Category Archives: Software

Free Lightroom Profile – Faded Summer Colour

Example of the Faded Summer Colour preset for Lightroom. Available as a free download from my Lenscraft website.
Example of the Faded Summer Colour preset for Lightroom. Available as a free download from my Lenscraft website.

I promised I would do it if anyone asked, and you have. You can now download my Faded Summer Colour Lightroom preset for free. The preset was used to create the image above and the one in my previous post.

You can download it from a new Presets and Textures page on my Lenscraft website. You will need to log in as a member to download the file (but membership is free). When you download the zip file it contains the preset, installation instructions and a thumbnail sample image.

I hope you enjoy.

New Book Launch – Essential Colour Management

Essential Colour Management
Essential Colour Management

I am pleased to announce that my new book “Essential Colour Management: What every photographer needs to know” has launched and is available on Amazon (Link to amazon.com and amazon.co.uk) for $3.99 and £2.49. Other countries are similarly priced in their relevant Amazon stores.

I don’t know of any photographer who has not suffered from colour management problems and I am fre3quently contacted by some of those suffering. This is a disjointed and complex area of photography that many people struggle to understand and gain control over. I know what this feels like as it took me more than a few years of testing and research to understand everything I needed to know.

This new book condenses this subject into the essentials you need as a photographer. It provides the key information in an understandable format. If you are a registered member of my Lenscraft Website (membership is free) you will shortly be receiving notification of the $0.99/£0.99 sale dates.

Broken Link in Silver Efex Book

New York in the Evening. Captured on a Panasonic LX5.
New York in the Evening. Captured on a Panasonic LX5.

I was recently contacted by someone who had purchased my Nik Silver Efex book but was having problems. I mention in the book that Nik provide a number of useful presets on their site which are free to download. These include a good Landscape preset and a faux infrared preset which is quite dramatic. There were also links to download a number of additional presets for the Color Efex software. When trying to access the link I provided this person was being redirected to a new Google/Nik site.

The bad news is that Google, despite all the improvements they have made to the Nik software, has removed the presets. I spent quite some time trawling their site and archives and can’t find the presets anywhere. Whether or not this is temporary  I don’t know.

The good news is that I have been able to locate the presets using the “Wayback Machine” website. Here is the link for anyone wanting to access these.

http://web.archive.org/web/20130203200623/http://www.niksoftware.com/addons/index.php/presets/index?lc=en

In case you are wondering, the image above didn’t use any presets. It was shot with a Panasonic LX5 from the top of the Empire State Building in New York shortly, after sunset on a rather dull day. But more on the LX5 in another post soon.

Which do you like best

Frosty leaf. Converted to Black and White using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.
Frosty leaf. Converted to Black and White using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. Click the image to view larger.

I captured this image of a frosty yesterday morning on the edge of a car park. It did raise a few eyebrows from passersby. My initial intension was to convert it to a black and white image using Nik Silver Efex Pro. I made a few variations of the image using different conversions, some high key some low key and some high contrast but none ticked the box for me.

Then I remembered a new Nik programme that I had downloaded whilst trying to fix a problem with Lightroom 5.2 (still not fixed) and thought I would give it a go. The filter is called Analogue Efex and allows you to simulate all sorts of camera and film effects. Usually I am not impressed by such applications and to be honest, looking through the presets I wasn’t hopeful. I then found the custom sections where you can create your own effects and the image below was the result. I produced both the colour version and then converted this to the black and white version above with Silver Efex Pro.

Frosty leaf version 2. Click the image to view a large version.
Frosty leaf version 2. Click the image to view a large version.

I have made prints from both and the prints are excellent quality but I don’t know which I prefer. I think I am edging towards the colour version but then I switch to black and white. I was wondering what others thought – my wife dismisses anything black and white immediately so if you have similar tendencies your immediately banned from commenting.

Does anyone have any thoughts?

I almost forgot, there also seems to have been other updates installing themselves in the background. This includes a few presets for different applications but I also noticed the grain simulation is now superb. It looks completely natural and is so much better than before. I actually find myself wanting to add grain.

Comparing RAW Converters

I agree this isn't a photogenic subject but that's not the point. This is an ideal subject to compare RAW converters.
I agree this isn’t a photogenic subject but that’s not the point. This is an ideal subject to compare RAW converters.

In case you weren’t already aware, not all RAW converters are equal. Some are quite automated and easy to use whilst others have lots of options and take a lot of effort to achieve the best image. The other day, someone contacted me about my recent Photoshop book and asked if I would consider a future book or tutorial about DxO Optics, a well respected RAW converter and with good reason.

Now, I haven’t used DxO for some time, as it used to be very slow on my old computer and often crashed when loading lens/camera modules. I decided to download the latest version and use the trial from the website. Here is a very quick initial impression based on what I want to see from a RAW converter – absolute image quality and detail resolution.

The image I used to judge the performance is the one you see above (the black and white conversion was done in Silver Efex Pro after the conversion from RAW). This image was captured on my Olympus OMD using a 45-200mm Panasonic lens at around 200mm and an aperture of f/8.0. I should also point out that I was stood on a moving boat at the time and the shot was handheld. This isn’t a recipe for a sharp image now that I think about it.

The first image you see below is a screen grab from my computer showing the before and after adjustment, which is one of the screens available in DxO Optics. If you click on the image below it will open a larger version which is easier to see and judge.

Before and After comparison screens in DxO
Before and After comparison screens in DxO. Click to enlarge.

