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How to Understand Pixels, Resolution, and Resize Your in Photoshop Correctly

19 Nov

Size, resolution, and formats… What do pixels have to do with it?

Do you buy your camera based on its number of megapixels? Are you having problems sharing your photos online? Does your print look low quality even if it looks great on the screen? There seems to be a lot of confusion between pixels and bytes (image size and file size), quality and quantity, size, and resolution.

So let’s review some basics to make your life easier, your workflow more efficient, and your images the correct size for the intended usage.

How to Understand Pixels, Resolution, and Resize Your in Photoshop Correctly

This image is sized to 750×500 pixels at 72 dpi, saved as a compressed JPG which is 174kb. Let’s look at what all that means.

Is resolution the same as size?

One of the biggest misunderstandings comes from the concept of resolution. If this is your case, believe me you’re not alone.

The problem is that resolution can refer to many things, two of them relate to the problem at hand. Further on I’ll explain these two resolution concepts, however, they have one thing in common that I need to clarify first. They both have to do with pixels.

You’ve probably heard a lot about pixels, at least when you bought your camera. This is one of the most available and “valued” specs on the market so I’ll start there.

What is a pixel?

A digital photo is not one non-dividable thing. If you zoom in far enough you’ll see that your image is like a mosaic formed by small tiles, which in photography are called pixels.

Pixel grid - How to Understand Pixels, Resolution, and Resize Your in Photoshop Correctly

The amount of these pixels and the way they are distributed are the two factors that you need to consider to understand resolution.

Pixel count

The first kind of resolution refers to the pixel count which is the number of pixels that form your photo. In order to calculate this resolution you just use the same formula you would use for the area of any rectangle; multiply the length by the height. For example, if you have a photo that has 4,500 pixels on the horizontal side, and 3,000 on the vertical size it gives you a total of 13,500,000. Because this number is very unpractical to use, you can just divide it by a million to convert it into megapixels. So 13,500,000 / 1,000000 = 13.5 Megapixels.

Pixel density

The other kind of resolution is about how you distribute the total amount of pixels that you have, which is commonly referred as pixel density.

Now, the resolution is expressed in dpi (or ppi), which is the acronym for dots (or pixels) per inch. So, if you see 72 dpi it means that the image will have 72 pixels per inch; if you see 300 dpi means 300 pixels per inch, and so on.

The final size of your image depends on the resolution that you choose. If an image is 4500 x 3000 pixels it means that it will print at 15 x 10 inches if you set the resolution to 300 dpi, but it will be 62.5 x 41.6 inches at 72 dpi. While the size of your print does change, you are not resizing your photo (image file), you are just reorganizing the existing pixels.

Imagine a rubber band, you can stretch it or shrink it but you’re not changing the composition of the band, you’re not adding or cutting any of the rubber.

Pixel Density 72dpi - How to Understand Pixels, Resolution, and Resize Your in Photoshop Correctly

Pixel Density 300dpi - How to Understand Pixels, Resolution, and Resize Your in Photoshop Correctly

In summary, no resolution is not the same as size, but they are related.

So quantity equals quality?

Because of the aforementioned correlation between size and resolution, a lot of people think that megapixels equal quality. And in a sense it does because the more pixels you have to spread out, the higher the pixel density will be.

However, on top of the quantity you should also consider the depth of the pixels, this is what determines the amount of tonal values that your image will have. In other words it is the number of colors per pixel. For example, a 2-bit depth can store only black, white and two shades of grey, but the more common value is 8-bit. The values grows exponentially so for example with an 8-bit photo (2 to the power of 8 = 256) you’ll have 256 tones of green, 256 tones of blue, and 256 tones of red, which means about 16 million colors.

This is already more that the eye can distinguish which means that 16-bit or 32-bit will look relatively similar to us. Of course, this means that your image will be heavier even of the size is the same, because there is more information contained in each pixel. This is also why quality and quantity are not necessarily the same.

Therefore quantity helps, but also the size and depth of each pixel determine the quality. This is why you should look all the specs of the camera and its sensor and not just the amount of Megapixels. After all, there’s a limit to the size you can print or view your image, more than that it will only result in extra file size (megabytes) and no impact in the image size (megapixels) or the quality.

How to choose and control image size and file size?

First of all, you need to choose the outlet for your photo, there is a maximum density that you need. If you are going to post your image online you can do great with only 72 dpi, but that is too little for printing a photo. If you are going to print it you need between 300 and 350 dpi.

Of course, we are talking about generalizations because each monitor and each printer will have slightly different resolutions as well. For example, if you want to print your photo to 8×10 inches you need your image to have 300dpi x 8″ = 2400 pixels by 300dpi x 10″ = 3000 pixels (so 2400×3000 to print an 8×10 at 300dpi). Anything bigger than that will only be taking up space on your hard drive.

How to resize in Photoshop

Open the menu for the image size and in the popup window, you need to tick the Resample Image box. If you don’t activate “resample” you will only be redistributing the pixels like I explained at the beginning of the article.

You can also choose to tick the Constrain Proportion if you want the measure to adjust according to the changes you make. So the width adjusts when you change the height and vice versa.

How to Understand Pixels, Resolution, and Resize Your in Photoshop Correctly

8×10 inches at 300 ppi, this is the size needed for printing an 8×10. Notice the pixel size is 3000 x 2400.

750×500 pixels at 72 ppi. This is web resolution and is the exact size of all the images in this article. The size in inches is irrelevant when posting online – only the pixel size matters.

On the top of the window, you’ll also see how the file size changes. This is an uncompressed version of your image, it’s the direct relationship I explained in the first part of the article: fewer pixels means less information.

How to Understand Pixels, Resolution, and Resize Your in Photoshop Correctly

Now, if you still want to change the file size without resizing anymore, you have to do it when you save the image. Before saving your photo you can choose the format you want:

Formats - How to Understand Pixels, Resolution, and Resize Your in Photoshop Correctly

If you don’t want to loose any information you need to save an uncompressed format. The most common, and therefore easier to share is TIFF.

Tiff - How to Understand Pixels, Resolution, and Resize Your in Photoshop Correctly

If you don’t mind losing a little information as long as you have a lighter file, then go for a JPEG and choose how small you want it. Obviously the smaller you set it, the more information you will lose. Fortunately, it has a preview button so you can see the impact of your compression.

JPG high quality.

JPG low quality. Notice how it’s pixelated and breaking down? If you crunch it too much or go too low quality you risk degrading the image too far.

Conclusion

So there you have it. So quality, quantity, size and resolution explained and they all have to do with pixels, as they are the basic units that constitute your image. Now that you know you can make the best choices to print, share and save your photos.

The post How to Understand Pixels, Resolution, and Resize Your in Photoshop Correctly by Ana Mireles appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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Best Black Friday & Cyber Monday Deals for Photographers

19 Nov

While Black Friday was born in the United States, people from all over the world now wait for this day to do some serious shopping too, and photographers are no exception. The Friday after Thanksgiving has become popular everywhere marking the beginning of the winter holiday season. So are Black Friday deals really a “big deal” for photography enthusiasts? Yes, Continue Reading

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How to Shoot Engaging Travel Portraits from Start to Finish

19 Nov

I love travel portraits. Not only do they test your photography skills but also challenge you to interact with people in unfamiliar environments. The end result directly reflects your subject’s personality along with your ability to make them feel at ease, read the light, select optimal settings, and compose a great shot.

How to Shoot Engaging Travel Portraits from Start to Finish:

A boy named Ashim and his father at Dasaswamedh Ghat – Varanasi, India.

Every photographer has a slightly different approach, which evolves with every new person you meet and country you visit. Join me as I walk you through an encounter from start to finish and share tips on how to shoot engaging travel portraits.

1 – Approach the person and get permission

As a photographer, it’s up to you to develop your own code of ethics. However, I implore you to seek permission and not just stick a camera in someone’s face. The initial approach can often be the hardest part; taking the shot is comparatively easy.

Aim for a consensual, mutually enjoyable exchange from which you can both walk away with a happy story to tell. Be open, smile, and pay people compliments.

How to Shoot Engaging Travel Portraits from Start to Finish:

Boy monks at Rumtek Monastery – Sikkim, India. I kept my camera at my side, introduced myself, and asked their names. Their answers made me regret leaving my notebook in the car (Sikkimese names are notoriously long). They wanted to talk about soccer. When I asked for a photo, the boy on the right jumped and said “I know a good place. Follow me!” It was a fun encounter and their personalities shone through in the pictures because they’d had a chance to chat about their favorite topic.

