Photo Cascadia Blog
Archive for the ‘Image Processing’ Category
Here is a quick little video on some tips for adding shadow detail to your images in Photoshop.
For more image editing videos, check out the videos page on my website. Enjoy!
If you are a TKActions user, luminosity mask enthusiast or just like to keep up to date with the most current tools and techniques available for high end image developing, then this article will interest you. If you aren’t versed in what luminosity masks are then you might want to check out these articles first and then come back.
Right now I won’t ramble on the benefits of using luminosity masks as part of a finely controlled Photoshop workflow or the backstory of how Tony Kuyper introduced these techniques to the world of nature and landscape photography a decade ago. Those topics have been well covered before.
The main story here is that Tony consistently innovates and improves the way his custom Photoshop actions panel generates luminosity masks. In June he released the current iteration of the TKActions Panel, Version 4, which introduced a completely new interface, added a ton of features and increased the overall efficiency. Despite that, he has already added new features and tools to the V4 panel that I wasn’t able to include in the Video Guide to TKActions or Complete Guide to Luminosity Masks, 2nd Edition tutorials.
The two main new tools in the latest update are Infinity Masks and the Zone Picker and they both offer significantly different and intuitive methods of generating very specific luminosity selections and masks. If you currently own the TKActions V4 panel then you already have these features, although you many not have realized it yet. If you purchased the V4 panel through the Adobe Add-Ons website then you may need to update the panel through your Adobe My Add-Ons account and the CC Desktop App for the new tools to show up.
In addition to Infinity Masks and the Zone Picker, other updates include transparent dodge and burn layers, layer bookmarking, View Button support in Lab mode and the ability to toggle between red and blue view modes. Tony recently published an article on his blog that explains the new tools and features in detail.
In an effort to help everyone stay informed and get full use of the features, I produced the following tutorial. In addition to watching the video here online you can use the link I include below to download it to your computer for free and add it to your library. The video is now also included as a bonus chapter in the Video Guide to TKActions series. I hope you find it to be helpful and that you are able to put the new tools to use in your image developing. If you have any questions be sure to leave a comment below or contact me.
Photoshop is my most powerful and flexible tool for image developing, and Luminosity Masks are a key component to that. Masks in Photoshop are used to control where and to what degree an adjustment will be revealed. Masks generally come in two varieties; hard edged and feathered. Hard edged masks are precise but have obvious and visible boundaries. Feathered masks blend adjustments into an image gradually, but are not precise and bleed into adjoining areas and can cause light or dark halos. With Luminosity Masks we get the best of both worlds; the precision of a hard edged mask combined with the gradual blending of a feathered mask.
Standard luminosity masks are global, or what I sometimes refer to as “entire image” masks. That is, while they control where and to what degree adjustments are applied, they still feather throughout the entire image. Sometimes this is just what is needed, but other times it is helpful to be able to customize and localize luminosity masks to target one specific area of an image.
In this short video tutorial I demonstrate one method of customizing a luminosity mask called painting a mask. If you use Luminosity Masks in your Photoshop work, I think you will find it useful.
This video is a portion of one of the chapters from the soon to be released 2nd Edition of my Complete Guide to Luminosity Masks tutorial series. While the general concepts of Luminosity Masks have not changed, this is a needed update. The new edition features some new new ideas, tips and techniques and uses Photoshop CC and version 4 of the TKActions panel. I know some folks have been looking forward to this update so I spent a good portion of the summer working on them. The goal was to complete them before my fall photography adventures kicked off this Month. I just pulled it off, completing the video editing phase on Wednesday evening. Thursday morning at 4 AM I left for Idaho and Canada, so while the videos are complete, they won’t be available until I’m back in the office on October 1. Stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted.
I just finished up a very enjoyable workshop season down in the Palouse region of Washington State. As many of you know, I live just on the North side of this beautiful area and I am lucky to be able to visit often and give multiple photography tours and workshops during peak season. This was my first time back since my little boy David was born. I had a wonderful group of clients this year and we had some really great conditions. I did a quick edit of some of the images we were after this spring and wanted to share some with you. The above and below images were shot from Steptoe Butte at sunrise while some nice fog rolled in and out of the hills.
