Finding your digital photos, knowing where they are stored and making sure you have backups is every photographer’s conundrum. In this free one-hour seminar I show you what works for me starting with ingesting photos to my computer from my camera, deciding where they should be stored, plus options for storing, cataloging and backing up the files.
There are times when we just can’t get rid of obstacles in our photos and that is when Photoshop comes to the rescue. In this online seminar I show some basic ways to use Photoshop to eliminate things that just don’t belong in our photos.
There are times when you can get everything in focus that you want, especially when shooting macro, you can’t get the depth of field that you want. Photoshop to the rescue.
Make a set of photos focusing on different areas within the scene.
Bring your images into your computer. It is easiest if you put all your images to be stacked in a separate folder.
In Photoshop on the “File” menu, go to “Automate” and then choose “Photomerge.” This opens your images in the same Photoshop document.
When the Photomerge options pop up, point it to the folder where the images are stored. Leave the option on the left set to “Auto” and then uncheck the option to blend images together. After pressing OK, Photoshop will go to work aligning and putting the images into the same document.
This might take Photoshop a few minutes, but when it completes, you should have a new document that has all of the images open in the layers palette. There’s just one more step to get your images focus stacked.
On the layers palette, select all of the layers. You can click on the top layer, hold down the shift key and then click on the bottom layer to select them all. Once all the layers are selected, go to the “Edit” menu and choose “Auto Blend Layers.”
On the Auto Blend Layers menu choose “Stack Images.” Press OK and Photoshop will work do the focus stacking. After Photoshop completes its work, you can see the results both in the form of the final image and the layers palette on the right side of Photoshop. You’ll see that the masks have automatically aligned and that Photoshop intelligently sampled which layers to mask into the final image.
There doesn’t seem to much more confusing when dealing with digital files than image resolution and pixel sizes. When you are posting, sharing or printing your photos the proper resolution is key to getting the look you want and speedy transmission. In this online seminar I talked about image resolution, knowing how big your files are, what size they should be and how to make them that size. Enjoy the video.
Lightroom has become the dominant photo organization and editing program. Its ease of use and power make it essential for most photographers. Here is a two hour overview of what it does.
As part of my free monthly photography seminar series, here is Printing Your Photos.
I got a nice new Apple Watch for Christmas from my lovely wife Robin. It is pretty cool but a little too advanced, it wouldn’t work with my old iPhone 6, so of course I was forced kicking and crying to to upgrade my phone! OK, I’ve been eyeing one for a while so it wasn’t too painful, other than the price. I got the spiffy iPhone 11 Pro Max since it has what is reputed to be a great camera built in. I hear a lot of people saying their phone can make images as good as my expensive DSLR camera. I tell them to come to my gallery and I’ll show you plenty of shots you aren’t going to make with that phone. But now that I have the fanciest around I need to give it a try.
All phone cameras have an extremely wide angle lens but this gets even wider. While a nice soft snow was falling this morning in Vermont, I went out with our dog Pudge to give the phone a little trial run. I shot some photos on normal setting, some with the telephoto and then the wide angle. Any camera would handle these conditions pretty well so it hard to tell what the camera will really do but so far they look pretty good. I got Pudge to sit and pose and used the extreme wide angle to really make her dominant in the photo. Like most cameras, it made the image too dark because of all the snow. It made the snow gray rather than white and I needed to correct it in post processing but it wasn’t off that far. I got the normal wide angle distortion in the trees but that is to be expected. The image looks pretty sharp but I’m not making a 60″ print. That will be the real test.
As part of my monthly seminar series, we had a fun evening talking about photography gadgets and equipment. I’m the first person to say it isn’t the equipment that makes the photographer but having gadgets is a lot of fun and some things will help you get photos your couldn’t get otherwise, like when condensation builds on your lens at night. Enjoy the video
As part of my monthly online seminar series, I did a session about tripods. I think for most things, a photographer should always use a tripod, of course there are times when you can’t but being lazy isn’t one of those times. I also talk about the types of tripods, heads and features, including monopods and traveling with a tripod. Enjoy the video.
Adobe’s latest release of Lightroom has a major improvement – camera profiles. You may have heard of profiles for your monitor and printer, these are kinda the same except in reverse.
Let me try to explain some fairly technical details of how a digital camera works. The sensor that records your images views the world in Black & White, it can’t tell the difference between colors, only tones. It sees something as being either bright or dark. Film, by the way, does the same thing. In order to record color, special filters have to be put over the sensor. The color filters essentially block out other colors. If you hold up a red filter and look through it, what is happening is other colors are not allowed to pass through the filter so you see the red. In the digital camera world the sensor has a color filter array that lets certain color light hit each pixel of the sensor. That is the simplified version but what is important to understand is that there is no right or perfect way to filter the light and it is adjustable via software.