If it’s a firm no, you can smile warmly, tell them it’s absolutely fine, and ask them if they would like to see photos you’ve taken of the local area. This way, you can both still walk away having had a pleasant experience, and sometimes, they even change their mind.

2 – Communicate for a meaningful experience

Your challenge now is to make your subject feel at ease. The best portraits come when people are relaxed and open to you. Most crucially, don’t rush the photo, say goodbye, and walk away. Show genuine interest in their lives.

Ask questions if you can speak a mutual language. If not, remember that much of your intentions and warmth can be communicated through body language, facial expressions, and gestures.

How to Shoot Engaging Travel Portraits from Start to Finish:

Ba-An, an 81-year-old lady, in front of the Banaue rice terraces – Luzon, Philippines. I will remember Ba-An because I had the longest and most interesting conversation I’ve had with anyone before taking their portrait. “These? They’re chicken feathers,” she said when I asked about her headdress. “Sometimes I tell people it is tradition, but really, we just started doing it a few years ago!”

3 – Read the light and use it to your advantage

With permission granted and your subject warming to you, the next step is reading the light. Whether it’s day or night, look at the lighting conditions around you. Consider asking your subject to turn their body or move completely to seek the best light.

How to Shoot Engaging Travel Portraits from Start to Finish:

While waiting for a Hindu ceremony to begin, this gentleman wobbled his head enthusiastically and motioned towards my camera – Varanasi, India. Sometimes, as in this situation, when people see you photographing others in a respectful manner, they may prompt you to take their portrait. I asked him to turn so that the light from a spotlight would be cast across his face at a less harsh angle.

4 – Select your settings

Ideally, you have a fixed focal length (prime) lens with a wide aperture attached to your camera body. However, if you’re traveling, you may have an all-purpose zoom lens attached. I like portraits that I’ve taken with both types.

With my fixed focal lens, I often shoot portraits at f/2.8 or slightly above. If you shoot any wider, the focal plane can be so thin that you risk your subject’s eyes being in focus but having their nose out of focus. For a zoom lens, I recommend selecting your widest aperture but standing further away from your subject. Zooming in on their face will accentuate the shallow depth of field effect that works so well for portraits.

How to Shoot Engaging Travel Portraits from Start to Finish

A Muslim traveler at Haji Ali Dargah, an Islamic shrine off the coast of Mumbai – India. My settings and lens for this portrait were f/2.8 | 1/1600th | ISO 160 | Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art lens. The fast shutter speed allowed by using f/2.8 picked out fine details on the man’s face. Such a fast shutter wasn’t necessary for this level of sharpness but it was an extremely bright day in Mumbai.

For engaging portraits, the most important element requiring sharp focus is the eyes. I suggest setting your camera to spot focus on the center AF point. Next, aim the center point at one of your subject’s eyes. Use the focus and recompose method or even better – the back button focus method to lock in on the eyes. This will ensure they’re in sharp focus in the finished photo.

5 – Choose a strong composition

Numerous compositions can work for portraits. The rule of thirds can work incredibly well but try not to wear it out or all your travel portraits will look the same.

Another one to try is placing one of your subject’s eyes directly in the center of the frame; a study proved that portraits composed this way appeal to viewers on a subconscious level. I promise I’m not making that up. This can be applied in portrait or landscape orientation.

A general rule exists in travel portraiture that you shouldn’t place your subject directly in the center of the frame; however, rules are made to be broken sometimes.

How to Shoot Engaging Travel Portraits from Start to Finish

As I stood taking pictures of the Banaue rice terraces, I heard a frail voice saying “Photo? Who is taking a photo?” It belonged to a 96-year-old woman named Bah Gu-An. She was completely blind. I wasn’t sure how to communicate as I normally would for a portrait so took her hands in mine to let her know I was there. Her friends translated back and forth for us. I decided on a rule of thirds composition because I felt the blue umbrella added extra visual interest and balance to the frame.

6 – Come down to their eye level

Try not to stand above your subject if they are sitting. This is intimidating and works against your goal to relax them. Positive psychological things happen when you come down to someone’s eye level. Take a look at the example below.

How to Shoot Engaging Travel Portraits from Start to Finish

A Hindu holy man on a tiny island in the Brahmaputra River – Assam, India. This is not a touristy location in India so he is the real deal. I sat down on the step to receive a blessing. Accompanied by mystical chanting, I drank some lukewarm tea of unknown provenance, had air blown all over my face, and ash spread across my forehead. We chatted after and I felt in no rush to suggest a portrait. It was a fascinating experience. What do you think when you look at his facial expression – Is the time spent together palpable?

7 – Shoot different styles of portrait

Posed versus candid portraits

Posed refers to approaching a person and asking them to sit for a portrait, whereas candid portraits refer to catching a person in an unguarded moment. This doesn’t have to mean without permission.

For the image below, I’d already gained this lady’s trust and permission but waited until she’d forgotten that I was there to continue shooting. Later, I showed her all of the photos, which she seemed happy with.

How to Shoot Engaging Travel Portraits from Start to Finish

A devotee watches the nightly Ganga Aarti ceremony – Varanasi, India. This image could be called a candid environmental portrait.

Headshot versus environmental portraits

A headshot refers to filling the frame with your subject’s face. The background is not important for setting the scene, although you might consider finding one of a complementary color to your subject’s clothing, skin tone, or eye color. Environmental portraits are zoomed out to allow your subject’s surroundings into the frame to add to their story.

8 – Shoot a series with the same subject

When you have someone’s permission and have bonded with them, consider staying with them a while and shooting a series of images. This is what I did when I met one man in the Philippines recently. I directed him gently for a series of shots after telling him how interested people would be to learn about his culture. He was happy to oblige.

How to Shoot Engaging Travel Portraits from Start to Finish

I would have kicked myself if I’d walked away without getting a side profile shot of this man and his headdress that featured the real heads of a long-dead bird and monkey.

How to Shoot Engaging Travel Portraits from Start to Finish

I decided to fill the frame here to draw attention to his excellent smile, patterned clothes, and monkey headdress.

9 – Always remember aftercare

Aftercare means bringing the encounter to a close in the best possible manner. I believe an extra layer exists as to why the verb is to “take” a portrait. You are taking something from them, but what are you giving in return?

Make sure you show the person their image on the back of your camera, pay them a compliment, and thank them sincerely. So much joy can come from this simple act.

How to Shoot Engaging Travel Portraits from Start to Finish

A man named Ibrahim at the Haji Ali Dargah, Mumbai. As we sat together cross-legged on the ground enthusiastically shaking hands at the side of a busy walkway, I could tell from his reaction and those of passersby that this wasn’t a common occurrence. The overall encounter lingered with me for the rest of the day, and I sincerely hope that Ibrahim remembers it fondly too.

Conclusion

I want to know your best advice for shooting travel portraits and see the images you’re most proud of. Be sure to share them in the comments section below.

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Video Tutorials and Tips for Shooting Blue Hour

18 Nov

Blue hour is a fantastic time to get out and do some night photography. Yes, you read that right – night photography is best done before it’s actually night time.

To help you out with blue hour photography here are three videos with examples and tips.

How to shoot at blue hour with filters

Ray Salisbury takes you on location at blue hour and demonstrates how he scouts a location for the best spot, finds a good composition and uses filters.

Get the timing right for blue hour

In this next video photography education guru Brian Peterson gives you tips for getting the timing just right when shooting blue hour. He’s on location in Las Vegas.

Blue hour photography examples

Finally, Brendan Van Son is shooting blue hour in Leiden, Netherlands. In this video, you can see how the length of blue hour varies greatly depending on your geographic location.

The farther away from the equator you are, the long blue hour will last. Where I live it’s usually about an hour, so it’s frustrating for me that it’s so quick in more tropical locations I like to visit. So you really have to plan ahead and be prepared when that is the case.

I hope that gives you some good blue hour shooting tips. Now get out there and give it a try.

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Weekly Photography Challenge – Blue Hour

18 Nov

Blue hour is the time of day after sunset (and just before sunrise) when the sky still has some color it and it’s not pure black. This is the number one tip for shooting night photography – don’t shoot at night! If you want a dark, deep blue sky – shoot at blue hour.

