I have just finished Gallery submission number 2 for 2007 [fingers crossed on this one]. Anyway for some reason I decided to really tweak my images for the gallery application, in a way that I hadn't for some time. Live Picture, a now dead piece of software, was my app of choice back in the day when I began digital photographic print making. It runs OK in Classic on my laptop, but screams in OS 8.1. After a bit of a fiddle on my laptop, I felt my time would be more productive if I used my old beige G3 running OS 8.1.
Ooooooo drool. I had forgotten about the speed and ease of use on this gorgeous app which coincidentally originally retailed for $3,000 Canadian upon it's release. When it came out it in the mid 90's, it could open 200 meg files as if they were txt files and on a power Mac with the then whopping great pile of 128 meg of ram. A brush stroke happened in real time, there was no destruction of pixels in the editing process, as it was NOT a pixel editing app magnification was limitless, and it just does things the way Photoshop will never be able to do.
So with 8 images to tweak and edit for the then due proposal over the weekend, away I went, feeling guilty for spending such little time trying to achieve an end result, all up I think I spent 3 hours with 8 images. Some minor masking and curve adjustments, working swiftly with my pen and tablet as if I was really drawing. Oh the joy of it all. It will be a sad day when my beige G3 finally dies, this application really made the process of image editing a real joy, encouraged time spent with images, allowed infinite undoes all retrievable at any stage of the process. The editing is done in 16 bits internally and no pixels are harmed in the process. The edited files fit on a floppy disk, can be built out to suit the web or a billboard, and at at no point is the app getting in your face, it just edits.
Graceful, elegant, simple.
Ok so shoot me. In the last few days I've managed to take a small step back and breathe a little, there is light at the end of the tunnel after-all. So without further ado I am going to ramble on for a few sentences, my apologies to both my readers if you came here for something scintillating?
I mentioned recently that I'd been in the hills for a few days, photos on flickr to come, it was a small school excursion, that had me in the hills. Whilst there, I had a "discussion" with another photographer regarding, craft and image making with a camera, and the resulting images, or rather prints.
Basically the photographer felt that the image was paramount, the act of making the image or capturing the moment, the only motivation needed all else was secondary.
Being a camp and a weekend, I was in no mood to try and get him to think any other way.
This particular photographer is prolific, perhaps too prolific. He carries his 35mm film camera everywhere, a good thing I might add, he makes a lot of images, also a good thing. What he doesn't do is take the time to print his images in a way that makes them exceptional. So today I then wondered why not just use a 2 mega-pixel point and press, or a mobile phone? Why lug around a camera tha requires extensive input, pre-exposure and post exposure to make an image? Lo-fi cameras such as my Sony Ericsson Mobile Phone camera and my wife's Minolta 4 mega-pixel camera, now do an adequate job of representing the world placed in front of them, under the right conditions.
This then got me thinking about cameras and our relationship to them. Understanding how these machines work and appreciating their limitations forms a major part of the process of image making. If someone can let go of the technology and understand what a camera is and isn't capable of this act can potentially lead to images that push the boundaries of what a photograph is and what a photograph says.
After nearly 20 years of image making using a variety of film formats from 126 through to 5 x 4 inches, as well as several pro-sumer digital formats, I've come to appreciate the things I've learnt about light and surfaces and composition. I've come to learn the limitations of film, paper, Charged Coupler Devices, digital files and lenses. I've also come to appreciate the way the camera, hides, lies and distorts. Nothing gives me greater joy than to see a well printed image of something that I think I can recognise, as most definitely a photograph of something, but needs a second look to understand exactly what it is.
Only superb craftsmanship can produce this kind of image, and my understanding of image making is that there is a whole chain of inter-relationships that depend on each other to produce quality images. Once one of these links are broken, the results are cut loose and float uncontrollably.
As I ran a workshop in Photoshop over the weekend I didn't get much of a chance to have a play with Photoshop CS3. One thing though I learnt was that my ability to convert my raw files using Photoshop 7 has been removed! When I delete the beta version hopefully this will correct itself? Another thing I learnt is that you can only use a CS2 license not a CS license number to activate the full functionality of the beta software.