That is where Lightroom’s camera profiles come in. This only works for RAW files, it doesn’t affect TIFF or JPG files since profiles are done by the camera or another processor. Lightroom looks at what camera made the RAW image, takes into consideration how that camera does the filtering and then makes adjustments to the colors before your image is displayed in Lightroom. This was always happening but you didn’t have easy control over it. Now you do. Adobe has created six new basic profiles to enhance colors based on what they think the type of photo is.
- Adobe Color – improves the look and rendering of warm tones, improving the transitions between certain color ranges, and slightly increasing the your photo’s. Adobe Color is the new default and Adobe says it works well with any photo.
- Adobe Monochrome – has better tonal separation and contrast than photos that started in Adobe Standard and were converted into black and white.
- Adobe Portrait – is optimized for all skin tones, providing more control and better reproduction of skin tones. It has less contrast and saturation applied to skin tones.
- Adobe Landscape – has more vibrant skies and foliage tones, in other words they bumped the vibrancy in blues, greens and maybe yellows.
- Adobe Neutral – has a low amount of contrast and not much else has been boosted.
- Adobe Vivid – adds a lot of saturation and punch to your photo.
Whenever a RAW photo is imported into Lightroom a profile must be rendered, but remember you can always change it later. The default profile is now Adobe Color. It won’t affect photos already imported into Lightroom but will affect all future photos, if you use the default profile. You can go back to older photos and apply the new profile through the Develop module. The old Adobe Standard profile is still available and is still applied to your older photos.
All images need some amount of enhancement, that is a technical requirement, so don’t think of it as a dirty word. Adobe is quick to point out that these profiles are starting points, you’ll probably want to make additional enhancements to your photos depending on the way you like your images to look.
Adobe has gone farther than the basic profiles. They noticed the trend of photos having lots of saturated colors (way too much for my taste) and they have created a set of Modern profiles that really make colors pop. There is also a set called Vintage that makes your photos look like they were shot on different types of film.
Is all of this new? Couldn’t this be done with presets and just moving the sliders? The answer is kinda yes, you could do some of that. But presets move sliders in the Develop module, if you want your green grass to be super-duper saturated there is only so far you can move the slider. Now there is a profile that saturates green before you move a slider. So you can get greater enhancements than before. Since everything in Lightroom is non-destructive, meaning you can always make changes without doing anything to the original file, you can anytime change the profile. You can see what the other profiles do by moving your cursor over the thumbnails in the Develop module. If you have already toned a photo and apply a new profile, it will change the work you have already done, so there is no reason to change profiles if you like the way your existing image looks.
There are third party profiles already on the Adobe website and I’m sure there will more available soon.
You may have noticed that when you first look at RAW images in Lightroom they look great for a couple of seconds and then pop to a more muted and flat look. That is because your camera creates a jpg image when you take a picture, even if you are shooting in RAW. What you see on the back of your camera when chimping is that jpg, and many times what you see on the camera’s screen looks different than what you see in your computer. In your camera you have several different options to determine what picture style you want. The styles are called landscape, fine detail, neutral, portrait, etc. You can adjust those settings to increase the saturation, contrast, sharpness, etc. But they only do something to jpg files not RAW. The image on the back of your camera is that enhanced jpg and that is what initially pops into Lightroom. Now Adobe has made it easy to apply those settings through what they call Camera Matching. By using Camera Matching your RAW files can look like what you saw in the camera.
All of these new profiles are accessed in the Basic panel at the top right of the Develop module in Lightroom Classic CC and are available in all versions of CC. They have also moved the dehaze slider up to the Basic panel, which makes it more accessible.
Work with the new profiles and see what you can do with your photos. If you want to learn more, check out Adobe’s blog at https://theblog.adobe.com/april-lightroom-adobe-camera-raw-releases-new-profiles.
I’ll be covering camera profiles extensively in my upcoming Advanced Lightroom workshop. on June 24. You can attend the class in person or live online.
Today I got to play with Canon’s newest wide angle marvel, the EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens. I’m hosting my Meetup groups in Havre de Grace, MD, and we photographed the bald eagles at Conowingo dam this morning. Canon pro rep Tony Kurdzuk brought a bunch of long lenses to use for the eagles but I also asked him to bring me an 11-24mm so I could give it a try.
Well, it is incredible.
It is rectilinear lens, which means you don’t get the crazy distortion you normally get with a lens this wide. In fact, this is the only lens made by anyone that goes to 11mm for a full-frame camera. I have a 15mm fish-eye, but the world becomes warped when I use it, so I rarely do. This lens just doesn’t do that. Like Tony said, you can never have a too wide lens, but this one is close.
