Jonathan Fleming's Blog

A Photography Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Photoshop

Tych Panel 2: Creating Image Layouts Just Got More Awesome

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I’ve been using the first version of Tych Panel to create all of the custom image layouts I display here on my blog, and it has been such a huge time saver for me. So I was thrilled to get an email today from the developer, Reimund Trost, letting me know that he has finally released Tych Panel 2, an extensive update to the Photoshop CS5 extension I’ve come to love so much.

Tych Panel 2 has a ton of new features and enhancements, starting with a brand new compositing algorithm that lets you add both rows and columns, which means you can be much more creative with your layouts than ever before. It also gives you the ability to reorder images as you compose your ntych (a feature you’ll love if you’ve been using the first version), the ability to maintain a custom width and height as you add pictures (very helpful in blogging applications), integration with Adobe Bridge, smart objects and layer masks (you can re-crop your panels even after they’ve been laid out!), actions, and even more output options.

You can also play with background color, outer borders, and even have the extension automatically create rounded corners for you. I had a little fun with this today using some images from my first post about Tych Panel.

(Yes I know, wonderfully random to end this string of images with a goofy picture of Suki)

Reimund has put together a great video explaining how to make the most out of Tych Panel 2, so check it out and download the new extension at http://lumens.se/tychpanel/

It’s free. What are you waiting for? =)

Written by Jonathan

March 25, 2012 at 10:04 pm

Street Photography in San Francisco

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I recently watched a video that involved Photoshop guru Scott Kelby spending a day with Jay Maisel, a highly regarded photographer who lives in New York City. They explored the streets of Manhattan all day, cameras in hand, and Jay shared his extensive knowledge and experience the whole way through.  I loved seeing such an experienced photographer talk about his methods and thought processes while out creating photos on the street.  Seeing the way he interacted with people in order to get natural photographs of complete strangers was also a real treat.

There were tons of great points on improving your photography that Jay expounded on during the photo walk, but a few of them really stood out for me.

For example, he said that one of the greatest ways to improve your photography is to practice it regularly, daily if possible. This involves committing yourself to carrying a camera with you at all times. He mentioned that if the camera is with you, you’re improving your skill even if you don’t use it. How? Your awareness of your camera causes your eyes to search for interesting subjects while you’re out on the street, which helps hone a a key skill for a photographer: his or her ability to observe, anticipate, and react to what happens in an environment.

Another point I appreciated is that photographers should be more concerned with “picture quality” instead of “pixel quality.” He encouraged the use of high ISOs out on the street, even in relatively good light. Why? It keeps your shutter speed high, and gives you the depth of field and bracketing flexibility needed for capturing good frames in a highly dynamic environment like the streets of New York. Basically, it helps you “get the shot.” Sure, lower ISOs give you technically cleaner images, or better “pixel quality,” but our aim as photographers should be, once again, the “picture quality.” After all, what’s the point of a cleaner image if it’s blurry or you couldn’t nail the exposure? Jay typically shoots at ISO1600 on his Nikon D3 when out on the street (yes, having a D3 helps).

His lens of choice? The bargain-priced Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR. Does it matter to him that it’s not the sharpest, fastest, highest performing glass in Nikon’s lineup? Nope. He chose this lens for the photo walk because of its smaller size, lighter weight, and wide focal range. A good example of choosing an appropriate tool for the job.

As they roamed the streets, Jay demonstrated how highly tuned and focused his photographic eye is. He was catching moments, shapes, colors, and compositions in the environment that Kelby wasn’t even aware of.  It really inspired me to get out and try exploring my own neck of the woods and looking for interesting things to photograph with these new points in mind.

So, on a day off last week and after having lunch with the wife out in the city,  I started walking the neighborhood with my camera. I brought along a single lens (the 70-300), and slowly explored the neighborhood. Check out the gallery above for a sampling of what I came back with that day. Not really the best images I’ve ever taken (and WordPress degrades the quality on these unfortunately), but I had such a fulfilling time out there that I’m anxious to head out again for another photo walk and to continue developing my skills. I just wish I had more time!

In other news, I just found out that Adobe Lightroom 3 is officially out of Beta and available for download! It’s got great new features and runs much faster than before. If you’re a Lightroom user, you must check it out!