Why am I NOT surprised? Of course Photoshop are determined to sell you the latest, fair enough too I guess, they are a company they need to continue to make money. What worries me though is the must have the latest and greatest mentality that exists in these kinds of things.
Everything I do in photoshop revolves around curves, levels, adjustment layers and layer masks, all features that have been available since version 5. Sure 16 bit editing* has come in since then, sure, the History Palette has also been implemented since then, and sure the Lens Correction filter has been an added bonus as well, do I NEED any of these features, no. Well the 16 bit editing is a bit of a must but as for the rest, whatever. But hey I open an image I crop, I adjust levels, I burn and dodge a little I emphasise colour slightly, I sharpen, all of this is gone globally and or locally on an image, do I need any of the other guff no, but more importantly do my students?
What my students need is to be able understand what constitutes good exposure either digital or analogue, what constitutes good lighting, and good composition, the rest is simply workflow and can almost be automated, on a global image level anyway.
So, do I need photoshop CS2 or 3? No! Would I appreciate it if as an educator I was given a real opportunity to find the strengths and weaknesses of an application by trying it out properly, so I can then share this knowledge with my students. Abso-fucking-lutely. Is this ever going to happen, I severely doubt it.
I want my students to understand first principles, I want my students to understand the idea of finding a workaround, I want my students to be creative and critical thinkers, so sorry Adobe, I'm off to find a creative solution to the problem of modern day digital photography editing and I beginning to doubt that Photoshop CS3 is part of that solution.*I am however still waiting for TRUE 16 bit editing and while we are at it, non-destructive pixel editing and correct colour handling, I can only hope and dream I guess?
Yesterday I talked about where to start with creative manipulations on a print. Last night I found this article on the online photographer's blog, dealing with interpreting print making in a digital era.
Well Inkjet printing now becomes more of an option, I had heard about a profile or rip that allowed very good control over b&w prints from Epson Printers, a quick e-mail and I found the profile/rip in question. Now I can run my own small tests at least before I make any final decisions one way or the other.
Today we had a Professional Development day, at work. Ian Lobb a former lecturer at RMIT, maker of "Lobster" the colour tool for perceptual colour editing in Photoshop, and a wonderful artist, talked at length, about several things. Empiricism in today's and yesterday's photography -editing in hue, saturation brightness mode was one of them.
It's an issue that has been hovering in my mind for some time.
Given the ease that images can be made using a digital camera, why would one even contemplate editing an image, to accurately represent your own vision, never mind the problems that Photoshop present in terms of visual perception and colour.
Well I had big plans to write something in-depth here, but my head is still awash with so many ideas and my jumbled notes just still too fresh to make a great deal of sense. However the whole day has helped me clarify issues regarding photoshop raw capture and workflow in my mind a little better. At the very least I got to hear that others were wondering about issues of education photography and digital. Hopefully, we will be able to produce students who, think and work with files in a way that empowers them to understand what it is they are doing beyond pushing buttons and buttons alone.
Well yesterday I rambled on a bit, in the cold light of dawn here, well pre-dawn actually, I've decided that I will heed Ian's advice and compare several of the RAW processing tools I've downloaded and opened, the ones I could get to work at least.
Hopefully I'll have some results by the end of the week.
Today, I setup a grey card on a wall and took a series of shots, using a tripod, and a Canon 5d, gradually over exposing and under exposing the greycard.
Here is the file that is exposed according to the meter. I will call this MIE, [Meter Indicated Exposure].
Here is the 2nd shot which is one stop over exposed. I will call this MIE +1.
Here is the 3rd shot two stops over-exposed, I will call this MIE +2
Clearly, given that MIE has the histogram to the left of centre and no RGB values anywhere near 127, I'm guessing that this CCD is NOT recording things correctly. Given that MIE+2 gives me a histogram that appears correct and a set of values closer to 127, I'm going to assume that, this camera, a brand new Canon 5d is under exposing by 1/2 to 1/3 a stop, the next file is far to bright and the histogram is way to far over to the right for it to even come close in this test.