Looking at this, I was very impressed. The fine detail was well rendered and the lens module did a great job of removing the slight barrel distortion in the lens. Below you can see a section of the image at 100%. Again if you click it you can view the image properly.

Sample of DxO Converted image at 100%
Sample of DxO Converted image at 100%. Click to enlarge

All this was achieved automatically and I was on the verge of reaching for my credit card when I thought let’s see how Lightroom 5 fairs with the same image. Below you can see a section of the Lightroom version magnified at 100%. This time I did a little more tweaking but the distortion has been removed automatically and the sharpening setting is the default.

Sample image converted with Lightroom 5 and viewed at 100%. Click to enlarge.
Sample image converted with Lightroom 5 and viewed at 100%. Click to enlarge.

To be honest there isn’t a whole lot of difference but I feel Lightroom has the edge. The fine detail and tones are retained better than with DxO. It also appears a little sharper although to be fair to DxO, I didn’t apply any additional sharpening as I felt that it tended to degrade the image slightly.

Finally, I decided to convert the image in Photo Ninja, which as I have previously mentioned on this blog, tends to render fine detail better than Lightroom. Here is a section of the image at 100%; you can again click on this to view the larger version.

Sample of image viewed at 100% having been converted in PhotoNinja. Click to enlarge.
Sample of image viewed at 100% having been converted in PhotoNinja. Click to enlarge.

Wow! This is clearly a superior image in terms of how the fine details have been rendered and retained. I also didn’t put a whole lot of effort into this conversion, simply accepting the defaults.

So, whilst your choice of RAW converter will be determined by your needs, preferences and circumstances, if you are looking for out and out sharpness and fine detail rendering, Photo Ninja appears to win out.

If anyone knows of a better converter in terms of image quality I would love to hear.

Back to the Future

Captured on an Olypus OMD EM5 with Panasonic 45-200 lens
Captured on an Olypus OMD EM5 with Panasonic 45-200 lens

Back in the 1980’s there was a company in the UK called Athena. They had shops in many high streets and produced what at the time was amazing artwork for people to hang on their wall. I remember as a teenager having two pictures (purchased from Athena) of a Porsche 940 and Lamborghini Countach hung on my bedroom wall.

If you went into any of their branches they would have a huge selection of artwork and cards for sale with some of the most iconic (for the 80’s) images and there was nothing else like it. There was the famous image of the lady tennis player scratching her behind that I’m sure graced the wall of many a student bedsit. There was the image of a woman’s mouth biting a cherry as her lip dripped (not as gruesome as it sounds).

There were also images of spectacular and tranquil landscapes taken from far away exotic places such as Greek beaches and Monument Valley in the US – please remember that I was 21 before I could afford a trip beyond the UK and the world back then was not as small as it is today. I remember looking in awe at these images and wishing for 2 things:

  1. I could visit some of these locations
  2. I could take photographs that were this beautiful and amazing

This second point was rather unusual as at the time I didn’t do photography, although I had always wanted to try. The equipment was however far beyond what I could afford and in any case, everyone I spoke to about my desire told me how difficult it was to use an SLR and that I should forget it. Nothing like giving a kid encouragement.

So, why am I telling you all this?

Well, yesterday I created the image you see above whilst preparing an illustration for a book. Whilst this image is not my usual genera, I do like images of flowers and I quite liked this one having made my adjustments in Photoshop. In fact it looked great on screen and I decided to run off a quick A3 print on gloss paper to see what the printed image would be like. The result I thought was exactly what I wanted to create and perhaps this was a new direction in which to develop my style.

When my wife came into my office. I asked her if she liked the image. She paused and said “yes it’s nice”. Then she paused again and said “but it’s a bit retro”.

“What do you mean” I said, “RETRO?”

Her reason for thinking it was retro was because it “looks just like those images from the 80’s that Athena used to sell”.

I’m now wondering if I have finally achieved something that I have always subconsciously aspired to or if photographic tastes are about to go full circle.

I hope you like the image.

 

Version 2 minus a couple of distracting blobs
Version 2 minus a couple of distracting blobs

New Photoshop Book Launch

Cover of my new Photoshop Book
Cover of my new Photoshop Book

I’m very pleased to announce (and with great relief) that my new Photoshop Book “Essential Photoshop: How to use 9 essential tools and techniques to transform your photography” is now live on Amazon (here is the link to it Amazon.com for US readers). The book is designed to support beginners and those who are not confident users of Photoshop, progress to an Intermediate level as quickly as possible.

This book is a little longer than my usual guides at approximately 200 pages and presents a comprehensive, but easy to understand system for editing photography. It’s extensively illustrated, with numerous worked examples, all of which are supported by a download file from my website (www.lenscraft.co.uk). The download contains all the images for the worked examples, in Photoshop PSD format, with the layers still in place. This allows readers to see the actual edits that were made to the images, in order to produce the screenshots for the book.

The approach outlined in the book can be applied to all versions of Photoshop back to version 6 (or possibly earlier) which was released in the year 2000. It doesn’t however apply to Elements; that’s a future book.

The book is available in Kindle format for just $3.99 (£2.69). Don’t worry if you don’t have a Kindle device as you can download a free Kindle reader application for your PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone or Android device by following this link.

For anyone who is a registered member of my Lenscraft website you will shortly (depending when you are reading this) receive an email detailing how for a limited time, you can download the book for free. If you aren’t already registered, you can still register and receive similar notifications as I launch future books.

Happy editing.