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Tutorials/Explanations

I’m just going to leave this video here because it’s so helpful. Thanks, Mike.

 

Adjusting the focus of the camera’s diopter has always been a pretty big bugaboo of mine. It sounds dumb to say because it’s almost a no-brainer but I find that this little adjustment knob is easy to bump without realizing it. I have done this many times and it always takes me forever to pinpoint the issue. I always assume I’m just blind or my glasses are dirty.

 

-Alex

I’m starting to get into all my back to school routines this week, one if which is monitor calibration. At school I edit on my Macbook Pro but at home I usually just use my desktop monitor. So for most of the summer, and most of the time that I’m home, I don’t edit using my laptop’s display. I figured this week would be as good as any to calibrate my laptop screen again since I haven’t used it in a while and I ran into a couple of things which I’ll explain in a minute.

I’d just like to pause here and quickly explain for those of you that are unaware about calibrating your display. A computer monitor fresh out of the box will probably look great to the naked eye (which is why you bought it). The colors may look fine to you but they’re probably not even close to accurate when referenced against targets built into calibration software. Now, you could say, “Well I can just eyeball it right?” No, your eyes are not to be trusted AT ALL for “eyeballing” the color on your display. When you walk into a dark room from outside notice how your eyes adjust so that everything doesn’t look dark anymore? Or if you light a candle in a room, the room doesn’t seem that yellow/red but it is a lot more yellow/red than you realize. Your eyes adjust to whatever environment you’re in so it’s important to use some hardware/software combination to calibrate your monitor for you and ensure you are getting accurate color on screen. Initially it may look wrong or broken to you but that’s just because you’re used to looking at an uncalibrated display and often the first calibration is a big jump in the right direction. Anyway, buy a colorimeter from Datacolor (Spyder Series), or X-Rite (Colormunki/ i1 Display) and thank me later. They all do roughly the same thing so you have some options.

If you do some googling or talk to most any visual artist they’ll tell you that editing on a laptop screen is probably the worst type of display you could do any color critical work on. A lot of this has to do with the laptop display’s ability (or any display’s ability) to represent the full gamut of colors present in different color spaces. Most notably, AdobeRGB and sRGB color spaces. We’re not going to get into color spaces today because I think most people, most displays, and most printed work hasn’t suffered much from not being able to showoff the entire AdobeRGB color gamut.

I’ve never heard anyone print out one of their photos and say something like, “Crap, this picture doesn’t have as many colors from the AdobeRGB color gamut as I wish it had.” Depending on the picture it’s likely that it wouldn’t have a full rainbow of colors in it unless the picture was actually a rainbow or something. If you notice any BIG color discrepancies between your image on screen and your printed image it probably has something to do with using the correct ICC profile for your printer, paper and ink about 9/10 times. Again, this is another topic for a different day but I wanted to mention it because a lot of people will attribute a problem to the wrong thing. I’m saying that creating accurate color on a laptop display is a lot easier and more obvious than all of those things.

Realistically, the big downfall of laptop displays and the software that calibrates them is that the brightness (Luminance) is variable. You can always change the brightness of your laptop screen at the push of a button which you probably wouldn’t do nearly as often on a desktop display. Brightness on any display is measured by candela per square metre (cd/m2) which is the International System of Unit’s unit of measurement for Luminance.

As a rule of thumb most monitor calibration devices will recommend a brightness setting of about 120 cd/m2 to start. This is based off the International Standard: ISO 12646:2004 Graphic technology – Displays for colour proofing – Characteristics and viewing conditions which states, “The chromaticity of the display should be set to D50. The luminance level should be as high as practical but shall be at least 80cd/m2 and should be at least 120cd/m2. The black point shall have a luminance that is less than 1% of the maximum luminance.” which I found for reference here instead of purchasing myself a copy. Also you should take into account the lighting conditions of the room you are working in. Editing outside in broad daylight or near a bright window isn’t a good idea. Usually just having a low light setting is good, but again, it depends. If you really want to get picky you could work in a room that’s completely painted floor to ceiling in 18% gray reflectance paint with no windows and only wear black or gray clothes when you’re editing. This is the real world though and you’d probably want to kill yourself before doing any of that.

Ok, so the next big question here is “How do I get my laptop to calibrate specifically to 120 cd/m2?” The answer being, for example with my Datacolor SpyderPRO 3 software, is simply to change the default brightness target from the Laptop preset which is whatever the native laptop brightness is (this is what we don’t want because there’s no way to measure this against a target unit of brightness in the software) and change it to the standard LCD preset which is 120 cd/m2.