There are several other issues that are bothering me about the results of this test, the vignetting, mainly, so much so I am going to attempt this again under more controlled conditions.
At one level this test is inconclusive, why is the CCD not recording an even set of values for example? So, I'm asking both my readers to stay tuned.
Spent 2 hours today processing a job shot earlier in the week, decided to use the Beta Version of Capture One 4.
This is one elegant and powerful tool. The beta version on my screen cut off the curves section of the exposure tab, but other wise it all worked really well.
The interface seems to have an adobe Edge though, which is okayyy, but certainly a step away from Apple's GUI guidleines.
Using Photoshop to create greyscale images from full colour ones just got even better using the new channel mixer in CS3.
There are several way to do this, and the channel mixer has always offered the most control. Now in CS3, it offers some very interesting pre-sets as well. All based around traditional b&w film & coloured filters. This image shows the dialog box accessed by the menu-bar, image>adjustments>channel mixer.
The presets drop-down menu at the top allows you to choose between several predetermined spectral responses and creating your own custom set of values.
Use of these kinds of filters have had a long history in b&w, photography. Panchromatic film in itself has only been a reality in photography since the 70's. Prior to this b&w film was more Orthochromatic ie sensitive to the blue and green but not the red end of the spectrum, this is why so many photographs from the early history of photography had washed out skies, and also saw many many smart photographers take 2 exposures, one for the foreground and one for the sky, from the same camera position, then in the darkroom simply sandwiching the 2 negatives together to produce a print. Others simply, kept a collection of skies on hand in the darkroom and used as needed.
Now CS3 enables you to mimic the effects that these filters have in how colours are represented in a black and white print. Yellow for example it is said most closely mimics the world the way we see it and of course Red filters produce dramatic skies, while colours like green and blue can be used quite effectively in the right situation.
When working traditionally the colour of the filter you used with block it's opposites and passed more of it's own colour. So for example when using a Red filter less Green and blue light strikes the film than red. Red objects reflect more red light creating a denser negative, producing a lighter print. Where as less blue and green light strikes the film making for a less dense neg and a darker print.
I can only wonder now at the demise of silver gelatin printing. As anyone, armed today with a modern DSLR, and a good A3 ink-jet printer can easily produce some wonderful prints using these technologies.
the real question is though is there a measurable qualitative difference between the two output methods, personally I still see differences in Silver Gelatin prints over ink-jet ones, but after 20 plus years of working with the medium I've come to appreciate some unique and subtle qualities that I've yet to see in ink-jet prints.
I may, in an upcoming article, show the differences between the pre-sets at least.
Just downloaded another photo editing application, called, LightZone. I haven't sussed it completely yet, but because,it edits, non-destructively, and in a way we see collour and light.
This from the website:-
LightZone is the only photo-editor that understands the way the eye sees color and light. Rather than editing pixels, LightZone edits photographic attributes, visually, live and 100% non-destructively.
Significantly reduces the time to perfect digital photographs
Delivers more predictable and precise results with less effort
Easier to learn and use than pixel-painting software
- Integrated RAW processing and Noise reduction Provides a seamless workflow from camera media to LightZone ZoneMapper™ Edits exposure values to improve detail and contrast
- Re-light™ Improves image contrast with a single click
- Regions™ Add unlimited selective editing to every tool
- Complete tool set Sharpen, Blur, Hue/Saturation, Noise Reduction, White Balance, Spotting, Cloning, Red-eye removal and more
Screengrabs from the application.
One night a week, I privately tutor a friend in Photoshop. Typically at the end of the session, I come away with insights about the application and how people understand it. Monday night was no different, except this time I still feel invigorated enough to talk about it in the hope that it will help others to understand this cumbersome destructive & powerful tool.
So I guess i've got the next few days covered in terms of blogging.