This is a bonus – you don’t have to stay up all night getting shots for this week’s challenge. Just catch the blue hour and you’re good to go.

Blue hour in New York City.

If you need some help:

  • Video Tutorials and Tips for Shooting Blue Hour
  • 5 Quick Tips for Better Blue Hour Photography
  • New Photographer’s Guide to Blue Hour
  • Recommended Gear for Doing Long Exposure Photography at Twilight and Dusk
  • Do you pack up and leave after sunset and miss the fun of night photography?
  • How to do Long Exposure Photography and Light Trails at Night

Weekly Photography Challenge – Blue Hour

Simply upload your shot into the comment field (look for the little camera icon in the Disqus comments section) and they’ll get embedded for us all to see or if you’d prefer, upload them to your favorite photo-sharing site and leave the link to them. Show me your best images in this week’s challenge. Sometimes it takes a while for an image to appear so be patient and try not to post the same image twice.

Blue hour in Rome, Italy.

San Francisco – the complementary colors of blue hour make for stunning compositions. Use it to your advantage.

Share in the dPS Facebook Group

You can also share your images on the dPS Facebook group as the challenge is posted there each week as well.

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How to Stylize Your Images Using Complementary Colors in Lightroom

17 Nov

In this tutorial, I’m going to show you a process that uses complementary colors to stylize your images and create a consistent theme in your collections.

I recently embarked on an 1,800-mile road trip through the dusty outback of Western Australia. After two days on the road, I arrived at Karijini – a national park famous for its iron-rich earth, icy-cold gorges and sheer remoteness from absolutely anything.

Complementary colors Lightroom 01

The Middle of Nowhere – Karijini National Park, Western Australia

Karijini is awash with complementary characteristics; hot deserts, icy-cold gorges, warm days and freezing nights. Nothing quite compares, however, to the daily occurrence of Karijini’s natural complementary colors. Each night, my eyes were treated to a beautiful blend of golden earthy tones and cool shadows. And each night, they couldn’t get enough.

You may find yourself getting a little trigger happy when you’re on a holiday. Perhaps you are trying out a new lens, maybe practicing new techniques or just getting carried away with the shutter button – we’ve all been there! If so, you’re likely to return home with a mixed bag of great shots and perhaps some images that aren’t particularly strong enough in their own right to add to your portfolio, blog, or Instagram feed.

Here’s a collection of images from my trip to Karijini that don’t combine very well as a collection in their current form. They each have a different color palette, there are multiple different techniques going on, and they don’t really share the same style. There’s no cohesiveness, no harmony.

Complementary colors Lightroom 02

Individually, these images are not particularly strong. However, as a collection, they have potential to pull together to form a great storyboard.

To help this image set convey that story, I’m going to show you a coloring process to stylize this collection. By using complementary colors I will create a consistent look, feel, and style that will run through the entire collection. This process is something that you can adapt to your own collections, time and time again.

Complementary Colors

If you’re thinking, “What on earth is a complementary color?” don’t worry, it’s quite easy to understand. Put simply, they are colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. Here’s a screenshot with some examples:

Complementary colors Lightroom 03

Complementary color examples.

Complementary colors appear everywhere, particularly in nature. Think of a beautiful sunset, the beach, or even Finding Nemo – each of them is jammed packed with complementary colors. They are called complementary because they do exactly what they say on the tin – complement each other.

You can use complementary colors in your photography to create a consistent look, feel, and style to a collection of images. This can be achieved while capturing your shots (i.e. by asking your subjects to wear a particular color) or by applying subtle adjustments to colors in post-processing. I am going to show you precisely how to achieve the latter using Adobe Lightroom.

Step #1: Create a Color Palette

Before you jump into Lightroom and begin to adjust your colors, you need to be clear about which colors you want your images to include.

A great way to do this is to create a simple color palette that you can refer to while editing your images. This color palette could be a collection of images you have cut out of magazines, perhaps some color swatches from a paint store or even a bunch of squares on your computer filled with your desired colors.

Here I opted for the bunch of squares, filling the color palette with complementary warm earthy tones and cool murky shadows that capture the landscape of Karijini.

Complementary colors Lightroom 04

Step #2: Align and Subtract using Hue, Saturation, and Luminance (HSL)

When you sit down to edit a photograph, you typically approach it with the mindset of adding something. For example, you tend to add contrast, sharpness, or perhaps you add a gradient.

When you are working with color, particularly when you have a color palette in mind, you need to alter your approach and instead think about subtracting. You need to subtract the colors from your images that don’t align with your color palette, because working with color is as much about the colors you can’t see as it is about the ones you can see.

Once you are happy with your colors, and they sit within the boundaries of your color palette, you can then go forth and add, enhance, and beautify.

In this step, I will show you how to use the HSL (Hue, Saturation and Luminance) panel in Lightroom to subtract and align the colors of an image to reflect those of your color palette.

Align with Hue

Start off inside the Hue section of the HSL tab. The Hue sliders allow you to replace your existing colors with neighboring colors on the color wheel.

For example, you are able to replace all red tones in your image with magenta by adjusting the Red Hue slider to -100. Moving this slider to +100 will replace all the Reds with Oranges. This is because magenta and orange sit on either side of red on the color wheel.

At this point, it’s worth taking a moment to study the color in your image and start to think about what colors you can push and pull to align your image with your color palette.

Let’s do this with an example image. At the moment, this image is a bit off from the desired color palette. It appears to have an aqua/green color cast, particularly in the sky.

Complementary colors Lightroom 05

Original image.

To remove the aqua/green color cast, you can push the aqua tones up to replace them with blue. In this example, a value of +81 works well. In addition, you can push the Blue slider up a little, to around +36. This will deepen the blue tones and remove what was left of the aqua/green color cast.

Finally, to align the orange/yellow tones to the color palette, you can pull the Orange and Yellow sliders to -26 and -15 respectively. This subtle adjustment pushes the orange tones towards red and the yellow tones towards orange – essentially warming up those earthy tones.

While editing, it’s always a good idea to view your image alongside your color palette, to ensure you are working along the same lines for each photo. This will help you pull the collection together at the end.

Complementary colors Lightroom 06

Hue adjustments in the HSL panel of Lightroom.

Here, you can already see that the Hue adjustments have aligned the color of the sky and earth to the desired color palette. However, there are still plenty of green tones roaming around in the shrubbery and navigation system that are wreaking havoc with the color palette. You can remove the green tones with the Saturation sliders.

Subtract with Saturation

The Saturation sliders within the HSL tab allow you to control the intensity of your colors. By increasing the saturation, your colors will become stronger and more vibrant. Decreasing the saturation sliders will make your colors less intense.

Have another look at your image and take note of any distracting colors that do not align with your color palette. Adjust the corresponding sliders to desaturate those colors. This will leave you with only the colors that align with your color palette. Once you have these base colors in place, you can then give them a little saturation boost to strengthen the image.

Let’s jump back to the example image to demonstrate.

While the example image is a lot closer to the desired palette, it still contains distracting colors that don’t align – notably, the green tones and strong yellows. You can subtract these colors from the image by desaturating the Green and Yellow sliders. In this case, values of -100 (Green) and -78 (Yellow) worked nicely.

To finish up with the Saturation sliders, you can increase the saturation of the colors that align to your complementary color scheme. In the example image, boosting the red, orange, aqua and blue colors worked a charm.

Time for another review of the example image against the color palette.

Complementary colors Lightroom 07

Saturation adjustments.

Lighten with Luminance

The Luminance sliders in the HSL tab allow you to control how bright or dark you want a particular color to look. Increasing the Luminance adds brightness to your colors, whereas decreasing the Luminance darkens your colors.

Compare your image to your color palette. How does it look? Are the colors a little too dark or too light? If so, adjust the corresponding Luminance slider to lighten or darken your colors.

In the example image, the oranges are appearing a little too dark and perhaps the blues could do with a little brightening as well. To achieve this, you can increase the luminance of the Orange, Yellow and Blue sliders until you are happy with the brightness. In this case, moving the Orange slider to +28, Yellow to +21 and Blue to +11 did the trick.

Complementary colors Lightroom 08

Luminance adjustments.

Try to get into the habit of regularly comparing your image to your color palette, particularly after you have made any adjustments to the HSL sliders. At this point, if you think that your colors need a little more work, run through each of the HSL sliders again and tweak them accordingly.