Shortly after sunrise on our walk back down to the car, we found this nice patch of wildflowers and had some fun shooting them with these three trees up on the hill. A focus stack was needed for this shot. The flowers were blowing around a bit, and I didn’t want to go too wide and make the trees too small, so I used my 24-70mm zoom lens and shot a series of images for a blend in Photoshop to get good sharpness throughout the image.
While out and about, we found this fascinating structure and photographed it for a while. The whole thing was made out of 2×4’s and none of us could figure out what it was. It had these hatch doors through each wall seen in the shot below looking through.
The Canola was a little late this year because of an early freeze but we found a really nice patch just out of Colfax.
A trip to the Palouse just isn’t complete without a stop at a barn or two.
With clouds overhead, there can be some great spot lighting during times of the day other than sunrise or sunset.
Catching the sunrise up at Steptoe Butte is a must.
Although Steptoe Butte is a favorite, there are many other places to photograph the sunset.
Many techniques used on these images are demonstrated in my image editing videos
For more images and info on my workshops visit my website chipphillipsphotography
Lightening and darkening (often referred to as dodging and burning) in selective areas of an image to enhance existing light and shadow, to guide the eye or to increase depth and contour is a technique I commonly use. Both in Lightroom and Photoshop there are many ways to make localized lightening and darkening adjustments.
One of the most popular and effective dodging and burning techniques photographers use is the 50% blended gray layer method. This is a technique I have demonstrated in several of my tutorials, including THIS ONE and THIS ONE as part of previous video blogs I have published here on PhotoCascadia. The 50% gray layer technique works great, but it does have a limitation. Often, after using the 50% gray layer method to lighten or darken, I wish that I could easily make further adjustments to the lightened or darkened areas…for example, I might want to adjust the contrast, saturation or color balance of just the the areas I had lightened or darkened. There isn’t an easy way to do this with a 50% gray layer, but using an empty or transparent layer instead of a 50% gray layer solves the problem. In this video I deomstrate how it works:
I hope you find this technique a useful addition to your Photoshop skill set. Give it a try and leave me a comment to let me know what you think.
In the video tutorial below I demonstrate two exciting advances in the April 21 release of Lightroom CC (2015), Photo Merge to HDR and Photo Merge to Panorama. Lightroom has gone through substantial improvements over the years to give photographers more control in developing their images. However, until now, techniques involving the merging of more than one exposure or frame had to be done in Photoshop or third party software. Now you can merge multiple exposures to create HDR images all within LR and you can also merge frames to create both vertical and horizontal panoramas. Wow! Nice job Adobe.
Both merge features combine raw files to produce a merged DNG raw file, which is brilliant! This means we can merge first and make our adjustments directly to the merged raw file, which I assume retains all the adjustment capabilities of the originating raw files. In addition, the merged HDR or pano DNG can be opened as a tiff file in Photoshop for additional developing there.
Lightroom Photo Merge to HDR is similar to the 32-bit HDR tiff file processing capability that was first introduced back in LR 4 and which I demonstrated in a previous video blog and also include in my Developing for Extended Dynamic Range video series. This process is now greatly simplified in Lightroom CC and no longer requires Photoshop!
Photo Merge to Panorama allows you to stitch, crop and develop multi-frame panoramas without needing to go to Photoshop or some other image stitching application, and the panoramic DNG file can be fully developed in Lightroom like any raw file.
Finally, you can create high dynamic range panoramas by first creating merged HDR files for each frame in the pano series and then merging these HDR raw files into an HDR panorama. The resulting output is a high dynamic range panorama raw file that can be fully developed in Lightroom.
