Posts Tagged ‘Fine’

Luminar – The New Powerhouse for Fine Art Black and White Conversions

14 Nov

I recently embarked on a project of creating black and white images for an upcoming exhibit at an art gallery. The images have been shot, now the only question that remains is how will I handle the post-processing. In years past I’ve relied heavily on Lightroom and also Nik Silver Efex (yep remember that program). I have found, however, that the black and white conversions and looks created by the Nik Collection are starting to get a little dated.

It was very trendy some years ago to process in Silver Efex, but now that Google is no longer updating the program I find that the presets are not working as well for creating looks that appeal to today’s art buyers.

Luminar - The New Powerhouse for Fine Art Black and White Conversions

One of the images in the collection. I used Lightroom for some initial adjustments then used Luminar as a plugin to finish off the editing.

So I decided to process my images using Luminar by Macphun. I was already familiar with the program and the easy to use interface, so I thought I would push myself a little further and edit these images looking specifically to process for black and white.

Preset Black and White Workspace

One of the first things to be aware of is that Luminar offers a Black and White specific workspace. By clicking on the workspace tab, you will bring up a variety of tools that will help you to process for black and white conversions.

The workspace includes some filters like Colour filters, Exposure/Contrast, Highlights/Shadows, as well as Clarity/Detail, and a few others. The Curves filter is nicely constructed in that you can adjust RGB as well as the separate colors with just a simple click of the mouse.

Luminar - The New Powerhouse for Fine Art Black and White Conversions

In this image, you can see that I’ve set the workspace to B&W for black and white conversion.

I was also able to add additional filters to the list and remove others quickly and easily. For the majority of my images, I don’t tend to use textures, so I removed this filter from the workspace. If I were to process another set of images, I might use this filter, but for now, it was easier to remove it. You will notice that once you start adding or removing filters, the workspace becomes a custom setup.

Create your customized Workspace

One of the features that I like about Luminar is the fact that I can create a customized workspace. I am still in the process of tweaking my black and white filters so I can quickly and easily choose a specific workspace with which to start. One that will offer me the filters I need for easy black and white conversions aiming at a variety of different looks. For instance, I can create workspaces for grungy black and white conversions as well as ones that would mimic vintage film looks.

So I added filters to the workspace and made a custom set for processing to my tastes. Filters I removed; Texture Overlay, Grain, Soft Glow, Curves, and Vignette. I added the Advanced Contrast filter. You can also collapse any of the filters you aren’t working at the moment by clicking the little triangle icon just left of the filter name. That will give you more work area and less need to scroll up and down the filters panel.

Adjustment Brushes

Luminar also offers users the opportunity to make specific local adjustments with the Brush and Radial Mask tools. For one specific image, I used the brush to paint in my adjustments to only specific parts of the image. The brush tool creates a mask where you can selectively apply edits to your image.

Read more about this technique here: How to use Filter Masks in Luminar for Powerful Local Adjustments

Here you can see how I am applying the Highlight/Shadow filter only to a select area using the brush and a filter mask.


So without further ado, I will take you through the steps I used to edit this image. As you will see, Luminar is a very quick and simple to use program that lets you edit your work in the matter of a few moments.

Step 1 – Presets

I always start by viewing my images in the presets. Who knows, one of them might just work and then my job is done. Luminar has these huge previews of each preset at the bottom of the screen, I find them very useful. This one is called “Bloody Mary”. I like the hint of color it includes but for this upcoming exhibit it won’t fit with the rest of the images so I’ll have to save this effect for later.

Step 2 – Black & White Workspace

Next, I chose the Black and White workspace and then started to adjust the black and white points. I like to make sure that each of my images contains the full range of tones right from pure white to pure black. This is always one of my first steps. I make sure that my histogram touches both the left and right edges. This step is very important as it gives my prints a lot of depth.

Before adjusting the Black and White point sliders. Notice the lack of contrast in the image.

After adjusting the Black and White point sliders. This sets the pure black and pure white in the image and adds contrast.

Step 3 – Color Filters

My next step was to play with the color filters and sliders and see how they would affect the look of the image. Sometimes using a filter makes a specific part of the image pop. For this particular shot, I want to emphasize the bands of light that played across the tree trunk.

To do this click on “Edit” next to the colored circles, and then on the Luminance (brightness) tab. That will allow you to adjust the tones of each color individually. Play with them each to see how they affect your image.

In this image, if I move the red slider all the way to the left, you will see that the tones on the rock get considerably darker. While moving the slider to the left adds light to this part of the shot.