The first thing I tried was aiming it directly at the sun during sunset. That is one way to quickly find any flaws in the glass. Most lenses flare like crazy when you aim it at the sun but there is only a slight flare, and it is a nice flare.
Then I wanted to see what happened at f/4, which is the constant largest aperture. Nothing but cool. And sharp.
Last I got really close to a log in the water with a long exposure. The color version of this shot is nice but I like the Black & White. There is a silly amount of depth of field here, I’m inches from the log.
The final verdict: I’m sold. I’ll be ordering mine soon.
Tripod buying guide – selecting the right tripod for you
Most out-of-focus pictures are due to camera movement, it isn’t because you focused in the wrong place or your subject moved. It is because your camera moved. It doesn’t take much, especially as your use longer telephoto lenses. That is why I shoot over 90% of my photos with my camera on a tripod. I’m a believer that you can’t have a tripod that is too good. A solid tripod is a must in my photography world, a flimsy tripod is a waste of money. I’ve heard people say that any tripod is better than none and I couldn’t disagree more. A flimsy tripod gives you a false sense that you are getting sharp pictures but then you get back to your computer and you see your photos are a little fuzzy. If you’re not using a tripod, hopefully you know the camera could be shaky and you do some things to keep the camera as steady as you can, use image stabilization with your lens and then not be surprised later.
So make sure you have a solid tripod, but first there are some things you need to consider before making a considerable investment.
- Is the tripod strong enough for your camera and lens?
- How tall are you?
- How small does the tripod get?
- How much does it weigh?
- Do you shoot much at ground level?
- Do you want twist or flip leg locks?
I was out in my favorite location in Pomfret, VT, looking for foliage photos and looking at a small set of birch trees. A single fallen yellow maple leaf had landed on the trees and provided a nice splash of color against the white bark.
But the light was pretty bad. I was deep in the woods and there wasn’t any light getting down to the leaf.
So I pulled out my flashlight and since I use my tripod for most of my photos I was able to do a long exposure which let me light the scene with my flashlight. Rather than illuminate it from the front with a flat light, I moved the flashlight to the side to give it nice modeling and texture on the tree. I like sidelight and backlight and use it whenever I can, so when I can control the light, that is what I aim for.
Usually most people think of doing light painting at night, but there are many times when kicking in some extra light can make a big difference in an image. It is good to have a strong flashlight handy.
Let’s start with when you need a neutral density filter. A normal ND filter cuts down the amount of light going through the lens. You want to do that when the light is too bright to get a slow shutter speed you want, like when you want moving water to look milky. Or when you want to use a large aperture, like f/2.8 on a sunny day to limit your depth of field. People shooting video frequently use an ND filter so they can shoot at 1/30th shutter speed to get normal looking video.
There are a couple of different ways to accomplish neutral density. One is to use a variable neutral density filter, the other is to use a filter that has a fixed amount of density. The variable is much more expensive and gives you more precise control. The fixed is less expensive but you may want two or three to meet all your needs.
If I want moving water to look milky, I usually like to have a shutter speed of two seconds or longer. So if I am shooting 100 ISO and it is sunny, my exposure will be f/11 at 1/125 sec. So I need eight stops of ND to get down to the two second exposure I want, which is why the only ND I carry is 8X.
OK, I kinda lied. I made my own variable ND filter by using two polarizing filters and reversing one in its frame. I can then stack the two on my lens and vary the amount of light coming through, which is how an official variable ND filter works. But I don’t find that I need to do that very often, my 8X ND covers what I usually want to do.
And there are graduated ND filters where part of the filter is ND and part is clear. These are great when the sun is below the horizon and the foreground is dark and the sky is bright. You can cut down the light in the sky but not the foreground. I have to admit that I don’t use my graduated ND filters much any more since Lightroom does such a great job creating the same effect. But I’d say that it is better to do it with filters than software if you are real fussy. They also make slotted ND filters that cut down the light in the middle, like after sunset when the horizon is bright but the sky and foreground are dark. And there are tinted ND filters, but they are gimmicks to me. If you want your scene to be blue or warm, just do it in the computer.
My suggestion is to start with a 8-10 stop ND. You’ll want to have it available for each of your lenses, you never know if you are going to want it with wide angle or telephoto. So either buy one for each lens or buy one for the largest filter size you have and get step-down rings that let you put the larger filter on the smaller lens.
Many photographers use fill flash outdoors when faces are in the shadow. The flash built into the camera can do a good job punching a little light into an area that is too dark. I went out to photograph a field of sunflowers and the sky was gray, so I made the “fill flash” the main light source and underexposed the rest of the photo by one stop. The flash was off the camera bouncing into a small umbrella to create a softer light, but it would still work with an on-camera flash.