Step #3: Adding Character with Curves

Creating a consistent style and applying this to every image in your collection can be the difference between a good collection and a great one.

If you have a particular editing style, now is the perfect time to apply it to your images. If you’re at a stage where you’re perhaps trying to create or establish your own style and you’re not sure what to do, it’s a great idea to use your subject or environment as a style guide. Let’s take a look at doing precisely that with an example.

Karijini is awash with complementary colors, iron-rich earth, warm dusty air, and murky shadows. To help inject some of these characteristics into the image you can use the Tone Curve.

The Tone Curve is essentially a square graph that consists of a Histogram and a linear line running from the bottom left to the top right. Much like the Histogram, the left side of the Tone Curve represents the shadows, the middle represents mid-tones and the right side represents the image highlights.

Complementary colors Lightroom 09

Tone Curve – Basic

By clicking on the “Point Curve” Icon (in the lower-right corner of the Tone Curve window) you’re now able to click on the Tone Curve graph to create control points. You can then drag these control points up or down to alter the value of the corresponding tones.

Complementary colors Lightroom 10

Point Curve icon for adding adjustment points.

Your Tone Curve works in four distinct channels – RGB, Red, Green, and Blue. For now, ensure the channel of your Tone Curve is set to RGB. This allows you to control the overall tone of your image by manipulating the Red, Green and Blue tones simultaneously. You’ll get to know the other channels shortly.

Creating Atmospheric Shadows

Before incorporating atmospheric shadows into your image, you want to ensure that any adjustments you make only apply to the shadows. So, to safeguard your mid-tones, you can place a control point in the middle of your Tone Curve (as seen below).

Complementary colors Lightroom 11

Now you can add some control points on the left side of your Tone Curve. These will allow you to manipulate your shadows.

Complementary colors Lightroom 12

Dragging these control points downwards will darken your shadows. However, to create flat, murky looking shadows, you can drag these control points upwards – essentially lightening your shadows. While doing so, pay close attention to the darker areas of your image to ensure you don’t overdo it.

To complete this murky atmospheric look, you can darken the highlights by dragging the control point on the extreme right of your Tone Curve down a little.

In the example, you can see that this subtle adjustment has lightened the shadows, darkened the highlights, reduced the contrast, and introduced that murky atmospheric style to the image.

Complementary colors Lightroom 13

Tone Curve applied.

Color Stylizing

Every pixel in your photo is made up of a mix of Reds, Greens, and Blues. The Tone Curve isolates these individual color channels so you can adjust how much or how little of that color channel is present in your shadows, mid-tones, and highlights.

Studying the example image, the base colors of the image are looking good. It’s full of complementary colors, and it aligns nicely with the color palette. So then, why bother with these individual tone curve channels?

It goes back to infusing your photos with a style reminiscent of your subject or the environment. Perhaps there was a particular feeling or emotion during the shoot. Was it lively? Happy? Bright? Melancholic? Hot? Cold? Is there a color tone within your color palette that you feel best represents these?

Perhaps there was a lot of earthy red dust and cool shadows floating around? If so, you could add a subtle warm tone to your image and cool down those shadows to help enhance the look, feel and style of your images. Let’s take a look at how to achieve precisely that by using the Tone Curve with the example image.

Start off by selecting the Red Channel inside your Tone Curve. If you can’t see the “Channel” option, be sure to click on the “Points Curve” icon.

Complementary colors Lightroom 14

Working on the Red Channel of the Tone Curve.

Any adjustments you make to this Tone Curve will only affect the Reds in your image. If you create a control point in the shadows and drag this upwards, it will increase the Reds in your shadows. If you were to do the opposite and drag this control point downwards, it will remove the Reds from your shadows.

It’s worth noting here that when you remove a primary color using the Tone Curve, you will introduce its opposite color. Here’s a list of the primary colors and their corresponding opposite colors.

  • The opposite color to Red is Cyan.
  • The opposite color to Blue is Yellow.
  • The opposite color to Green is Magenta.

To add a subtle warm underlying tone to an image, simply click and drag the control point on the extreme left of the Red channel upwards slightly. You’ll notice that it doesn’t take a lot of adjusting to achieve the desired look.

Complementary colors Lightroom 15

Red Tone Curve adjustments.

To cool down your shadows, switch your Tone Curve channel over to Blue. This will enable you to increase the amount of Blue in the darker areas of your image. To do this, click and drag the control point on the extreme left of the Blue channel upwards. Pay attention to the darker areas of your image to ensure you don’t overdo it.

Complementary colors Lightroom 16

Working on the Blue Channel of the Tone Curve.

You may find that while this adjustment cools down the shadows, it also cools down the mid-tones and highlights. To counter this, you can click and drag the control point on the extreme right of the Blue Channel downwards. This will remove the blue tones from your highlights and introduce a little of Blue’s opposing color (Yellow) to warm your highlights back up.

Complementary colors Lightroom 17

Blue Tone Curve adjustments.

Step #4: Split toning (Optional)

The final step in the complementary color stylizing process is to apply a subtle split toning adjustment using Lightroom’s Split Toning tab.

By now, you may feel that your image is already perfectly aligned to your color palette and perhaps there is nothing more that needs to be adjusted. If so, congratulations! I encourage you to go forth, infuse your collections with your style and inspire others to do the same.

If you are looking at your images thinking “there’s something not quite right” or “they still need a little work”, head to the Split Toning tab. This is a very simple tool that can add a final layer of polish to your images.

Split Toning enables you to apply a specific color tone to your highlights and shadows. It’s a good idea to refer to your color palette and select the exact Hue that you want to be present in the highlights and likewise for the shadows. You can then dial back the intensity of this look using the saturation sliders until you are happy with the result.

For the example image, selecting complementary warm hues of 45 for the highlights and 240 for the shadows aligned perfectly with the color palette. Adjusting the Saturation of each to 10 and 6 respectively, applies just the right amount of toning and completes the stylizing process.

Complementary colors Lightroom 18

Split Toning adjustments added.

Recap

Let’s take a few seconds to do a recap of the coloring and stylizing process before taking a peek at the before and after.

  1. Start off by creating a complementary color palette.
  2. Using your complementary color palette as a guide, align the existing colors in your image and subtract those that don’t quite fit. Use the HSL panel for this step.
  3. Gently boost the saturation and luminance of your complementary colors, again using the HSL panel
  4. Use the Tone Curve to stylise your image and incorporate atmospheric shadows and subtle underlying tones.
  5. Pull all of your adjustments together with a subtle Split Toning adjustment, by adding complementary warm and cool tones to your highlights and shadows.

Before and After

Complementary colors Lightroom 05

Before

Complementary colors Lightroom 20

After

Below, you can see an example of what this process looks like when I applied it to the remaining images in my collection.

This collection now has a great level of consistency. It has a beautiful complementary color palette and a similar style running throughout the collection. As a result, there is a togetherness about the collection that wasn’t present before. It shares the same message and comes together to tell a lovely little story.

Complementary colors Lightroom 02

Collection – before.

Complementary colors Lightroom 19

Collection – after.

Conclusion

Working with color is a process, it’s not an exact science. While the exact values of the sliders and curve adjustments used for the example image will not necessarily work on every image, this overarching process will.

I hope this tutorial gets you thinking about how you apply color in your photography. It’s a great skill to develop, so try not to rely on presets and instead get thinking about defining a color palette of your own that you can use to stylize your collections. It’s much more fun that way!

PS. Do you have a color palette that you stylize your images with? If so please share in the comments below, I’d love to see your collections.

The post How to Stylize Your Images Using Complementary Colors in Lightroom by William Palfrey appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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How to Shoot High-Traffic Locations Creatively

17 Nov

The experience of the hustle and bustle that comes from shooting in high-traffic, highly photographed areas is a pain that most photographers know all too well. People can be packed into overlooks and pull-offs with hardly even room to stand let alone set up a tripod.

It seems as if everyone is trying to get the same shot. Not that there’s something incredibly wrong with making photographs just like the person standing next to you. If you are simply after a snapshot to record where you’ve been then a quick capture or two taken from the herd will do just fine.

How to Shoot High-Traffic Locations Creatively

However, if you’re like me, you probably want more from a location than just a cookie cutter photo. When I visit a well-known photo spot that is crowded with people all shooting the exact same thing, I feel a need to produce something that is more of an artistic expression of how I view the scene.

