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.

-----


Footnote:

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.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Distortion or Perspective Correction Tutorial [Elements]

If you have Photoshop, please go to this page instead.

This tutorial is for those times when you need the lines in your photo to be straight and square.  It'll be most useful to real estate photographers, but everyone has a problem with lines from time to time.

Apology: I don't know how this method works if you use Lightroom in conjunction with Elements, sorry.  But Lightroom has its own distortion controls in the "Lens Correction" tab, so try those and see if they give you sufficient control.

Step 1: Open

Process your raw file in ACR in the usual manner, then press "Open Image" to bring it into Elements.


(Distortion is like Liquify - it must be done as the very first step in your Photoshop editing workflow, immediately after your raw editing, before any layer work.) 

Distortion or Perspective Correction Tutorial [Photoshop]

If you have Elements, please go to this page instead.

This tutorial is for those times when you need the lines in your photo to be straight and square.  It'll be most useful to real estate photographers, but everyone has a problem with lines from time to time.

Step 1: Open

Open your image in Photoshop.

(Distortion is like Liquify - it must be done as the very first step in your Photoshop editing workflow, immediately after your raw editing, before any layer work.)

Step 2: Convert

Immediately go to Layer>Smart Objects>Convert to Smart Object:


It's critical for your image to be a smart object when transforming or distorting.  Smart objects can be manipulated as many times as needed, and never lose their original quality.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

How aggressively can I crop?

So you shot wide, but now you (or your customer) would like the photo cropped aggressively for a tighter composition.  How far can you go and still be printable?

I've written before about "The six megapixel guideline".  There's a school of thought that any file over six megapixels can be printed at any size you like - no restrictions.  I hasten to add this only applies to GOOD photos - ones with great focus and clarity - nothing blurry or noisy.

You might personally decide that six is too small for your standards.  You might choose seven, or even eight. You need a baseline.

Here's my example photo - my daughter chasing an enormous bubble:


Let's say I want to compose it tighter.  How tight can I go, and still have freedom to print any size I wish?

I must interrupt the narrative here to remind you: Never crop during editing!  More info here.

To find out, you choose your rectangular marquee tool:


Make sure your Info Panel is open, and set its units to Pixels:


Draw a marquee roughly where you'd like the crop to be:


Then look in the Info Panel, to see the pixel dimensions of the section you've drawn:


Multiply those two numbers, and the answer is your megapixels.  Remember, "mega" means "millions of".  So you're hoping for an answer of 6,000,000 or greater.

In my example, I multiply 1295 x 1848 ... and get 2,393,160 ... not even 2.4 megapixels!  Nowhere near enough to be useful.  So in this case, I have to abandon my idea of a tighter crop for print.

Of course I can crop tighter for web, since web files are tiny.  And I can print small - 1295x1848 will give me a 6x4 or a 5x7 ok (more info below).  But printing big is out.

If your selection is greater than six megapixels, then your image has passed the first test.  Then you have to proceed to the second test, which is to check the focus and quality.  Zoom in to 100%, and make a frank assessment of what you see.  Are you satisfied that it's razor sharp?  Are you happy that your ISO was low enough?

If you give the quality the thumbs up, then you're good to go.

So, how big can you print?

I've stated that, loosely speaking, a good quality photo that's greater than six megapixels can be printed as big as you like - print it on the side of a truck if you like.

But what about files under six megapixels?  Well, I've created a graph to roughly guide you.

Let's be very clear - this is NOT a bible.  It's a guide only.  Of course you should do your own testing and make up your own mind.  And remember, this graph assumes files of excellent quality and focus:


The green zone is the "Cautious Zone".  That's how big you can print if you want to be ultra-safe.  The red zone is the "Bold or Desperate Zone", for when you really want a bit bigger.

Note: For canvas, you can roughly double the print size in the above graph.

I hope this helps.  Needless to say, please visit me at Ask Damien if you have any questions.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Maintain your professional standards

In discussions about the importance of monitor calibration, it's common to see this argument:

"My clients don't have calibrated screens. If I calibrate mine, my photos won't look the same to them."

This is absurd for two reasons.  Firstly, uncalibrated screens are like human beings - no two look the same, anywhere, ever.  So to suggest that leaving one screen uncalibrated will ensure it matches another uncalibrated screen is complete nonsense.

Secondly, consider this ...

We just had our bathroom renovated. We chose a good builder, and paid him top dollar, and he did an excellent job. He built us a perfect bathroom.

Trouble is, I'm a lazy housekeeper, and I tend to let it get a bit grubby, you know? I don't clean it as often or as thoroughly as I should. If you were to visit right now, the bathroom wouldn't look as good as it did the day the builder finished.

So, does that mean it would have been ok if the builder had done a shabby job? Hell no. We paid him for a perfect bathroom, and that's what we got.

Should your clients be happy to pay you for less than perfect photos? Of course not. Your job is to "build a perfect bathroom", so to speak. To provide wonderful photos, and monitor calibration is a vital part of that.

If your client then views your photos on their awful screen, or hangs them in a room with awful light, so they look less than their best, is that on you? Of course not. 
What your clients do is irrelevant. The onus is on you, the professional, to be correct.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

How to properly re-install Spyder software (Windows)

The Spyder range of calibrators are very good (well, not the Express, it's kinda rubbish, but the Pro and Elite are great) but they have one very annoying quirk.  Once you've calibrated once, they stubbornly hold on to the settings you chose, and it's damned hard to change them.