Before adjusting the color sliders.

Red slider to the left darkens any tones in the image that are red.

Red slider to the right lightens red and darkens opposite colors.

Step 4 – Structure

I wanted this shot to be much grittier and defined, so I adjusted the Structure Filter as well. The texture in the bark is important for the effect of the light on the trunk. The structure slider helps emphasize this.

These two shots show the effect Structure has on this image. In this first image, I’ve purposely moved the slider all the way to the left so you can see the effect. The second shot shows the slider moved further to the right. The ridges of the bark become much more defined as I played with this slider.

Structure Slider pulled all the way to the left.

Final toned-down Structure Slider.

Step 5 – Split Toning

For this series of images, I am pairing urban shots with nature shots. All the nature shots, however, were taken somewhere within the city of Toronto. The photos will also contain a slight hint of blue. I love that tone when it’s printed out on my textured fine art paper. I also like to pair this hint of blue with a slightly grey/blue matte when I frame the images for the gallery exhibit. It’s a subtly unique look.

You can see here I’ve exaggerated the saturation to determine if I liked the color. Then, once I had the hue I liked, I toned the colors down to add just a subtle hint of blue to the black and white image. I also adjusted the balance so that the tone of blue will show more in the shadows than in the highlights.

Exaggerated Split Toning Filter to judge the color.

Final Split Toning settings and look.

Step 6 – Final Adjustments

Finally, I added an Advanced Contrast filter. I wanted to give the details within the image some punch and this slider worked beautifully on this image. You can play around with the highlights, mid-tones, and shadows separately. After some adjusting, I shifted the highlight slider further to the right adjusting the effect of the contrast on the tree bark.

Advanced Contrast Filter turned off.

Advanced Contrast filter added.


Well, that’s it, folks. The editing was very quick and simple. The image is complete for now. I always like to leave my work for a few days and then come back to view the image again. A set of fresh eyes always helps in fine-tuning the details.

In closing, Luminar has proved to be a very quick and easy-to-use tool for completing black and white conversions. It offers the same versatility and creative opportunities as other programs and is truly a powerful application.

Before and after comparison. You can use the handy before/after slider to see all the changes you’ve made to your image. Just click the little icon at the top that looks like an open book, and move the slider across your image to see the effects.

Before and after image, side-by-side.

I like the fact that I can use it as both a stand-alone product and a plug-in for Lightroom. The interface is certainly easier to navigate than other programs and I enjoy working in Luminar. That certainly says something as I’m not the type who likes to mess around with post-processing.

Disclaimer: Macphun is a dPS advertising partner.

The post Luminar – The New Powerhouse for Fine Art Black and White Conversions by Erin Fitzgibbon appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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VAST photography collective creates ‘highest resolution fine art photographs ever made’

02 Aug

A group of photographers are working together to take gigapixel photography to the next level, and they’re doing it under a collective called VAST. Founded by photographer and software engineer Dan Piech, the VAST collective combines artistic skills with technical skills to produce high-quality, Fine Art gigapixel photographs.

Unlike typical gigapixel photography, these images feature scenes that are difficult to produce in massively high resolutions, such as photos taken around sunrise and sunset.

Talking about the collective and the work they do, founder Piech said, “We’ve developed a number of new techniques for doing some pretty amazing things that allow us to have the best of both worlds: resolution + aesthetics.”

Whereas common panoramas may involve only a few photos stitched together, these gigapixel photos require creators to assemble hundreds of images, the end result being an incredibly detailed, sharp photo for large printed pieces.

Huge amounts of time and work go into creating gigapixel shots, but the process doesn’t necessarily require expensive rigs.

As explained in a blog post by Ben Pitt, this 7 gigapixel photo of San Francisco was taken using “a normal tripod and an inexpensive ultra-zoom camera [the Panasonic FZ200].” That particular gigapixel photo is composed from 1,229 images captured across 16 rows, each with about 75 images. The shooting alone took more than an hour.

Stitching the images was, in the case of the San Francisco photograph, performed over the course of many hours using the automated and free Windows application ICE, though alternatives are available like GigaPan Stitch and PTgui. Photoshop was tapped for post-processing, used to patch in content from the original images when necessary, among other things. The resulting Photoshop files can be many gigabytes in size.

You can find out more about VAST’s own technique here.

VAST offers prints of these photographs, as well as others spanning categories like Abstract, Cityscapes and B&W. Price depends on the image and size—one example, the ‘Requiem for 2016’ image of New York City shown above, starts at $ 2,745 for a 60 x 21″ print of the 6,410 megapixel image. The full gallery of available prints can be viewed here.