While working with merged HDR images in Lightroom still doesn’t provide the same degree of fine control that you can get when manually blending exposures in Photoshop, and I don’t think it handles the most extreme dynamic range as well, it provides an excellent and efficient option for many situations. Photographers who only use Lightroom can now create blended high dynamic range images and panoramas like the rest of us, which is huge for them. I also think that photographers who have previously used Photoshop or other applications to accomplish these types of multi-image blending tasks will find the new functionality of Lightroom to be a great benefit in many cases.
NOTE: Many people have had trouble getting Lightroom CC (2015) to open after it has been installed from the Creative Cloud desktop app. If you have this issue try logging out of your Creative Cloud desktop app (logging out, not closing it) and then logging back in. This fixed the issue for me and many other folks on the Adobe forums. Also, LR CC installs along side LR 5, so you can open either one unless you uninstall LR 5, and this can be a little confusing. LR 5 shows up as “Adobe Photoshop Lightroom” and LR CC shows up as “Adobe Lightroom” on my computer. It would have been nice if Adobe had labeled them Lightroom 5 and Lightroom CC instead.
While starting out in photography I owned nothing but Canon cameras. I owned the Canon 5d Mk1 and moved way through the series. It all started with the Canon 5D Mark 2, where I would religiously bracket at least three images for every scene. The results I got with my Canon when I just shot a single exposure for the scene was often not enough coverage in terms of tonal range. What was happening was that I would end up either blowing highlights or blocking the shadows.
It was the general consensus that several years ago to capture dynamic range in any photography scene you needed to take several photos. This would range from-3 under exposure to +3 overexposure. I would bracket at 1-stop exposures so that I included the wide spectrum of tonal values in the scene. At the time, several third-party applications were coming out as well as Photoshop that would be capable of merging several images into a single Image. When arrival of these applications, HDR (high dynamic range) became the big thing. It was really fascinating to capture so many images and merge all of them into a single file. The results for the time we’re Incredible and people started to compare it to medium format photography. But like a lot of things in photography, HDR went too far and quickly received a bad name.
So I chose to explore a few applications and found one called exposure fusion within a program called Photomatix Pro which merged all images together to include all the dynamic range and yet receive realistic result. I was very happy with the results once I learned to fine tune the application but nevertheless took a lot of time to post process images in HDR.
I realized that I was spending a good portion of time now post processing and lot less time in the field shooting so I was always looking for a better solution.
A few years had passed and lots of people still were involved heavily with HDR even though cameras were getting better and better. Digital cameras were now getting behind the movement of more megapixels. The change came for me when Nikon decided to put out a D800 at 36 megapixels. I waited and waited for Canon to follow suit but it never happened. At this time I chose to make the move over to Nikon from Canon because the Nikon D800 had been receiving rave reviews. For my business this was perfect. I could now make larger prints and have the option to crop within the image. This cropping would allow me to eliminate things from the image and still have enough resolution in the image to print large.
In the beginning, the transition was hard and slow moving from Canon to Nikon but eventually it was a saving grace. One of the most unexpected benefits was the dynamic range of the Nikon D800. I immediately noticed that I was capturing the whole scene in terms of tonal range in a single file. For a while I thought this might be a mistake. But exposure after exposure I was able to post process the images from the single file.
As time went on, I began to grow more confident in being able to take a single exposure. Eventually I was not even bracketing as a backup except for situations of extreme contrast. I even noticed I was able to under expose the image and then bring out the shadows in post-processing. With the Canon if I had tried to bring out the shadows I would always have noise that would show throughout the image. This was not the case with the Nikon, which was pretty amazing to see and still is nice to demonstrate to people who shoot Canon.
Shooting one single exposure allows you really to focus on the composition and light. It has also had the added benefit of really allowing me to get into the scene and not worry whether I have everything I need in terms of exposure.
I now own the Nikon D810, which is even better and such an amazing camera when it comes to controlling highlights and avoiding blocked shadows in a single exposure. I shoot freely in low light situations and don’t worry about covering the tonal range of a scene.
