image adjustment

Sharpening the Fuji X-T2 RAW

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Sunrise in the Peak District
Sunrise in the Peak District. Fuji XT2 + 16-55 lens + 0.3 ND Grad filter.

I have now been shooting with the Fuji X-T2 for a couple of months. Whilst I have only had a few outings, I’m very pleased with the results. I like the handling of the camera and also the lens quality despite a couple of problems. In fact, the 10-24 and 16-55 lenses are nothing short of exceptional.

There is though one problem that has niggled me for a while and this is the “Wiggly Worm” pattern. You tend to find this in areas of fine detail when converting RAW files using Lightroom or Adobe Camera RAW. This is a real shame, especially as I use Lightroom for much of my cataloguing and image management.

To illustrate the problem, a look at the image below which has been magnified at 2:1 in Lightroom; you may need to double click the image to open it at full resolution (I was also running my Mac at 2048 x 1152 when I took the screen shots so this will magnify the image further).

Section showing Wiggly Worm pattern. Click to topen the image at full resolution.
Section showing Wiggly Worm pattern. Click to topen the image at full resolution.

I can easily avoid the problem by switching to Iridient Developer or RAW Therapee but I like working in Lightroom. I have therefore been looking at how to reduce the “Wiggly Worm” effect and I think I have hit on something.

I had originally put the effect down to the demosaic routine that converts the RAW file. But I have changed my mind and now think it’s the sharpening routine that creating much of the problem. The example I showed above was created using the default Lightroom Radius setting of 1, an Amount setting of 45, a Detail setting of 75 and Threshold of 10. The culprits that seem to exaggerate the problem are the Amount and Masking sliders.

Masking causes the sharpening effect to be concentrated onto the edges in the image. Only when the Masking is set to 0 is the entire image sharpened. The “Wiggly Worm” effect seems to be created when the edges in areas of fine detail become exaggerated. Effectively the edges are becoming over sharpened, which is why the Amount slider has such an impact on the result. You only need to increase it slightly and the effect is emphasised. The Detail slider has less of an effect because it sharpens only very high frequency details.

So, what does this mean and how can you use it?

Limit the sharpening applied in Lightroom. Here is the same example but sharpened using much less aggressive settings.

Section with alternate sharpening settings.
Section with alternate sharpening settings.

This used the settings or Radius = 0.8, Amount = 30, Detail = 30 and Masking = 0. The image is a little softer but much more natural.

Following this approach, I have found I can minimise the “Wiggle Worm” effect whilst producing images with greater detail. Although the images coming from Lightroom are slightly softer, they respond so much better to additional capture sharpening using Nik RAW Sharpener or Photoshop Smart Sharpen. You can see a further example here viewed at 100% magnification.

Section of image following application of Smart Sharpen, viewed at 100% magnification.
Section of image following application of Smart Sharpen, viewed at 100% magnification.

You may now be wondering why bother with Lightroom capture sharpening at all and simply apply Capture Sharpening in another tool. Well, I tried this and to my eyes at least, a small amount of Capture Sharpening in Lightroom seems to produce better results when sharpened a second time outside Lightroom.

But does all this pixel peeping matter? My answer to this question is yes and no.

If you are going to be displaying your image on the internet, then you will most likely be down sampling them. The act of down sampling will remove some of the “Wiggly Worm” effect and can even remove it completely depending on how much you reduce the image size. If you are going to be printing the image, the softening effect of printing will also remove the pattern. For these reasons, I say that it doesn’t matter.

Where this effect does cause a problem, is if you are submitting your images to others for inspection. A typical example might be when you submit images to a stock library for sale. Here they probably will pick up on the pattern and might well reject the images.

 

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Infrared Simulation Using Nik

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Realistic Infrared simulation using the Nik Collection. Watch the video to find out how.
Realistic Infrared simulation using the Nik Collection. Watch the video to find out how.

I have seen many articles and videos over the years suggesting ways to create infrared simulations using regular colour photographs. Most of these fall short, possibly because the authors don’t appreciate the true characteristics of infrared. One example I read simply suggested using the channel mixer in Photoshop and using it to turn a blue sky black.

The best tool I have seen for simulating the effects of Infrared film a standard colour image is Alien Skin Exposure. This is also one of the tools I turn to when converting my digital infrared images as it allows me to simulate the halation effect often seen with Kodak HIE film. Unfortunately, as great a tool as Exposure is, it’s costly.

So how can we create a simulation using Nik plug-ins? Well, there is an Infrared film simulation in Nik Color Efex Pro but it’s not very convincing and doesn’t produce the halation effect. Nik Silver Efex Pro did once have an optional preset you could download from the Nik website but this has been removed. In any case, the preset wasn’t very believable.

This video features my simple solution based on combining a couple of filters in Nik Color Efex with a monochrome conversion in Silver Efex Pro. It’s quick to do and is quite effective.

[If your reading this as an email you won’t see the video. Please visit the YouTube channel link below to view.]

If you like the video why not subscribe to my You Tube channel and be sure not to miss future videos. Use the link below to access the channel then click the subscribe button in the top right.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYMWL3WXU9QMeOUhD3lOpEw

Nik Silver Efex Video

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Yesterday I published a new video on my You Tube Channel

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYMWL3WXU9QMeOUhD3lOpEw

This is one is another of those videos focussing on the overlooked adjustments. People often overlook some of the most powerful adjustments in favour of the most obvious. If you want to create some black and white conversions reminiscent of film, watch this short video.