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So now during your laptop’s calibration sequence (For this example in the SpyderPRO 3 software) it will pause at one point to allow you to change your brightness and match it as closely as possible to 120 cd/m2. If you’ve calibrated a desktop monitor before you’ve run into this step in the process where it makes you change the monitor brightness to match the target. This might be different in other software.

For some reason in the SpyderPRO 3 software it recommends that you use the native laptop brightness when really it should treat your laptop screen just like standard desktop LCD and calibrate to the industry standard brightness. I’m recommending that you do whatever you have to do in your software to make sure that you calibrate to 120 cd/m2 and make sure it stays that way. It’s also a good idea to recalibrate every week or two after your monitors warm up for fifteen minutes.

Just before I did this whole process my laptop brightness was set to half brightness (which was WAY under the 120 cd/m2 target at around 40 cd/m2) and there was a big difference between my laptop screen’s brightness and color VS. my desktop monitor which was already at 120 cd/m2. This hasn’t been a problem for me until now because I have only used my desktop monitor all summer but now that I’ve recalibrated both displays to 120 cd/m2 they are extremely close to each other if I use a picture for reference on both displays.

Now that your laptop is all calibrated and the brightness is set correctly you should probably make sure that you don’t accidentally change the brightness and screw up your calibration. I found that 120cd/m2 was not directly on one of the bubbles on the mac brightness and I had to change it in the System Prefs. Still though you could hit the brightness options on your keyboard, so how do you avoid doing that?

I wanted to find a program or something that would take a sort of screen shot of my laptop screen brightness so that I could come back to it if I ever had to change it, but I didn’t really find much. I did however, find this little program called “Function Flip” what this allows you to do is to instead of disabling all the brightness/volume F-keys like you can in the System Preferences on the Mac, Function Flip allows you to selectively turn some of your F-keys back to just F-keys and not a brightness adjustment. So it should look like this:

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Now I won’t accidentally change my monitor brightness from bumping the brightness key on my keyboard. You can also set it to start up at Login so you don’t have to try and remember every time.

This is kind of a bush-league way of keeping track of your brightness but I just screen shotted it in the system preferences so that I at least have a picture to reference roughly where my brightness is should I ever actually need to change it and can’t recalibrate that same day.

Anyway, that’s about it. I’m kind of boggled I didn’t pick up on this earlier. Don’t set your laptop brightness to some arbitrary brightness, try and set it to an international standard of 120cd/m2 and watch your room’s lighting conditions and you’ll be fine.

See you next time

-Alex

P.S.

Looks like I’ll be writing about ICC profiles, soft-proofing and color gamuts in a couple future posts because I also ran into some stuff with that recently that you might be interested in reading about.

The other day I was printing some photographs and noticed when looking closely that there were some cut lines across one of my images.

Bicubic Automatic

An image rotated in the Free Transform tool using Nearest Neighbor Interpolation. Image is zoomed in to about 400%

Interpolation is something that, for the most part, goes unnoticed in Photoshop. I didn’t think too much of it either until I started seeing this jagged edge problem on a couple different photos. Normally I would disregard an issue like this as a resolution or an anti-aliasing problem but the lines are too uniform across the entire image for either to be the case.

As it turns out it is the Free Transform and Ruler tools that cause these lines because they use interpolation to perform their operations. In Photoshop’s default settings the interpolation method for all tools is set to Bicubic Automatic so you shouldn’t ever run into this problem unless your settings get changed. I won’t go into detail on all the interpolation methods that Photoshop has to offer but essentially what interpolation does is create or delete pixels depending on whether you want to size an image up or down from its original size. Interpolation also plays a part in rotating images which is why this issue is hard to find an answer for online. Interpolation is usually just associated with sizing images up or down but not rotating images.

After going through each of the interpolation options and trying a few free transforms I figured out that it’s the Nearest Neighbor (Preserve Hard Edges) interpolation option that causes this jagged edge problem after a free transform rotation or straighten with the ruler tool. The solution is simply to change your image interpolation setting back to Bicubic Automatic if it’s been changed which is what happened to my interpolation settings at some point without realizing it. To change your interpolation settings you can go to your Preferences in Photoshop by hitting Command+K (Mac) or Control+K (PC) and changing them in the Image Interpolation drop down menu under the General section.

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You can also change your interpolations settings on the fly when you are using the Free Transform tool (Command+T) by using the drop down menu on the Free Transform options bar at the top of the screen.

