Tag: photoshop

Are you editing your photos?

None of the photographs I make and publish are straight out of the camera. They could be, but they wouldn’t have the same impact as there are always improvements to be made. Besides, I want the photograph to represent what I saw and felt, not the machinations of an inanimate box with optics.

If you are shooting jpegs and you’re perfectly happy with them, then perhaps spending the time to learn and do photo editing is not for you. But, if you aren’t satisfied and you can see improvements to be made then read on…

Just to be clear, I’m editing with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, the industry-standard, fully professional app used by millions of Mac and Windows photographers around the world. However, there is a fairly steep learning curve for LR and it’s not the app to use for casual editing. Years ago, I started up the BYO Laptop course on Lightroom at Mohawk College in Hamilton. After 10 weeks of covering all the basics and some in-depth work on importing, organizing, developing, pre-sets, printing, books and black-and-white etc., users still found they needed to be actively and regularly using LR so as not to forget all it’s intricacies. Lightroom is an amazingly complete app, and I use it everyday, but it can be overwhelming without some good tutorials.

LR’s Before-After view showing the difference editing can make – not significant for this photo, but certainly an improvement from dull to glowing.

If you want to get started editing photos, begin by identifying the photos in your collection needing some improvement. We all have photos that need “rescuing” from mistakes we’ve made like under– or overexposure or poor composition. These are mistakes that should be corrected in-camera, but may be a good starting point for you to learn the extent to which photos can be “processed”. No doubt, though, you probably have others that are just lacking that bit of extra “umph’ (I know, how photographic!) to raise them from good to brilliant. Often it’s a slight adjustment to contrast, a raising of the shadows or taming of highlights or a little extra saturation.

This is where craft meets artistry. Photo editing works best if you have a preconceived “visualization” of what you want the photograph to look like. Many photographers start with a “meh” photo and try to breathe life into it using push-button pre-sets. While this can work, and it can teach you what’s possible, it’s better to start with the vision of what you want the photo to look like, then work towards it by learning what each of the options can do, and not do, for you.

Apple Preview > Tools > Adjust Color brings up this handy photo editing panel.

If this sounds intimidating, start with one of the best but basic editing apps out there – the one that’s already on your computer: if you have a Mac, it’s Preview (not Photos, not yet); on Windows 10, it’s Photos. Now, I can’t speak to the Windows experience because I don’t use it, so have a look at this article for some guidance.

Apple’s Preview is easy to use because you can open a photo already on your computer and make small adjustments to it. If you only want to edit a few JPEG files, Preview is the way to go – have a look at this comprehensive article from (surprisingly!) Forbes magazine. My only caution with Preview is that what ever changes you make become permanent once you hit “Save”. I highly recommend duplicating the photo first and adding “-Edit” to the filename, so that you can always go back to the original if you mess up.

Photos for macOS and iOS is much more complete. You can use it in Simple mode to make moderate adjustments or you can open a dozen or so various panels for a more complete editing suite (see below). It will edit both jpeg and raw files; more importantly, the editing is “non-destructive”, meaning, it is not changing the original file, but writing the edits in the background as a set of instructions that are applied only when you export or print the photo. Photos also allows you to add 3rd party extensions that further extend its capabilities.

In fact, Photos is almost as good as Lightroom. It only lacks LR’s ability to add graduated masks, adjustment brushes and bulk editing. LR is also the best possible photo app for printing, but that’s a whole different blog post.

The best article I could find to get you started with Photos is this one from MacWorld. There are also dozens of tutorials and videos online; all you need to do is Google, “How do I (fill-in-the-blank) with macOS (or iOS or Windows) Photos?” The other part of learning to edit is simply exploring; e.g. What happens to my photo when I do this?, but be sure to use the “Undo” button (or Command-Z my favourite keyboard shortcut!)

macOS Photos offers much more complete editing when you select “Adjust” then the blue “Add” in the top right.
macOS Photos – This is the simplified adjustment panel.

Other photo editors include Photoshop (Mac/Win), Pixelmator (Mac only) and Affinity Photo (Mac/Win). Photoshop isn’t really a photo editor, it’s more of an image compositor with editing adjustments that can be applied to photos. People still use it for editing photos because that’s all that was available for years. It has since been eclipsed by Adobe’s Lightroom which was designed from the ground up for photography. To fill the price gap between free and Lightroom, Pixelmator was introduced some years ago. It has since been eclipsed by Affinity Photo.

“AP”, as it’s known, is currently the leader of the pack for low cost, high-end editing, even giving Photoshop a run: AP is now considered Photoshop’s most capable replacement at about 1/10th the cost and it has a near equally-capable iOS app for newer iPads. An alternative to Lightroom is the more expensive, but very capable Capture One, used by those who can distinguish even higher-quality raw files from Lightroom’s (or claim to, anyway!)

If you’re bent on learning Lightroom (or any photo editing app, actually), give me a call or drop me an email. I can get you up and running in a few hours.

If you want really good black and white, then consider getting to know Lightroom.

Adobe users – consider signing this petition…

I know I’m late to the ball game, but hear me out…

My beef with Adobe is that their Creative Cloud license locks creative people into a perpetual (lifetime) licence if at any time in the future they wish to work on their art edited using an Adobe product other than Lightroom. Could you imagine any other artist facing this kind of brick wall? “Sorry, Mr. Bateman, but if you want to work up that sketch you did last year into a final painting, you will need to subscribe to our product first.” Or, “sorry, Mr. Part, but if you wish to re-work those choral pieces, you’ll need to buy into our product first.” Thank goodness LR5 is as good as it is for photographers, otherwise I would be jumping ship to Phase1 or Aperture!