Note: A previous version of this post mistakenly identified Ben Pitt as a VAST photographer. That is not the case.

All photographs courtesy of VAST, and used with permission.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (

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24 Fantastic Photos of our Fine Feathered Friends – Birds

23 Jul

As we just wrapped up a week of nature photography related articles I wanted to round it out with a few images of our feathered friends, the birds.

Birds are incredibly hard to photograph when in motion, luckily some stick to the ground or are slower than others. Let’s see some fantastic examples of bird photography (I’ll even throw in a few of my images) – enjoy!

Irene Mei

By Irene Mei

Darlene Hildebrandt

By Darlene Hildebrandt

Darlene Hildebrandt

By Darlene Hildebrandt

Deven Dadbhawala

By Deven Dadbhawala


By Amro

Glasseyes View

By glasseyes view

Carolyn Lehrke

By Carolyn Lehrke

Sadie Hart

By Sadie Hart

Susanne Nilsson

By Susanne Nilsson

Ken Mattison

By Ken Mattison

Vikramdeep Sidhu

By Vikramdeep Sidhu

Alessandro Caproni

By Alessandro Caproni

Bee Thalin

By Bee Thalin

Rosanne Haaland

By Rosanne Haaland

Zach Stern

By Zach Stern

Christopher Michel

By Christopher Michel

Ian McMorran

By Ian McMorran

Teddy Llovet

By Teddy Llovet

Irene Mei

By Irene Mei

Smudge 9000

By Smudge 9000

Jon Dunne

By Jon Dunne

Matt Knoth

By matt knoth


By RayMorris1

Daniel Schiersner

By Daniel Schiersner

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The FAA finalizes commerical drone use rules, is fine with your drone photography business

23 Jun

The FAA has finalized a rule regarding commercial use of drones, and the organization is a-okay with individuals profiting from aerial photography – provided that operators follow some guidelines.

The update to Federal Regulations has been available for public comment since February 2015, and has now been finalized to provide guidance for commercial UAS (unmanned aircraft system) use. The guidelines are much the same as when they were first proposed, stating that your drone and everything attached to it must weigh less than 55lb/25kg, and the pilot must remain within line of sight of the aircraft.

Flying over crowds is a no-no, unless everyone in the crowd is participating in the shoot or under a reasonable amount of cover. As initially proposed, drone operators must be at least 16 and have a ‘remote pilot certificate’ or be under direct supervision of someone who has one.

The rule goes into effect in August 2016, so you’ve got plenty of time to study up and get your certificate.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (

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Maximum sharpness: Nikon’s automated AF Fine Tune explained

22 Apr

Among the features introduced in Nikon’s new D5 and D500 DSLRs, we’re very excited by automated AF Fine Tune. This feature allows users to quickly fine-tune their specific camera bodies and lenses, maximising the chances of a sharp shot and avoiding the lengthy process of trial-and-error tuning that was previously necessary. Watch our video and read our in-depth analysis.

What’s the problem?

If you’re a DSLR shooter, you may be acutely aware of consistent front or back-focus issues with some of your lenses, particularly fast ones like F1.4 primes. Mirrorless users tend to not have such issues, because their cameras focus using their image sensors. When a mirrorless camera says it’s achieved focus, generally it’s actually in focus. That doesn’t necessarily hold true with DSLRs, which use a secondary phase-detect sensor under the mirror as a sort of proxy for focus at the imaging plane. This makes DSLR focus sensitive to misalignments between the secondary AF module and the image sensor, and also requires calibration of the optics inside the module itself. Furthermore, the way these phase-detect AF modules makes them sensitive to certain lens aberrations, like spherical aberration.

Manufacturers of DSLR bodies and lenses do a lot of calibrations to make sure that this isn’t an issue, calibrating every AF point at the factory, writing look-up tables into lenses, and more. But the reality of tolerances is such that you’ll be best off if you calibrate your particular copy of a lens and your particular copy of a body yourself. That’s what AF Fine Tune, or AF micro-adjustment as Canon calls it, is all about.

State of the current art…

Up until now, this calibration procedure has required cumbersome procedures for accurate calibration. We’d often set a camera up on a tripod and align it to a LensAlign (which has a sighting tool), then have to change the set up to test different subject distances, lighting, or lenses. Some photographers even try to Fine Tune on the spot by trying different values and seeing if a real-world target looks sharper or not – but this method is extremely prone to error. Solutions like FoCal have tried to automate the procedure, but again, the requirement of a chart and a computer is cumbersome.*

… disrupted

Nikon’s new automated AF Fine Tune makes things as easy as child’s play. It uses contrast-detect AF in live view, which focuses using the image sensor and is nearly always accurate, to calibrate its own phase-detect AF system. Watch our video above to get an idea of just how easy it is to calibrate your lenses on the new D5 and D500 cameras.

