the above example which has full corrections, but the software can attempt to go too far.

Lens corrections Only
Lens corrections Only

This photography has some extreme angles.  This is what happens when you apply full corrections.

Full Corrections that break the image
Full Corrections that break the image

 

HDR Editing in Adobe Lightroom

Hartsholme Lake - SLR - HDRHDR – High Dynamic Range, is a useful technique when the dynamic range of the scene is beyond that of the sensor or film you are using.

Traditionally the one uses dedicated HDR like PhotomatrixPro, but recently I found a method of producing a more realistic method of producing a HDR image by doing the editing in Lightroom.

University in HDR

One can use HDR carefully and produce natural looking results like in the photograph at the top of this page. Often now you see HDR used to produce over the top cartoony images like in my shot of the University of Lincoln.

My workflow is generally as follows:

  • Image Capture
  • Initial import to Lightroom
  • Initial Edit
  • Export to HDR Program
  • Process in HDR Program
  • Export Back to Lightroom

I generally shoot a five stop bracket, using auto bracketing. These photographs are then imported into Lightroom and I do basic key wording, copyright information and correcting for lens issues and basic import sharpening.

The five shots are then selected and exported to TIFF into my HDR Program. I use PhotomatrixPro. The HDR processing is now done and the resulting single file exported back to Lightroom. I can then do my usual processing and cropping back in a program I am more familiar with.

Well I did not spot it until recently (thanks to Matt Kloskowski) but you can now export the shots to Photoshop combine them and then re-import and do the processing back in Lightroom. Now Photoshop can do HDR but until CS6 third party programs have been better. This technique though just uses Photoshop to combine the images, which are then exported back to Lightroom and you can do the processing back in the program I am mist familiar with.

So how do you do this? Well for a start you need Lightroom V4.1 at least, V4.0 and before could not do it.

Screen Shot 2013-05-03 at 13.42.13

Select all the photographs in the bracketing set in the Library module.

Screen Shot 2013-05-03 at 13.48.00Then go to the Photo Menu, select Edit in, and then, Merge to HDR Pro in Photoshop. This will cause Photoshop to Launch (you will need CS6).

Once all the images how loaded you need to change a setting in the right hand menu panel within Photoshop CS6. I recommend you click on the button Remove Ghosts and then change the Mode from the default of 16 Bit to 32 Bit. Then click OK.

Screen Shot 2013-05-03 at 13.55.12

It will now process the selected files into a single TIFF file (it must be saved as a TIFF). If you shoot with a 24 megapixel camera or more and have a older computer this could take some time!

Then close Photoshop and when prompted to save click Yes. Photoshop will save the file and Lightroom will import it. You can then edit the resulting file with a number of advantages.

Screen Shot 2013-05-03 at 14.09.32

When you now edit the image you will find that there is far more data available then if it was a single image.
Screen Shot 2013-05-03 at 14.10.10

With the five set bracket I took I have plus/minus 10 stops available in the exposure control. This gives you the advantages of HDR but not the cartoony look.

Symonds YatHere is the final image, turned into a Black & White with lot more detail available in the what was a blown out sky.

Now that I have learn’t this technique I’ll be re-visiting some of my older brackets and seeing if I can do a better job of post production. Here is a quick re-edit I did of a interior shot of the lovely and majestic Lincoln Cathedral.

Lincoln Cathedral