David Saffir: Selective Sharpening Technique for Portraits
Jan 2013 22

Sharpening images can be a challenging task. One of the issues involved is the choice between sharpening the entire image, or sharpening only the detailed areas that will really add to image quality.

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C David Tobie: Capture and Processing Techniques Example
Feb 2013 07

At 6AM this morning, the marine fog layer was thicker than usual in the California Central Coast. There was a diffused glow hinting at a sunrise to come, or that might never come, given the fog layer. So the tripod and camera at hand were grabbed immediately, as sunrise shots can fade quickly. This was shot using a Canon 5D Mark lll, with the L-series 24-105 f:4 lens.

Stepping out onto the balcony, the palmetto tree in the image was the best choice of foreground subjects, so the camera was set up to capture that, plus the sky to one side of it. A five second exposure at f:4 and ISO 200 seemed to offer a good balance, but five seconds was long enough to let the lightest of breezes blur all the palm frond tips. The camera was set to “two squeeze mode” where pressing the shutter the first time raises the mirror, eliminating mirror shake in the actual exposure, and the shot does not occur until the second time the shutter is squeezed. A remote trigger tool would have been appropriate, but there was not one available, so a light touch was used, along with many exposures. The multiple exposures were also shot in an attempt to catch a frame between breaths of wind. Of all the frames taken, there was one where nearly all the tips were still.

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Seán Duggan: Blending Modes for Compositing: Multiply & Screen
Feb 2013 19

The blending modes in Adobe Photoshop offer countless possibilities for creatively transforming your photos, as well as providing practical solutions to some real world imaging problems that may crop up from time to time. In the 2nd edition of Photoshop Masking & Compositing, which I co-authored with Katrin Eismann & James Porto (Peachpit Press, 2012), we cover the blending modes and how they can be used for creative effects when making collages. There are 26 blending modes available in the Layers panel in Photoshop CS6, some more useful than others. In this article I want to focus on two of the blending modes that can be very useful for creating multiple image composites: Multiply and Screen.

The key to using Multiply and Screen, as well as several other blend modes, is that each of these blending modes has a neutral color, a color that is “invisible” to the blending mode, and therefore hidden in the final result. Knowing what a blend mode’s neutral color is, and creating layers to take advantage of this, allow for quick and simple composites. Let’s take a look at some examples.

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David Cardinal: Using HDR to Create Realistic-Looking Images
Feb 2013 26

Initially heralded as a revolutionary breakthrough for photographers, High-dyanmic-range (HDR) images have unfortunately become known for looking fake and overblown. What many photographers don’t realize is that the over-the-top look typical of most HDR images isn’t the fault of the technology – it’s the fault of software tools that make it hard to create natural looking images, especially in the hands of photographers wishing they were painters.

There is a time and place for painting-like HDR images, and I’ve certainly done my share (some may say more than my share) of them. But sometimes I just want to use HDR to capture a scene that requires more dynamic range than my camera can capture in a single frame. Until recently it was hard to do that and create a realistic image. Fortunately, HDRSoft, makers of Photomatix Pro, my favorite HDR tool, have added two new presets that make it simple to create great photograph-looking photographs from multiple images.

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David Saffir: Thinking and Seeing In Black and White (Part 1 of 3)
Mar 2013 14

From a photographer’s point of view, “seeing in black and white” means being able to look at a color image or scene, and visualize its appearance in black and white.

This isn’t, generally, a matter of innate sensibility or talent – it’s a matter of understanding what to look for, and practicing until one becomes proficient. And why do this? The best reason, in my view, is that black and white images offer the photographer different, and frequently better, avenues for expression and communication.

Black and white images offer simplicity, without necessarily “dumbing down” the image. Images rendered in black and white are reduced to their graphic elements, eliminating the influence and distraction of color. The emphasis shifts to shapes and patterns, texture vs. smoothness, the extremes of light and shadow, and mid-tones. And with color gone, content is king!

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David Saffir: Thinking and Seeing In Black and White – Part 2 of 3
Mar 2013 19

This is an image I captured in New York City, late at night – the original as shot in color at ISO 400. I braced the camera against a windowsill. I could see from the start that tonal values were differentiated to the extent that the image would require little post-production work for a nice black and white effect.

In fact, the only significant things I did in post included pulling the end points toward the center in a Levels adjustment layer, and converting to black and white using another adjustment layer.

The deep shadows on the left, the dark parking area at top, the shadow on the right, and the dark street at the bottom provide a frame for the rest of the image. The midtone values of the sidewalk are a wonderful backdrop, with light texture providing a bit more depth to the image. The shadowy, blurred view of the pedestrians adds a bit of mystery – who are they, and where are they going?

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David Saffir: Thinking and Seeing In Black and White – Part 3 of 3
Mar 2013 21

Some photographers might say that removing color from an image, and converting it to black and white strips its content to bare essentials. Some might even describe color as “distracting”, although I wouldn’t use that word – color often provides emphasis or a focal point in a scene, and can carry strong emotional content.

I feel that eliminating color often gives us an opportunity to concentrate more intensely on composition, form and design, and texture or other surface qualities. On an emotional level, black and white frequently can evoke strong feelings, but this is often the result of the what’s in the picture, not what color it is.

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Seán Duggan: Strategies for Non-Destructive Retouching (Part 1)
Apr 2013 16

Adobe Photoshop offers several key tools for retouching, such as the Clone Stamp, Healing Brush, Spot Healing Brush and the Patch tool. Other features that are invaluable for retouching include Content-Aware Fill, Content-Aware Scaling and the Content-Aware Move Tool. Although these tools can do an amazing job when you need to retouch and remove elements from images, how you use them is also an important consideration. In this article I’ll cover some essential strategies for structuring your file so that any retouching you do is flexible, adjustable and, most importantly, non-destructive to the underlying image.

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Seán Duggan: Strategies for Non-Destructive Retouching (Part 2)
Apr 2013 18

In Part 1 of this article, I showed the basic structure for keeping your retouching non-destructive by using separate layers. These can either be empty layers that are targeted by the Clone Stamp or Healing Brush tools, or area layers that are created by copying a selection of image data and making a new layer from that selection. I’ll conclude this article by examining how you can use this approach with additional flexibility for different types of retouching.

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Seán Duggan: Image Interpretation – Into Darkness
May 2013 28

As photographers, preserving detail in the shadows is a goal that we often go to great lengths to achieve, both through good exposure practices and post-processing. Preserving, and in some cases, enhancing, detail in the darkest shadows may be important for some shots, but it’s not a rule that needs to be applied to every photograph. One thing that causes some HDR images to look so unconvincing is the improbable level of detail that is visible in the darkest areas, even in scenes that are obviously backlit or photographed looking directly into the sun. Just because you can show detail in the darkest parts of the scene, doesn’t mean that it adds anything worthwhile to the image. Indeed, there is much that can be gained in terms of dramatic impact, mystery and depth by purposefully pushing the image into the darker realms of the tonal scale.

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