HDR with Photomatix Pro

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Alright, I finally did it. I broke down and gave HDR a try (click image above for large version). Creating a HDR or high dynamic range image involves blending multiple exposures together in order to display detail in the final image that would otherwise be lost in a single exposure. Our eyes are capable of looking at a scene with bright highlights and dark shadows and still see an immense amount of detail. Cameras simply don’t have that kind of ability, which is why blending exposures is useful when a scene contains very bright and very dark elements at the same time.

I set my D300s to automatically bracket a series of photos for me at 1 stop increments, and here’s what I got out of the camera:

Notice that if the sky looks good, the beach looks too dark. Conversely, if the sand looks detailed, the sky is blown out. There’s simply too much range for the camera to pick up detail in all areas of the frame. Yes, I suppose I could have used a split neutral density filter to even things out, but the purpose of this shoot was to experiment with HDR.

Exposure blending used to be extremely difficult, requiring the use of multiple layers, masks, and a whole lot of brush strokes to manually bring out detail in the HDR image. Nowadays, it’s dead simple. Photoshop has a “merge to HDR” feature built-in, but it’s not quite as good as standalone software like Photomatix Pro, which I used to merge this HDR image. All I had to do was drag the four bracketed images above straight from Lightroom 3 Beta 2 into Photomatix Pro, specify a few parameters, and POOF! It spit out an HDR image. Of course, what you see at the top of this post is not what you get right after the merge in Photomatix. I still had to tone map the HDR, then export it as a standard image file back into Lightroom for post-processing before it looked satisfactory.

I’m pretty excited about how easy the process was. My goal was to try to convey the scene the way my own eyes saw it, and I have to say that the final result looks very close to what I experienced that evening. Overall, I’m glad that I decided to give HDR a try, and I look forward using this photographic tool again.

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Camera Specs: Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at f/13 ISO200, various shutter speeds.

Diptychs, Triptychs, and Beyond!

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I love what you can convey by presenting a spread of images together, as in a diptych or triptych.  Some people are really good at putting images together that are distinctly different yet complimentary and story-telling. I’m not one of those people (I don’t really think I have that “artistic eye”), but I did sit down last night and combined put some photos  in a way that hopefully says a little something about Suki.

One thing that can be accomplished with more than one image is the presentation of small details or fractions of a whole, that together, give the viewer a sense of the whole person, place, or object. I experimented with this concept in four images that don’t really reveal exactly what Suki looks like, but do give you a sense of her as a whole through the details that are presented. I dunno, I think it kinda sorta worked.

You can also present a sequence of events or actions using a polyptych (weird word). Suki does the most adorable yawn, but conveying what her yawn looks like pretty much necessitates that I show a series of photos in sequence.

After processing these photos in Lightroom 3 Beta, I opened each up in Photoshop to put them together. I just learned a dead simple way to do this. Assuming that each image is the same size and aspect ratio, all you need to do is extend the background layer’s canvas size by 100% in whichever direction you want to put the next image. Then, just copy and paste the next image on a new layer and drag it into place on the background layer. Sound confusing? Then head over to my cousin Josh’s blog for a video tutorial on diptychs.

Josh is my go-to guy for all my Photoshop needs. I only started working with Photoshop last year, but he’s been using it for easily over a decade for a variety of different art forms, including photography.  A few weeks back I asked him how to add black bars to the top and bottom of my photos, and he sent me an email with screen shots that outlined how to do it step-by-step. I told him “Wow, wouldn’t it be cool if you did some sort of video tutorial on this?”

Soon after, what do you know! He posted a video tutorial on how to add black bars to the top and bottom of your photos. Cool! So I bugged him again and asked him to do another one on diptychs. The cool thing about his tutorials so far is that while there are dozens of ways to accomplish the same thing in a powerful and complex program like Photoshop, he endeavors to find and present the simplest and fastest method. I really appreciate this, as I’m the kind of person who likes to spend as little time as possible editing at the computer. You can find more how-to posts on his blog at http://jliba.wordpress.com.

