Posts Tagged ‘PostProcessing’

Apple Photos: An Under-Appreciated Post-Processing Software Powerhouse

13 Jan

As the market for digital cameras has intensified in recent years, the options available for post-processing software has exploded as well. There are dozens of great options for casual, enthusiast, and professional image-makers who are looking to get the most out of their images.

Programs like Lightroom, Luminar, CaptureOne, Affinity Photo, GIMP, DarkTable, and AfterShotPro, are all highly capable photo editors. It can be a daunting proposition to try and pick one that’s right for you.

Fortunately for Mac users, there is a fantastic option already available to you for free sitting right on your own computer. Apple Photos is a program you might have overlooked in the past, but with steady improvements over the years, it is now a serious contender when it comes to post-processing your pictures.

Apple Photos: An Under-Appreciated Post-Processing Software Powerhouse

A Brief History

The story of Apple Photos starts in 2002 with Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs introducing an all-in-one program to let users catalog, edit, and share their digital pictures. This new software called iPhoto was revolutionary at the time, giving casual users a way to manage all their digital imaging assets in a way that was fast, simple, and easy to understand.

I used iPhoto from the first version that was released and even now it’s kind of amazing how well that initial offering worked, though it was clearly lacking many features we take for granted today. A few years later Apple waded into the professional photo editing market with Aperture, a program that was like iPhoto on steroids and was seen as a direct competitor to Adobe Lightroom.

Merger of Aperture and iPhoto

As the decade wore on and Apple saw how much people were using their mobile phones for taking and editing pictures it decided to kill off Aperture and iPhoto and replace them with a single program called Photos. This new application offered users a way to manage, edit, and share their photos much in the same way iPhoto and Aperture functioned, but also gave people the ability to sync their photo collections and even individual photo edits across all their devices.

With Photos, it was possible to crop a picture on your iPhone and then have that same cropped version of the picture show up on your Apple desktop a few seconds later – a syncing nightmare that was virtually impossible using the panoply of programs previously available from Apple.

Apple Photos: An Under-Appreciated Post-Processing Software Powerhouse

Evolution of Photos

One significant tradeoff when consolidating apps and enabling cross-device editing with Apple Photos was a lean feature set that, compared to Aperture, was downright anemic and even came up short when compared to iPhoto. Photographers hopeful for a fresh new program with all of their favorite features were dismayed and abandoned Apple Photos in droves only to rush headlong into the welcoming arms of Adobe, Macphun (now called Skylum), Corel, and other developers.

However over time, Apple has delivered on its promise to improve Photos and with each iteration, the program becomes more capable, not to mention speedier, than ever before. It can now hold its own against many of the other post-processing software options available on the market. It’s safe to say that if you haven’t used Apple Photos in a while you might be surprised at how good the current version is, and if you have never even tried the program you are in for a real treat.

Sunflower photo processed in Apple Photos app.

Photo management simplified

The core principle of Apple Photos has always been simplicity. Even back to the original days of iPhoto, Apple’s philosophy has been to make their image-editing programs as easy to use as possible. I can personally attest to this with my dad as an example.

He is a retired railroad mechanic who prefers working on small engines in his garage instead of tinkering on the computer. But he is perfectly capable of connecting his Canon Rebel T4i to his Mac, offloading his images into Photos, and post-processing them using the tools provided. Underlying that simplicity is a powerful set of editing tools that started out all too basic but have grown to be quite competent over time.

One library

The Photos app is built around the concept of a unified photo library, such that any photos you take on your phone automatically sync with your computer and vice versa. Because of that, the interface looks much the same whether you’re on a desktop, laptop, iPad, or iPhone.

Your pictures aren’t stored in the cloud per se, but Apple does use its cloud-based infrastructure to sync all your pictures while keeping the actual image files stored on your individual devices. To enable this all you have to do is click a checkbox in Apple Photos on your desktop and flip a slider on your iPhone and the program will take care of the rest.

Apple Photos: An Under-Appreciated Post-Processing Software Powerhouse


Photos organizes your images based on time data and does its best to group pictures into what it calls Events based on time and location data. Scroll through your library and you will see images grouped by categories such as People, Places, Favorites, and Memories as well as Albums which are collections of photos that you create manually or automatically using metadata (i.e. all photos with the keyword “Vacation” and “Kansas”.)

Unlike Google Photos and some other cloud-based services, none of your images are analyzed by Apple for the purpose of gathering data that can be used in advertising. A boon to privacy advocates and others who just want to keep other companies away from their pictures.

Apple Photos: An Under-Appreciated Post-Processing Software Powerhouse

Sorting and viewing images

However, some degree of machine learning is present in Photos, as the software attempts to group your images automatically with Memories based on time and location data. It also automatically looks for faces which it uses to populate the People category.

If you have ever scrolled through your near-endless Lightroom Library you might be surprised at how well Photos handles the presentation element of photo management. You can use the options buttons at the top of the screen to organize your images by Photos, Moments, Collections, or Years. All your images are available in each view, but the Photos app groups them dynamically so as you scroll up and down you will see them grouped together in specific ways. If you click Moments your images are grouped almost like day-to-day activities, whereas Collections shows photos in larger groups and Years literally displays an entire year’s worth of images at once.

Apple Photos: An Under-Appreciated Post-Processing Software Powerhouse

Grouping options for how to display your thumbnails – Moments, Collections or Years (shown here).

All this is fairly simple and intuitive, and if you have a trackpad on your Mac you can mimic the pinch-to-zoom feature found on iPhone and iPad devices to zoom in and out of your entire photo library. Longtime Lightroom users will note several deficiencies in this design methodology, though, and a host of missing features like Compare, Survey, and fine-grained sorting criteria not to mention Lightroom’s far superior Library Filter.

This illustrates the point that Apple Photos is not intended to be a full-on replacement for Lightroom. Nevertheless, it can be a good starting point for amateurs or even enthusiasts looking to get a little more control over their image organization.

Powerful post-processing editing features

Image management is one thing, but post-processing or editing is a whole other matter entirely. Unfortunately, this is where Apple Photos has traditionally fallen flat. The first version of Photos had an editing feature set that was positively anemic and downright infuriating to longtime users of Aperture. They felt they had been hung out to dry by Apple, and it was not even worth comparing to programs like Lightroom, Photoshop, and others.

But like the fabled tortoise racing against the hare, Apple has steadily injected an ever-growing list of editing tools into Photos. It’s now not only competent but worth considering for anyone who wants to dive deeper into more professional-style editing.

Basic and advanced tools

Select a photo and click the Edit button to open up a cornucopia of editing tools. They cover all the basic options you would expect to find in any prominent image editor and even a few surprises. Of course, you can perform basic edits like Crop, Red Eye Removal, and White Balance and if that’s all you want then you’re good to go.

There are also highly advanced tools like RGB Levels and RGB Curves in which individual color channels can be edited, Selective Color that lets you adjust Hue, Saturation, and Lightness for Red, Yellow, Green, Cyan, Blue, and Magenta colors. Also present is a Noise Reduction option that allows for Luminance and Color noise, and even a Lightness tool with the freedom to adjust seven different parameters including Exposure, Brilliance, Highlights, Shadows, and Contrast.

Apple Photos: An Under-Appreciated Post-Processing Software Powerhouse


Apple Photos also has a nice array of filters. They work just like those in Instagram or other programs like Luminar, with one-click presets such as Vivid, Dramatic, Mono, Noir, and more. Add to this a pretty good auto-enhance option and the ability to undo edits one at a time or revert to the original with one click, and you can see how this program might be worth a second look. I remember using it when it first launched and was immediately put off by its overly-simplistic workflow and lack of features. But now I would honestly recommend it to anyone who is considering buying a subscription to Lightroom or investing in any other image editing post-processing software options on the market.

Apple Photos is not perfect, but it could suit your needs better than you might realize. The best part is it’s absolutely free if you own a Mac computer, iPhone, or iPad. There’s something special about editing a picture on your desktop, picking up your phone and seeing all your changes automatically synced, and then realizing it’s all happening without any monthly fee or another type of additional payment.

Apple Photos: An Under-Appreciated Post-Processing Software Powerhouse

Caveats and Limitations

All of this editing and organizational finesse comes with a rather large asterisk or two, as there are some significant drawbacks to Apple Photos that savvy photographers need to be aware of.

The most important is that this is an Apple-only program, so if you use Windows or Linux you’re out of luck. The mobile version is firmly ensconced in Apple’s infamous walled garden which means it never has been, and never will be, available for Android phones.

Also despite the lack of a subscription model, if you want to take full advantage of the iCloud-based storage options you will need to shell out some cash for iCloud Drive. Apple only gives users a paltry 5GB for free. Fortunately, iCloud plans are quite reasonable, and I am perfectly happy with my 50GB plan that only costs 99 cents per month.

Apple Photos: An Under-Appreciated Post-Processing Software Powerhouse

If you want to take full advantage of Photos’ cloud-based options, you might want to purchase additional storage. Fortunately, this is optional and it’s entirely up to you whether you want to do this, and how much storage to buy.

What’s missing

Finally, there are some notable features missing from Apple Photos that users of Lightroom, Luminar, and other apps will likely bemoan – and rightly so. There’s no history panel, no brush adjustments, no radial or graduated filters, no way to share presets, no plugin architecture for third-party expandability, no way to sync edits across multiple photos, and the list goes on.

