Recently I posted a video on You Tube explaining why I like to use the Nik Plugin’s from Photoshop rather than Lightroom. This came about because in all my Nik videos I start with a RAW file in Lightroom This is then converted to an image that I edit in Photoshop. A couple of people asked why and so I recorded the video for You Tube.
The video has been very well received but given it’s only had a few hundred views. To ensure everyone has access to the information I decided to also post this blog. Whilst I am referring to the Nik Collection in the video, the same argument applies to most filters.
The problem I have when using a plug-in for Lightroom is that you can end up creating lots of new files. This can be hard to manage and quickly becomes messy. If you are working on a RAW file you have no option but to convert the RAW file to an image before editing it with (what Lightroom calls) an external editor. This creates a new file, duplicating the original RAW file with adjustments.
After you have edited your image, you may need to apply a second filter to the image. When this happens, you have the option to work on either another copy of the image file or apply the adjustments to the image you created previously. The first option creates yet more image files. The second provides no “back-out” in case you make a mistake; you would need to start again from the RAW file.
Photoshop is better option as each adjustment filter can be applied as a new layer. The Nik Collection even has a setting you can use to automatically.
Once you are working with layers in Photoshop, other options are available to you:
- You can reduce the opacity of the layer if you find the effect you applied is too strong.
- You can use layer masks to hide or reveal areas of adjustment in the image. For example, you might like the sky in the adjusted image but not the rest. You could use a layer mask to hide the adjustment but then paint back the adjusted sky. You can even create quite complex masks using luminosity and channel mask techniques.
- Perhaps the biggest advantage is that you can convert layers in Photoshop to Smart Objects. When you apply a Nik filter to a Smart Object, all the settings you apply in Nik are saved, including control points. This means when you save your finished image as a PSD file, you can open and adjust the settings in your Nik filter, even moving control points.
If some of this doesn’t make sense, watch the video below. If you want to know more about the Nik workflow, look at my book “Nik Efex from Start to Finish”.
It wasn’t that long ago that if you wanted to do architectural photography that you needed to be looking at cameras or lenses that would provide tilt and shift facilities. How the world has changed. Yes, correcting convergence and shift problems is better within the camera but it’s also very costly, especially when compared to the capabilities of Photoshop.
It’s now possible to shoot with your average camera and lens before correcting the problems in post production. It also becomes very easy to apply different levels of adjustment and experiment more. If you don’t get it right first time, just open up the image and apply some more adjustment using Photoshop’s Transform feature.
The image above was shot on the Olympus OMD using a 14-45mm Panasonic lens at 14mm focal length. The adjustments were applied using the Transform – Distort adjustment in Photoshop CS5. No visible softening of the image took place, even when viewed at 100% magnification on screen. The subsequent “artistic look” to add a vignette and soften the area outside the doorway was added using OnOne Perfect Photo Suite 7. The conversion to Black and White was made using Nik Silver Efex Pro. Most importantly, the amazing doorway is Nantes Cathedral in France.
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.
For a long time now I have been a user and enthusiast for Photoshop. I am however a strong advocate of making photography light weight in all respects and that includes post processing images. I don’t want to be sat behind a computer for hours on end when I could be out taking pictures. No, my life and time are far too valuable for that and this was one of the drivers for me switching to Lightroom. I had reasoned that Lightroom could give me similar results to Photoshop but perhaps, from everything I had read, much faster.
Well, Lightroom is faster, especially where you want to apply the same adjustments to a group of images. It also makes finding an image a breeze and I wouldn’t be without it now. It is not however a replacement for Photoshop and I find that images adjusted in Lightroom still need some extra “polishing” in Photoshop in order to reach their best. It’s not therefore the huge timesaver I had hoped for.
What has caught me completely unawares however is a Photoshop plug-in from Nik Software called Viveza. It’s a very simple application to use and is accessed from within Photoshop but also integrates with Lightroom. What this plug-in gives me is the ability to make key adjustments to my images whilst targeting specific areas. For example I can edit the blue in a sky whilst leaving the ground and clouds unchanged. Yes I could do this in Photoshop but it would take some delicate selections to ensure I did this with a seamless blend, all of which takes time. With Viveza it takes just minutes, looks completely natural and requires much less skill than with Photoshop.