While recently shooting in Yosemite National Park, I observed this situation in full force. But how can you shoot in these high-traffic areas creatively? Believe it or not, in some cases it doesn’t require too much effort in order to breathe new life into a stale or overshot scene. In this article, we’re going to talk about three ways that can help you break the monotony and guide you toward making your photos of well-known areas less ordinary.

#1 – Get High…Get Low

Changing from the common perspective to one that is either more or less elevated can have a huge impact on the final interest of your photographs. Often times, the majority of photographers shoot from the same plane of view each and every time which often produces literal “photocopies” of the same location.

This changeup doesn’t have to be anything drastic, either. It can be as simple as holding your camera at waist level or even above your head.

How to Shoot High-Traffic Locations Creatively

If you’re able to be more adventurous, then search for even more unique vantage points. Ones which can show people a well-known place from a different angle than what they’re used to seeing. This is the key to setting yourself apart as a photographer.

How to Shoot High-Traffic Locations Creatively

This was just up the road from the famous Tunnel View in Yosemite. While it’s virtually the same landscape, the higher elevation adds a different feel to the scene.

#2 – Shoot at Night

This is likely the easiest and most powerful methods of creatively photographing popular locations. There’s almost always less crowding (unless it’s a spot popular exclusively at night) which will give you much more room and creates a more relaxed experience.

However, the most obvious benefit that comes from shooting at night is the instant change in the visual appeal of the landscape.

How to Shoot High-Traffic Locations Creatively

The inclusion of stars and moonlight or even bright city lights and cars can add so much to a scene that has been completely worn out during the day. If it can be done safely, I urge you try out shooting a popular destination at night during your next photo excursion. You just might get hooked.

#3 – Ignore the Popular Subject

Yeah I know, this is one idea that is difficult for some people to get a handle on initially. Please don’t misunderstand me here, I’m not talking about completely disregarding the main attraction. Rather, place the popular subject within your photograph in such a way that is still recognizable but doesn’t consume the composition.

How to Shoot High-Traffic Locations Creatively

Just remember that if you want to produce something truly unique you will have to learn how to think critically and creatively about what you’re shooting and why. This means coming up with new ways to display the subject in a way that might not have been considered by many others.

How to Shoot High-Traffic Locations Creatively

This image was made while standing shoulder to shoulder with about 25 other folks. I happened to notice the reflection of Half Dome in the water and decided to approach the scene in a more surreal, abstract way.

Some Final Thoughts

There will be times when a location becomes almost too popular for its own good. Even beautifully majestic locations can become artistically depleted. This is when we as photographers have to stretch our creative legs to produce more unique images.

While there’s nothing wrong with shooting alongside the masses, the overall power of an image can be lessened if every photo of a place looks exactly the same as the next 50 images. Here’s a recap of some ways you can shoot a little more creatively:

  • Change your perspective. Try shooting from a higher or lower vantage point than is usually seen.
  • Try the nighttime. Popular locations are often deserted at night. Night photography will also give you the opportunity to present the scene in a way that might not be common.
  • Move the primary subject to the back burner. Try setting the commonly shot subject matter as the secondary subject.

Adding a little spice to your images taken in such high-traffic places can be a lot easier than you might think and can work wonders for your photography. A little effort truly goes a long way.

The post How to Shoot High-Traffic Locations Creatively by Adam Welch appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate: Efficient RAW Workflow for Professionals

16 Nov

A good workflow is such a powerful, time-saving and inspiring thing. There is even a certain romance to it – a routine of steps melting into the background that lead to a finished photograph. This creates a result to be proud of, one to inspire you to go out and photograph more, be it a product shot, an image from a recent trip to Iceland (everyone seems to be going to Iceland), or an artistic portrait.

It can also be an inexhaustible source of frustration or an excuse for procrastination. I know it’s certainly been all of these things for me, and the latter much more often in the past. The people behind ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate must have had a similar experience, too, but they created tools that set up a solid workflow foundation for any photographer.

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate: Efficient RAW Workflow for Professionals

Somehow, my desktop really is this clean. I don’t know how.

Mind you, ACD Systems faces an obvious, towering obstacle by the name of Lightroom, a piece of software that has been the industry standard for nearly a decade now. I’ve used it extensively and exclusively for just about every project in the past seven or eight years. And let’s be honest, for all of its faults, Lightroom has been the most popular choice with good reason. It does many things right.

In light of Adobe’s recent (or was it really recent?) change of policy regarding payment (among other things), however, I have felt the need to take a look around and see if perhaps there are alternatives. ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate is certainly one.

In this article, I will go through a workflow that I’ve been using with Photo Studio Ultimate as I got myself properly acquainted with it. While I realize it’s an entirely subjective approach to managing and editing photographs, I hope that it will at least give you a good starting point from which to individualize.

An important disclaimer: The license to this copy of ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2018 has been provided by the company; I did not purchase it. Having said that, it’s my subjective opinion and findings that you are reading here. ACD Systems (rather happily, I must add) had next to no say in it. My words are always my own.

What is ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate?

Quick Overview

Many have heard – or even used – some version of ACDSee. No surprise there as it’s around two decades old now and actually precedes Lightroom. But there are few areas where Adobe does not have a monopoly, and while many remember ACD Systems, it’s not nearly as popular as Lightroom. Perhaps undeservedly so, because pretty much everything Lightroom does, ACDSee does too.

First and foremost, Photo Studio Ultimate 2018 is an image management software. It started off as a lightweight viewer and organizer and has not lost the idea over the years. But powerful metadata and organizing capabilities are now complemented by some very useful post-processing tools for both RAW and graphic image files. More so in this high-end version than any other (and there are plenty, which explains the mouthful of a name).

Photo Studio Ultimate 2018 has been specifically designed to cater to pretty much every need you may have while editing – from culling to doing extensive graphics manipulations with layers and masks. In essence, it should be the only software you need. In that sense, Photo Studio’s ambition stretches beyond that of overthrowing Lightroom. It actually has Photoshop in its sights, too. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Going against Lightroom is hard enough already – the newly updated software throws a large shadow. We’ll see if Photo Studio can shine through.

Learning the Environment

As I have mentioned before, ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate was created to address all the needs of a working professional photographer or artist. As such, it incorporates powerful image management tools as well as those meant for post-processing images and specifically, RAW files.

Naturally, having such vast capability meant a lot of thought has to go into the interface and user-friendliness. After all, having all the tools crammed into a single screen would leave little to no room for an actual image. Let’s briefly overview the ACDSee Photo Studio interface before we get started.

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate: Efficient RAW Workflow for Professionals

Even this Ultimate version is immediately friendly upon launch, but there is a whole lot going on here. Thankfully, not much is beyond customizing. By going to the Mode Configuration in the General section of the Options dialog, you can get rid of modes you find less useful. I’ve immediately unchecked every mode except Manage, Photos, View, Develop, and Edit. After a second thought, I got rid of Photos, too, as I did not seem to use it at all.

Much like with Lightroom Modules, ACDSee has several different environments for different tasks you may want to accomplish. All of these environments (or modes) are accessible at the top-right of the screen at pretty much any time.

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate: Efficient RAW Workflow for Professionals

If you look through the screenshots carefully, you’ll notice how the mode buttons in the top-right corner of the interface keep changing. ACDSee offers plenty of options to declutter the interface, and hiding access to modes that you don’t find yourself using is very convenient. In the end, I even disabled the View button since View mode is very easy to access by double-clicking on any image thumbnail. I’ve found the button to be redundant.

Manage Mode

The first mode – that opens by default each time you launch Photo Studio – is Manage. This mode is meant for navigating your hard drive, importing images (which by itself is never necessary, but rather handy all the same), applying keywords and filters, and so on. You will likely spend a lot of time here and start your work in this mode more often than not.

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate: Efficient RAW Workflow for Professionals

Manage mode screen.

You will be spending a lot of time in Manage mode and thus a view similar to this (after some tinkering) should be immediately familiar. The interface is dominated by the Image Grid, as it should be. But that’s not to the detriment of other information, such as metadata and even the Histogram. Navigation is easy and there are some useful quick-access tools at the bottom of the screen for image rotation and comparison.

Photos Mode

Photos mode is similar to Manage in that it can be used to find and view images. However, rather than letting you navigate to a specific folder on your hard drive, it shows every image that you have on your computer in chronological order, similar to how Gallery works on your smartphone.