Even simply exporting a photo can be frustrating. You only have a few options available by default like sharing to online social media sites or setting an image as a desktop background. These can be customized albeit not nearly to the same level as many other programs. It’s safe to say that if you want to give Apple Photos a chance it’s best to keep your expectations in check.

Apple Photos: An Under-Appreciated Post-Processing Software Powerhouse

Unless you want to post images directly to Facebook or Flickr, you might get a little frustrated with the default sharing options.


I hesitate to make a solid recommendation regarding Apple Photos because it really is dependent on the needs of each individual user. Other than to say a once low-end unimpressive program without much going for it has now been transformed to the point that I think it could really be useful for a lot of people.

While it’s still not up to par with its Aperture ancestor and continues to lag behind a lot of other options on the market in terms of features and capability, it’s a free, powerful, highly effective photo manager and editor that just might surprise and delight you if you give it a chance.

The post Apple Photos: An Under-Appreciated Post-Processing Software Powerhouse by Simon Ringsmuth appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Most Popular Post-Processing Articles of 2017

28 Dec

If you’ve been reading over the last couple of days you may have seen these already:

  • The Best Landscape Articles on dPS in 2017
  • Top Portrait Photography Tips of the Year on dPS in 2017

Next up in this summary is post-processing.

Most Popular Post-Processing Articles of 2017

    1. 5 Common Post-Processing Mistakes to Avoid
    2. A Step by Step Guide to Processing Portraits in Lightroom
    3. Basic Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips to Help You Save Time and Stay Organized
    4. Don’t Fear Photo Post-Processing – Shooting is Only the First Part of the Image Creation Process
    5. How to Match Your Image Processing Using Reference View in Lightroom
    6. 4 Tips for Post-Processing Images on the Road
    7. Overview of the Intuos Pro Wacom Tablet and the MobileStudio Pro for Post-Processing
    8. How to Choose the Right Monitor for Photo Editing
    9. Overview of Photo Studio Ultimate 2018 for Windows by ACDSee
    10. Image Editing Software Review: PortraitPro 15
    11. How to Speed Up Your Photo Editing with the Right Lightroom Workflow
    12. How to do Non-Destructive Editing in Photoshop
    13. How to Merge and Combine Images in Photoshop
    14. How to Remove People from Your Photos Using Photoshop
    15. How to Create a Rim Light Effect Using Photoshop
    16. The dPS Ultimate Guide to Getting Started in Lightroom for Beginners
    17. Tips for How to Think and Use Lightroom More Artistically
    18. How to Understand the Lightroom Tone Curve
    19. 3 Handy Lightroom Features I Discovered by Accident
    20. Review of Macphun’s Aurora HDR 2018
    21. How to use Macphun’s Luminar for Beginners
    22. Luminar The Ultimate Lightroom Plugin

Whew, that is a lot, but it’s a big category with lots of options now available to you for processing your images.

Can you help us with a quick poll? Since there are so many new photo editing software options – please fill in any that you are using below. It will give us a better idea of what to cover in the upcoming year! Thanks for your assistance and for reading.

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post’s poll.

The post Most Popular Post-Processing Articles of 2017 by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Don’t Fear Photo Post-Processing – Shooting is Only the First Part of the Image Creation Process

14 Sep

You have just bought your new bright shiny camera and you are sure that it is just the thing that will help you create better images. You’re shooting JPG with the camera’s automatic program modes, but you’re not getting the results you wanted. You keep upgrading your cameras thinking that will do the trick, only to find that the quality of your imagery isn’t getting any better. What’s going on?

Lightroom Banner - Don’t Fear Photo Editing - Shooting is Only the First Part of the Image Creation Process

You may be missing an important part of digital photography, post-processing, with a state of the art processing program like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop.

Before and after

Iceland Light Before - Don’t Fear Photo Editing - Shooting is Only the First Part of the Image Creation Process

This image of a lighthouse in Iceland was taken on a bright yet overcast day. In a matter of moments with the help of Lightroom, it became a favorite.

Iceland Light After - Don’t Fear Photo Editing - Shooting is Only the First Part of the Image Creation Process

The role of post-processing in photography is not new

There are several integral parts to digital photography. The technical and creative aspect of using your camera, and the technical and creative application of post-processing your images. Each part is equally important and when all the pieces are put together, that’s when the magic starts to happen.

Unfortunately, many people are still thinking about the days of film when you took it to a lab and the post-processing was done for you. You never had to think twice about how the image was processed. Did you ever notice that different labs gave you different results? That’s because of their level of post-processing.

Now it’s time for you to understand the importance of post-processing if you are going to create better imagery. It will take some time and some dedication to learn, but it will improve your photography by ten-fold.

The first step – shooting with post-processing in mind

First of all, start shooting in RAW format and stop letting the camera make the decisions for you. When you shoot JPG format, it will automatically process your images in camera, even though you may even not be aware of it.

Have you ever taken a JPG and a RAW image and compared the two photographs? The JPG may appear bright and saturated and the RAW file looks flat. That’s because the JPG has been processed by the camera and the RAW file is an unprocessed digital negative.

That RAW file is ready for you to make your own creative adjustments and apply your photographic vision in Lightroom or Photoshop. Only then can you start to recreate that scene you saw when you first took the image.

What kind of post-processing decisions will the camera make for your JPGs? Depending on your camera, it can automatically increase saturation, sharpness, and contrast, but it will also compress your image. There are settings in your camera where you can make blanket adjustments for every JPG (Picture Styles), however, the camera is still making the decisions for you. That gives you zero creative control.

Raw format gives you control

RAW files contain more information and will allow you to have a wider range of tones (called dynamic range) to work with when you bring your images into Lightroom or Photoshop. When shooting in the JPEG format, image information is compressed and lost forever. In a RAW file, no information is compressed and you’re able to produce higher quality images while correcting problem areas that would be unrecoverable if shot in the JPEG format.

The Histogram

Once you start shooting in RAW, it’s very important to be conscious of the histogram. You can bring up the histogram on your Live View shooting screen or after you have taken the shot in your image review screen. Check your camera’s manual for the location of the histogram.

Note: If you shoot with a mirrorless camera you may be able to see the histogram on the screen before you shoot. Check your settings this is very handy.

Why is the histogram important for your photographic success?

If used correctly while shooting, the histogram will give you the information you need to know to bring up the shadows or bring down the highlights and pop out exposure and detail in an image.

The histogram shows you the brightness of a scene and it can be measured as you are shooting, or after you have captured the image. When look at the histogram and see the bulk of the graph pushing towards the right, this means you have an image that may be overexposed (or a really light toned subject).

Overexposed - Don’t Fear Photo Post-Processing - Shooting is Only the First Part of the Image Creation Process

If the data is mostly on the left of the graph, it’s an image that might be underexposed.

Underexposed - Don’t Fear Photo Post-Processing - Shooting is Only the First Part of the Image Creation Process

If the graph spikes on either the left or right “wall” of the histogram, that means that “clipping” has occurred. Clipping happens when you have areas in your photo with no information as a result of over or underexposure. When an area has no information, it is either pure white or pure black which is often referred to “blown out”.

Generally, it is undesirable to have large areas of your image that have highlights or shadows clipping. See the image below. The red areas show highlight clipping, and the blue areas show shadow clipping.

Clipping - Don’t Fear Photo Post-Processing - Shooting is Only the First Part of the Image Creation Process

Because of the limited dynamic range of a camera’s sensor, the area registering as clipped usually leaves the image with no information in the shadows or highlights. A spike touching the left edge of the histogram means that there is shadow clipping. A spike touching the right edge of the histogram means that there are highlights clipping.

What is possible with post-processing?

Many photographers have frustrating results with their images because they don’t embrace digital editing and post-processing. They are doing everything right when they shoot and are good at composition. They know how to expose correctly for the scene, but don’t know where to go with the image once they get home.

For example, maybe they are in a high contrast area and have taken an image with the histogram in mind. Then they open the image on-screen and throw it out because it looks over or underexposed. They don’t know what the post-processing possibilities are even though they may have a viable image. This is where they are missing a large part of the potential in their digital photography post-processing.

Here’s a great example. This image was taken in the Eastern Sierra in California.

Alabama Hills Before - Don’t Fear Photo Post-Processing - Shooting is Only the First Part of the Image Creation Process

It is obvious that the shadows are way underexposed and it creates an interesting silhouette. But, if you look at the histogram, you can see there is space on the left side of the graph which represents the shadows. This means there is more information there, and a good possibility of bringing up the shadows to create a whole different image.

Here is the result after brightening shadows in Lightroom. This adjustment took just seconds and creates a whole new scene.

Alabama Hills After - Don’t Fear Photo Post-Processing - Shooting is Only the First Part of the Image Creation Process

Start with Lightroom

Almost every image needs post-processing. Some people think that’s “cheating”. It’s not, it’s all part of the digital artistic process.

With post-processing, you can create the image you saw when you photographed the scene. Your eyes have the capability of seeing a wider range of light and color than your camera does, so the images need help in post-processing to duplicate the full range of light and shadows. The problem with a lot of beginners, is they tend to oversaturate or over-sharpen an image. So this talent comes with time and practice, practice, practice.