When it comes to the histogram on the Nikon D810 I am often asked one should look for when shooting one exposure. Through trial and error I have found excellent results with the histogram if I aim to most of the data and information just to the left of the middle, which would mean I slightly underexpose the image. I know this goes against everything we have been taught from before with exposing to the right, but the Nikon D810 is a revolution and is changing the game. Aiming to have my information on my histogram slightly to the left I do need to make sure I don’t have any clipped highlights as the Nikon is much better at shadows then it is with clipped highlights. So when focusing on a landscape scene I generally will set the exposure on my foreground and go about a half stop to one stop under while making sure I don’t blow the highlights in the sky. I always like to review my histogram after each image just to make sure all the information is present.
The Original Camera Raw Image One Stop Underexposed
Histogram With Information Underexposed 1 Stop to the left
The Long Exposure On The Water
I will be very curious to see in the upcoming months if the new series of Canon 50 Megapixel cameras will focus on dynamic range or will it just be a megapixel monster?
Needless to say I am a very happy with the results of the dynamic range of the Nikon and look forward to get out and shooting lots more now that I don’t have to bracket!
This week on the blog I am sharing a complete chapter from the new edition of my Developing for Extended Dynamic Range tutorial series. In this chapter I demonstrate how luminosity masks and a technique called masking-the-mask are useful in creating better tonal balance in high dynamic range exposures. Dynamic range is one of the many challenges we face as outdoor, natural light photographers. Dynamic range is the visual contrast (difference between the darkest and lightest values) in a scene or an image. A common way to handle extreme dynamic range light, in the 12 to 25 stop range, is by bracketing exposure values and blending the exposures in Photoshop to create a properly exposed final image. While I find multiple exposure blending to be an essential technique, with advancing camera technology it isn’t needed as often as it once was. Some current digital cameras have the ability to record a dynamic range of 11 to 14 stops, unimaginable just a few years ago. A dynamic range of 13 stops equates to a contrast ratio of over 8,000:1 and 14 stops, a contrast ratio of over 16,000:1. Such contrast range means it is possible to capture many high dynamic range scenes, which were previously out of reach, in a single exposure. Unfortunately, the dynamic range of the best monitors is only in the 1000:1 range. Prints can only achieve a dynamic range between about 50:1 up to perhaps 300:1, depending on paper, printing process and lighting. So even if our cameras can record a wide dynamic range in a single exposure, we still need to work with shifting the the bright and dark tones in the image to create tonal balance and retain tonal detail, while still giving the perception of the actual dynamic range that we saw.
There are many tools and techniques available for shifting tonal values in an image for better tonal balance, including raw highlight and shadow recovery, dodging and burning and the Shadows/Highlights adjustment in Photoshop. A common tool I use is Curves or Levels adjustments guided by the use of luminosity masks. In the video chapter below I demonstrate the great control, precision and flexibility that luminosity masks provide when working with targeted tonal balance in a single exposure image. It also provides some great extended instruction in the use of the TKActions Panel. I hope you find the information helpful in your image developing. Make sure to view the video in 720p HD!
This chapter is one of 36 in the updated edition of the Developing for Extended Dynamic Range tutorial series. The series takes a complete look at working with high dynamic range light from capture to single and multiple exposure developing methods. You can go here if you would like more information or to see more chapters. I’d be glad to field any comments or question you have in the comments section below.
by Zack Schnepf
I get one request more than any other, to see what my photos look like before and after I process them. I found this incredibly helpful myself when I was starting out in photography. I’ve done this before and I think I will make it a regular series here. The following are a selection of images that I think turned out well and capture my experience in the field. The top photo of each set is the final master image.
