What's it all about?

This blog is about photography and photoediting. Its purpose is to provide hints and tips and links to interesting and useful resources for digital photographers, regardless of their level of expertise or experience. It is aimed at people who use digital SLR cameras and who process their images using the latest versions of Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.

The author of this blog is Glenn Springer and you can read more about him at his web portal at faczen.com. Information on workshops, and links to everything is at photography.to. Glenn's original blog, which is an ongoing journal of his photographic meanderings goes back to 2006 and contains many additional hints and tips, as well as representative images that he has made. Gallery quality prints are available through his Smugmug gallery site. It is an interesting place to visit to see a variety of quality images, as well as an ongoing general journal of photos going back several years.

Photography workshops are scheduled every few weeks starting in the Spring. For an overview of what's happening, please visit the photography.to website.

The most recent blog post is below. Scroll down to the bottom to see the list of previous postings or search for any particular topic.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Approximating Line Art

This is about approximating line art in Photoshop.

Now credit where credit is due: I didn't invent either one of these methods, I found one of them in a column by Larry Becker in the Dec-11-Jan-12 issue of Photoshop User Magazine (which you get if you are a NAPP member — click here) and the other one in a tutorial that I found via the forums on the NAPP site (again, — click here!). The tutorial is one of several by Dee Dee Martin (Swampy) who is also a NAPP denizen. Please visit her tutorial site here. Her video tutorials are excellent.

Thank you Larry and thank you Swampy for two great tips on using Photoshop.

Some background: I wanted to do a different treatment for some images I shot the other day. I've been thinking about line art and I remembered reading something about emulating line art in Photoshop (it was the Becker article but I couldn't remember where I saw it) so I posted the question on the forum and I quickly got the two links above. Both methods work, both are brilliant and both are entirely obscure! No way I would have found them on my own! I still don't understand why they are where they are in Photoshop but why look a gift horse in the mouth? As usual there are 80 different ways to skin a cat in Photoshop!

So I'm posting this here for two reasons: (1) to share what I've learned and give my readers some ideas about some new things to explore, and (2) as a convenient place to put these tips where I can find them again! One of the biggest problems with Photoshop is how complex the program is, and how easy it is to forget how to do something if you don't do it regularly. These fall in that category, especially in view of how obscure they are.

So here goes:
This was a somewhat 'nothing' image that I took at the beginning of the party I was shooting, more for testing exposure than anything else. By the way, lighting came from my SB-600 flash mounted high on a light stand, controlled remotely from my D300 in Commander Mode. I had the Gary Fong diffuser on the flash, pointed towards the ceiling mostly (although the nature of the diffuser is that it also acts as a soft direct source). The pop-up flash was set for 1 stop under just for a little fill, and white balance was set to "flash" (some of you like details, I know!)

Nikon D300/Nikkor 70-200mm @ 155mm. 1/180 sec@ f/2.8, ISO 200.

First, the "Becker Method" from the magazine.

How do you do this?

■ Working on a duplicate of the background layer, select FilterBlurSmart Blur (note: you have to be in RGB 8-bit mode or it will be greyed out)

■ Change the Mode at the bottom of the popup to "Edge Only"

■ Play with Radius and Threshold until you get the right 'look' you're after

■ It will give you white lines on black. If you want, invert the image with ImageAdjustmentsInvert (Ctrl/Cmd-I) to black on white

■ Change the opacity or the blend mode (or both) of this layer to let a little colour through

■ (and this is my change to Larry's method) apply a layer mask then paint on it to let more of the colour from the original through.

That's what I did in the above image. I like the charcoal-like texture of the lines and the subtle pastel colours.

Now the "Swampy Method"

It works like this:

■ Duplicate the background layer. Change the duplicate to a monochrome grey layer with ImageAdjustmentsDesaturate (Shift-Ctrl/Cmd-U)

■ Duplicate the new layer and invert it to a negative with ImageAdjustmentsInvert (Ctrl/Cmd-I)

■ Set the blend mode of this inverted layer to "Color Dodge"

■ Apply FilterOtherMinimum and adjust the Radius slider to your liking

Here's what you have at this point:

■ Merge these two new layers together (Select the top one and "Merge Down" or Ctrl/Cmd-E)

You can add some colour at this point by reducing the opacity and letting the original layer leak through. You'll get something like this:

Alternatively, you can change the blend mode to "Luminosity" before merging the layers down

AND play with the opacity, yielding still a different result:

For what it's worth, every time I reduced the opacity, I found that a setting around 60% gave me the best result, but hey, it's up to you!

Two different obscure approaches, both of them work!

This PS is added in May 2012. I often find myself going back to this post to remember the keystroke sequence to do these line drawings. In the meantime, I found some other ones so I'm adding this note so I can find them all in the same place. I wish I could remember where I found this...

Create a new layer (Ctrl-J) and change the blend mode to "Divide". Now use a blur tool: you get different results with Gaussian Blur or Box Blur or other ones I haven't discovered yet.

Here's another method, added in October 2012: courtesy of Bonnie Glidden. This one is even easier: create a new layer, then select "Filter → Stylize → Find Edges". You're basically done! You can vary the opacity, add a black-and-white adjustment layer, etc. if you want.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Comparing HDR Programs

I posted this also on the NAPP forums.  I got interested in the different results you get from different programs. I've done these comparisons before, trying to decide which program I like better but I've concluded that it depends on the image.