Once you have mastered the basics, there is a lot more you will be able to do with your digital post-processing that will add drama and interest to your photos. The above image of Bridal Veil Falls in Yosemite looks rather flat in the RAW version (left). Once you add saturation, sharpening, and a vignette to the whole picture it starts to pop. Then you can enhance the brightest areas by “painting with light”, and it now becomes a much more interesting image.

Start your post-processing journey with a full featured program like Adobe Lightroom. It is the standard in the industry for professionals, but it is also user-friendly for beginners and helps with both post-processing and image organization. Just be sure that your computer has enough memory and RAM to run these full featured programs. Check the requirements at

Check out our guide to LR:  The dPS Ultimate Guide to Getting Started in Lightroom for Beginners

Nothing is more satisfying than when you have a catalog of 30,000 images and you’re able to find your favorites in literally seconds by entering a few keywords and star ratings. Take some time to set it up, add a class or two, and you’ll be up and running!


Photo editing or post-processing is an integral part of the digital photography puzzle. Don’t think that you can skip this part and come away with satisfying images. It’s just as important to learn photo editing as it is to learn the basic functions of your camera. Only then, will you be able to bring that intentional photographic vision into post-processing and create great images

How are you going to start your post-processing journey? Is shooting in RAW and learning Lightroom in your future? Please share your thoughts with me on this subject.

The post Don’t Fear Photo Post-Processing – Shooting is Only the First Part of the Image Creation Process by Holly Higbee-Jansen appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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3 Ways Luminar May Cure Some of Your Post-Processing Headaches

13 Sep

Lately, I’ve been playing around with Luminar by Macphun. I’ve found that this program reduces the number of my editing headaches. I’ll share a bit of my experience with it, and you can see if it can help solve some of your headaches or challenges as well.

Processing is a chore

I’m the impatient type; I hate sitting down. I spend my life trying to find ways to keep moving and being active. I love to create and build and explore. Sitting down to edit photographs is a true chore. You all know a photographer like me. They spend their time carefully composing, adjusting lighting, and building the image in the camera, so they don’t have to spend hours editing their images.

Let’s be clear I’m not criticizing those who build images using several layers and masks. Some of my favorite photographers are editing masters, and I truly appreciate the skills they use to create their work. It’s incredible. But it’s not me. Editing is a headache for me. I hate it, but I’m too possessive of my work to ever considering outsourcing my post-processing. So anything that reduces the time I spend behind a computer is a bonus for me.

Lately, I’ve been playing around with Luminar by Macphun. I’ve found that this program reduces the number of my editing headaches.

I used the presets in Luminar to help process this image. I’ve been on an abstract kick lately and the blue of this painted wall drew me to photograph all the cracks in the paint.

Luminar is very quick to use. The program works as a stand-alone application, or you can install and use it as a plug-in for Lightroom and Photoshop. I chose to edit using Luminar as the standalone version. So here are three of my editing headaches that Luminar helped reduce.

1) Finding a starting point for processing the image

Often we photographers shoot with a finished look in mind. We know we are going to convert an image to black and white or we want to create a luminous light filled look, and we shoot accordingly. However other times we struggle to picture the finished image. We can’t figure out a starting point for processing the photo. That’s where presets come in.

You can use presets as an idea bank that helps to get the creative juices flowing. The only issue is viewing these presets and finding the right starting point. In Luminar the presets are large, and you can easily scroll through each look using the slider bar. The display of presets is easily accessible at the bottom of the screen. You can click through several different looks and return to the one you like.

3 Ways Macphun's Luminar Cures Some of My Post-Processing Headaches

Here you can see the open screen and all of the presets are displayed at the bottom.

The other bonus to this method is the slider located on each preset. If the look is just a little too strong for your liking, it’s easy to dial it back. You can adjust how strongly each preset affects the image. For someone like me who tends only to make global adjustments to images, these types of features are really useful. I am able to select a preset then gently adjust the image to my liking.

Luminar helps with ideas and possibilities

3 Ways Macphun's Luminar Cures Some of My Post-Processing Headaches

This is the image I created in Lightroom. The color version is more like the picture I had in my head but when I saw the preset in Luminar it sparked some creativity.

The image you see below was pretty much a quick snap on my way out the door. I was in Cuba and waiting for my aunt to get ready before we caught the bus. I had no vision for the shot other than a quick sighting of something interesting. So when I returned home, I struggled with what to do.

I would never have thought of doing a black and white conversion for this image if it were not for one of the presets in Luminar. A headache solved, the program gave me an idea. I used the preset as a base and tweaked the image slightly. In total it took me about five minutes to edit the image.

3 Ways Macphun's Luminar Cures Some of My Post-Processing Headaches

I would never have thought of processing the image in black and white if not for the presets provided by Luminar.

2) Soooo many buttons to manage and remember

For those of us who want to edit images quickly, it’s difficult to remember all those keyboard shortcuts, and it’s time-consuming to keep checking the cheat sheet by our desks.

In Luminar, the interface is very simple, and it’s quick to use with just a few simple buttons. It’s easy to crop, compare, and apply a brush or a gradient to your work. It’s easy to make both global and more isolated adjustments quickly and effectively.

3 Ways Macphun's Luminar Cures Some of My Post-Processing Headaches

As you can see I quickly added a layer to this image. I wanted to use the brush to apply some very specific adjustments just to some areas of the image. Notice the clean interface.

Here you see the simplified interface with some of the options hidden (presets and histogram). It is a workspace called Quick & Awesome which you can select from the pull-down menu.

3) Layers can get complicated and confusing

Managing layers and masks can be confusing in Photoshop and for some of it’s a real headache. In Luminar, the layers are easy to access and utilize.

3 Ways Macphun's Luminar Cures Some of My Post-Processing Headaches

You can add filters to an image by creating another layer or apply them directly to the image. I used the filters and brushed them into the image on separate layers.

Pushing the plus (+) button adds a layer quickly in Luminar. The layers can be used to overlay a second image, like a texture or to apply filters, brushes, etc. It’s easy to apply a preset to an image, globally. Then if you want to apply a preset to just a few areas of an image you can also create another layer and brush the preset onto specific areas of the image.

To illustrate this point, I’ve quickly applied a black and white preset to an image using the brush tool. You can see how quick and easy it is to make very specific adjustments to an image by painting in the preset as a layer mask, similar to tools like Adobe Photoshop. However, Luminar can take things even one step further. Filters themselves can also be applied in the same manner. To do this, simply click on the brush tool, then click on the title bar of a filter (not a layer). When you begin painting in the mask, you’ll see a small mask preview thumbnail appears in the title bar. After creating the mask, adjust the filter sliders as desired to apply the effect to the mask. Once you get the hang of filter masks, you’ll find it’s an extremely efficient way to make selective edits to your photos.

Filters themselves can also be applied in the same manner. To do this, simply click on the brush tool, then click on the title bar of a filter (not a layer). When you begin painting in the mask, you’ll see a small mask preview thumbnail appears in the title bar. After creating the mask, adjust the filter sliders as desired to apply the effect to the mask. Once you get the hang of filter masks, you’ll find it’s an extremely efficient way to make selective edits to your photos.

Managing layers and masks can be confusing in Photoshop and for some of it’s a real headache. In Luminar, the layers are easy to access and utilize.

I really like how the program displays all the masks and layers I’ve created. I found it easy to manage.

In conclusion

For some of us, editing is a chore. It depends on your personality and your style. Post-processing is an essential part of the photographic process, but it doesn’t have to ruin your love of photography.

Many of the features in Luminar help to alleviate those editing headaches from which many of us suffer. The program simplifies complicated processes and allows users to create beautiful images in a fairly short amount of time.

Managing layers and masks can be confusing in Photoshop and for some of it’s a real headache. In Luminar, the layers are easy to access and utilize.

Here’s a finished image I completed using Luminar.

The Mac version of Luminar is available for a free trial or purchase here.. If you’re on a PC, download a free public beta version of Luminar for Windows here.

Disclaimer: Macphun is a dPS advertising partner.

The post 3 Ways Luminar May Cure Some of Your Post-Processing Headaches by Erin Fitzgibbon appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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4 Tips for Post-Processing Images on the Road

28 Jun

In this article I will share some of my tips for post-processing your images on the road or while traveling. That way you can share images and keep up on social media. Let’s see why that’s important.

Social media pressures

Much can be said about social media and its influence on photography. But the hard truth is that for many of us we live under a constant pressure to regularly release new content on various platforms, such as Instagram. Studies show that posting an average of one image per day is what will result in the highest engagement amongst current (and new) followers.

One can say that social media has become just as much about documenting as about presenting your finest work. But still, you do want to maintain a certain quality of your images.

Tips for Post-Processing Images on the Road

An image I processed from the back of our rented caravan on Iceland

In this article, I’ll share several tips on how you can keep up with the pressure of posting new content while being on the road and how you can make sure that the images you post during that period are still of a quality that reflects positively on your overall gallery.

Why Post on the Road

Before we get into the tips on how you can process your images on the road, let’s quickly look at why you want to keep posting new images when you’re traveling.