Let’s face it, Adobe is screwing us. If we cave into this Creative Cloud licence and Adobe is successful at it, then we can kiss goodbye to the old model for software licensing. Every company will start forcing users into this “monthly rental” model rather than the traditional way of buying a copy of the software and upgrading on an as-need basis.

If you’re not familiar with what has happened, with the introduction of the Creative Cloud, Adobe has chosen to “rent” their software (e.g. Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, etc.) on a monthly or yearly subscription basis. As long as you pay the subscription fee, you have access to their products. Three months after to stop paying, the software stops working. If you choose to work on an image months later or a year later, you’ll need to subscribe again. Worse yet, if you fall on hard times, or simply retire at a lower income, and can’t afford the monthly/yearly subscription, you can no longer (that’s forever) work on the files you created with Adobe products. Yikes!!

Granted, Adobe’s software is designed for working professionals who can write off monthly business expenses. But not everyone who purchases Adobe products are working professionals. Those who cannot afford this monthy expense will now have to look elsewhere (go Pixelmator – bring on the 16-bit editing!!).

So… Derek Schoffstall of Harrisburg, PA has started an online petition in an attempt to create a groundswell of support against Adobe’s move. Here’s the link:

Adobe Systems Incorporated: Eliminate the mandatory “creative cloud” subscription model.

I would add to that a boycott of the Adobe Creative Cloud – here are some articles outlining alternatives:

This is a turning point amongst creative professionals and serious hobbyists. Do we cave in to the “Big Brother” model of total control, or do we find alternatives and politely let Big Brother know we won’t play by their rules?

Why I like Photoshop Elements 8.0 (PSE 8)

Photoshop Elements 8On Saturday morning, I start teaching a 4-session digital editing course for users of Photoshop  Elements 8. I first used PSE as version 6 two years ago and used it quite intensively for about 12 months. After that, I was able to upgrade to Photoshop CS4 and left PSE behind. Returning to PSE 8 in preparation for the course has reminded me of just how incredibly useful PSE is.

The beauty of PSE is that its simplicity belies its incredible power. It has an interface far more welcoming and less intimidating than Photoshop yet, for photographers, it can perform, perhaps 80-90% of what Photoshop does. I would even be inclined to use PSE instead of Lighroom. To me, Lightroom is a glorified Adobe Camera Raw developer with a Library Catalogue attached. But what about two key essentials:

  • Transformations to straighten building angles (particularly when shot with a wideangle) and
  • Lens Corrections to remove the slight curve introduced with wideangle zooms

– both of which are found in PSE but not Lightroom.

But, be that as it may, while PSE has its limitations, I feel that it has more to offer than the average enthusiast can exhaust – especially if you are shooting JPEGs. I am amazed with “EDIT Quick”. A few quick clicks and boom – you’ve got a great looking pic. The “EDIT Guided” mode is a great way of learning what tools will do you. Overall, the “Help” that’s available behind each light bulb is, well, very helpful. Diligent learners will pick up all the nuances of the PSE simply with the various help options.

“EDIT Full” mode is where you can really optimize photos. I like adding adjustment layers and saving as Photoshop files to prevent any pixel destruction. Masks and brushes are available for even greater fine tuning. The nice thing is that converting to black-and-white and even adding a tone to the shot can all be done in PSE. By creating the B&W on a duplicate layer, you can also use the eraser tool to “paint out” some of the B&W to reveal colour beneath. Fun stuff and very compelling.

Two other great aspects of PSE are Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw that are integral parts. Provided you make some heads-up file management decisions (i.e. give your folders proper titles like YYYYMMD-DescriptiveTitle and your images proper filenames like YYYYMMDD-##-DescriptiveFilename), Bridge acts like a library that makes visually locating images very quick. Adding copyright, keyword and location metadata is easy through your own templates and/or by using the IPTC Core panel. From Bridge you can also access Photomerge and Picture Package tools. And through PSE, you can create greeting cards, photo books, prints, collages, even a web gallery i html or Flash.

Adobe Camera Raw is perhaps the most disappointing part of PSE. In Photoshop, I use ACR exclusively for exposure and tone corrections and a lot of fine tuning and it forms the basis of Lightroom. But in PSE, ACR is a bit handcuffed for my liking. It takes us back to CS2 in its lack of tools like Adjustment Brush and Gradient Tool. As well, there are no Tone Curve, HSL or Split Toning tools – all of which can be done through PSE, but I prefer to do this non-destructively in ACR so I’m not accumulating the significantly larger PSD files.

So, PSE is not perfect, but for $99 (1/7 the price of Photoshop and 1/3 the price of Lightroom) it’s amazing how much can be accomplished. All the Resizing, Cropping and Sharpening tools are there plus Art, Texture and Blur Filters, and the all-important selection tools. If you are shooting less than, say, 2000 JPGs per year, PSE is the way to go. If you are delving into RAW then PSE is still the way to go as ACR will get you started and PSE will allow you to finish photos – much like it was with Photoshop just a few years ago. The bonus is that Photoshop Elements is available as a 30-day free trial, so what have you got to lose?