13 posts

Bursting the Straight Out of the Camera Bubble

A movement has grown in recent years amongst digital photographers called Straight Out of the Camera, or SOOC. Please note, this commentary relates only to digital photography; film is a different animal.

The idea behind the movement is to spend more time actually taking pictures and less time editing pictures. The general idea is laudable. We would all love to spend more time in the field than behind a computer screen. Unfortunately, the broader mindset behind the movement is utter nonsense.

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Building a Mobile Office


Many photographers travel for both work and pleasure.

Much of the time the travel is temporary. A week, or so of vacation. A few days, or a week traveling on an assignment. Managing images in these situations isn’t usually that difficult. You take along a laptop, perhaps an external hard drive, or two. Generally editing is kept to a minimum until back home.

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Shoot the Moon!

Go grab some snacks and your preferred beverage because this one will be somewhat lengthy.

In the digital era of photography, interest in astrophotography has really gone <ahem> sky high. The relative ease of capturing and processing hundreds of photos to create compelling star trail images and dynamic shots of the Milky Way has helped propel interest in the genre. Nightscapes are very popular and are beautiful to look at. Darkness only exists in our minds. There is plenty of light at night and lots of great photos to be made.

In this article, I’m going to concentrate specifically on the Moon.

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Street Photography VII

The discussion of editing has been left till now because it is, to me, of lesser importance than the rest. But it is also logically what follows what has come before it. Only after we have been out taking pictures do we begin the work of editing. It is for that reason, as well, that the next section on telling stories through a body of work comes after this one. It is only after we have culled and edited that we can begin to curate the finished photos into a coherent story, ready to show to others. Continue reading

There is No Holy Grail for Better Photography, Only Hard Work

Photography, perhaps more than any other endeavour is replete with the equivalent of ‘get rich quick’ schemes. There are any number of software companies and individual photographers hawking ‘one click fix’ solutions. From snapshot to amazing shot-type books and tutorials. Action sets that will set your heart a flutter at the ease with which a couple mouse clicks will make your photo a masterpiece. Continue reading

Workflow – What is it good for?

If you read the musings here you’ll know that I like to co-opt song titles and lyrics. So, with a nod to Edwin Starr we’re going to talk about the idea of ‘workflow’.

What is workflow? It’s a term used a lot in photography but is it a term that people generally know what it means? Continue reading

On Writing, A(nother) Personal Essay

A couple days ago, I posted a personal essay about the state and future of the book/publishing industry. A friend pointed me to this essay on another blog about the work of writing and the value of being rejected.

I’m a proponent of the ability to self-publish. To an extent. I plan to put out a couple short, tutorial-type e-books later this year or early next via the self-publishing portals at Amazon and Indigo. These will be relatively short, highly focused e-books that wouldn’t otherwise be able to be published via traditional methods. And largely, that’s what I think self-publishing is best for.

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Android App Review – Photo Enhance Pro HD

Applications or ‘apps’ are the things that make smartphones and tablets more fun and more useful.  In an earlier article, I looked at the camera in the new Samsung Galaxy S II LTE.  In this article, I’m going to walk you through an app to go along with the camera – Photo Enhance Pro HD.  This is a paid app but there is a slightly stripped down free version as well.  The phone comes with a stock photo editor app but often third party apps have enhanced functionality or more features. Continue reading

Photo Basics – Histograms

In the last instalment of this series we looked at light meters and used the histogram to discuss exposure.  In this part of the series we’re going to take a closer look at histograms and explain a little more what information they convey and what information they don’t convey. Continue reading

The Power of Lightroom, Redux

This is a follow up to my original Power of Lightroom article from just about a year ago.  Lightroom has been improved with each new version and while the black and white capability and the Adjustment Brush capability have been in place before v3, I thought I’d take the opportunity to toss in a new article on Lightroom for black and white.  Probably 80% of what I do with editing photos, I do now with Lightroom.  There are still some things I use Photoshop for and I’d never give up Photoshop but Lightroom is a wonderful piece of software. Continue reading

Layer Masks – Tutorial

Layer masks are one of the most useful tools in digital editing. The amount of flexibility Layer Masks give you in making selective and subtle changes makes learning how to use them very helpful.

Creating a Layer Mask is very simple. Duplicate your layer then go to Layer>Layer Mask at which point you’ll have the choice to Hide All or Reveal All. Which you choose depends on how you want to use the mask. If you want to use the mask to selectively add an effect to a photo you’ll choose Hide All. If you want to use the mask to selectively remove an effect from a photo you’ll choose Reveal All.

Once you’ve chosen Hide or Reveal, you next choice is in which paint colour you’re going to use to adjust the Layer Mask. If you’ve chosen Hide All then you’ll select white as your foreground paint colour. If you’ve chosen Reveal All, you’ll select black as your foreground paint colour. Painting on a Layer Mask with white reveals and painting with black hides. Continue reading

High Pass Sharpening – Tutorial

The typical last step in editing a photo is to apply sharpening. Sharpening is necessary because photos straight out of a digital camera or scanned film images tend to be a bit ‘soft’. That is, they don’t have the crispness that we may want.

The most common method of sharpening is to use the Unsharp Mask (Filter>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask). The USM filter will be familiar to those who’ve worked in a wet darkroom because it works the same way the unsharp mask worked in making wet prints. USM isn’t necessarily the best way to sharpen a digital photo; however. First, it’s a destructive method of sharpening. That is, it alters pixel values in the image file. This can be worked around if sharpening is applied on a separate layer but even then it’s less than perfect. Second, it can be a bit finicky to use at times. Getting just the right amount of sharpening can be difficult. It’s also easy to overdue the effect. Overcook the sharpening and you’ll end up with unpleasant bright halos around the edges of elements in the photo. Continue reading

The Power of Lightroom

I’ve enjoyed using Lightroom since v1.  With the improvements and new editing tools introduced in v2, it’s vastly improved.   And now with v3 on the horizon, the story should only get better.  Lightroom is now my main editing application and I typically only use PS for things that can’t be done in LR (e.g., perspective correction, more complex layer work).

As good a tool as it is for organising your photography database, I think there are a good number of people using LR who still don’t know how powerful an editing tool it is. Everything I did with the photos below can be done in PS and probably PSE and other editing applications. In most cases I find the result is better with the tools in LR and the workflow is faster and more natural. In addition, to do the same things in PS would require, in most cases, using layers to maintain the integrity of the original image which increases file sizes and chews up hard drive space.  First I’m going to show 4 images in a before and after comparison.  You may not like the photos, you may not like how I approached the editing.  That’s all fine.  I think they do show the power of the tools in LR for editing; however.  In all but one case, the only tools used were the Adjustment Brushes, Spot Removal and the Clarity slider.  In one, a slight Tone Curve adjustment was made and in the last a crop was applied.  I wanted to do a couple things with these.  I wanted to highlight the bits of colour in the surrounding evergreen trees.  Second, I wanted to bring out the texture of the Precambrian rock of the Canadian Shield.  Beyond that, I wanted to enhance contrast by darkening certain parts of the water and existing shadow areas without completely losing texture or detail.  In the last, I also wanted to brighten the waterfall itself which was hidden in fairly deep shadow and crop to create a near perfect mirrored symmetry with the reflection. Continue reading