As I mentioned above, studies show that posting an average of one image per day is what will bring the highest engagement amongst current and new followers. If social media is a big part of your marketing strategy then you should attempt to maintain this average. Of course, there’s no big harm in missing a day or two every now and then but if you’re absent for a week, or even more, you quickly loose engagement with your followers.

Since most photographers follow a lot of people on social media (both friends and people who inspire them), it won’t take much to forget about you and your work, making it harder to regain their engagement on your images.

Tips for Post-Processing Images on the Road

I chose to quickly process this in Lightroom to share something on my Facebook page related to my current travels.

So, if you’re traveling for a week or longer, it’s a good idea to keep posting new content as often as you can in order not to lose too much engagement.

4 Tips for Post-Processing on the Road

The four tips I’ll be sharing will require that you have access to a laptop (or computer) with your preferred editing tool installed. Normally, when I travel I tend to always bring my laptop (except for shorter trips) so that I can quickly process some images on the road and document my current travels.

That being said, the images that I process on the road rarely become portfolio worthy shots and I will go back and reprocess them later on when I’m back at my desk and have access to the equipment I prefer working with.

#1 – Calibrate your Monitor

It’s most likely that your processing images on a laptop when you’re on the road. If you’re a serious photographer and you spend time fine tuning your images it’s also likely that at some point you’ve calibrated the monitor on which you’re working regularly. (If you haven’t calibrated your monitor before I strongly recommend investing in a tool such as Spyder 5 Elite and calibrating ASAP!)

Tips for Post-Processing Images on the Road

I use the Spyder 4 Elite to calibrate both my monitor and laptop (also my iPad when I had one).

However, it’s not only your main monitor that should be calibrated. If you spend time processing images on your laptop as well, it’s equally important that it is calibrated too. You don’t want to process an image and then later realize that the colors are all off, right?

#2 – Find the Time

Time is often limited when you’re on the road as most of the day is either spent traveling, exploring, scouting or photographing. Still, I recommend trying to find the time to process at least one image during the day. This could be while you’re having lunch at a cafeteria or even quickly before going to sleep.

When processing images on the road it’s not crucial to focus on the details. Instead, spend a few minutes in a software such as Adobe Lightroom and adjust the highlights, contrast, and white balance. Often, you don’t need to make big adjustments for an image to look okay.

Tips for Post-Processing Images on the Road

A quick edit done in Lightroom to show the amazing light we had that particular evening. I later reprocessed this image to better suit my style.

If you’re pressured to upload images on the road (this could even due to a client request) it’s better to have something to put out, and then reprocess it when you’re back home.

#3 – Find Balanced Light

If you’re like me and would rather spend a night in a tent or campervan than a hotel, finding a place to process your images isn’t always the easiest. Most places outside are challenging due to harsh light reflecting on your laptop, making it difficult to properly see how the adjustments are applying on the image.

Try looking for a shadowy area to work in, or if you can’t find one, make your own. This may sound (and look) stupid but using a jacket or something similar to cover yourself and the laptop will make it easier to view the screen and see how you’re processing the image.

#4 – Use Presets

To be quite honest, presets are something I very rarely use. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever used them more than a handful of times. However, I do see the value of them when you need to quickly get content out and you have a certain style to your images.

Tips for Post-Processing Images on the Road

I used the dPS LR presets to process this image from Germany.

Presets are the quickest way to process your images and in many cases, they do a good job. Just make sure that the particular preset works well for the image you’re working on, and if needed, make some minor adjustments.

Last Words

As I’ve mentioned several times in this article, and I want to end with saying, that processing on the road should only be done in order to continuously upload new content on social media either to document, engage or to satisfy a client. The images you sell or include in your portfolio should be reprocessed, as you’ll most likely notice a few errors when you return back home and have more than a few minutes to process the image.

Love it or hate it but this is the world that we (or at least many of us) live in today! How do you work on the road? Do you have any other post-processing tips for when you’re away from home? Please share in the comments below.

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Overview of the Intuos Pro Wacom Tablet and the MobileStudio Pro for Post-Processing

08 Jun

Around 15 years ago we were visiting my brother-in-law and his family. While there I saw his computer and it had this strange flat thing with a pen on the desk. I asked my husband what it was and he said it was a Wacom Tablet. You use the pen on the flat part, the tablet, and it works just like a pen, or pencil. I said I wanted one, he said I didn’t need one.

So I waited, and one day while trying to do fine detail work in Photoshop and screaming because the mouse wouldn’t do what I wanted, I finally said: “I’m getting one”. In 2011 I got my first Wacom Tablet, the Intuos 4. I haven’t looked back and now consider it a vital part of my photography gear.

wacom tablet the Intuos Pro

The Intuos Pro from above, image courtesy Wacom Australia.

What is a Wacom Tablet?

Wacom Tablets come as two pieces, the tablet, and the pen. The tablet sits flat on your desk and you use it like a piece of paper. So when you put the pen, or stylus, on it the tablet communicates with the computer.

The pen is similar to a mouse in that as you move it over the tablet, the cursor onscreen follows. The active part of the tablet covers the whole screen, but unlike a mouse, you have to lift the pen from the surface to move the cursor. When you want to click on something you just touch the pen to the surface of the tablet.

What do you use it for?

Have you ever considered how good it would be to be able to draw on your computer like you can on a sketch pad? The Wacom Tablets allow you to do that. The pen becomes your drawing instrument and the tablet part your paper or sketch book.

wacom tablets Intuos Pro medium

The Wacom Intuos Pro medium, image courtesy Wacom Australia.

Getting starting using a tablet

There is no doubt that a lot of people have trouble using a tablet when they first start. The pen can be a hard concept to get your head around. It does not work the same way a mouse does. It works more like a pen, and you need to think of the tablet like a piece of paper. When you want to move from one part to another you lift the pen up and move it. The pen talks to the tablet and knows where you are going.

Getting used to it

After you have been using a tablet for a while it becomes second nature. You just move instinctively with it, and in many ways, more so than with a mouse because pens have been around a lot longer.

Wacom tablet

The Wacom Intuos Pro from the side, image courtesy Wacom Australia.

The Wacom Intuos Pro Tablet

After having the Intuos 4 for a few years I decided that it was time to get a slightly bigger one, and I opted for the Intuos Pro Medium. It is larger than my previous one but has some options which were not available with the older model.

The Pro series allows you to use the tablet wirelessly. Which is really good for people who don’t have a permanent place for it and what to move it around. You have the choice of having it sit on your desk plugged in, or if you want to move it you can remove the plug and not have to worry about connecting it. Mine sits permanently on my desk and so I tend to keep it plugged in.

The tablet part can also be a touchpad. So if you find you are used to using your fingers to move around on the computer then the touch pad area may suit you. This feature certainly helps people that use your computer and don’t know how to use the pen. The touchpad can easily be turned on and off as you want it. The top button on the tablet is set as the default switch for the touchpad feature.

There is also a stand that holds the pen when you aren’t using it. In the bottom of the stand, you will find a storage area for more nibs for the pen. You can purchase them separately, many options are available or both the stand and extra nibs.

I have the older model of the Intuos Pro. The new updated version includes Bluetooth. The pen that comes with it now, the Pro Pen 2, has over 8192 levels of sensitivity with pressure and tilt response. The one I have only has 2148 level of pressure sensitivity. The tablet part is also much thinner on the newer model.

The Wacom Intuos Pro Medium retails for $ 349 at B&H, or you can shop for it on as well.


St. Kilda Pier long exposure taken at sunrise and processed with my Wacom Intuos Pro.

Using the Intuos Pro Pen

The Intuos Pro comes with a lot of default settings, but you can change them so the tablet and pen will work the way you want. There are four buttons on the pen. Clicking the nib is like doing a regular left-click. I have changed the settings on my pen, so the two buttons on the side now do a right-click (the bottom one) and middle-click (The scroll wheel on a PC mouse is also a button you can click. If you middle-click a link it will open it in a new tab. If you middle-click a tab it will close. It is very handy, and one I use a lot.). The one at the top of the pen has the factory default setting of erasing, but I’ve changed mine to double-click.

You can change how fast to double-click, or how much pressure you can use. It is all there for you to set up exactly how you want. It is good to play around with it so you can try different things. As you get used to using it you may find that you want to change other things as well.

I’ve been using a tablet for years now and when I purchased the Intuos Pro I decided I would use it for everything, so I threw away my mouse. I now use my tablet as my mouse whether I am processing or not. I have gotten very used to typing with the pen stuck between my thumb and hand. In fact, I almost find it difficult to type if it isn’t there. It has become like an extension of my hand and I will often find myself in the kitchen making a coffee with it still attached.


This image of the Seafarers Bridge has lots of fiddly bits and the Intuos Pro just makes it much easier to edit.

My family don’t like it because they can’t use my computer with it. I have a mouse in a drawer for them now.

Why use a tablet and pen?

If you get frustrated by trying to do details with a mouse, then the Intuos Pro could be exactly what you need. A tablet and pen allow you to do fine detail work that you can’t do with a mouse or your finger unless you are really good with them. A mouse frustrating for me and would shout a lot, which, in the end, was why my husband agreed that I needed a tablet. I haven’t looked back. Now with the pen, I can trace around curved lines, or get into small spots to change things easily. I couldn’t live without a tablet and pen anymore.

