Category Archives: Software

Favourite Filters

Wet tree bark. Captured witht he Olympus EM5 + Olympus 12-40 lens. Post processing with OnOne Effects.
Wet tree bark. Captured witht he Olympus EM5 + Olympus 12-40 lens. Post processing with OnOne Effects.

I have written here many times about my love of software used in the image creation process and in particular filters. But this wasn’t always the way. At one time I was a hard core Photoshop users and believed there was very little any filter could do that I could do using Photoshop.

But times have changed and filters have developed substantially. I no longer view filters as a way of taking money from less experienced users but as a way of making advanced image editing accessible to everyone. Most importantly, filters now allow you to make complex, advanced edits to your images very quickly and with little learning. This is the essence of Lightweight Image Editing.

Despite my early dislike for filters, there were some that I owned and use. These were tools such as Neat Image for noise reduction, Genuine Fractals for image enlargements, Topaz Detail and Enhance, Contrast Master from PhotoWiz and a very good masking tool that I can’t recall the name of. Over time I began to favour some of these tools over others, ultimately standardizing much of my work on the Nik Efex range of plug-ins.

But I’m now reconsidering my standardizing on Nik and have started to use OnOne software Photo suite once more. Whilst Nik tools are excellent and very flexible, I have found the need to be careful when editing image files from Micro 43 cameras. These files seem to have a “noise pattern” that would become emphasised when the image was edited using some Nik filters (and it’s not just Nik tools). The difference I found with OnOne Photo Suite 10 is that I can make quite extensive and strong edits without negatively affecting the image quality.

At the moment I am only really using the Effects module but the results are very impressive. Best of all, if you’re not familiar with the software, there is a free version you can download from the OnOne site

Whilst this doesn’t provide all the filters of the full version, it does include some excellent and very useful ones. If like me you like to use software as part of the creative photographic process, this is well worth looking at.

Better Looking Flickr Images

Simple image with a simple white border to display better on Flickr
Simple image with a simple white border to display better on Flickr

I was recently out with a friend when he showed me some of his work on Flickr. What immediately struck me, other than how good his images were, is that they had a consistent look. All of them had a nice clear white border around them as well as a thin black Keyline. This made all the images really stand out against the dark background of Flickr.

The process of adding the border is done in Photoshop where the image is also resized. If you would like to see what this looks like on Flickr, I have uploaded an example. I would also suggest you take a look at my friends work here.

If you decide that you like this technique and want to know the steps I have prepared a free tutorial on my Lenscraft website.

Useful Lightroom Technique

Canon G16, ISO80, f/3.5, 1/25".
Canon G16, ISO80, f/3.5, 1/25″.

If you use Lightroom you will no doubt be familiar with the clarity adjustment slider. This can be used to adjust the midtone contrast of an image. Increase the contrast and the finest details pop out of the image. Reduce the contrast and the image takes on an ethereal haze.

In addition to the main Clarity slider found in the Develop module, a clarity slider can also be found in each of the Gradient tools as well as the Adjustment Brush. With the main Clarity slider so easily placed, it can be easy to forget about these other sliders, which is a mistake.

If you ever find yourself in a position where you want to make an object stand out from its surroundings you can achieve this with the Clarity adjustment. But rather than use a global clarity adjustment select the adjustment brush. You should then use this brush tool to outline the object you want to emphasise. Having done this you can apply the Clarity adjustment selectively to the object.

In the image above I wanted to make this door handle on the inside of a steel door stand out from the door as otherwise the image would appear flat. The adjustment brush tool was used to select the handle so that Clarity adjustment could be applied to just that area. This is also a great technique to use with architectural subjects. Also don’t forget that you might need multiple applications with the brush to achieve the desired effect.

Lightroom Photo Merge Disappointment

Nantes Cathedral, RX10 4 image vertical stitch
Nantes Cathedral, RX10 4 image vertical stitch. Click the image to see the enlargement.

If you have ever tried to produce a vertical stitch panorama you will know that it’s very difficult when there is a tall building involved. The problem of converging verticals is always present but at you tilt the camera at different angles for each frame in the stitch, the angle of convergence changes. This makes stitching everything together quite (actually very) difficult.

What I had wondered is if the new Lightroom Photo Merge stitching would be any better. Unfortunately it wasn’t.

