image editing

Alternatives to the Creative Cloud 3

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This image has nothing to do with the post, I just like it.

Today I would like to share a further idea about an alternative to the Adobe Creative Cloud that you may not have considered.  Or, perhaps you have considered it but ruled it out for possibly several reasons. That alternative is Adobe Elements.

Now please don’t dismiss this suggestion immediately. Elements is a good package, it’s just that it’s a little limited. It includes a nice organiser which is a cut down version of Bridge. You can use this to easily organise, rate and search for your images. Elements also has sufficient editing tools to produce good results when working with photographs. Best of all, it’s quite easy to use.

What appears to rule Elements out for most photographers is not its features but its limitations. Personally, I would find editing all my images in 8-bits worrying. I would miss the ability to create smart objects and I would cry over the loss of the Curves tool (which I find essential).

But what if you could solve these and other problems? Would you then be interested in using Elements? If you’re thinking ‘maybe’ then you should investigate The Plug-in Site, especially their enhancements for Adobe Elements:

  • ElementsXXL – Adds up to 640 powerful features to Photoshop Elements that were previously only available in Photoshop. These are included as new menu items, icons, buttons, key shortcuts and dialogs, to integrate Elements interface.
  • ActionsXXL – Allows users to create, record, play and save Photoshop actions. ActionsXXL also offers a Batch feature for automatically processing multiple documents or image files with actions, scripts and other features. You can even use actions created in Photoshop.
  • LayersXXL – Adds up to 180 photo and design features to Photoshop Elements that were previously only available in Photoshop. These are all designed to help you work with Layers in Elements.
  • MetaRAW – Extends the functionality of the Adobe Camera Raw plugin in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. It lets you open camera raw files with Adobe Camera Raw, which are normally not supported by it, and allows applying Adobe Camera Raw as a filter to image layers.
  • Filter HUB – A powerful replacement for the Filter menu of Photoshop and Photoshop Elements and offers many advantages over it. It supports built-in filters (from the Filter, Adjustments and Enhance menus), filter plugins and third-party automation plugins.

All of these can be purchased either individually or together in the Elements Bundle for a substantial discount. The only drawback is that most of the products are only available for Windows.

In case you’re wondering, no I don’t get any commission from this. I just like to share good ideas with fellow photographers.

Alternatives To The Creative Cloud 2

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Blencathera, The Lake District. Captured as a RAW file using the Olympus EM5 and processed in Exposure.

A little while back I published a post concerning alternatives to the Adobe Creative Cloud. Whilst many people love using Lightroom and Photoshop (myself included) some don’t like the Adobe Subscription model. Today I will share the first alternative that might appeal to some of you; Exposure from Alien Skin.

I suspect many people reading this won’t have come across Exposure, or perhaps I should say Exposure X2 which is the latest release. Of those that have, you might be forgiven for thinking of it as a plug-in for Lightroom and Photoshop. Indeed, it can be used as an enhancement filter but it’s also a standalone solution.

The Browser is reasonably quick and allows for basic flagging and tagging of images. You are then able to filter the images in a folder based on flag, colour or star rating. This is all basic stuff but if you organise your images based on date shot and don’t need to add keywords, it might be all you need.

Exposure will read a range of image file formats including RAW. It would though seem to be limited to RAW files it recognises as my older version, Exposure X doesn’t recognise my Fuji X-T2 RAW images (the new X2 version of the software will though).

When editing images in Exposure you can take two approaches. The easy way is to use one of the many film pre-sets that ship with the software. In all honesty, I think these are brilliant and will produce a digital rendering very much like the films they simulate. It’s very quick to achieve good results with the pre-sets and you can also create and save your own.

The other alternative is to use the editing tools of which there are many. These are well thought out and surprisingly flexible. For example, you have a film grain tool that allows you to simulate different film sizes, roughness, colour variations, processing and then apply this in varying levels to the shadows, midtones or highlights. The tools are developed well beyond Lightroom in some respects.

In addition to the usual editing tools there are several special effects that can be applied to simulate all manner of old film effects such as light leaks, scratches, fading etc. My personal favourite is the Infrared processing that simulates the halation effect found in infrared films such as Kodak HIE. I use this tool frequently when processing my digital IR images.

If you haven’t guessed by now, Exposure is very much a film simulation tool but despite this you can create some very impressive adjustments. The limitation of the older versions (such as mine) is that the adjustments are global. With the new X2 version you also gain access to a layers feature which includes layer masking. I suspect this alone will persuade me to upgrade in the near future. There are also other feature which move the software towards being a one stop image editor.

I have been using Exposure since version 5 (that’s about 5 versions back) and I really like the results that can be achieved. The images you can produce have a feeling of maturity and sophistication that is difficult to explain. Where Exposure scores highly in my opinion though is in Black and White conversion and vintage film effects.

Newlands Valley, The Lake District. Captured with the Olympus EM5 and converted for a vintage photo look with Exposure X.

If you are looking for an alternative to the standard Creative Cloud tools, this is one worth evaluating.

Friday Image No. 118

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Holme Fell, The Lake Distirct, England
Trees on Holme Fell, The Lake Distirct, England. See the blog text for image details.

Yet another week over and we are rapidly approaching Christmas. Then it’s soon going to be New Year and I will be beating myself up that I haven’t achieved half of the things that I wanted to with this blog and my website (Lenscraft). When I select the image above to share I thought that I had shot it recently. Now that I look back I realise it was from the 5th November. It seems like yesterday but it’s a month and a half ago.

The image was captured using a Fuji XT2 and the excellent Fuji 16-55 lens. The camera was tripod mounted as the lens, despite being excellent lacks any stabilisation. Despite shooting at ISO 200 I used f/10 to ensure full depth of field. I probably didn’t need to use such a small aperture but I’m really feeling my way with the APSC sized sensor at present. Had I been shooting with the Olympus EM5 I would have been using f/7.1 and been confident of front to back sharpness. The EM5’s smaller Micro 43 sensor makes the increased depth of field at wider apertures possible.

In addition to the above equipment I was also using a Lee 0.3 (one stop) ND Graduated filter to hold the exposure in the clouds. The other filter used was a 105mm polarising filter which screws to the front of the Lee 100mm filter system.

When it comes to post processing, I have recorded the entire thing and posted it as a video on YouTube. Here is the link in case your reading this as an email.

Link to Video

If you’re on the lightweightphotographer website, you will see the video embedded below. I hope you enjoy this and have a great weekend.

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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

Roll Your Own Camera Profiles

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Have you ever wanted to tweak the camera profiles in Lightroom? Or perhaps you have wondered how Camera Profiles are created? Perhaps you don’t like the profiles that ship with your camera and want to create something better.

This short video introduces you to a great free tool from Adobe that allows you to generate new, bespoke camera profiles and install these to Lightroom. I demonstrate the process using RAW files from a Fuji X-T2 but you can apply this to any camera which shoots RAW. Just watch the video, download the software and in 5 minutes you will have created your own profile.

If I had to take a guess, I suspect 98% of you reading this will never have seen this technique before. Don’t miss out.

[This post includes an embedded video. If you are reading this as an email you will need to visit my blog]

If you have a You Tube account and want to subscribe to my channel you can access it with the link below. Just click on the subscribe button in the upper right of the screen.

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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