Wacom come into their own for post-processing work on the computer. Whether you are using Photoshop or Illustrator, or another program where you require a lot of control over what you are doing, you will find the tablet is perfect.



A cityscape of Melbourne one of many images that I have used the Intuos Pro to edit.

Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13 512GB

The Mobile Studio Pro another tablet style unit from Wacom except it looks more like what we have come to expect from a tablet. It has a screen and you can use it independently from your computer. It is a computer itself, and you can run Windows on it as well as Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. This model has Wi-Fi and works just like a regular tablet.

wacom tablet

You can use it as a tablet or as a laptop, although you would have to get an external keyboard if you don’t like the keyboard on the screen.

With Bluetooth capabilities you can pair other devices with it easily as well. So getting a Bluetooth keyboard is a really good option, especially the one by Microsoft that folds in half and is easy to carry around.

wacom tablet

Taking the MobileStudio Pro out for coffee and a bagel.

It doesn’t have the usual ports for connecting devices and uses USB-C. That will soon become the standard, but for now, you will not be able to connect any others to it. You can get adaptors for USB > USB-C.

Pros and cons

PRO: Without a doubt, the best thing about this particular model is that it is exactly like drawing in a sketchbook. You are working straight onto your image. It is great to be able to move it around and work the angle that is needed for your image. Your hand can get in the way sometimes, so being able to turn it is a definite bonus.


A long exposure of the Seafarers Bridge in Melbourne. The MobileStudio Pro was fantastic for processing this image.

PRO and CON: It does have touchscreen capabilities, and that can be great for browsing the internet and using other programs. However, for processing images with the pen it was very frustrating with the touchscreen on. You put your hand somewhere and then something else would go off, or get deleted. In the end I turned the touchscreen feature off when I was processing the image, but turned it back on when I was doing everything else.


Getting out of the house to process an image is such a luxury, the MobileStudio Pro makes it to easy, it even goes well with a latte.

CON: You do have to think a bit differently when using a tablet, especially if you are used to using keyboard shortcuts. I use them all the time, so when working on an image I have one hand on the keyboard, and the pen in the other. You have to find other ways of doing delete, save, etc. I was told by Wacom Australia that you can set up shortcuts on the tablet. For the short amount of time that I had the MobileStudio tablet, I didn’t worry about it, but it’s good to know. As previously stated, you are also able to use an external Bluetooth keyboard if you wish.


The final image.

PRO: The Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13 512GB is perfect for anyone that travels a lot and wants to work on their images on the go. You can take it anywhere and with a battery life of 4-6 hours, you have plenty of time to do what you need. I took it with me when I met friends for coffee so I could work if they were late. It’s small, isn’t very heavy, and will fit anywhere most laptops do. I also used it to edit images while I was watching TV.

CON: It does come with a hefty price tag as it retails for $ 2499 at B&H (with the 512gb hard drive, smaller ones are available for less as well – 256gb is $ 1999 and 128gb is $ 1799). If you want the larger 15″ model, then you will need to pay an extra $ 500.


One of the first images that I edited using the MobileStudio Pro.

Different tablets available

Wacom offers a wide range of tablets so you can choose from a small one, up to very large ones. Most of them work as mentioned here. They aren’t as expensive as you may think (they start at about $ 199 for a small one) so if you want to try one out you should be able to find one that fits within your budget.

The new ones have screens built-in and work like similar to other tablets (like an iPad). You use the pen directly on the screen so you can see exactly what is happening to your image real-time. They are a lot more expensive, but if you really want to get serious it could be just what you need.

There is another version for those that want to process on the go. So if you are traveling a lot, you can use it as your laptop and for processing your photos. There are also much bigger ones that sit on your desk and work in a similar way.

Whatever level you are at, they have a tablet for you.

Finishing up

If you are serious about your photography, or more so if you are serious about editing your photos, then a Wacom Tablet is an essential tools that can help you to make fantastic images. They have a massive range available, so you will have to decide which one is right for you.

The post Overview of the Intuos Pro Wacom Tablet and the MobileStudio Pro for Post-Processing by Leanne Cole appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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How to do Post-Processing of Focus Stacked Images

22 May

Let me take you on a short walk through Lightroom and Photoshop. There are relatively few steps required to process focus stacked images. In a previous article (How to Photograph the Images Needed For Focus Stacking), I went through what I think you will find is the best and easiest way to take the required photographs.

focus stacked image

My Melbourne tea cup

This image is acceptably in focus from the front to the back. You can only achieve this sort of large depth of field by taking, and computationally combining, several photographs. You can work through the image, taking photographs which are focused on different points, then combine those photographs with software. Photoshop does the job well, but there are also other specialized programs for doing focus stacked images. Zerene Stacker and Helicon Focus are the ones which seem to be mentioned most often.

I hoped that the tea cup made a bright, attractive image, and gave a clear illustration. However, it is hardly a great photograph, is it? Being a little more aspirational, I have mostly used this technique to produce images of palm leaves. It would really be great if you could find your own project, your personal muse to apply this technique.

focus stacked image

Palm leaf

I confess that I am not always the most patient person when it comes to processing. Every now and then, I have spent hours on one image, but I generally like to get things done quickly. However, with focus stacked images, working in Lightroom, then Photoshop, I actually rather enjoy the process. I think part of the reason for that is that I am happy with the final product, but it is also quite a pleasant, simple routine, which can be almost relaxing.

Stage One – Lightroom

One of the joys of photography, and computers too is that there is often more than one way of doing things. This is my approach, it is probably not the only approach, but it works well.

Firstly, I import the RAW files into Lightroom.

focus stacked image

Import to Lightroom

The images to be focus stacked

The images below have not been processed, just converted to jpegs. I thought you should have some idea what I started with, and that it might be helpful for you to see where each individual shot was focused.

focus stacked image

Image #1

The next shot was focused on the other side of the frame, on the left. In the actual situation of taking the photographs, it was easy to see which part of the leaf was furthest from the camera, and which was just a little closer.

focus stacked image

Image #2

This is moving forward, with focus along the left edge of the leaf.

focus stacked image

Image #3

If you are photographing a subject which has a distinct edge, like this leaf, something running from the back to the front of the object, it can be very useful. It makes focusing easier, and it gives you something which you can work along in equal increments.

focus stacked image

Image #4

For the next shot, I moved to the other side of the leaf.

You may notice that I like to be extra careful to make sure that the front part of the photograph, where the viewer’s eye will go first, is extra sharp.

focus stacked image

Image #5

Three shots cover the front section at slightly different depths.

focus stacked image

Image #6

Lightroom adjustments

For these shots, I knew what my goal is for the final image. To that end, I did a modest amount of processing, using only the Basic panel in Lightroom. I certainly would not do anything like lens corrections, or transformations, or local adjustments – nothing beyond the basics, only global adjustments. The real work is going to be done by Photoshop, and we should give it the best possible chance to do its job.

It might be leaves, your favorite possessions, or even be a landscape (I would love to try and make a focus stacked portrait, a tight portrait with focus from front to back) the point is that your project will require your own individual processing. This is what I did for the highly-textured leaves.

focus stacked image

Lightroom settings

This processing revealed a few details and gave the images a little more bite or edge. That seemed to work well, and move towards what I had in mind for the final image. I then synchronized all settings in Lightroom.

focus stacked image

So far so good?

With all the images selected, in this case just six, press G and then CTRL/CMD + A. You can then move to the second stage, by going to Photo > Edit in > Open as layers in Photoshop.

focus stacked

Select Photo > Edit In > Open as Layers in Photoshop

Stage Two – Photoshop

You may well have Photoshop set up in your own individual way. This is what you should see in the Layers panel once your images are opened.

focus stacked image

The first step in Photoshop is to select all the layers. My habit is to do this by clicking on the top layer, holding down shift and clicking on the bottom layer.

focus stacked image - layers selected

All layers, all six images, selected.

Another confession? There is a part of me which would like to make this sound much more difficult, at least a little bit cleverer. There would then be more chance of you being impressed. However, the next two steps are too easy.

Align the images

Because the point of focus has moved through the image, the size of the object in the frame will have shifted slightly. But, Photoshop can handle this for you.

focus stacked image

Edit > Auto-Align Layers has always worked perfectly for me.

You could choose to go to great lengths to resize the images by hand, making the actual object the same size in each image, being careful to align parts of the subject in each of the photographs. I have never found it necessary, and any extra steps to achieve alignment, would probably be best covered by a video. For the moment, I am happy that Photoshop has never let me down using Auto-Align Layers.

focus stacked image - auto-align layers

The auto-align layers dialog box

Under the Projection area, I have found that Auto works perfectly well.

For the Lens Correction section, I have found it best to uncheck Vignette Removal and Geometric Distortion (as shown above). Those choices gave me a couple of strange results and did not provide any discernible benefit. I like to think that the secret for this smooth progress is having taken good images in the first place. Push OK, and Photoshop does its thing and does it very well.

Of course, you are welcome to try whatever settings you like. In fact, I would very much encourage you to experiment, have a play! However, the old KIS acronym, of Keeping It Simple, seems to work well enough.