You can choose a specific year to be shown using the Timeline panel (positioned on the left by default), and further narrow it down from there if you need to. Hovering over any given image will show an enlarged preview with some basic information next to it (where the image is stored, its dimensions, and more).

View Mode

The View mode is at the core of ACDSee and as the name suggests, is meant specifically for viewing images one by one, full screen. In addition to the View mode, which is launched whenever you double-click on an image within ACDSee, there is also Quick View. This is an even lighter image viewer that, by default, launches when you double-click an image anywhere on your hard drive.

It’s part of ACDSee, but also isn’t. For the purposes of speed, Quick View does not launch the full ACDSee software. As is, View mode is already very speedy and gets on with displaying images very well once the software is up and running. A simple task, but one Microsoft has not managed to do well for decades and ACDSee always seems to get right.

Develop Mode

An important mode that you are likely to end up using as much as Manage is Develop. This, as the name suggests, is designed for post-processing images. Specifically – it’s the RAW converter environment (similar to Adobe Camera RAW). It offers tools to fine-tune exposure, white balance, noise reduction, and sharpening, along with some immensely powerful tools, such as Tone Curves. I will be paying a lot of attention to this mode as Develop, along with Manage, is what ACDSee simply must get right.

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate: Efficient RAW Workflow for Professionals

Develop mode holds few surprises to anyone who’s used any RAW converter before, as the fundamentals are usually the same. The screen is dominated by a large image preview and there is a useful Filmstrip underneath for quick navigation within the selected folder. Notice the conveniently presented exposure and camera information right next to it (bottom right corner of the image above).

The left side of the screen is where the main tools are placed by default, but the whole panel can be relocated. See those blue circles? They show which settings have been altered from their default values. Clicking on the blue circle will temporarily disable those adjustments, but not completely discard them.

Edit Mode

Complementing the Develop mode is Edit. This is where ACDSee starts to target Photoshop in addition to Lightroom. For some users, it will more or less replace Adobe’s best-known software. It offers layers, masks, and sophisticated retouching tools – suffice to say, too much to cover in this article.

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate: Efficient RAW Workflow for Professionals

Edit mode is a whole new piece of software, it’s so capable and complex. While some elements are similar to those you will find in Develop mode, a lot is different. There is a Layers panel on the right side, while the left and top portions of the interface are absolutely packed full of tools.

We will cover all of the modes in more detail in upcoming articles. For the purposes of this one, however, we will mostly focus on Manage and Develop, as these two modes are crucial for RAW file management and post-processing.

Image Management and Post-Processing Workflow with ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2018

Importing Files from a Memory Card

Import is convenient even if it is ultimately not a must-use feature. It’s still very much an option to just move files from the card to your hard drive the drag-and-drop way if you so wish. But the ACDSee Import tool offers to apply metadata, rename, and backup files and is simply very useful. You can even save import presets to speed up the process further if you regularly do photo sessions of specific types, and it’s easy to classify them. This I like very much as it saves plenty of time once you set them up.

But there is a caveat – the Import tool is really only meant for images that are not yet on your hard drive, but stored somewhere on an external device, be it a USB drive or a memory card. And while you can “import” image files that are already on your hard drive (select Disk from the Import drop-down menu using the top-most toolbar), there is little point to do so as ACDSee does not use a catalog system and you can already see all the images on your computer.

So, after popping a memory card in hit Alt+G (or select Import from the toolbar at the top-left corner of the screen). At this point, you will be asked to select the source device (an external one, such as a USB drive or a memory card) and, once that is done, you’ll be greeted by the Import dialog box.

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate: Efficient RAW Workflow for Professionals

Once inside the Import dialog, there’s not really much control over the source directory. No way to select all images from a specific sub-folder, either. You can choose to show only images taken on a specific day or those that are new (not yet on your computer), but, other than that, you’ll have to select images manually.

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate: Efficient RAW Workflow for Professionals

The Import dialog gives access to metadata presets, along with everything else. This is a powerful feature that can potentially save you a lot of time. In some cases, it may take your mind off keywords for good. Very handy, but beware of the seemingly infinite text fields in there. Importing itself is refreshingly simple on the eyes.

Using the main Import dialog is rather straightforward. Select the destination via the Location section of the dialog, where you can also specify a backup location for a second copy of the files to be saved. There is an option to rename files and it’s infinitely customizable. So is the metadata changes that you can apply upon import. I try to take care of this particular part of my workflow during import as it means I won’t have to assign all the necessary metadata information to so many files later on.

Organizing Images by Applying Filters

The import process itself is swift. More so than with Lightroom, as ACDSee does not need to add the RAW files to an internal catalog, and can instead display them immediately. Once the images have been copied to your hard drive (or, alternatively, you’ve navigated to a set of images already on it) with basic metadata hopefully already applied, it’s time to do the tedious task of culling.

Culling your images

I prefer to leave out as many images as I can before I move on to post-processing (during which I tend to drop a few more images), and ACDSee has plenty of filters to make the task easy.

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate: Efficient RAW Workflow for Professionals

Part of the reason why import is as swift as moving images manually from memory card onto your hard drive is that it is pretty much all that’s happening. ACDSee does not add files to a catalog like Lightroom does. Another important aspect is the image preview – rather than render its own previews immediately, ACDSee uses embedded JPEGs before any edits are applied. Basically, at first, you see the exact same image as you would on the back of your camera. This can be changed in the options, as shown in the screenshot, but I’m not sure why you would. Proper previews are rendered once you start developing the files, but for the initial sorting? Embedded is probably the best way to go about it and saves so much time.

It’s always been a real struggle for me to sort through the initial batch of image files – it’s never easy to judge your work fairly, is it? So breaking the process into several steps has helped me a lot. First things first – ratings. Photo Studio permits a numeric rating ranging from 1 to 5 to be assigned to any file. It’s as straightforward as you think – the lower the rating, the less you like the image.

My routine involves going through images and only assigning a 5 (Ctrl + 5) to the files I find good enough, and 1 (Ctrl + 1) to images that are safe to delete with certainty. Once I’ve done both and the lowest rating images are off my hard drive, I select a rating 5 filter to only see photographs that passed the initial sorting. You can do that by selecting the Filter drop-down menu above the image grid.

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate: Efficient RAW Workflow for Professionals

73 product shots of a printed catalog. And as much as I enjoyed taking the photographs and then doing the layout… I am not sure I am ready to edit 73 images of it. Let’s get to culling.

See that? Ratings applied, filter turned on, and we are left with 20 images. Much better, but not quite enough. The second sorting resulted in just 8 out of the total 73. I obviously still need to dial down the trigger-happy (can’t really show how I sort through images if I pick 9 out of 10, right?), but at least I don’t struggle with choice quite so much.

Now, I said rating 5 goes to images that are good enough for a reason – by removing a large number of similar images during initial sorting, I make it that much easier for myself to see the photo shoot as a whole and judge which photographs don’t fit. At the same time, I don’t pressure myself to only keep the very best images after the initial sorting, as that may take too much time. So I sort through the 5 rated photographs one more time. This time around, I assign a rating of 4 to images that are not quite what I was trying to achieve. These files get dropped, but should I change my mind, I know they are marked with 4 and are always easily accessible. I may end up deleting unrated files at some point, but I always keep the 4 rated ones just in case.

Hopefully, the second sorting has left me with a small number of photographs that I really like. Now that there are much fewer files remaining, I can give each one a lot more attention. At this point, I tend to go through the files one by one in full screen view (double-click on any thumbnail or select a file and hit View mode) and pre-visualize the final result that I want to achieve as I did while photographing. What sort of editing will I need to do to each one? Will it require conversion to black and white? Is extensive retouching or complex local adjustment of tones and colors going to be necessary?

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate: Efficient RAW Workflow for Professionals

ACDSee has a lot of filtering, sorting, and grouping options. And I do mean a lot. They can all be used to narrow down which image files you want to be shown. It’s not just the Filter menu, but the ones next to it, too.

More often than not (the photographs I used for this article are a strange exception, which is why I won’t bore you with additional screenshots), around half the images will end up being monochrome as I tend to photograph in such a manner, and they need to be separated from the color images for easier batch processing. For that, I tend to use a color label.