My first attempt looked as though the image was bending out in the centre and then tilting over backwards. It’s then I had the idea to correct the vertical tilt on each image separately before trying to merge the images together. And that’s my disappointment. All the adjustments are ignored and you end up with exactly the same result. You therefore need to manually correct (or try to correct) the finished image.

This example isn’t too bad but with others there is a lot of distortion that is just too difficult to fix. Despite the distortion I do like the finished image. It’s also very large at 11″ x 31″ and very sharp.

Another Step Forward

Steel Step. Sony RX10, f/5.0, ISO 80, 1/125"
Steel Step. Sony RX10, f/5.0, ISO 80, 1/125″

It’s a little over a week since I experienced the catastrophic failure of the Lenscraft website. At the time I was feeling quite desperate and thought that I had lost everything. Since then I have been able to restore the site and many of the problems that plagued me have been reduced or corrected by the installs.

There are still a few people having difficulty logging in with the “cookies issue” but this has been reduced dramatically.

I have been able to get the site security confirmed by S2 and you will now see their banner at the bottom of each page.

I managed to identify many broken links that were leaving people wondering what had happened to some content. I’m now in the process of fixing these.

There are though still issues to fix. One of these is that a lot of the tutorials I had on the original site have been lost, or at least I thought they had. Today I managed to locate some old copies of PDF tutorials but on reading these I realised that much of the information is now outdated. I’m therefore making it my mission over the next 12 months to develop and publish many more tutorials.

As for the picture, this is a steel step I spotted whilst in France a few weeks back. It’s quite surprising how simple everyday subjects can make for interesting photography.

False Colour Conversion in Infrared Photography

False colour infrared using Infrared converted Panasonic GX1
False colour infrared using Infrared converted Panasonic GX1

Before I get into the details of this post I need to point out that I’m not a fan of the false colour effect in infrared. That said I do quite like the look of the image above. I realise this is a personal choice and you may or may not like the effect. Despite not liking this effect (other than the odd image) I continue to use the technique as I find it often helps in the conversions to black and white. The increased colour seems to make it easier to separate objects in black and white .

The starting point for the conversion is an infrared image that has been correctly white balanced. You can see the starting point below.

Correct white balance
Correct white balance

As I have mentioned previously in this blog, getting the white balance correct in Lightroom and Adobe Camera RAW can be problematic. Here is an example of the image as seen in Lightroom despite using the correct custom white balance.

How Lightroom sees the custom white balance
How Lightroom sees the custom white balance

I have now found out how to correct this and will post something separately on the subject.

Once you have your image white balanced, take it into Photoshop. Here we will do something called a channel swap between the red and blue channels using the Channel Mixer. You can see a screenshot of the channel mixer below.

Channel Mixer in Photoshop
Channel Mixer in Photoshop

In case you are wondering there isn’t a cannel mixer in Lightroom or Elements.

First select the Red channel in the channel mixer. You will notice the red slider is at 100% and the other two sliders are at 0%. Change these sliders so that the blue channel is at 100% and the others are at 0%.

Now repeat this process selecting the blue channel. This time set the blue slider to 0% and the red slider to 100%. The channel swap is now complete and you will see an effect similar to that above.

You can also swap any two channels and are not restricted to the red and blue. The red and blue channels tend to produce the best results though.

Now as I mentioned at the start of this post, I use this technique to support conversion to black and white. With that in mind, here is the final image back and white image. Let me know which image you prefer.

Final infrared conversion
Final infrared conversion

In Memory of Velvia

Wastwater in the Lake District. Captured on a Sony R1. Processed with Alien Skin Exposure 6.
Wastwater in the Lake District. Captured on a Sony R1. Processed with Alien Skin Exposure 6.

Do you remember Velvia slide film? I used to shoot this stuff all the time. It was horribly contrasty and a pig to scan. It was however the best colour slide film for Landscapes (possibly) and pre digital, all the pro’s in the UK would rave about it.

So why am I telling you all this given digital’s “better”? I just happened to be playing around with this old image shot an a Sony R1, trying different settings in Alien Skin Exposure 6. I was actually looking at the Infrared film simulations but then thought I would check some of the colour slide settings. As soon as I hit the Velvia preset I was transported back in time.

I have to be honest though. The version you see here was toned down a little as I don’t think all you digital users are ready for full on exposure (pun intended) to Velvia. If you haven’t looked at Alien Skin Exposure it’s worth trying the free download.

It’s a great piece of software and no I’m not making any money out of sharing this.