Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The "Handyman" method

Just as it's nice to have a handyman in the family who can fix leaky taps, change lightbulbs, paint the fence, and various other odd jobs that arise around the house; it's also nice to have a handy editing method that can take care of all sorts of little image problems when you need it.

The following method is not fancy, nor is it difficult (though it does require a little patience).  It's the kind of method which you might not need for six months, then suddenly need for three photos in a row.  Learn it, and keep it in the back of your mind forever.  You never know when it will be handy for skin problems, shadow problems, clothing problems, etc.  It works exactly the same in both Photoshop and Elements.

For this demonstration, George Azmy has kindly allowed me to use this small section of a photograph he took.  A lovely photo, but a slightly unflattering view of the subject's armpit, I'm sure you'll agree:

The "Handyman Method" involves two stages - first, a dodge and burn stage, followed by a colour fix stage.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Have you ever opened a photo and been startled to see weird patterns in striped clothing, like this?

Or even worse, this?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Adding a little bit of blue to a white sky (Elements)

This tutorial is the Elements alternative to this Photoshop tutorial.  It's for adding a bit of plain blue to a white sky.  If you wish to fix a white sky by putting a different sky photo into it, use this method instead.

Start by using your rectangular Marquee Tool to draw a selection around the white sky.  Allow a little bit extra space under the horizon, as I have done here:

Add a "Gradient" layer:

Make it a light-blue-to-white gradient.  Make sure "Dither" and "Align with layer" are checked, and make sure the angle is correct, so it goes from light blue at the top to white at the horizon:

Here's what it will look like:

Then, change the layer blend mode to either "Darken" or "Multiply".  Multiply is best in most cases, I've found.  The colour will blend nicely in with the photo:

Finally, turn the Gradient layer on and off a few times to assess it, then paint with black on the mask if necessary, if there are any areas which have turned blue that shouldn't have.

If you want a different shade of blue, just double-click on the gradient thumbnail in the layers panel, to edit the colour.  Remember, don't go too dark!  It will look silly and implausible.  Keep it light.

Visit me at Ask Damien if you need help with this tutorial.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Preparing files for a wrapped triptych canvas

Triptychs are wonderful, I reckon.  You know, one photo chopped into three parts and hung as three separate photos?  They are groovy.  Not just triptychs either - you can have diptychs (two segments), quadtychs, quintychs, etc.  Yeah, yeah, I made those last two up!  The point is, you can divide a photo into as many segments as you want.

If you are printing a photographic triptych, or a canvas one with plain edges, it's easy.  Just crop your photo into its separate parts, and print them.  But if you want to do it as a wrapped canvas (or print) - where the photo goes around the edges, then it's trickier, right?  Because you don't want to lose any of the image to wrapping.

In this tutorial, I'll demonstrate a simple triptych.  The method I'll show you can be adapted to any number of segments, in pretty much any layout.  Oh, and it works in Photoshop and Elements equally well.

Basically, you'll be following my canvas preparation tutorial.  Have a quick read of it now, but don't start following it yet, because there is a modification.

Skimmed it?  Good.

Fixing Chromatic Aberration

Chromatic Aberration ("CA") is that annoying purple or green (or other colours) fringing you get around bright white areas of your photos sometimes.

See it around the hat in this photo?

Some lenses are more prone to it than others, from what I understand, in photos of high contrast.  I'm not a photographer, so I don't know anything about that.  You'll find more info on Wikipedia and elsewhere.  What I do know about is fixing it.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The bl**dy Adjustment Brush

It's quite common, in my group, for people to post about weird graininess in their raw files.  Mostly, this is because they've used the stupid bloody Adjustment Brush.  More specifically, because of the "Auto Mask" function therewith.

My disdain for the Adjustment Brush goes further than the dodgy Auto Mask function, though.  I am fundamentally opposed to that tool, period.

I've always said that raw processing isn't really editing, so much ... it's actually an extension of photography. The things you do in raw are the things you do (or perhaps, *should* have done) when you take the photo. Adjusting the exposure in raw is akin to adjusting the exposure triangle to control the light through the lens when shooting; adjusting the white balance is akin to setting correct white balance in camera; noise reduction is akin to ISO setting ... do you see what I mean?