A couple of things are worth keeping in mind. For some lenses and systems, the optimal calibration value can change for different subject distances. This isn’t necessarily always the case, but you may wish to calibrate for the subject distances you’re most likely to shoot for any particular lens. For a good all-round calibration, we’re told that using a target approximately 40x the focal length away strikes a good balance.

The key here is to play around a bit. Try a couple different distances, a few different runs, and make sure you’re getting a consistent result. Sometimes we’ve found the optimal value to change with lighting temperature, but this sort of thing is precisely why the automated procedure is so valuable: if you’re running into trouble with focus, you can – right at the wedding reception you’re shooting – set the camera on a table, point it at a static object, and calibrate your camera in under 10 seconds. Yeah, we timed ourselves.

The result

Here’s an example of how Fine Tune helped calibrate our Nikon 24/1.8 to our D5. Roll your mouse over the ‘OFF’ and ‘ON’ buttons to see Sam’s eye sharpen up. If you click on the main image, you can see the full image in a separate window, where you’ll notice that the ‘OFF’ shot is front-focused on Sam’s nose, while the ‘ON’ shot is focused correctly on his eye. We placed a single AF point over Sam’s left eye (on camera right) for focus in both cases.

AF Fine Tune OFF
(focused on nose)
AF Fine Tune ON
(focused on eye)

In this case, for this lens paired to this body, automated AF Fine Tune found a value of +14 was best. This indicates that for correct focus, the camera has to shift focus backward an arbitrary 14 units from the focus reading the phase-detect sensor makes. In other words, out of the box, this lens on our D5 front-focuses. If it had back-focused out-of-the-box by a similar amount, we might have expected the automated procedure to find -14 to be the optimal value.

How we’d like to see this feature evolve

AF Fine Tune currently only writes one global value per lens. This means the calibration value can’t be adjusted for either end of a zoom. Furthermore, only the center point can be calibrated – the camera assumes that the calibration at the factory ensures all points are consistent with one another and, importantly, the center point. Finally, as mentioned earlier, sometimes the optimal value can change based on subject distance.

Canon cameras currently at least offer to microadjustment values for either end of a zoom, but don’t offer any sort of automation to help you out. Sigma and Tamron USB docks allow for calibration at either end of the zoom, and for 3 to 4 different subject distance ranges, allowing for a high degree of accuracy of calibration. Unfortunately, entering 4 different subject distance ranges for two ends of a zoom mean the user has to literally set up the camera 8 times, with some sort of test target for accurate assessment – hardly practical for most working photographers.  

The key here is automation: automating opens up a world of opportunities, and automated Fine Tune is an important first step. We’d even imagine a future implementation where calibration data for all focus points is stored and learned from over time. Every time you calibrate a particular point, the camera could retain subject distance information (passed on to it via the lens), and over time learn the best calibration values for each point, for all subject distances, for different temperatures and lighting as well (the latter are often minor concerns).

To sum up…

Nikon’s automated AF Fine Tune is truly one of the most welcome features we’ve seen added to a DSLR in recent times. We’ve wondered for years why camera companies don’t use their contrast-detect AF to self-calibrate their phase-detect systems, instead relegating calibration to a cumbersome end-user experience.

Automated Fine Tune changes all that. It’s a really useful feature that takes a lot of guesswork and cumbersome aspects of calibrating yourself out of the equation, allowing you to do it on the spot, at an event, anywhere, on the fly. In fact, anyone working with shallow depth-of-field imagery should absolutely perform this procedure. Wedding, newborn, portrait, lifestyle, photojournalist, and even sports photographers: take note.

* We really like Reikan FoCal for research purposes though: you get a plethora of data for how a body/lens combination behaves at different subject distances, on different days, under different lighting, and even a map of the optimal calibration value per AF point. Of course, since you can only enter one global adjustment value into your camera, this information is a bit more academic, but if you want to get an idea of the behavior of your system, there’s probably no more comprehensive tool than FoCal.

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Like Fine Wine – Creativity Gets Better With Age

11 Mar

As a culture we are constantly encouraged to believe that youth is a magical time – that everything is at our fingertips, easily captured, and that age will only bring a withering of possibilities and opportunities.