That said, up to now Photomatix has been my first choice but these results may change that.

The goal here was to produce the image that I liked best in all three programs. I did not look at the other images while working in any program, with the exception that I knew I really wanted colourful skies when I got to the third one (P'matix). And I was not trying to MATCH the images.

was to select all 5 source images (bracketed burst, 1 stop apart, RAW. I open them in the HDR program, then look through the thumbnail presets for the one closest to what I want, then I modify it with sliders until I had done the best I could. I then saved the files and exported them to CS5 for further tweaking.

Once open in CS5 I created a new layer and ran a hi-pass filter. I adjusted the image with curves, then I ran DFine 2.0, sky preset which I masked back in. Next I ran Viveza 2 to increase the saturation in the sky (except the CS5 one where I had to REDUCE the saturation overall).

Back to Lightroom where I tweaked a little and synced the cropping and metadata. I then exported each one as a 720 px-wide jpg for posting here.
Here are the images:

1. Processed in Photoshop CS5 HDR Pro

2. Processed with Nik HDR Efex Pro

3. Processed with Photomatix HDR Pro 4

Now remember, I was not trying to MATCH the images, just to do the best I could with a pleasant image.

1. On first look, CS5 HDR Pro produced a very pleasing image with lots of detail and saturation, with the least amount of effort and fiddling. But the saturation came in way too high and there's very visible chromatic aberration.

2. Nik HDR Efex Pro gave me a really clean image but there was almost no colour in the clouds until i ran Viveza. Again there was some evidence of chromatic aberration but I thought the image was much smoother overall. This program gave me much more range doing details than the other two. I should take out a little colour bias from this image but didn't notice until I was posting this.

3. I maxed out almost all the controls in Photomatix and still couldn't get the kind of detail and sharpness I liked and again, there was no colour in the clouds. A small hue/saturation adjustment in Photoshop gave me all the colour I wanted but really bad artifacting so I backed it out. Microsmoothing helped a lot with the noise in the sky. There was NO evidence of chromatic aberration even when I viewed the image at 200%. I ended up with lots of Halo around the trees, though.

Until I actually looked at all 3 images together, I didn't know which one I preferred. I'm not going to tell you, though, because that's subjective (well this whole thing is subjective!) and you may have a different preference. CS5 was the easiest one to use. Nik had the broadest range and lots of room left to play. Photomatix was maxed out but gave the cleanest result.

I know this is a silly comparison, using just one image and subjective rather than objective adjustments and inconsistent treatment. So please file it under "For What it's Worth".

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

ALT-NUMPAD ASCII Character shortcuts

This isn't really about photography, but I find myself using these shortcuts all the time so I thought I'd share them…

I like to use properly formatted extended ASCII characters sometimes (technically they're "ANSI characters"). This post is about giving some of you some keyboard shortcuts.

Why only "some of you"? Well because I think they work on a Mac, but I'm not sure since I don't have one. I haven't found a way to use them on my iPad, and laptops without numeric keypads are a challenge as well.

I'm pretty sure this is not news to a lot of you, but there's a whole new generation out there who don't know what the extended ASCII characters are. If they want to insert a special character, well they're only familiar with the menu in the MS Office programs.

Since I have some typography background, I know, for instance, that an "ellipsis" is not just three periods in a row. I even know what an ellipsis is! If you don't, well Google is your friend! Do you know when to use a hyphen, or an en-dash, or an em-dash? I know I don't use them exactly correctly according to the book, but I find that an em-dash — surrounded by a space on either side — makes text read better than either of the other two, in my eyes anyway.

So without further ado, here's a table of some of the special ASCII characters that I often use in my workflow. Feel free to add to the list. You can look these up here, but it's rather a lengthy list — there are lots more characters that I don't use. My list only includes the ones I use regularly.

These characters are typed by holding down the alt key ('option' on a Mac?) and typing the 4-digit ASCII code (don't forget the extra zero) on your numeric keypad. The regular numbers at the top of your keyboard don't work. On a laptop, you need to turn on the numlock which, on my Lenovo, is done by holding down the fn key and hitting scroll-lock.

(Blogger doesn't want to let me insert a table. So forgive the lack of formatting here. I used "Courier" font to maintain the spacing)

     alt-0133     Ellipsis
     alt-0145     Open single smart quote
     alt-0146     Close single smart quote
     alt-0147     Open double smart quote
     alt-0148     Close double smart quote
     alt-0149     Round Black Bullet
     alt-254      Big Square Black Bullet (no extra zero)
     alt-0150     en-dash
     alt-0151     em-dash
     alt-0153     Trademark symbol
¢     alt-0162     Cent symbol
©     alt-0169     Copyright Symbol
®     alt-0174     Registered Symbol
°     alt-0176     degree Symbol
±     alt-0177     plus/minus Symbol
²     alt-0178     superscript "2"
³     alt-0179     superscript "3"
¼     alt-0188     one quarter
½     alt-0189     one half
¾     alt-0190     three quarters

The web page I linked to also suggests using one or more of these characters in a password, which would make it much more difficult to crack. But I'll leave that for the geeks among you. Oh wait, I am one…

Here is a formatted .pdf of the above list for you to keep handy near your computer. Enjoy!

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