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Here is the same image from the beginning of the post rotated with the Bicubic Automatic interpolation setting

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An image rotated in the Free Transform tool using Bicubic Automatic Interpolation. Image is zoomed in to about 400%

 

Notice the lack of vertical lines in this crop. This problem shouldn’t ever occur while editing a digital image because it is digital. There will certainly be artifacts while upscaling an extremely small image to become billboard size but in a relatively small rotation like this there should not be so many artifacts, or at least not out of a file from a DSLR.

Until next time!

-Alex

I’ve been shooting down at f/16-f/22 a lot over the last few months and noticed a debatable slip in sharpness on a lot of my images. It’s very slight if at all and gets corrected in post production so it’s not a really big deal. However, I did find a sweet little video from the guys at Fstoppers explaining this phenomenon known as diffraction.

This concept of diffraction falls in a similar vein to that of the Modular Transfer Function of a lens and is absolutely something to be thinking about when picking your f/stop next time you’re out shooting. If you’ve ever heard someone talk about the “sweet spot” of a lens they are probably referring to the f/stop that allows for the most sharpness before diffraction occurs.

Here’s the video:

 

-Alex

This morning I’m making modifications to some files at the click of a button thanks to batch processing in Photoshop. Basically what batch processing allows you to do is take an action you’ve created and apply it to photos in one location and make new saved copies in another location. This is a feature I don’t use very often but I love it when I find a use for it. Batch processing saves me the hassle of having to do the same thing multiple times by hand.

Ok so here’s what you do.

Find the Actions window and record a new action. Window>Actions or Option+F9 will get you there. Press the little paper folding button Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 1.30.21 AM on the bottom to name a new action just as you would in the layers panel. Then press the record circle to the left of that same button to start recording what you’re doing in Photoshop. It’s very important from here on, or at least while you are recording your action, that you do only what you want to be recorded. Doing extraneous tasks takes the action much longer to play back in the final output. You will be able to modify events in the pulldown view of the actions you’ve recorded and change events afterward if you wish, this is extremely convenient.

For those who don’t know, actions are little saved presets in Photoshop that you can use to record what you’re doing and play it back later. This is most commonly found with effects. Many photographers offer original recorded actions of effects that you can use on your photos. This is how you’d save a lot of time post processing and also be able to create the same look or feel across many photos. Just like there are presets in Lightroom, there are actions in Photoshop. Actions and presets also allow you to seem like you’re really good at editing when really you did nothing at all.

So you’ve got your action, great! Now we just need to batch process it. Make two folders in your hard drive, or perhaps for this exercise just make two on your desktop entitled Before and After. Put a file or two in your Before folder. I’ve added two files entitled Mock-Up

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Ok now we’re set to open up batch processing. Go to File>Automate>Batch and this dialogue will pop up.

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This dialogue is pretty self-explanatory, select your set that your actions are in (sets are just folders to organize actions) and then select the action you would like to batch process. You can then choose your source folder which is our before folder in this case and then you have a few tick boxes to look over.

I have checked the “Suppress Color Profile Warnings” tick box because I know I’m going to be opening JPEGs into the batch process in Photoshop and they will conflict with my current working colorspace. I don’t really want to get into right now but for the sake of time my working colorspace is ProPhotoRGB and the colorspace of my JPEGs are sRGB. This tick box will make sure to handle that warning box that would otherwise appear. If I uncheck this then I will have to confirm the colorspace settings of each file as it opens during the batch process. So ticking this checkbox just makes it a little more hands free on my part and in my case. If you are opening JPEGs into your working space and your working space is already sRGB then you wouldn’t have this warning dialogue appear and could probably do without checking this box.

Now you can select the output/Destination folder which in our case is the After folder. There’s also the options for file naming to contend with. The settings I have above will maintain the original file name and extension which is great. A lot of the other options are again self-explanatory and can add or change things to the file names and extensions such as a serial number or alphabet letter.

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Also unless you’re using a serial number in the file naming section you can leave the serial number at 0 and it won’t be factored into your batch process. I also have the “Override Action ‘Save As’ Commands” box checked. If you check it Photoshop will probably tell you what it does but I’ll explain. This check box means that you have recorded a “Save As” part of your action and will use those settings to save each of the files in the batch process.

If you didn’t record a “Save As” part of your action you can go back to it in Photoshop and click on the last event you recorded and press record to pickup where you left off. Save the file however you’d like to save it, I just saved mine as a JPEG with a quality number of 12. This “Save As” command when used in conjunction with the batch process in this case does not take into account the file path that is recorded in the “Save As” part of the your action. This is great because otherwise all the batch process files would be named the same thing and overwrite each other for the entire process. But if you don’t check the “Override Action ‘Save As’ Commands” box you will be prompted to save each file in Photoshop in its own location after the action has been run. This check box just adds more fluidity and automation to the already automated process, again, not necessary but nice to have. Small things like this are what make batch processing a one-click process where you don’t have to sit through the batch processing to warning boxes and saving dialogues. Checking things like this can make batch processing completely seamless so that you can click OK and then go grab a snack and come back with all the shiny new files modified and exported for you.