DPS creativityAnthonyEpes01

“Aging seems to be the only available way to live a long time.” – composer, Daniel-Francois-Esprit Auber

Creativity is a huge victim of this idea – that aging destroys it rather, than helping us to flourish. Well, I don’t believe that at all. Creativity can wither with age – but it doesn’t have to. What about our huge amount of experience that we gather throughout life? Isn’t that pretty useful for creating?

Here are some ideas on the benefits of keeping creative with your photography as you age, and why you can get more creative, not less, as you get older.

Very few of us can tap the creative genius at a young age

When you are taking photos and being creative, you want to aim to access that wild creative place deep inside you, where pure inspiration flows. Some people call it the creative flow state. For some it’s a zone, but it could be thought of as a well of inspiration. But, that can be a hard place to get to – you’re encouraged in so many ways in life to prioritize your practical skills (getting a job, buying a house, raising children, etc.) over your creative skills. Some people can access their inspirational, creative space when they are young, but for many it takes years. But what’s great about that, is that it’s only a question of getting there, not whether or not you have it.

“Every day we slaughter our finest impulses. That is why we get a heartache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty. Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source. there is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there.” – author, Henry Miller

DPS creativityAnthonyEpes02

I don’t remember my youth being a place of unfettered, wild creativity. I was a pretty good photographer, but I wasn’t one of those types of artists who excelled in their twenties (think Rankin, Bob Marley, or JD Salinger). So unless you’re one of those young creative geniuses, I reckon that you could be on the same path as me – my creativity is building, and improving over the years.

Let it give you permission for freedom

But becoming more creative as you age isn’t a given, it’s a choice. As a culture we are more likely to give into the idea that we can’t be as creative with age, as when we were young.

“No, that is a great fallacy; the wisdom of old men. They do not grow wise. They grow careful.” – author, Ernest Hemingway.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can use what you’ve learned, and seen throughout life to make you more cautious, or you can allow it to give you permission to ignore your fears, ignore what others tell you about aging, and just choose freedom.

DPS creativityAnthonyEpes03

You are not who you think you are (unless you want to be)

Our brains are amazing at creating stability and continuity, so that we can live day-to-day, almost on auto-pilot. Neuroscientists now say that 95% of who you are (habits, behaviours, beliefs) is set by the age of 35. And 70% of the thoughts you will have today, you also had yesterday! So if you aren’t in the habit of being creative, it might seem a little hopeless.

But – and this is an awesome but – neuroscientists are now also saying that we can change our brains any time we like. So even if you haven’t lived a creative life, and are only turning to it at 40, 60 or 85 – you can quite easily change your brain’s habits. Becoming super creative is completely possible at any age. You don’t have to be stuck in the same place, doing the same things, and being the same way forever.

Creativity keeps your mind young

“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” – actress, Sophia Loren

Some kind of creative thinking, is an amazing way to keep your mind young. Because as Edward de Bono says, in order to be creative you have to use your mind in a different way than before. Anything you do that is new to your brain, creates new neural pathways, and engages those dusty grey parts that maybe you hadn’t used before.

DPS creativityAnthonyEpes04

Photography is about communicating feelings and experiences

“Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.” – photojournalist, Don McCullin

What more do we have as humans as we age, than experiences, and a rich storehouse of memories and feelings? Let’s draw from that to inject our photos with more meaning and feeling. Let’s use that experience to connect with our subjects, to go deeper into the myriad of experiences happening all around us every day.

“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.” – photographer, Aaron Siskind

Unshackled from expectation – “The man who views the world at 50, the same as he did at 20, has wasted 30 years of his life.” – boxer, Muhammad Ali

I love that now I am in my forties, I care a lot less about what other people expect of me, and my photography. I can go on my own way, and do the things that really inspire me. And you know what, the more inspired I am, the better my photography turns out – so that’s a double win!

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Age can bring freedom from expectation. Many people mind less about what people think as they get older. Use that. Create not for some specific goal, but just for the sheer joy of it, the wonder of discovering new subjects, the beauty of light, the amazing feeling of walking not to get somewhere, but to just see new things.

“We move what we’re learning from our heads to our hearts through our hands. We are born makers, and creativity is the ultimate act of integration – it is how we fold our experiences into our being.” – professor, PhD, author, Brené Brown

Taking photos energizes your mind

Creativity is an amazingly powerful way to smash through lethargy, and that beautiful French word, ennui (a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement). Maybe your job is boring, maybe your life is a lot of endless tasks that make you feel a bit sludgy, maybe you’ve retired and are thinking – now what?! Well, what better way to greet lethargy, than to meet it with the scintillating excitement of creating something. We are all born to be creative, it’s in our bones, the very fabric of our being. Maybe we hide it under deep layers of other stuff – but it’s still there, burning like a small ember of inspiration.