Here's a copy and paste from the help files for Photoshop CS3
Photoshop layers are like sheets of stacked acetate. You can see through transparent areas of a layer to the layers below. You move a layer to position the content on the layer, like sliding a sheet of acetate in a stack. You can also change the opacity of a layer to make content partially transparent.
You use layers to perform tasks such as compositing multiple images, adding text to an image, or adding vector graphic shapes. You can apply a layer style to add a special effect such as a drop shadow or a glow.
Sometimes layers don’t contain any apparent content. For example, an adjustment layer holds color or tonal adjustments that affect the layers below it. Rather than edit image pixels directly, you can edit an adjustment layer and leave the underlying pixels unchanged.
A special type of layer, called a Smart Object, contains one or more layers of content. You can transform (scale, skew, or reshape) a Smart Object without directly editing image pixels. Or, you can edit the Smart Object as a separate image even after placing it in a Photoshop image. Smart Objects can also contain smart filter effects, which allow you to apply filters nondestructively to images so that you can later tweak or remove the filter effect. See Nondestructive editing.
A new image has a single layer. The number of additional layers, layer effects, and layer sets you can add to an image is limited only by your computer’s memory.
You work with layers in the Layers palette. Layer groups help you organize and manage layers. You can use groups to arrange your layers in a logical order and to reduce clutter in the Layers palette. You can nest groups within other groups. You can also use groups to apply attributes and masks to multiple layers simultaneously.
Essentially there are 4 types of layers in photoshop. Each has a use that can be combined with other layers to provide a level of photo manipulation unheard of for the average person prior to Photoshop 4, Photoshop itself is over 10 years old maybe 15.
More tomorrow, hopefully.
Yesterday, I talked about 4 kinds of layers. The first in my list was just a Layer, an empty one. As an artist with a training in wet darkroom processes and the production of photographic prints as objects, I actually have little use for many of photoshop's features, this layer does however have a fantastic use. If I fill it with 50% grey, and change it's blending mode to soft-light, this enables me to burn & dodge an image in a NON-DESTRUCTIVE manner as I would in a wet darkroom.
I've never quite understood HOW¶ this works, but it's power, simplicity elegance, and infinite un-doability makes it a must have trick in my bag of photographic darkroom tricks.
Then using either a) a paintbrush and black or white at low opacities, or the burning & dodging tools again at low opacities, in photoshop you can totally re-map the tonality of your image shifting emphasis on areas in a way that painters have understood for 100's of years.
The real beauty of this is if applied subtly there will be no obvious artefacts creeping into your image and even if they do, they can be wound back by using the opposite colour to change, not to mention that no pixels are edited directly in the image thereby non are destroyed and no issues such as banding creep into you prints.
Today, I'm going to look breifly at how I use adjustment layers.
From Photoshop's help files:-
An adjustment layer applies color and tonal adjustments to your image without permanently changing pixel values. For example, rather than making a Levels or Curves adjustment directly to your image, you can create a Levels or Curves adjustment layer. The color and tone adjustments are stored in the adjustment layer and apply to all the layers below it. You can discard your changes and restore the original image at any time.
As a small aside you can now access an extensive set of help files on the web directly from the help applicaiton in photoshop.
The key issue here for me is the ability to make and adjustment to say colour balance density or saturation of an image and then brush through the mask to locally adjust the image to best suit my ideas and intentions in photograph.
This approach offers a degree of control unheard of in the history of colour photography. Combined with a desktop inkjet printer like the Epson R2400, I now have a complete home colour darkroom. And of course, again, no pixels are destroyed in the process.
A couple of days ago I mentioned a new kid on the block in the digital photo-editing arena.
Over the years there has been a shift towards soft being available online, rather than on a desktop machine, giving user un-precedented mobility in their choice of work place and environment.
Now Adobe is thinking of joining the ranks and adding their highly regarded photo editing application Photoshop.
Adobe Systems has announced that it will ship a beta version of its Photoshop Express online editing tool by the end of this year, with the full product to be complete sometime in 2008.