This first set of images is from one of the most amazing mornings I’ve ever spent in the field. Sean and I set out several hours before first light in the pitch black, frigid, icy morning. This was a morning we had hoped to see while on our trip. It’s very rare to get the first snow during peak fall color. Sean and I had hoped for such conditions somewhere on our trip, but knew the chances were very low to witness such an event. We were extremely fortunate to be able realize our dream of capturing just such an event. This was one of my favorite moments during that morning. The dynamic range was too much even for the Sony A7r. To overcome the limitations of the camera I captured 3 different exposures capturing all of the tonal information. Using my tonality control techniques with the aid of Tony Kuyper’s actions and action panel I was able to blend the exposures together in photoshop to produce the final image. Thanks again to Raynor Czerwinski for sharing his local knowledge of this spot with us. If you find yourself in Crested Butte, be sure to visit him and his wife Susan at the John Ingram Fine Art Gallery.
This set of images is from another location from my trip to Colorado this fall with good friend Sean Bagshaw. This is Chimney rock and Courthouse Mountain. On the evening we photographed here we were fortunate to witness some spectacular light and atmosphere. I processed this again using my tonality control techniques with the aid of Tony Kuyper’s actions and panel. Each image always presents it’s own challenges. In this case I used 3 separate exposures and double processed one of them for a total of 4 exposures. This allowed me to really target each tonality zone to achieve the look and feel that captured the experience for me.
This set of images is from another spectacular evening from the Colorado trip. This storm rolled in quickly spoiling the sunset I had in mind and replacing it with something so much better. Sean and I had to make a split second decision to abandon our current location and rush to another location we had scouted earlier. It was spectacular, but the camera was not capturing what I was seeing. Again, I used my tonality control techniques with the aid of Tony Kuyper’s actions and panel to bring the drama back into this image. The final image captures my experience extremely well.
For all these images I was using my tonality control techniques and Tony’s action panel. For more information about my video, or to purchase a copy visit the video page on my site: http://www.zschnepf.com/Other/Videos2
I’m currently producing a video on how I use Tony’s panel with my techniques. It will be available in the next few months.
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It would be ideal if every image we took could be displayed as a fine art print on somebody’s wall. These days, however, most photographs will be viewed on a screen via a website, so it is important to prepare our images for optimal viewing on the web. Unfortunately many websites, such as Facebook, further process the images we upload, compressing them and causing loss of detail and sharpness and introducing glitchy artifacts. Dedicated photography sharing websites, like 500px.com and WhyTake.net, handle our images with much more care, but the bottom line is that once we upload an image to any website other than our own, how it is processed and displayed is beyond our control. For this reason it is even more important that we do as much as we can to optimize our images before posting.
One of the most frequent questions I receive is how I get my images on the internet to look as good as they do. Various talented people, none of them me, have developed a variety of excellent techniques for preparing images for the web. Thanks to them, people like us are able to feel confident that the images we share look as good as they can. Sizing, sharpening and using the correct color space are the three most important elements of prepping images for optimal web viewing. I cover this topic in some of my tutorial sets, but it comes up enough that I wanted to address it on the blog and my YouTube Channel. In the following video tutorial I cover several techniques for sizing and sharpening images for the Internet. Some of the techniques can be easily accomplished on your own in Lightroom or Photoshop. Other techniques involve very advanced, multi-stage sizing and sharpening algorithms programmed into actions, scripts or plug-ins. In the notes below the video I include links to all of the web sizing/sharpening apps I demonstrate in the video. If you have a web prep technique or app that you would like to share, please comment in the blog comments or on the YouTube page. Sharing is one way we all progress.
Apps I reference in the Video:
- TKActions Panel
- My luminosity mask videos packaged with Tony’s actions available on my site: www.outdoorexposurephoto.com/video-tutorials/the-complete-guide-to-luminosity-masks-tony-kuypers
- Just the actions are available on Tony’s site: www.goodlight.us
- Andreas Resch WebSharpener (MAKE SURE TO DONATE!): www.andreasresch.at/2013/04/07/web-sharpener-better-sharpening-for-the-web
- PhotoKit Sharpener 2.0: www.pixelgenius.com/sharpener2
- Nik Sharpener Pro: www.google.com/nikcollection/products/sharpener-pro
Web Sizing/Sharpening Examples
(Click on images to accurately display size and sharpening)