Now you’re all set to run your action and watch in childlike wonderment as each file flies through Photoshop, runs the action, and saves itself faster than you ever could by hand. It’s a beautiful thing.

Also just as a side note for those of you wondering, my action during this post is created to place a layer with a picture frame cutout onto each of my files, flatten it and save it. I’m doing this to replace the frames on the items in several images I took this week and an action is very useful for this. All I had to do was make sure I saved a PSD of my one frame on a layer with appropriate masking and make sure I referenced it during the recording of my action. To get this one layer into photoshop it’s best to have the PSD saved somewhere and locate it not using File>Open but File>Place. That way the file gets placed on its own layer as a smart object in the working file. Then all I had to do was confirm the placement, flatten and save the image and my action was ready to go for everything to work properly.

I hope you found this post super-helpful although it is sort of a niche technique. Bookmark it and come back later if you’re not doing batch processing today.

See you next week

-Alex

 

In light of the 4th of July weekend I’m going to keep this post relatively short. I’ve been working on some new product shots lately and using a technique called Focus Stacking as part of my workflow.

I found a Phlearn video that fully illustrates what Focus Stacking is in good detail so I’ll leave you with that.

Have a happy 4th and I’ll see you next week!

-Alex

This past week I was going through some old photos that happened to be in a separate Lightroom catalog from my usual photos. When I got my Macbook Pro I decided to just start fresh and make a brand new Lightroom catalog and keep all the old photos in my previous catalog. I decided to combine both catalogs this week because all the photographs are all on the same hard drive now and have been for over a year.

If you don’t know, a Lightroom catalog is essentially just the file used to store the data that references the images you can look at in Lightroom. The catalog saves the paths to all the files you’ve added and records all the edits you make to them, it doesn’t overwrite the edits onto the originals or make a new file with the edits you made unless you tell it to.

When I started using Lightroom I was a little nervous about learning the ins and outs of the interface. I found editing in Camera Raw very straightforward but it took me a bit longer to get used to navigating and creating folder hierarchies within Lightroom. What’s bad about not using Lightroom for moving files around is that they don’t get moved from their current location in the catalog. When you open the catalog afterwards you’ll get a ton of apostrophes and missing file indications throughout your library from where the catalog thinks the files should be. Of course, if you moved the files they won’t be there anymore. Moving and organizing thousands and thousands of files is what Lightroom was built to do. It ranks among the cheapest of Adobe software and is completely invaluable to any photographer.

The other day I was watching Jeremy Cowart’s Lightroom video, which you can download by signing up for his newsletter, and he mentions saving all the images he takes. External hard drives don’t cost that much anymore so why not, I completely agree. However, I was curious about how exactly to go about saving pictures in the same catalog across multiple hard drives without having them all connected at the same time. The answer of course is obvious.

In the Library module in Lightroom, on the lefthand side is a view of your folders where you have pictures imported and referenced by the catalog. Smartly, Lightroom greys out the hard drives that are not connected so that you don’t get confused and try to edit or find files that are simply not there right now.

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Notice how “My Book 1” is greyed out because it is a hard drive I do not have connected to my computer at the moment. I can still keep the files in the catalog though, and they will still be there for me to view and edit when I connect it again. I don’t know why I just noticed this this week but that means you can have as many pictures as you want referenced on as many different hard drives as you want, and you don’t need them all connected at the same time. You really only need the hard drive connected that has pictures you’re working on or that you’re importing new photographs into.

This essentially solves my apparent dilemma of “what to do when my hard drive fills up with pictures” the answer being “buy another external hard drive” because Lightroom has apparently got everything under control. Another 5 points to you, Adobe, you really have thought of everything.

So to get back to my original point, there’s no purpose in having separate catalogs in Lightroom because one catalog can reference as many hard drives with as many pictures as you can take and about as much storage space as you’re ever going to need. If you still feel weary about combining your catalogs, after you click File>Import From Another Catalog, your old catalog will stay perfectly intact, but all the data will be copied over to the new catalog. But not the actual files if you don’t want to copy those as well, you can just copy the catalog data that references the files, which is what I did this week.

Anyway, this one was kind of a long glass of water and I kind of got off topic a little bit but I think it’s all good information. Definitely go subscribe to Jeremy Cowart’s emailing list and download his Lightroom video because that’s what reminded me about writing this post.

Until next week,

Alex