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Creativity is a journey, not a destination

Creativity is a liberating experience. It will help you discover new parts of yourself, but also help you see the world in a new and refreshing way. Let it liberate you. Let it fill your life with awe at the beauty, craziness, and amazingness of what lies around us in this world.

You are never too old, too set in your ways, too full of habit to embrace the creative journey. Photography has brought amazing, interesting, challenging and awe-inspiring experiences into my life, which make me feel good to be alive.

“Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future.” – Seneca

Whatever you do, don’t let age stop you.

Carpe diem! Because if not now, then when?


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Surrealism and intimacy: fine art portraiture with Fritz Liedtke

16 Feb

Professional photographer Fritz Liedtke’s work spans the worlds of film and digital, from editorial and commercial work to fine art. A native of Edmonds, WA, Liedtke became fascinated with the creative possibilities and surrealism presented by modifying the focal plane of 4×5 cameras in high school and college. In this presentation, Liedtke guides us through a recent project titled ‘Astra Velum’ (Veil of Stars), wherein he focused on photographing individuals whose faces were peppered with freckles.

‘I wanted to try to create something beautiful out of something that many people see as blemishes,’ Liedke says. Of course, not everyone feels that way about their freckles, but throughout his project, Liedtke noticed that many people he put in front of his camera didn’t necessarily feel like they fit in with the overall concept of American ‘beauty culture,’ with its focus (pun intended) on near-flawlessness.

Liedtke takes us through his post-processing and printing techniques, as well as guiding messages for those looking to start out on a personal project of their own. Keep your eyes open for interesting people to photograph, set goals for yourself, and perhaps most importantly, ‘don’t be afraid,’ Liedtke says. ‘Most people will be flattered that you want to photograph them.’

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To the point: LensRentals shows how to use Autofocus Fine Tune

23 Jan

DSLR autofocus has been the Gold standard for decades but the higher accuracy and precision offered by some mirrorless cameras risks tarnishing this image. However, many modern DSLRs include an option to fine-tune the autofocus behavior to help optimize their performance. Guest writer Joey Miller has written a short guide to how to make use of this feature, over on the LensRentals blog.

You don’t necessarily need any specialist equipment to fine tune your lenses. But if you’re going to go to all this effort, it might be worth it. Photo: Joey Miller

The article builds on the work Roger Cicala has already done, looking at the reasons that fine tuning is needed, with one of the main reasons being to cancel-out the effect of the combined tolerances of your camera body interacting with the combined tolerances of the specific copy of the lens you’re using.

As we reach higher pixel counts, this imprecision is being highlighted in ever more detail (it was always there, but your camera wasn’t letting you examine the problem in such fine detail).

Miller uses a Canon setup as an example, with up to two corrections per lens being possible (a ‘Wide’ and ‘Tele’ value being available for zoom lenses). But even this is a rather blunt instrument when it comes to achieving perfect accuracy. Given the variation we encounter using off-center focus points, a more complete solution would require something more like the Olympus system for Four Thirds lenses, which allowed two values per lens, per focus point. The best correction value can also change with subject distance, which is why Sigma’s USB dock offers the ability to set four different values for four different subject distances.

Even if such control over calibration were possible for the end-user, it would be so arduous as to be nearly impossible. Products such as Reikan FoCal can help, but it’s still fairly involved, and the situation-to-situation, day-to-day variability we’ve noted with some systems means even these don’t completely solve the problem. Thankfully, the process looks as if it’s about to be made simpler, with Nikon’s D5 and D500 gaining something we’ve been proposing for several years now: an automated fine tune system that checks the results of its contrast-detect AF in live view mode to calculate the corrections needed to fine tune its secondary sensor phase-detection system. It’s rather rudimentary in that only one value can be entered for any lens and body combination, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. 

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In Fine Detail: Canon EOS 5DS / 5DS R In-Depth Review

18 Dec

Preview based on pre-production Canon EOS 5D S & SR

Canon has added to its EOS 5D range with the launch of two 50MP cameras, the 5DS and the 5DS R. Both cameras are high resolution full frame models, primarily aimed at stills photographers. The only difference between the models is that the ‘S’ has an optical low-pass filter, while the ‘S R’ has a self-cancelling filter (the same relationship as Nikon’s D800 and D800E models shared).