I hope you enjoy.

Friday Image No. 110

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Cornish sunset. Olympus EM5 processed using Nik Viveza.
Cornish sunset. Olympus EM5 processed using Nik Viveza.

This isn’t a deliberate ploy to post the same image as last week. This image was taken at the same time as last week’s Friday image but the lighting is stronger. The reason it looks stronger is that the image is processed using Nik Viveza. When I did this, I employed a few adjustment tricks that people might not realise to try. I decided to share these “Secrets of Viveza” using a video which is posted on my you tube channel. I also embedded the clip below.

I hope you find it useful and have a great weekend.

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New XP-Pen

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Tree in Padley Gorge, Peak District. Fuji XT1 + 10-24 lens.
Tree in Padley Gorge, Peak District. Fuji XT1 + 10-24 lens.

As some of you reading this may know, I have recently switched from a PC to a Mac for Photography. Initially it was a move from a laptop to a MacBook. Next came the move from my desktop PC to an iMac. This last move is probably longer term as I need to retain a Windows PC for businesses reasons.

Having paid a not insignificant sum for the iMac I decided it was time to get serious about my image editing. For years I have used a mouse for most editing tasks but at one time I did buy a cheap Wacom graphics tablet. In reality, the tablet was too small, I didn’t enjoy using it and then I broke it. But now the time is right to grasp the nettle and invest in a larger tablet.

What I really want is a larger graphics tablet that would provide me greater control over detailed work. At the same time this tablet needed to fit on an already overcrowded desk without getting in the way. Something around A4 size would probably be ideal. The tablet also needed to have a number of buttons (virtual or physical) which I could program with useful commands. My other requirements include:

  • A nice surface to move the pen nib across.
  • Functional buttons on the pen/stylus.
  • The pen needed to be of a reasonable size and weight to make drawing comfortable.
  • At least 2000 pressure levels allowing the pressure applied to the pen to be interpreted by my software.
  • A resolution of at least 5000lpi.

I started my search with the Wacom tablets as they are a recognised industry leader with a quality product. Their tablets clearly meet my needs but I needed to pay quite a bit, typically in excess of £200. Bearing in mind my earlier experience I couldn’t quite bring myself to pay this.

I decided to search Amazon which revealed a lot of graphics tablets for less than £100. The one that I really liked was the XP-Pen Star03. It met all of my requirements and was only around £50.

View on Amazon

The XP-Pen Star 3 graphics tablet
The XP-Pen Star 3 graphics tablet

I have to admit to being rather dubious of this low price but in the end thought it was worth the risk. Having now used the tablet for around a month, I like it – a lot. It’s useful for applying more artistic editing to images. Do I use it all the time? No.

Where a graphics tablet like this comes into its own is when you to brush in or out adjustments and this depends on the software you use. The Nik filters for example provide excellent Control Point technology so tend not to need a graphics tablet. In contrast, if you work a lot with Photoshop Layers or products such as On 1 Enhance, the graphics tablet brings real benefits.

If you find yourself looking for a graphics tablet to try, I would definitely take a look at the XP- Pen. It works with both Mac and Windows PC’s.

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Resizing Images in Lightroom

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I recently received an email asking if it was possible to resize (increase) an image in Lightroom. I have heard this asked a few times so rather than reply with an email trying to describe the process I thought I would post this short video.

I hope a few of you find it useful.

Book Launch: Nik HDR Efex Pro 2

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Four image HDR blend with Tone Mapping in Nik HDR Efex Pro 2
Four image HDR blend with Tone Mapping in Nik HDR Efex Pro 2

 

A few years back HDR became for many people one of the most hated terms in photography. I believe this was in part due to the overuse of techniques that produced extreme examples of HDR. It was probably also due to HDR being used to resurrect images that should have been allowed to die a natural death. In short, if you don’t like the HDR treatment and style of image you have typically seen, you may not be interested in HDR.

But by disregarding HDR techniques you are also disregarding a very useful tool that help you produce images of excellent quality. The key to this is being able to master and control the traits of HDR that we often pick up on. The image at the top of this post for example is an HDR image yet appears to be a natural photograph; the HDR treatment has been chosen to suit the image. The same can be said of the following black and white image.

Three image HDR in Nik HDR Efex Pro with B&W post processing in Nik Silver Efex
Three image HDR in Nik HDR Efex Pro with B&W post processing in Nik Silver Efex

My latest book which has just launched on Amazon, provides you with the tools necessary to control the HDR process and look using Nik HDR Efex. It follows the proven and popular format of marrying information with hands on practical exercises.

  • The first art of the book discusses how to shoot and prepare HDR image sequences prior to merging.
  • The book then covers the process of generating the HDR image as well as applying Tone Mapping techniques.
  • The book then concludes with three full length worked examples for which you can download the accompanying image files from my Lenscraft website. This allows you to follow the process on your own computer from merging the initial images through to post production enhancement with other Nik filters.
Mastering Nik HDR Efex Pro 2
Mastering Nik HDR Efex Pro 2

The book is priced at just £3.99 (or similar in other currencies) and can be purchased from Amazon in the Kindle format.

Links to the book on Amazon UK and Amazon US are given below. Alternatively, you can search for the book title “Mastering Nik HDR Efex Pro 2”.

Link to Amazon UK

Link to Amazon US

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