Having now used Viveza for a couple of months through Lightroom I am finding I do less and less in Photoshop. In fact, it’s got to the stage now where I think I can achieve better results with Viveza than I can using Photoshop. My Photoshop skills, painfully built up over years, now seem largely obsolete.
I had an interesting weekend in terms of photography. I didn’t take a single image but I did improve my work and made some substantial breakthroughs. What gave raise to this? Well one of my friends came over and we spent time reviewing our work and suggesting improvements. This was great in terms of development but it also allowed me to discuss some frustrating aspects of micro 4/3 photography with a second person. The most frustrating of these is the colour produced by my Panasonic cameras when converting RAW files.
You see I have long thought that the RAW files from my LX5, GF1 and now GX1 produce colours that don’t seem entirely natural. Greens, reds and blues all seem too strong and saturated. It is however difficult to judge on your own so yesterday was a great opportunity to discuss this with a very knowledgeable photographer whose views I trust. The result was that we agreed the colours were off. Whilst the image at the top is a black and white conversion I am showing the original colour image here together with a colour adjusted version we created.
The original colour image with the defauilt RAW settings is shown above
Here is the corrected image. Notice the orange of the cylinder on the right. In the uncorrected image this is a false orange and is also over saturated. Also notice the red plastic can on the left. In the original this looks raspberry and is too saturated.
To create the colour adjusted image we needed to:
- Increase the colour temperature by 300K
- Shift the Orange Hue and reduce its saturation
- Reduce the saturation of blue in the scene
These are subtle adjustments but they are enough for your brain to pick up that something isn’t quite right.
The reason for these odd colours is not however down to Panasonic but the Adobe software I am using to convert the RAW files. It’s the calibration Adobe bundles with their colour engine that is causing the issue. I have therefore taken the step of purchasing a colour passport checker to use with my Panasonic cameras in future. I hope this will allow me to correct the problem and will report again in the future.
Creating a Lightweight Photoshop Workflow
Rough seas, Norway, March 2012
Copyright: Robin Whalley 2012
Last night I was the guest speaker at a Camera Club; something that I like to do a number of times each year in order to share my knowledge, but also to pick up information from others. The event went well and the presentation I delivered was entirely new, not only in content but in approach. The real innovation for the session was that I demonstrated how I use Photoshop to craft my images.
What became apparent from talking to people after the event was that my workflow in Photoshop was quite minimal yet achieved a lot. You see I have standardised my approach to be adequate for around 95% of my images and most of my changes can be applied in just a few minutes. Sure some of the better images I will spend longer on, but only if the additional effort is justified.
Here then is my approach:
- Clean up the image by removing dust spots etc on a new empty layer. I do however try to keep my sensor clean by using an Arctic Butterfly brush so that any cleanup work is minimal.
- Use a Curves adjustment layer to adjust brightness
- Use a curves adjustment layer to adjust contract
- Use a saturation layer to adjust saturation
- Add a new empty layer and stroke the image to create a frame
Whilst I didn’t demonstrate it last night I have created an action in Photoshop to automate the addition of the above layers so that all I need do is activate the action using Ctrl-F3 (which is the key combination I have assigned).
Consider also that all my adjustments are on layers which give rise to a number of benefits:
- I can turn the layer on or off to hide the effect
- I can adjust the opacity of the layer to control how strong its effect is on the image
- Each layer has a blending mode that you can use to make further enhancements
- Each layer has a layer mask attached to it which I can use to target the adjustment onto a specific area of the image
Once I am happy with the image I create a new consolidated version from all the layers by pressing Shift-Ctrl-Alt-E. I then sharpen this for output e.g. for paper or for the screen. My finished image is then saved as a PSD file with all the layers remaining in place. Again this gives rise to timesaving benefits:
- Each time I output the image to new media I can create a version of the image with the correct level of sharpening and simply turn off the other layers
- I can create modified versions of the same image e.g. versions with and without the frame
- If in a couple of weeks I decide I was a little heavy handed with one of the adjustments e.g. saturation, I can simply adjust the opacity of the relevant layer to control the effect
- If I later decide to work on the image further I have all my earlier layers already in place and ready to enhance further
By following my approach I find that I minimise the total time I spend on each image whilst achieving good results.