"By late this year, we anticipate having a beta version," said John Loiacono, senior vice president for Adobe Creative Solutions, speaking at the 6sight digital imaging conference. And next year, the online service will be "available to anyone," he said.
I wonder how such an application would perform, particularly given that photoshop loads all image data into RAM, regardless of zoom and screen usage, and over the years has gotten worse in terms of it's processing power and needs?
Thanks to subbzy for the heads up.
All digital files, jpeg, or raw require some level of post processing, to achieve film like appearance. this technique is a combination of Smart Objects and the High Pass Filter*. A word of advice, I have NOT used this technique on a print, only screen images, which require different approaches I'm told.
First process your image in your favourite raw processor. Next, duplicate the background layer twice. Now, convert each layer to a smart object. On the top layer, apply the high pass filter at a setting of about 30-50. On the next layer, convert the image to b&w, using black and white converter in image>adjustments. Apply the high pass filter again, this time however, at a much lower setting, say around 1.5 to 3. Now change the layer blending mode to soft light on all layers above the original background layer. hey presto a crisp image with the kind of acutance we've become accustomed to from our years of film use.
The original image
The finished image.
*This technique requires Photoshop CS3, Kent Johnson first showed me this idea, I've tweaked it slightly, as I'm sure others will have.Less is more, as always, be careful, not to go too far overboard with the sliders, but if you do if you've used smart objects you can edit the setting at a later date, on the un-flattened file. So even without CS3, you can simply apply the high pass filter to the image directly, and the results will be the same, but you won't have the infinite undo-ablitiy that the smart objects allow.
In old news Aviary, recently went public, and is a subscription based online photo editing service.
Aviary joins the other companies that offer this service, including picnik, & photoshop express.
Picnik and Aviary differ somewhat in their services offered. Aviary it seems is attempting to create more of an online community, where picnik, taps into existing communities such as flickr and facebook for example.
With CS4 released and soon to hit the shelves here in Australia, I can't help but think, what of the future of desktop computer applications? The average person's needs are being driven down in terms of their must-have software, [it's all online now] factor in the increasingly narrowing focus of users of software such as photoshop, and I'm left thinking, where can this [and other packages] package actually go? Packages, such as Fireworks, Corel Paint. Why would anyone buy software, when there are ample alternatives to the big players?
Several packages have been released over the last 12 months, that have the potential to completely usurp programs like Photoshop, there's Iris, [$79.00 AU] Seashore [freeware], LiveQuatrz [donationware], and I'm sure this list will grow.
As part of my ongoing investigations regarding professional image editing software, and as a PD commitment, I've been working with Lightroom over the holidays, and let me say as a photographic editing tool it is very good. A no nonsense digital darkroom, I'm still not convinced however that the Asset management side of things is going to work as well as it could? Because I've been using Expression Media for so long now, we'll see, for the time being I guess I'll have to use both, systems to compare, thank god hard disks are so cheap these days.
These first four of five screens, will be a great class starter this year.
Everything a digital photographer could need is here, with no extra bells and whistles to slow down the learning process or the workflow.
So; I spent Thursday at the Sofitel in Collins St. in the city, all day. I went to view the circus that is a Corporate sales pitch. In particular, Adobe's new Creative Suite 5.
The Sofitel was an excellent choice of venue, and the crowd was at some where near the 1000 mark. The check-in process looked like it was in a log jam, but went rather smoothly and the guy who handled my 'booking' even greeted me by name, a nice touch, but not the first I'm sure. I was given my red enviro-freindly Adobe bag, full to the brim of printed materials and found a seat.[When I say full I mean 3 or 4 and is it just me or is there somewhat of an oxymoron in the idea of presenting an enviro-freindly bag full of printed materials?]
Once inside the 'vibe' was typically Melbourne, i.e. somewhat reserved. [I feel for the presenters in these instances as it is really hard to work a crowd, at the best of times, never mind one that is reserved almost to the point of hostile]. Free Adobe Rubic's cubes were handed out to the crowd if they were boisterous enough. Which some people tried to exploit. Needless to say not many were handed out, due in part I suspect by the lack of WOW factor in the product being demonstrated. At least the majority of presenters were Aussies, there's nothing worse than having an American Company send American minions to sell you on an idea/product.