Assigning a label to any given file is just as simple as rating images, only this time you need to use Alt instead of Control in combination with a numeric key. So, for example, Alt + 1 will result in red label (hitting Alt + 0 will reset label to none). I tend to assign the first color label (red) to images that will require conversion to monochrome and the second one (yellow) to those that are part of a panorama and will need merging. The rest of the labels still get used. If there are images of several separate panorama shots located next to one another, I use the remaining colors to separate them for easier visual discerning later on.

Finally, there is one final sort that needs to be done. Using the Tag filter (the \ key), I mark images that will require more complex, graphic retouching than simple RAW converters are rarely designed for. Usually, that would mean moving on to Photoshop at some point. With ACDSee, the built-in alternative in the form of Edit mode is all many people will need. Either way, tagged image files would end up undergoing considerably more complex editing.

Post-Processing with the Develop Mode

To anyone who has used Lightroom (or Camera RAW, or any other RAW image processor for that matter), the Develop mode will be instantly familiar. Perhaps not in the fits-like-a-glove sort of way, at least not at first, but there are definitely no big surprises to be had.

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate: Efficient RAW Workflow for Professionals

Ignore the identical color scheme. Develop mode is an entirely different environment to the Manage mode that we’ve already got to know a little bit. See how many of the toolbars at the top are now gone? The menu is different, too. Importantly, there are a bunch of sections and tools designed for local adjustments hiding just above the histogram. These are easy to miss. Don’t, because they are also very useful and sometimes absolutely necessary.

The filters I apply to sorted images – color labels and tags – are extremely helpful for batch post-processing. As selecting a certain filter hides image files that are to be developed in a different manner, I am not only able to apply similar adjustments to several images at a time but I can only see color or black and white images in the Filmstrip too. How is that relevant? Simple – it helps with achieving consistent luminance, contrast, and color of the photographs, as I am able to compare them and notice differences that need compensating for as I work.

While photographing, I tend to leave white balance in Auto as I know my camera will get it more or less right. As for exposure, I tend to work in manual mode, especially in high-contrast lighting where prominent highlights and shadows are plentiful (as was the case with these product shots). Manual mode means my composition does not affect the exposure when dealing with the same basic scene, so while there is always the chance I may end up under or overexposing, (having gotten used to setting up my own exposure, it does not happen often), there is also more consistency shot-to-shot.

And that makes adjusting exposure in post-production much simpler, as I can apply the same corrections to a few images at a time. That’s made easier by the Filmstrip in Develop mode – just select a few images and apply the adjustments as needed. Alternatively, you can process a single image and then copy/paste the settings onto a different image. Both actions are accomplished by right-clicking on the thumbnail in the Filmstrip to first copy, and then paste settings to a corresponding file.

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate: Efficient RAW Workflow for Professionals

Adjusting exposure and white balance to taste gives me a good starting point from which to dive a little deeper. But since I’m using the General adjustments anyway, I might tweak a few more sliders while I’m at it.

After adjusting the white balance and exposure sliders (which, strangely and inconveniently enough, only allows 4-stops of adjustment, 2-stops each way), I had a solid starting point from which to move on to more specific tone and color adjustments.

ACDSee has plenty of tools for that, perhaps even too many. In the General section of Develop tools, there’s Highlight Enhancement and Fill Light sliders. Both of these can only be set in one direction, meaning a positive adjustment or nothing. What’s more, Fill Light encompasses a very broad range of tones, from dark ones all the way to highlights. So if you’re used to Lightroom adjustments of highlights and shadows, you’ll find it a little sensitive. On the other hand, Fill Light might just save you if you’ve underexposed your RAW file by more than the 2-stops the exposure slider allows you to compensate (with modern image sensors, you may find yourself doing that on purpose, too).

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate: Efficient RAW Workflow for Professionals

I expected the Fill Light slider to only really “fill” the shadows, but it did a bit more than that. I find this a little too close to how fill flash works while photographing. That said, it’s not without uses and ACDSee does have alternative tools, should you require finer tweaking.

Either way, it’s a good thing there’s an alternative tool in the shape of Light EQ, which is much more akin to the blacks/shadows and whites/highlights adjustments Adobe’s software incorporates. Using it is also very easy – simply select the tool and click on any area of the image. Light EQ will adjust the tones automatically – brighten them up if you click on a shadowy area, and bring the tones down should you click on a bright, highlight-intensive bit of the image.

Want more control? Choose Standard (which I prefer), or Advanced mode (a touch confusing), which will allow you to click-and-drag on the photograph itself, in addition to using the sliders. Clicking on any tone will adjust it across the whole image – drag up to increase brightness, down to deepen the shadows or restore highlights.

 

In case Light EQ is also not to your liking, there’s the trusty Tone Curves tool. These tools tend to work pretty much the same everywhere. In simplicity lies its strength, as the Tone Curves tool is immensely versatile.

Before Curves.

After a Tone Curve was applied.

I can’t stress enough how powerful (and sometimes complex) the seemingly boring Tone Curves tool is. As you can see from this before/after comparison above, not only does it affect tonal contrast, but also color. Pull down the shadows and you’ll notice saturation increase. You may find yourself needing to compensate for the increase in saturation via the Saturation slider or the Color EQ tool. Either way, Develop mode offers plenty of control over all the tones in your image.

If I had to single out a favorite tool of mine in Develop mode, it would be Color EQ. Much like HSL panel in Lightroom, it allows very precise control of color. I was able to bring down the orange hues of the table while keeping the beautiful reds and greens just so (for my taste). It helped me achieve decent consistency across the whole selection of images with minimal effort.

This particular product shot only really needed so color adjustment, which was achieved using the Color EQ tool more than anything else. I’ve also pushed the mid-tones a bit using Tone Curves, but not enough to burn out the highlights.

For the images I tasked myself with editing, I mostly used a combination of Light EQ, Tone Curves, and Color EQ, setting up each one to taste. The latter is, again, extremely versatile and works much like HSL panel does in Lightroom. It allows you to adjust the saturation, brightness, and hue of each individual color channel (see screenshot above). As you may notice in the screenshots, I went for a very desaturated look (mostly the red, orange, and yellow channels). Whatever you choose to do, Color EQ offers plenty of control and is perhaps by far my favorite tool in the Photo Studio Ultimate Develop mode.

Lastly, I added a little warmth to shadows using the Split Tone tool (Shadows Hue set at 44, Saturation at 4, and Balance at 24), and adjusted Sharpening in the Detail tab of the Develop Tools panel.

The Geometry panel is accessed via a tab at the top of Develop Tools. Here, you can crop and adjust an image for distortion. It’s great that ACDSee has lens profiles to take care of distortion for you, though any vignetting you may want to fix, is up to your own judgment for now.

Before image.

After processing.

There’s a Whole Lot More

Scratch the surface, I told myself when I started writing this article. At least scratch the surface. I am still unsure if I managed to do that.

There is more luck than planning involved in my choice of images for this article. Should I have gone for something more demanding – an artistic portrait, perhaps – it would have been at least twice as long. ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2018 (to use its full set of names) is immensely packed with tools and settings. So much so that I used only a small fraction of what Develop mode offers for my product shots.

Black and white conversion was left untouched, so were the local Develop Brush and Gradient tools. These edits required next to no Geometric correction or attentive use of noise reduction, not to mention Edit mode. Even so, it has proved to be an exceptionally versatile bit of software. My hope is this article has provided you with an insight into how ACDSee works and how it can be used as part of an efficient, stress-free workflow for your business and artistic needs.

Disclosure: ACDSee is a paid partner of dPS.

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How to Shoot in Manual Mode Cheat Sheet for Beginners

16 Nov

The “Manual Photography Cheat Sheet-Reloaded” by The London School of Photography is a clean-cut, visual way of showing you how to step-up your photography game from automatic to manual shooting. Not only does shooting in Manual Mode enable you to produce sharp well-composed imagery – but you’ll also gain a stronger understanding of the inner workings of your camera and just how all those curious settings work in synch with each other.

How to Shoot in Manual Mode Cheat Sheet for Beginners

By shooting in Manual Mode you have full control of your shutter speed, ISO, and aperture, among an array of other settings that can further fine-tune your images. Manually controlling the aperture, for example, can help you achieve those beautiful portraits with blurred bokeh backgrounds. It’s also highly useful for changing shutter speeds, enabling you to achieve amazing shots of those fast-moving subjects like cars or cyclists in crystal clear motion without sacrificing quality.