Blend the layers

Next, go to Edit > Auto-Blend Layers. I do wish I could make this sound more difficult.

focus stacked image

Auto-Blend Layers…

As I am sure you will realize, you should choose the Stack Images option in the Auto-Blend Layer dialog box that pops up. With the images I have been feeding to Photoshop, I have chosen to put a check mark next to Seamless Tones and Colors.

But, if that does not produce a result you are happy with, it costs you very little time to experiment. This is what has worked well for me. The images which you have loaded into Photoshop may have been created in different circumstances to mine, and your desired final image may be very different too. The important thing is that the main steps will be the same.

focus stacked image

Auto-Blend Layers dialog box.

Below, you can see the layer masks which Photoshop has created. On a layer mask white reveals, so the white areas are where Photoshop has determined that the focus is good. The white areas are the parts that are allowed to come through and contribute to the final image. In this example, looking at the masking of the layers, you can see the focus stepping forward.

focus stacked image

I think the masks are quite interesting, pretty even.

Merge layers

Finally, right click on any layer and choose either of the Merge commands.

focus stacked image

Merge the layers.

What you see now, in your main Photoshop window, is your single, focus stacked image.

focus stacked image

Final focus stacked image result!

You might see the marching ants indicating a selection by Photoshop of part of the image. My advice is simple. It seems random in its placement, I have never found it helpful, so just ignore it.

When closing the image in Photoshop, simply click save, and you will find a file added to your Lightroom library. In this example, where there were six files to start with, there are now seven (the new focus stacked image has been added).

This extra file will be in TIFF or PSD format (whatever you have setup in your LR preferences).

That is just about it. Stages Two and Three, fulfill our initial brief. You have produced a focus stacked image. All that remains is to export the image from Lightroom.

However, I think you might find it a little unsatisfactory to leave the process at that point, to walk away with the job not completely finished. I think you might want to see what happened next.

Stage three – final processing

I chose to so some further processing to the TIFF file in Lightroom. Using the Adjustment brush I added some positive clarity, +20, on to the top section of the image. By pushing the ‘O’ key, you can see the red mask where painting has been applied.

focus stacked image - location adjustments

The red area is where a local adjustment has been applied of +20 Clarity.

I added a graduated filter with the exposure pulled down 2 stops to the left side of the image.

focus stacked image

A Graduated filter of -2 Exposure was added to the left side of the image.

Another was added to the bottom too, as I really like the black to be unquestionably pure black.

focus stacked image

Another Graduated filter with -2 Exposure was added to the bottom of the image.

I then took that image back into Photoshop, where I used the bucket to fill some more bits of black around the bottom left corner of the leaf.

Then I spot retouched some bits of nature which were a bit too real. In particular, I think any white spots are very distracting. Then I turned to one of my long-term favorites, Nik’s Silver Efex Pro.

focus stacked image

Sadly, it seems likely that Google is going down the route which it has gone down many times before. Having purchased the German company Nik Software a few years back, it seems it is now allowing the software to die through lack of attention. However, I still like the results I get from Silver Efex Pro and still use it. In this case, I applied the High Structure – Smooth preset.

I then cropped the into a square. The final result is below.

focus stacked image

Final focus stacked image.


I hope the first article helped you take photographs for focus stacking and this one helps you with the processing. Most of all, I hope that you might have a go at this. I hope you do not mind me repeating the same point, it would be great if you could find your own project and apply these techniques. For me, that is a major reason to write these articles.

Please share your questions, comments and focus stacked images in the section below.

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Post-Processing: The Final Phase of Studio Product Photography

22 Apr

For the final installation of this series we will be exploring the third and final cog to the product photography studio. We will discuss the system that will allow you to catalog and edit your images to get them web ready in a hurry. For this we are going to deploy Lightroom. I am sure that there are other programs that can be inserted here since we are only doing some minor adjustments and renaming. If you have Lightroom fire it up and follow along.


I like to shoot tethered whenever I work in studio for a few reasons. The first being that I can see the image I just shot on a large monitor. I can zoom in and see details that are difficult to get to on the back of a camera screen. The second reason is that I have all the shots automatically sorted into the correct folders.


To get started with tethering in Lightroom go to File > Tethered Capture > Start Tether Capture.

Studio product photography processing 01

From there you will enter the tethered settings. I always put the product name as the session name, in this case “Stan Lee” since I am shooting action figures. Next is the naming, I let the filename remain the part number (or product name) but add a number sequence to the end. You can do whatever works for you to differentiate the shots.

Next choose the location where you want Lightroom to store your images. In this case I am going to have all of the shots go into the folder for my client “XYZ” so I make a folder called “XYZ Product Images”. Lastly add the metadata information, in this case my contact and copyright information. Then hit OK.

Studio product photography processing 02

Next you will get a little display that you can position anywhere on your Lightroom screen, I like to put it up at the top. It shows that the camera is connected.

*TIP* If nothing is showing up check that you camera is turned on and that the cable is connected. If that fails, reboot your camera, reboot Lightroom and remove and reconnect the cable. This usually clears up 99% of tether issues. Below the camera make is the part number and the rest of your camera settings.

Studio product photography processing 03

(You can read all about my camera setting on my other DPS article here; Tips for Fast and Effective Studio Product Photography. Now that you have your tether capture all setup you can begin taking photos.

Studio product photography processing 04


For this shoot my client wants two angles of this Stan Lee action figure. So I use our basic lighting setup (discussed in this article; Equipment Tips for Quick and Efficient Studio Product Photography) and take the first shot.

Let’s take a look at this shot in Lightroom Develop module. Hit the D key to enter the develop module, or click Develop at the top of Lightroom. Make sure your clipping detection is turned on by hitting the J key.

Studio product photography processing 05

What I am trying to accomplish here is to blow out the background. If it were blown out we would be showing red (clipped) in Lightroom. We aren’t seeing that, which means I need to decrease the shutter speed to let in more light. Let’s try 1/3 of a stop for a bit more additional light and shoot again.

Studio product photography processing 06

Set the exposure

Now we are cooking with fire. All of our subsequent shots will be dialled in making less work. It is not necessary to have the entire background clipping. In fact, for some subjects it will likely mean you have lost a ton of contrast in the image. This amount of red is okay for this subject.

Keep in mind white and reflective products will become overexposed must sooner than darker ones, so set your exposure accordingly. Even if you have zero red on the background it is okay, there Lightroom tools that will make quick work of the background. But remember that every bit of extra work you do later in Lightroom costs time so try to get it right in camera.

*TIP* With this product photography studio setup it is so easy to get many product angles in such a short amount of time. It’s always wiser to shoot extra angles now rather than have a client ask for others later. Now that we have four angles of Stan Lee let’s switch to the next product.

Change the product

Studio product photography processing 07

Click the little gear icon on the tether tool which will bring up the Tether Capture Settings and you can change your session name to the new product number, in this case, “Wookiee”. Hit the tab key twice, because, as you can see the sequence number is retained from the last shot and it reads shot number 5. Hit the number 1 key and then hit OK or Enter.

You are now setup to take the next shot and all of these new images will go into the “Wookie” folder but stay in the main project for XYZ Products.

Studio product photography processing 08

Just as before, we will take four angles for the client to make sure we have enough.

Studio product photography processing 09

If we expand the navigator pane you can see that we have two product folders, “Stan Lee” and “Wookie” and there are four images in each. We can view all the images by selecting the “XYZ Product Images” folder. We are now done with the tether tool so you can close it.

Studio product photography processing 10


Typically this is where I will grab all the images from the shoot and export them as small files for client proofs. The client chooses the images they want and then we edit those. Let’s pretend they’ve already given us their list and begin the edits.

Make the background white

Hit the D key to enter the develop module, or click Develop at the top of Lightroom. The first thing I like to do is make sure that the background is blown out (pure white with no detail). To do this, make sure your clipping highlight feature is turned on, (hit J on the keyboard if it’s not).

Since our shot could use a little help at the bottom we will increase the whites with an adjustment brush. Hit the K key and with a new brush enter +1.00 on exposure and +40 on whites (I have saved this preset as its own brush called “blowout”). Turn on Auto Mask, it does a good job of keeping these settings from inadvertently bleeding onto the subject if you get a little too close. Now simply paint the white background and it will clip the whites. If it doesn’t, finish painting, then add a new brush and paint again.

Studio product photograph processing 11

Global adjustments

Hit your K key once more to return to image adjustments. Turn off clipping highlights by hitting the J key. This helps you to focus on the subject during the adjustments. For this image I added +20 contrast, -30 blacks, +30 clarity and +20 saturation.

You can easily sync these settings to the rest of the product image by bringing up the filmstrip at the bottom of Lightroom. If you don’t see your filmstrip, click the little up arrow at the bottom of the develop module. Now select your first image, hold you Shift key and click the last image. Click the Sync button in Lightroom to apply the settings to all the selected images.

Studio product processing 12

We will select Basic Tone, Clarity and Color to sync just those effects to the rest of the images.

Studio product processing 13

Click Synchronize and the rest of the products will get the same adjustments. Keep in mind you still need to go back to each image and ensure their backgrounds are properly clipped as well. You can use the Adjustment Brush feature as before. Our Stan Lee products are now on completely white backgrounds and they look great.