The two cameras will exist alongside the EOD 5D Mark III, acting as dedicated high resolution cameras primarily intended for studio, landscape and wedding shoots, rather than the all-round capability offered by the existing model. The Mark III still trumps the S and S R in terms of maximum ISO and continuous shooting speed.

Canon EOS 5DS / 5DS R key features

  • 50MP CMOS sensor
  • 5 fps continuous shooting
  • ISO 100-6400 (Extends to 12,800)
  • 61-point AF module with input from 150k pixel metering sensor
  • Dual Digic 6 processors
  • 3.0″ 1.04M-dot LCD
  • CF & SD slots (UHS-I compatible)
  • 1080/30p video
  • M-Raw and S-Raw downsampled formats
  • 30MP APS-H crop and 19.6MP APS-C crop modes
  • USB 3.0 interface

Most of the big new features on the high-res 5Ds are about ensuring you’re able to get the best of the cameras’ extra resolution. Our experiences with the Nikon D8X0 series cameras has shown us that simply having a high resolution sensor isn’t enough: to take full advantage of it you need to really obsess about stability.

To this end, Canon has reinforced the tripod socket and surrounding area to allow stable engagement with a tripod. It has also used a more controllable, motorized mirror mechanism, like the one in the EOS 7D II, that allows a deceleration step before the mirror hits its upper position – reducing mirror slap.

The third change is a revised mirror lock-up mode that allows you to specify an automatic delay between the mirror being raised and the shutter opening to start the exposure. It allows the user to choose the shortest possible delay that has allowed mirror vibration to subside: maximizing sharpness while minimizing the loss of responsiveness.

Although the S and the SR can both shoot movies with the same choice of frame rates and compression as the 5D III, they don’t offer clean HDMI output or headphone sockets. The message is pretty clear – if video is a major concern, these aren’t the cameras for you.

Canon EOS 5DS
Canon EOS 5DS R
Canon EOS 5D
Mark III
Pixel count 50.2MP 50.2MP 22.1MP
Processor Digic 6 Digic 6 Digic 5+
Maximum ISO ISO 6400
(12,800 ext)
ISO 6400
(12,800 ext)
ISO 25,600
(102,400 ext)
Maximum ISO ISO 6400
(12,800 ext)
ISO 6400
(12,800 ext)
ISO 25,600
(102,400 ext)
Maximum frame rate 5 fps 5 fps 6 fps
Autofocus 61 point, of which 41 are cross type and 5 are double-cross type 61 point, of which 41 are cross type and 5 are double-cross type 61 point, of which 41 are cross type and 5 are double-cross type
Metering sensor 150k pixels (RGB+IR) 150k pixels (RGB+IR) 63-segment (RG/GB)
Optical low-pass (anti-aliasing) filter? Yes Self-cancelling Yes
Uncompressed HDMI output No No Yes
Headphone jack? No No Yes
USB connection USB 3.0 USB 3.0 USB 2.0

A series of features in the EOS 5DS and S R are ones we first saw in the EOS 7D Mark II. This includes the flicker detection function that warns you of lighting flicker and can synchronize the camera’s continuous shooting so that it only fires at the brightest moments to ensure consistent exposure (rather than the constant variation you can otherwise get in such situations).

Two other 7D II features to make an appearance in a 5D camera for the first time are the built-in intervalometer function that can be used to shoot time lapse sequences. And, as a first for Canon, these can then be combined in-camera to create a 1080/24p time-lapse movie.

Canon EOS 5DS / SR overview video

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X, Y, and Z and ideally A, B, and C.

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How to do Autofocus Fine Tuning on Your Nikon DSLR

22 Oct

Most of the time your equipment does a great job, but every once in a while you may find that under certain circumstances, your photos may seem a little soft. Although there are no less than a million reasons why this might be, it may simply be that your lens isn’t focusing where it’s supposed to.

You may be thinking that if this is the case, isn’t something seriously wrong? Not necessarily.

Some cameras are equipped with a feature to tweak the accuracy of its autofocus – Nikon calls this autofocus fine tuning.

Depth of field

Autofocus fine tuning allows you to dial in the autofocus accuracy of a camera/lens combination.

What is autofocus fine tuning?

Camera lenses are built, and tuned, to fairly exacting standards and do what they are supposed to pretty well, even lower-end lenses. However, there is a window, albeit fairly minute, that focus tuning parameters fit into. If the lens’ tuning falls right in the middle of that window, the focus will be spot on, but it’s not uncommon for the focus to be at either end of that window while still meeting quality control standards.