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Image Top: Nikon D300s + Micro Nikkor AFS 60mm f/2.8G

Image Bottom: Nikon D300s + Nikkor AFS 35mm f/1.8G

Written by Jonathan

February 26, 2010 at 10:17 am

More Glamour Shots

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Nikon D300s + Nikkor 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 VR at 155mm f/11 ISO100 1/125 Second

Here are two more images from the photo shoot I blogged about yesterday. Bridget’s look is very similar in all three in the series, but I like the crop and posing differences between all three. In these two images, I introduced a small amount of skin softening using a masked 25 pixel gaussian blur layer in CS4. I don’t think her already soft skin needed this treatment, but I thought I’d give it a try. The result sort of reminds me of a makeup add in a Japanese fashion magazine.

I had a blast with this little portrait project! Check out more shots here.

My First Photoshop CS4 Experience

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Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 50mm f/5.6 ISO200 1/30 Second, Post in LR3 Beta and Photoshop CS4

Until today (literally), I’ve tried my hardest to stay away from using Photoshop to edit my photographs. I’d open up the program and think “Oh man, what in the world do I do with all these tools….what’s this layer thingo? Agh, forget it,” and that’s as far as I’d get.

Today I had a lot of time on my hands. I’ve got a fever and sore throat that kept me away from work, so between naps and copious amounts of tea, I’ve begun studying how to use Photoshop CS4. The result is the image you see above. This one of Bridget’s favorite close-ups from our little impromptu shoot on Saturday evening (being out in the cold that evening is probably what made me sick!).  Most of the editing and retouch was actually done in Lightroom 3 Beta, including brightening the eyes and spot removing blemishes, as well as minor adjustments to color.

In Photoshop CS4, I quickly fell in love with the stamp tool, which allowed me to very easily remove lines on her face, particularly under her eyes, and bring out a little more detail in her hair. Here’s the shot straight out of the camera for reference:

Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC, same settings as above, SOOC

Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC, same settings as above, SOOC

Huge difference here! (Bridget still looks very lovely of course). This image was a great catalyst for my beginnings in the world of Photoshop. In all, the entire process took only about 10-15 minutes from start to finish, showing how a little touch-up work can go a long way in portraiture. What really impressed me is how seamlessly Lightroom works with Photoshop. Once I was done with initial editing in Lightroom 3 Beta, a Command + E keystroke (Mac) opened the image in CS4. When I finished with CS4, I simply saved the image and closed the window, which brought me right back to Lightroom 3 Beta with the CS4 edits applied. Doesn’t get any easier than that!

Her nose is a little red from the cold, but I’m sure that’ll be fixed as WordPress seems to desaturate my photos! What gives, WordPress?! They look how I want them too while I’m editing the HTML, but as soon as I publish the post, the colors look off. Different browsers seem to render the colors differently as well, so I’m really not sure what you’re seeing if you’re reading this! Oh well….

And so, with my fear of Photoshop gone, I’m going to hit the books and see if I can’t really see what this program can do. I’m excited!

*Cough Cough*

Written by Jonathan

November 24, 2009 at 6:55 am

PTLens: Painless Lens Correction

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Corrected

Nikon D300s + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 at 11mm f/18 ISO200, 6.0 Seconds, Corrected in PTLens

Uncorrected

Nikon D300s + Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 at 11mm f/18 ISO200, 6.0 Seconds, Original without Correction

I’m not really a stickler when it comes to distortion in my images, but a flickr buddy of mine recommended PTLens to me a couple weeks go, and after giving it a try tonight, I decided to purchase it. For a mere $25, you get a program that will correct lens pincushion/barrel distortion, vignetting, chromatic aberration, and perspective. You can technically achieve the same results in Photoshop, but what makes PTLens so special is how incredibly easy it is to correct an image. The first image above (top) is the corrected file from PTLens, and the second image is the original file. Notice the pretty apparent barrel distortion in the second image (vertical lines aren’t vertical), along with the perspective issues (the tops of the buildings seem to be leaning away from the camera), and how well these problems were fixed in the image above.

PTLens

PTLens in action

Here’s what the software looks like in action. PTLens has profiles set up for dozens of cameras and lenses (even for my Panasonic LX3!). It automatically pulls the camera and lens information from the image EXIF data, and based upon the lens’ unique distortion characteristics, applies the right amount of correction to barrel or pincushion distortion. I then manually dialed in a little vertical perspective correction, and that’s it! In seconds, I had corrected the image to my liking. I’m really excited about this new software, and plan to use it a whole lot for my photos, especially the ones that include architecture.