Alternate method

For the Wookie products I will show you a slightly faster albeit sometimes not as accurate method. Enter the Develop module, and instead of using an Adjustment Brush let’s see if the Whites slider will clip the background. For this image I added +93 to the Whites slider.

Studio product processing 14

Worked like a charm. Now let’s finish giving this little guy some additional love. I added +20 contrast, -30 blacks, and +20 clarity. Additionally I added some sharpness found in the Detail pane. This time, when we select all of our Wookie products and synchronize I will click the Check All button.

Studio product processing 15

When I do a quick look at the rest of my Wookie products they all look great. These are ready to export and it took me less than two minutes to edit all four images.

Studio product processing 16

Studio product processing 17

Studio product processing 18


Assuming you already have a calibrated monitor, the only other thing you might want to do is add a custom color profile for you camera to Lightroom. This will ensure that your product colors remain true, which is very important. You can see how to do that with this dPS article; How to Use the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport to Obtain Perfect Color.

This concludes my three part series for studio photography and how to inject some speed into it. I hope you enjoyed it. Thank you for reading.

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Basic Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips to Help You Save Time and Stay Organized

01 Mar

This article will walk you through some tips for how to set up a basic portrait post-processing workflow that can help you save time and stay organized.

The problem

When you’re new to photography, everything is exciting. Every time you come home with a full memory card, it’s a mad rush to the computer to see what you have captured. You’re eager to see every image and each one is treated as a separate entity with every technique you’ve come across. This is great. That excitement is what will keep you moving forward with photography and it is how you rapidly learn and grow as a photographer. That’s how it was with me, at any rate.

What happens, however, as you start taking more and more images? For example, regular portrait sessions a couple times a week can lead to an overwhelming amount of photographs. Approaching every frame as an individual becomes time-consuming and inefficient. If you’re not careful, you’ll have a backlog of images going back months and months. Often, many of your photos will be forgotten at the wayside.

The solution to this problem is to develop a portrait post-processing workflow.

Defining workflow

Basic Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips to Help You Save Time and Stay Organized

Straight out of the camera before any adjustments in Lightroom or Photoshop.

Basic Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips to Help You Save Time and Stay Organized

After portrait post-processing workflow steps in this article were applied.

In the simplest terms possible, a workflow is a checklist of repeatable actions that you work through as you go through a task. If it helps, in business the equivalent be would systems and in manufacturing, it could be compared to an assembly line.

You can have a workflow for any part of the photographic process, from planning and coordinating sessions to setting up and tearing down equipment and finally the post-processing stage.

This article will outline the steps of the post-processing workflow that I’ve been using on my portraits for a few years.

Starting point

Because every photographer has their own way of importing, organizing and editing their images in Lightroom (and other software), this article starts at the beginning of the post-processing stage for individual images. It assumes you will have already imported your photos into Lightroom and you have already edited (culled) down to the keepers.


This workflow uses both Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Each program offers its own strengths. To take advantage of them, consider using both with the Adobe Photographer membership – get 20% off (only $ 7.99/month) by using this link only for dPS readers.

Color corrections

The first step is to conduct any color corrections to your image. I do this in one of two ways. The first involves a ColorChecker Passport. If you don’t have one, just skip past it (or purchase one here on and follow along).

Xrite ColorChecker Passport

In your Lightroom catalog, find the photo you took with the ColorChecker Passport in it. Go to File>Export and export the image as a DNG to a folder where you can find it.

Basic Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips to Help You Save Time and Stay Organized

To work in the ColorChecker Passports proprietary software, you need to export your image as a DNG.

Now open the software that came with your Xrite ColorChecker Passport, and import the DNG you just exported into it.

The software does a pretty good job of aligning the photo to the ColorChecker, but if it fails, just follow the instructions on the screen.

Basic Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips to Help You Save Time and Stay Organized

The Xrite ColorChecker Passport’s software allows you to create custom color profile unique to each lighting setup.

Press the Create Profile button and give it a name that has something to do with the images you are going to be working on. For example, if you’re working on portraits of Jane Doe in a wedding dress which you took on April 15th of 2017, you could name the profile: JaneDoeWeddingDress041517. That’s optional, of course, but it will help you should you decide to revisit these photos in six months time.

Now, reopen Lightroom, find the image of the ColorChecker Passport, and open it in the Develop Module. Scroll down the panels on the right until you find the Calibration tab.

At the top, there will be the word Profile followed by Adobe Standard. Click there and choose the profile name that you just made in the external software (in the example below I called it “PortraitWorkflow”.

Basic Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips to Help You Save Time and Stay Organized

Once created and imported into Lightroom, color profiles can be returned to at any point in the future.

This process has built a custom color profile, individual to the lighting present in the scene. This is a vital step if you want to get the most accurate colors in your photographs.

White balance with the ColorChecker Passport

In the right-hand panel, scroll back up to the top basic panel. Select the eyedropper. To correct the white balance in your image, click in any of the white or gray boxes on the ColorChecker in your image. That will correct your white balance automatically. Each box will have a different effect on your images, so feel free to go through them all to see which works best, or which you prefer.

Basic Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips to Help You Save Time and Stay Organized

Any of the white and gray squares can be used to set your white balance. They all have different effects, so experiment until you’re happy.

Press CTRL/CMD+Shift+C and in the dialog box click the Check None box. Tick off only the boxes for Calibration and White Balance, and then click Copy.

Basic Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips to Help You Save Time and Stay Organized

Setting the color profile and white balance to an entire set of images at once can save you heaps of time.

With your settings copied, you can go back to the Library Module and select all of the photos that you want these settings applied to. Select them and press CTRL/CMD+Shift+V to do this.

Make sure you deselect the group of images afterwards by pressing CTRL/CMD+D.

White balance in Lightroom

If you don’t have a ColorChecker Passport, you can set your white balance manually by using the eyedropper (click on something neutral in the image) and sliders at the top of the Basic tab. Once you’re done, you can copy and paste the settings to the other images in your set as described above.

Basic Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips to Help You Save Time and Stay Organized

To adjust white balance manually, use the eyedropper and sliders at the top of the Basic panel.

Lens Corrections

The next step is to find the Lens Corrections tab and click both the Enable Profile Corrections box and the Remove Chromatic Aberration box.

Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips - lens corrections

Enabling lens corrections will correct any distortion, vignetting and chromatic aberrations in your images.

Doing this will correct any distortion caused by your lenses and it will usually deal with any chromatic aberrations. It’s a simple step, but it can make a world of difference to your final images.

Before you move on, however, always zoom in and move around your image looking for any chromatic aberrations (look at the edges of the image) the software failed to correct. It’s usually very good, but sometimes it will fail in tricky lighting situations where there’s a lot of backlighting. For portraits, pay close attention to catch lights in the eyes. If you find any chromatic aberrations there, simply go to the Manual section of the Lens Correction tab, choose the eyedropper and click into any color halos that you find.

Basic Adjustments

For portraits, I try to keep my basic adjustments at this stage to a minimum. I will use the exposure slider as needed, the White and Black sliders minimally, keep the Clarity slider between +15 and -15, and often reduce the Vibrance to -10.

Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips - basic adjustments

For more natural portraits, keep your adjustments subtle.

The reason for keeping these adjustments minimal is that they are global adjustments (apply to the entire image). I prefer to work with local adjustments in Photoshop, which give you much more control over the image. But, it is also possible to do local adjustments in Lightroom using the Adjustment Brush, Radial Filter and Graduated Filter if you would prefer.

Client proofs

NOTE: When working on proofs to send to clients so they can make their final image selections, this is where I usually stop. There is little need to spend up to an hour retouching a photo that will never see the light of day. Colour corrections and maybe a few small contrast adjustments are almost always enough at this point.

Black and White (optional)

If you intend to work in black and white and you like doing your conversions in Lightroom, this is the stage where I do the conversion process using the black and white sliders.

If you intend or prefer to do your conversion in Photoshop, then skip this part and make it the first step once your image is opened inside Photoshop.


With the Raw processing complete, it’s time to export (or open) your image into Photoshop. Press CTRL/CMC+Shift+E to bring up the Export dialogue box. Choose a location and name appropriate to your own organizational system and export the image as a TIF or PSD (either of those formats will retain all your layers when you save your work). Close Lightroom and open your image in Photoshop.

NOTE: Alternatively you can open your RAW file directly from Lightroom into Photoshop by right-clicking the image and selecting: Edit In > Edit in Adobe Photoshop – OR – Edit In > Open as Smart Object in Photoshop.



The first step of this workflow in Photoshop is to remove temporary blemishes from your subject’s skin. Create a new empty layer by pressing CTRL/CMD+Shift+N and pressing OK.

You can use either the Spot Healing Brush Tool or the Healing Brush Tool, or a combination of both. Once you’ve selected your tool, ensure that the All Layers option is selected in the drop-down menu labeled Sample. Also, ensure that you are working on the new empty layer (you just created above) in order to keep things non-destructive.

While using the healing brushes, zoom in to at least 200% on your image and use a brush that is only slightly larger than the blemish you are trying to remove. If you are using the Healing Brush tool, take a new sample after every click by pressing Alt/Option+Click to ensure the best results.

How far you go is going to be a matter of personal preference. I like to limit this step to only temporary blemishes and leave scars and beauty marks unless I’m asked to remove them by the subject.

Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips - blemish removal

Before blemish removal.

Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips - blemish removal

After blemish removal.

Note: It is possible to remove blemishes in Lightroom, but it is a time consuming and awkward process compared to Photoshop in my opinion. If Lightroom works better for you, go ahead and use it.

Color casts

Although we already covered color corrections in the first step, I like to revisit it at this stage. For example, in this image, the background is still too warm for my taste. Create a new Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.

Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips - hue/saturation layer

In the Properties tab, find the icon that looks like a pointing hand. Click it and then find a place in the image you want to adjust the colors. In this image, it’s in the background.

Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips

With the pointer selected, click into any area of a colour cast you want to change.

Now adjust the sliders in the Hue/Saturation Layer until it has the desired effect on the color you are trying to change.

In this image, the background and the subject shared a lot of the same warmth. To keep them separate, use a layer mask. Click into the layer mask on your Hue/Saturation layer and press CTRL/CMD+I to invert it (hide all).

Now select the Brush tool (B) and set your foreground color to white and your opacity and flow to 100%. Paint into the areas (on the mask not the layer) you want to be affected by your Hue/Saturation layer. If you mess up, just switch your foreground color to black and paint over the mistake.

Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips

Before Hue/Saturation Adjustments

Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips

After Hue/Saturation Adjustments

Dodging and burning

The next step is to deal with contrast. Instead of using the contrast sliders at the raw processing stage, it is best to use a technique like dodging and burning for small, local adjustments to get the most control over your images. There are a lot of different methods for dodging and burning, but I prefer the gray layer method.

By using multiple layers, you can obtain really fine control over the contrast and the tones in specific parts of your image with little effort. For example, you can have a set of layers for skin tones, another set for the clothes, a set for hair, and another set for eyes all independently adjusted. You can learn how to dodge and burn here.

Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips - dodge and burn

Before dodging and burning.

Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips - dodge and burn

After dodging and burning.

High Pass Filter

The last step of my workflow before saving is to use a High Pass filter to sharpen things up a bit. To use the High Pass filter, merge all of your existing layers into a new one by pressing CTRL/CMD+alt+Shift+E. Zoom into 100%, select the layer that was just created, and go to Filter>Other> High Pass.

Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips - high pass filter

As long as you are working with a high-resolution file, set the radius between two and five. If you’re working with a smaller file, move the slider to the left until the preview image looks like a faint outline of your original image (as seen below). Press OK.

Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips - high pass filter to sharpen

It’s pretty easy to go overboard with the High Pass filter. Try to keep it as subtle as possible.

On the Layer Palette, change the blending mode to Soft Light or Overlay. This is more personal preference than anything, but Overlay will give a far more pronounced effect than Soft Light. I prefer Soft Light for portraits and Overlay for other subjects. The last step is to reduce the opacity of the High Pass layer. Zoom into 100% and move the opacity slider to the left until you can barely see the effect.

Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips

Use either the Soft Light or Overlay blending modes for your High Pass layer. Soft Light will be more subtle, while Overlay will be more pronounced.

Saving your image

When the image is finished it’s time to save it. This will different for everyone depending on your own organizational system, but I prefer to save files as 16-bit TIFFs with layers intact. Doing this means that you can go back and adjust any part post-processing at any time. It also means you can go back to your full resolution file at any time to create smaller images for web use and the like without potentially losing them. The downside to this is that 16-bit TIFF files can get very large and they do take up a fair amount of hard drive space, but to me, the peace of mind is worth it.

In the end

Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips

Straight out of the camera and before any adjustments in Lightroom and Photoshop.

Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips

After adjustments and retouching in Lightroom and Photoshop.

The amount of time it takes to get through this workflow varies from image to image. Some photos take five minutes, others take closer to an hour. Overall, having a workflow like this will save you countless hours of work. Knowing exactly what steps you’re going to take before you sit down removes a lot of guesswork and saves time. This is invaluable when you start doing sessions a couple times a week.

Obviously, this exact workflow may not be for you. However, I encourage giving it a try and then developing your own workflow that fits in with your style and existing skills.

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5 Common Post-Processing Mistakes to Avoid

01 Feb

For today’s photographer, post-processing is a critical element of image making. Sure, when you first get started with digital photography, you might shoot in JPG mode and allow the camera to make decisions about things like color and contrast. But when you’re ready to take control of your images, it’s time to shoot in RAW format and make the important decisions about how you want your final image to look yourself.

Estuary in Campbell River BC by Anne McKinnell - 5 Common Post-Processing Mistakes to Avoid

When you first start shooting in RAW, you might think your images look a bit gray and bland. That’s because the decisions that the camera was making before are now left up to you. That can be a bit daunting! But here are some tips to help you avoid the most common post-processing mistakes and make sure you are helping your images and not hurting them.

Remember, the purpose of post-processing is not to fix bad photos, but to bring out the best in good photos.

Mistake #1 – Lightening shadows too much

Always try to get the best exposure possible in camera. You’ll get a better result when you start out with a good exposure rather than relying on the highlights and shadows sliders in post-processing to balance it.

That said, sometimes you will still want to use the shadows slider to lighten your shadows to bring more detail in the darker areas of your image. Just be careful not to overdo it, or you’ll end up with an image that no longer looks natural.

This is overdone, the shadows have been pulled too far here and it no longer looks natural. Notice it also introduced noise into the sky.

Convict Lake, California by Anne McKinnell - 5 Common Post-Processing Mistakes to Avoid

Shadow adjustment in moderation is better.

If you try to equalize the brightness of the highlights and shadows, you’ll end up with a photo that not only looks unnatural, but the lack of contrast will make the image look boring. Contrast is a good thing! This is especially true when you have a scene with a reflection. The reflection should always be darker than the scene it is reflecting, as it is in nature.

Mistake #2 – Over saturation

Another way to create an unnatural looking image is to over saturate everything. It’s a tempting thing to do because a little bump in saturation and vibrance makes such a big difference. Again, just don’t overdo it. A little goes a long way.

Before you touch those sliders, spend a bit of time thinking about your image and the colors in it. Sometimes adding saturation globally is not the best idea, especially if you have a scene that contains many different colors. Instead, consider using the HSL (Hue/Saturation/Luminosity) panel, choose Saturation, and use the target tool to add saturation to one color in your scene. For example, you might want to add saturation to the main subject to draw attention to it.

Over saturation leaves the colors looking odd.

Yellow flower with bee by Anne McKinnell - 5 Common Post-Processing Mistakes to Avoid

Better saturation levels.

Mistake #3 – Over sharpening

First of all, never use sharpening to try to fix a photo that is out of focus. It just doesn’t work. Sharpening cannot fix blur. However, if you have an image that is in focus, adding a bit of sharpening can make it extra crisp and realistic.

Again, consider adding sharpening locally (to one select area) not globally, especially if you have areas of your scene that are purposely out of focus, such as when you have a shallow depth of field. Also, the sky usually looks better when it is smooth, so you don’t want to add sharpening there. Keep in mind that adding sharpening will increase noise, which is another reason not to add it globally. Rather, just add it to the main subject or areas of your scene with a lot of detail.

This has been over sharpened, you can see artifacts throughout the image here.

Deer by Anne McKinnell - 5 Common Post-Processing Mistakes to Avoid

Better level of sharpening.

In Adobe Camera Raw, use the Detail panel to add sharpening. Then, hold down the option (or alt) key and use the masking slider. As you move the slider, the areas that appear black do not have sharpening applied and areas that are white do. This is an effective way to add sharpening to the areas of your image that have details. Another option is to use the adjustment brush to brush sharpening on where you want it.

Mistake #4 – Over cropping

The crop tool is a handy way to refine your composition, remove unwanted elements on the edges of the frame, and make sure your horizon line is straight. But don’t use it to remove all the “negative space” in your scene.

You don’t need to fill the frame with your subject. A little breathing room keeps the image interesting. Think about creating a balance between the space taken up by your subject and the space around it. This is not necessarily an equal balance.

Cropped too tight on the subject.

Bisti Badlands, New Mexico by Anne McKinnell - 5 Common Post-Processing Mistakes to Avoid

Cropped to leave negative space and lead your eye to the subject.

Mistake #5 – Too much Noise Reduction

Sometimes the nature of the light requires the use of a high ISO. Perhaps you need both a small aperture and a high shutter speed for your scene, so increasing the ISO is the only way to get a good exposure. That’s okay. The noise caused by using a high ISO can be reduced in post-processing using the noise reduction slider.

But nobody said that all images must have no noise. Not all images have to be perfectly smooth looking. Especially if there is a lot of detail and texture in your subject. Using too much noise reduction can create blurry splotches in areas that were previously sharp.

Too much noise reduction has been applied here and overall the image now looks blurry.

Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, Arizona by Anne McKinnell - 5 Common Post-Processing Mistakes to Avoid

Noise reduction scaled back.

You may have noticed a theme in these common mistakes. Don’t over do it! Small adjustments go a long way to bringing out the best qualities of your images, but taking it too far can just as easily ruin them.

After you process your image, take a break from it and look at something else. Maybe even give it a day to settle. Then, when you look at it again, it will be more obvious if you have taken the processing too far.

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