What this means is that in the majority of shooting situations you are going to end up with sharp results. In some situations when you are pushing the accuracy limits of the lens, such as macro photography or shooting at wide apertures, you may discover that the lens focuses a little in front or behind the focus point you’ve chosen. Maybe you’ve seen this shooting a close-up portrait at a wide aperture – although you are trying to get the subject’s eyes in the focus plane, you keep getting their eyebrows or ears sharp instead.

Why use it?

This is where lens fine tuning comes into play. What this feature does is allow you to dial in the accuracy of the lens/camera focus point even more precisely than it already is. If you haven’t noticed any problems with your setup, or mostly shoot at smaller apertures, going through this process may be unnecessary.

This feature can be found on Nikon bodies from the D7000 up and Canon bodies from the 50D and up, as well as several Sony, Olympus, and Pentax cameras.

Fine tuning settings are specific to the lens/camera combination and once you tune a lens, the camera saves the setting, which it reverts to anytime you mount that lens. Although you need to use a CPU lens to reap the full benefits of autofocus fine tuning, older analog or third party lenses can be fine tuned, and the settings saved manually on Nikon DSLRs.

What you need

  • A tripod
  • A newspaper or magazine printed with a small font
  • A table
  • A well lit room

How to do it

Step 1 – Mount your camera on the tripod and adjust it so the lens is about two feet above table level. The idea is to have the lens pointed at the newspaper at about a 30-degree angle.

Set up for autofocus fine tuning.

The setup to adjust autofocus fine tuning is fairly simple.

Step 2 – It is recommended to set the zoom (if using a zoom lens) to the focal length and distance which you use most often.

Step 3 – Set the camera to single-point, single-servo autofocus (AF-S for Nikon, One-Shot for Canon)

Step 4 – Open the lens to one stop down from its widest aperture (e.g. set an f/2.8 lens to f/4) and the middle of its zoom range (if it’s a zoom lens).

Step 5 – Place the focus point in the middle of the frame (center dot). I prefer to align the focus point with something recognizable like a letter of bold text among normal text.

Focus point in the center of the frame

With autofocus set to AF-S (one-shot), single-point, place the focus point in the center of the frame.

TIP: A helpful method is to turn on Live View and place the small dot in the middle of the focus box on a letter of text. Zoom in the view (NOT the lens) which gives you a more precise center point than the small box seen through the view finder. Turn off Live View to continue.

Using live view to align focus point

Using Live View helps to line up your focus point more precisely.

Step 6 – Set the self-timer on the camera to at least five seconds to allow the camera to stabilize after pressing the shutter button.

Step 7 – Turn off any stabilization either in-lens or in-camera.

Step 8 – Make sure focus points are enabled on playback: Menu>Playback Menu>Playback display options>Focus point>Done>OK

Focus point on preview

Enabling focus point on image preview allows you to see where the focus was set when the picture was taken.

Step 9 – Defocus the lens manually and then engage autofocus until it locks onto the focus point and press the shutter button.

Step 10 – Review the image and zoom in to check the accuracy of the focus point. Do this a few times for verification.

Checking focus point accuracy

Preview the image and zoom in to check the accuracy of the focus point.

If it appears that sharpness is centered on the focus point, great, your lens’ focus is accurate and you’re good to go. If not, continue reading.

Step 11 – To adjust the autofocus fine tune go to: Menu>Setup menu>AF fine-tune>AF fine-tune (On/Off) and turn it on. Go back and select Saved value.

Fine tuning autofocus

The menu location of autofocus fine tuning.

Your lens’ information should be displayed in the upper left corner and the fine-tune adjust on the right.

Step 12 – Positive numbers correct for back-focusing (focusing behind the focus point) and negative numbers correct for front-focusing.

Adjusting autofocus fine tuning

Positive values adjust the focus point away from the camera while negative values move it closer.

Remember, this is called “fine-tuning” so the increments are pretty small – a +1 is hardly noticeable.

Step 13 – After each adjustment, defocus the lens manually and repeat the steps above until you hit the sweet spot.

The settings you have applied to a specific CPU lens are saved, and are loaded automatically anytime that lens is mounted to your camera. With non-CPU lenses, you can create a profile for that lens which you can then save and revert to manually when that lens is used.

If your lens’ focus still fails to hit the mark after attempting autofocus fine-tuning, either go old-school and use manual focus if it’s practical, or you will need to send your lens in to have it calibrated with a special machine.

If you use a brand other than Nikon check your camera manual to see if your model has this feature and how to use it.

Good luck and may your images be as sharp as my witticisms – hopefully much sharper.

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