The Keynote sold the main features of the Creative suite, they were.
The day began with Video Editing, not much there for me, so I used the time to tweet as best I could on my Sony Ericsson C902. The keynote referred to the the fact that all the apps have been re-built from the ground up to run in 64 bit mode, a real advantage for Video editors, not sure where Final Cut Pro sits in the scheme of things here though, but a plus for Photoshop and large raw files.
The big surprise for me was, Flash Catalyst, an interesting looking application that makes building flash applications easier, which is a pity because to quote a friend, far more tech savvy than myself:-
"Flash must die, it is the obese treacle elephant of the Internet and a culling of its inaccessible ass is long overdue."I have never liked flash either personally, but for me it's more about the semantic nature of the web, for example it makes sharing links difficult, particularly when photographers use it to build 'galleries'. Perhaps it was just me but there also seemed to be a sub-text of anti W3C standards and contempt for the debate regarding Apple and it's not allowing the use of Flash to build apps for the iPhone. No surprises really, but the crowd of, what appeared to me, to be Graphic designers all lapped up every bit of stuff about Flash and the new app called Flash Catalyst.
By now, I am starving and beginning to realise that they are saving Photoshop till the end, I wish I had read the 'agenda' earlier[again this is made in flash so not sure if it will work, it didn't on my mobile device], as I could have saved 1/2 a day. The free wifi was not happening anyway so I gave up and turned it off to conserve battery. When lunch time did arrive I headed outside, and found some free wi-fi across the road at a cafe called, The Paris End Cafe, great sandwich guys and thanks for the free wi-fi.
Back inside, the Sofitel, I found a seat close to the aisle so I could make a quick exit towards the end, a good move it turned out. Next, Indesign's new features were demonstrated and again, it was primarily about multiple platform delivery of content, this is something Quark has been trying to sell for some time, and so Adobe gets no prizes for this, but now it makes sense to me given my own use of mobile devices and their current popularity, an idea that seemed alien to me 3 years ago. There are indeed some cool new features in Indesign, but this is not an application I 'teach' so, it was more about my own personal use of the program. It will help me publish my work to a variety of formats and devices, something that, is important to me now.
Finally Photoshop gets a look in, and of course it begins with the much touted 'content aware fill tool'. This is a great tool if your are a graphic designer or a lazy photographer, I rarely need to remove that amount of visual garbage from my images, in fact it is what makes part of the challenge for me, making a good image when we are surrounded by it, the garbage that is. So this tool worked well, in real life but the software was demonstrated on a PC laptop, so I'm yet to be convinced it will work well on a Mac. The two other features that made an impression on me were, the new masking tools, and the lens correction tool.
The masking tool now speeds up the whole process of removing models from backdrops and has the ability to quickly and easily refine that selection, and either create a mask, a separate file, or a combination of layer mask and file.
The lens correction tool was indeed awesome. After launching the filter, it, the tool draws on a database of lenses and using the metadata embedded into the file 'automatically' corrects the distortions in the image created by the lens. Using the new Adobe Lens Correction application you can even create your own files and add them to the database.
Creative Suite 5 is an impressive set of tools, Adobe have tapped the market well in as much as, they can see that the distinction between DTP, Designer, Web Designer, Videographer and Photographer is really being blurred. However as a photographer, given Photoshop's demonstrated poor handling of colour, there was not much to grab my attention. I am more excited by tools like Aperture and Lightroom than Photoshop now, and probably will only use Photoshop to demonstrate a handful of ideas and approaches in my teaching practice, I can in fact see an end for Photoshop in Photography education already, other than for use as a studio/fashion tool where a photographer works closely with a Graphic Designer or is a DTP operator as well as a photographer.
For a commercial take on the software, try Macworld's review, I'll pass you the grain of salt after you've read it.