So, it's my belief that becoming a good raw editor actually helps you become a better photographer. Consistently having to fix your exposure in raw makes you think about how you could have done it better in camera, and so on.

One of the aspects you learn about is light. How it's hitting your subject, how you messed up, how you should position them better next time.

The adjustment brush makes a mockery of all that. You can quite easily be dreadful  raw processor, not really know what you're doing, not be learning a damn thing about your photography, just be fixing your bad lighting with this "saviour tool".

I learned to edit raw in CS2 (I never used ACR in the first CS). It didn't even have the Recovery and Fill Light sliders, let alone the brush. And it made me an EXCELLENT raw editor. I wish everyone was forced to learn raw processing on CS2.

Lastly ... it's just a poor alternative to the exquisite control you get in Photoshop or Elements, with layers and masks. That's where selective editing lives. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Brush Tool - Difference Between Opacity and Flow

Frequently on this blog you've seen me talk of painting with a low-opacity brush for one reason or another.  I use varying brush opacities all the time.  But I don't think I've ever mentioned Flow, nor do I use it in my work very often.

What's the difference?  Well, take a look at this example.  On the left, I've painted one long squiggle at low Opacity (but full Flow), and on the right, at full Opacity, but reduced Flow:

That's the difference.  At reduced Opacity, no matter how many times you go over the same area in the same stroke, you don't get more "paint" on that area.  To get more paint, you have to paint with a new stroke (a new click of the mouse button, or tap of the stylus).

Whereas at reduced Flow, you can keep the mouse or stylus held down, and each time you go over an area in the same stroke, it applies more paint.

Why don't I used it in my work?  Honestly, because I've never taken the time to learn it.  Even as I'm typing this, I'm thinking "Gee, I bet there are benefits that I'm missing out on by not using Flow more often."

So I'm adding it to my list of things to play with and learn.  And I suggest you do the same, when time permits.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Proof Setup: Working CMYK: Not really

This is our iron.  Presently it's set to "Cotton":

Now it's set to "Wool":

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Wide Gamut Myth

Or: Why you must work in sRGB

I'm writing this post in hopes of preventing some of the recent damage from yet another CreativeLive disaster. I despair when I think of the thousands of workflows that are complicated, and the countless images that are ruined, by persistent advice to edit in large colour spaces.

It's terribly sad that so many prominent photographers sabotage the workflows of emerging photographers by advocating Adobe RGB or even ProPhoto RGB as the working space of choice. I don't think this sabotage is deliberate (although it certainly might be in some cases). I think these photographers simply enjoy the false impression of "expertise" that such advice gives them. "Oh, that guy works in Adobe RGB - he must be an expert!" WRONG.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Weddings: A plea to all photographers

In my line of work, I receive quite a number of emails that go like this:

"I hope you can help us. We got married in [insert month/year here] and our photos are really bad. They're [insert flaw here - blurry/dark/etc]. How much does it cost for you to fix them so that we have some memories of our day?"

Often these emails go on to say "We've been trying to contact the photographer but s/he won't return our calls."

Very often I can't help these poor people, and my heart bleeds for them.

So I'm putting out a general plea to all photographers, everywhere. For the love of God, don't start shooting weddings until you're completely sure you DON'T SUCK.

Second shooting, sure. But as the main shooter? That's incredibly weighty responsibility. Two people's happiness literally rests in your hands. If you can't, as a bare minimum, hit focus most of the time, and competently clean-process the images afterwards, you're NOT READY. Keep finding opportunities to practice and learn and improve until you are.

Thank you.



Too often on photography forums I see this issue descend into the "They get what they pay for" debate. Statements such as "People shouldn't choose the cheapest photographer if they don't want crap photos", or the old "Pay peanuts, get monkeys".

This boils my blood.  I have no patience for victim bashing.

This is about the responsibility of a photographer offering a service. If I get food poisoning eating at fast food outlet, nobody except a moron would say it's my fault for not eating at a more expensive restaurant. The food industry has certain standards to which even the cheapest establishments must adhere by law. Such laws do not exist for photography, but the standards sure as hell should. End of story.

Comments or Questions?

If you have anything to add or ask about this article, please visit me at my Ask Damien page.