You may often find yourself in a tricky lighting situation where everything appears far too dark, too light, or very grainy. Unfortunately, automatic mode can’t always hack these extreme conditions and often activates your camera’s flash at the smallest hint of darkness (making some photos appear positively awful). This is where learning to shoot in Manual Mode can be a lifesaver.

ISO

One of the most talked about settings on a camera is the ISO; a numerical value on your camera that controls light sensitivity. Your camera’s ISO allows you to adjust its light-sensitivity and allows it to pick up more light. Or on the flip side, to reduce your exposure on those bright sunny days for a well-balanced result.

I highly encourage experimenting with different lighting conditions to find your ideal ISO. But be wary of making your ISO too high in dark conditions as this will increase the amount of noise in your final images.

Aperture

Another common term you may have come across is aperture. This is essentially an opening in the lens that affects your exposure. It is also responsible for controlling the depth of field.

Generally, the lower the number (or f-stop), the larger the opening of the lens will be which will result in less depth of field – ideal for those blurry backgrounds. On the other hand, the higher your aperture the sharper the background will be – making it great for capturing all the tiny details in your scene (great for landscapes).

Shutter Speed

How to Shoot in Manual Mode Cheat Sheet for Beginners

Shutter speed is another key player that determines your image’s final outcome. It is essentially the exposure time of the camera’s inner shutter that stays open to allow light to enter and hit the sensor.

Generally, if you’re after blurred shots that illustrate an object’s motion (for example a racing car or cyclist) then a slow shutter speed will keep the shutter open for longer, allowing for a longer exposure time. A faster shutter speed, however, is perfect for a pristine action shot with no motion blurs.

White Balance

Another setting on your camera which also directly affects your images is your White Balance (WB). The process of setting your White Balance involves removing unrealistic color casts and ultimately using a setting that produces more naturally toned images.

It is especially useful in removing harsh yellow tones or redness on the skin. Alternatively, White Balance can be used in unconventional ways to refine your photographic style. For example, for edgier photos, the Tungsten White Balance preset can be used in an overcast setting to produce blue hues and enhance contrasts. With this in mind, it’s highly beneficial to experiment with the various White Balance modes to achieve your desired results.

Things to note for shooting in Manual Mode

Keep in mind that when you’re ready to shoot in Manual Mode your settings will not adjust to your shooting conditions. You have to adjust them, manually. By keeping this in mind you’ll ensure your exposures are consistent throughout a shoot. The process of changing your settings may sound tedious at first, but it will actually ensure your images are consistent.

This is what shooting in an automatic mode lacks, as it calculates how much light is being measured through your camera’s light meter. As good as this might sound to you, you’ll probably find that as you adjust your shooting position, the subject moves, or the lighting condition changes to overcast – you’ll eventually have a set of very inconsistently exposed images.

Other shooting modes

camera modes - How to Shoot in Manual Mode Cheat Sheet for Beginners

As much as I love to shoot manual, don’t forget about the other letters on your mode dial that are sparking your curiosity. In fact, I even recommend shooting in these semi-automatic modes as practice to help you understand exposure compensation.

  • Program mode (P) is a great transition mode when stepping out of the auto-shooting world. It governs similar shooting to auto but allows you to adjust the exposure by controlling compensation through a dial. If any of your photos appear dark, then using this simple feature can increase the brightness.
  • Aperture priority is another great transitional mode to shoot in that allows you control over aperture as well as the ISO. It gives you control over your depth of field as well as the exposure compensation to control brightness.

If you think you’ve mastered these settings then you’re ready to go manual!

Finally

In addition to camera settings, we highly recommend the following tips that will further enhance your experience of migrating to manual shooting; such as the use of a tripod, golden hours, and the top photographic golden rules to keep in mind for capturing stunning imagery time and time again.

How to Shoot in Manual Mode Cheat Sheet for Beginners

Download the full cheat sheet infographic all-in-one here.

The post How to Shoot in Manual Mode Cheat Sheet for Beginners by Antonio Leanza appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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3 Simple Photography Tips for Parents – How to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids

15 Nov

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive as a writer here at Digital Photography School is, “How do I take better pictures of my kids?”. There’s just something about becoming a parent that helps you understand exactly how fleeting childhood is, as well as how important it is to capture it. Whether you’re using a pro-level DSLR camera, a point-and-shoot, or your phone’s camera, here are a few quick and easy tips that will help you take your momtography or dadtography to the next level and take better pictures of your kids.

3 Simple Photography Tips for Parents - How to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids

1. Emotion Trumps Perfection

It’s never a bad idea to learn about the technical aspects of photography. But when it comes to photographing your own kids, the truth is that the photos you’ll treasure the most are the ones that capture genuine emotion. When you pull your camera out, don’t just look for the perfect smiles. Look for genuine expression and emotion, which tends to happen most often when your kids don’t realize you’re watching them.

Similarly, when you’re culling images, don’t automatically trash every image with soft focus or strange cropping. Sometimes, those technically imperfect photos may capture genuine emotion so perfectly that it would be a shame to delete them just because they’re not perfect. You may not want to blow those imperfect images up onto a giant canvas, but definitely keep them for your own records!

3 Simple Photography Tips for Parents - How to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids

Let go of perfection

Technically speaking, there are a few things about the above image that I don’t like. I wish I hadn’t cropped off some of one daughter’s fingers, and I wish the other daughter was in focus. I was super tempted to delete this photo right away because it’s not quite up to my standards. However, every time I look at this image it makes me smile to see the absolute joy on their faces. I remember their excitement at seeing the cherry blossoms covering the ground like snow, scooping them up by the handful, and throwing them up into the air while laughing and squealing with delight.

As family and friends flip through photo albums, they don’t comment on the other image I took that day of the girls standing perfectly still while looking at the camera and smiling, they comment on this photo. They mention how happy the girls look, and how much they love this photo. This image is beloved not because it’s technically sound, but because emotion always trumps perfection when it comes to photography.

3 Simple Photography Tips for Parents - How to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids

2. Find Beauty in the Ordinary

When it comes to photographing your kids, don’t wait for the moments when everyone is perfectly dressed in coordinating outfits at golden hour. Those moments are beautiful, but they’re few and far between. Instead, look for ways to capture the beauty in the ordinary everyday moments.

Snap a photo of your kids reading a bedtime story every once in awhile. Take a quick snapshot of their messy faces after spaghetti night. Capture the mismatched crazy outfits that they put together when they dress themselves. Quietly sneak out your camera as they’re practicing writing their name at the kitchen table.

3 Simple Photography Tips for Parents - How to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids

Life isn’t always perfectly styled, it’s messy and full of mundane, repetitive moments. It’s really tempting to wait to pick up your camera until your house is cleaner, or the kids are dressed in something that isn’t stained, or until the flowers in the backyard have bloomed. Don’t wait.

Take the opportunity to photograph your kids just as they are right at this moment, and see if you can’t find some beauty in the ordinary.

3 Simple Photography Tips for Parents - How to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids

3. Capture What Your Kids Love

At any given point in time, your kids are likely to have at least one thing that they’re absolutely obsessed with. It may be a stuffed dinosaur, their favorite book, a hat that they want to wear every single day or a best friend.

Regardless of what their current favorite thing is, taking photos of your childen with the things that they absolutely love is a really sweet way to remember them at the different stages of their lives.

3 Simple Photography Tips for Parents - How to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids

Chances are that in a year or two, your child will move on to a new favorite thing. You’ll forget all about that stuffed dinosaur or favorite blanket much more quickly than you’d probably think. It’s fun for both you and them to be able to look back and say “Remember when you used to….”

3 Simple Photography Tips for Parents - How to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids

Bonus Tip: Get the Photos Off Your Computer!

How many of us are guilty of taking hundreds of photos of our kids, maybe uploading a few to social media, and then letting them hang out on our hard drives in perpetuity? In all honesty, one of the most important parts of photographing your kids is to actually print the photos you take of your kids.

There are so many great resources out there now, whether you want to send prints off to a professional lab or print a photo book right from your Instagram feed, there truly is something for everyone. You don’t have to do it all, but just pick something, and get those images off your computer and into your lives!

3 Simple Photography Tips for Parents - How to Take Better Pictures of Your Kids

Do you have any non-technical tips that you’d share with moms and dads just trying to take great photos of their kids? If so, please chime in below in the comments.

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