So, in desperation, many of us completely uninstall and reinstall the software, if we want to start afresh.  Fortunately this doesn't take very long.  BUT ... what the heck??  The settings are still there!  Well, they were still there on my PC, anyway.

This drove me crazy until I figured out the solution.  It's not enough to uninstall the software in the usual way, through the Programs control panel.  After you've done that, you have to go to your AppData folder ...

C:\Users\[your computer name]\AppData\Local\

... and completely delete the Datacolor folder.


Then you can re-install the software, and it'll be back to the program default settings.  You can happily commence calibrating, per my instructions here.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Replacing a raw edit in a PSD

Even though we try to remember everything when we're editing our raw files, we all slip up occasionally, at least. I'm as guilty as anyone.  Many times I've been happily editing a photo in Photoshop, then zoomed in and said "D'oh!!" when I saw the noise, and realised that I'd forgotten to do my noise reduction in raw.

The noise reduction feature inside Photoshop is a poor substitute, so it's always preferable to go back to the raw file and do it there.  This article explains how to bring the newly-fixed file into your existing layered file, with minimum time wasted.  This works for both Photoshop and Elements.

First, make sure you've saved the file as a PSD (or Tiff, if that's your preference).  Here's the example edit I've created for this tutorial.  The "Background" layer is the photo, of course.  "Layer 1" is a duplicate of the Background layer which I've used to do some cloning and healing.  Then above that are all the adjustment layers for my colour correction work.


Once I make sure my PSD file is safely saved, I re-open the raw file, and make the necessary adjustments to the noise sliders.  While I'm doing this, I give myself a stern lecture about getting it right the first time, dammit!

Then I open the new version into Photoshop:


I press Ctrl A (or Cmd A for Mac) to select the whole photo:


Then I press Ctrl C to copy it.  This can also be done via the Edit menu, of course.

I return to the PSD file, and I highlight the Background layer:


Then I press Ctrl V to paste the new version into the PSD:


IMPORTANT:  If my PSD involved no pixel editing (cloning, healing, etc), then my job is done.  I can Ctrl E to merge the new image down onto the old image if desired, and save the PSD again, and everything is dandy.  My carelessness only cost me a few extra seconds.

BUT: If, as in this case, there was some pixel editing, I have to re-do it.  Why?  Because the edited pixels were the noisy ones, of course.  So I have to delete the pixel editing layer:


Then duplicate the new image layer (or add a blank layer, if that's your preference), and do the cloning and healing etc all over again:


While I'm doing this, I'm giving myself an even sterner lecture about getting my raw editing right the first time, because now I'm wasting serious time.  I find cloning tedious in any circumstance ... but to be doing it twice on the same photo?  That irritates me like crazy.  And I'm sure you don't enjoy it either.

I hope you never have to use this tutorial, but if you do, I hope the process goes as smoothly as possible for you.

Some notes about this article:

Note 1.  None of this is a better solution that getting it right the first time.  Take care with your raw edits, and don't proceed to Photoshop until you're damn sure it's correct.

Note 2. Obviously noise isn't the only thing you can get wrong in a raw edit.  You might mess up the white balance, or contrast, or whatever.  But those things are MUCH more serious, because they impact the adjustment layers in your PSD as well.

The reason I wrote about noise on this page is that noise is really the only thing that can be fixed this easily.  If you go back to your raw file to make another sort of change, you'll need to carefully check every adjustment layer in your PSD, to make sure it's still doing what you want it to.

Please don't be casual about this.  I can't stress it enough.  Even a small change in the white balance, for example, can mean that an adjustment layer which wasn't causing red channel clipping before, now is causing it.

See Note 1.

Note 3.  Plenty of people will bleat about opening your raw file as a smart object into Photoshop.  In my opinion, this is a pile of bunkum, and I discussed it thoroughly in this thread.

See Note 1.

Note 4.  If you did SO much pixel editing in Photoshop before you discovered your mistake, and you can't stomach the thought of doing it all over again, well, so be it.  Do your noise reduction as best you can in Photoshop, and vow it won't happen again.

See Note 1.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Grabbing a 700x700px 100% crop

This tutorial explains how to take a 100% crop of your image at the exact size of 700x700 pixels.  The illustrations here were taken in Photoshop CS5, but this method applies to all recent versions of Photoshop and Elements.

You'll need a 700x700 100% crop if you are seeking print sharpening advice in my Facebook group; or for general discussion about focus or noise.

Of course, you can adapt these instructions for other sizes as well.

It's very simple.  When you're ready to take the screenshot, simply press M to choose your Marquee Tool:


(If the rectangle Marquee isn't selected by default, click and hold on the tool to get the little flyout menu, and choose it there.)

In the Options Bar, change the Style to "Fixed Size":


Then enter "700px" in both the Width and Height fields:


(It's always a good idea to type the "px" part. If you don't, it might default to inches or something else.)

Single-click on your photo and the 700x700 marching ants box will appear. Then click in the middle of it to drag it to exactly where you want it:


Go to the Image menu and choose "Crop":


And there it is - your 700x700 piece of image:


Now save it as a jpeg, ready to upload to Facebook for me to see.

Comments or Questions?

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