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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Digital Photography Editing Software Part II

After writing my last post I tested two more editing programs - Paintshop Pro 2018 and Photoshop Elements 2018.  I also have earlier versions of both - Paintshop Pro X5 and Photoshop Elements 5.0.  I also forgot I had another program called FastStone Image Viewer which is free.  Plus there are the programs that probably came with your camera, although it seems those are pretty basic and pretty limited in what they can do.

Photoshop Elements 2018 is a huge program with lots of great stuff for beginners who aren't in a hurry to get things done.  And the same with PSP 2018 (which isn't quite that big).  They both took around 5-15 minutes on my computer to load.  I found Photoshop Elements 2018 to be the better of the two as far as the variety of editing that you can do, but after all my trials, I still found Lightroom and Photoshop to be the best (and on my computer, the fastest).  Two drawbacks with Photoshop - it can be pretty complex to learn and is only available as the CC (Creative Cloud) for which you pay a monthly fee which includes Lightroom CC and a few others.

I'm not going to go over all of the features of the programs (too many) - just recommend them in order of my preference.  The best thing is for you to download and try the trial versions which are the full versions but only are good for 30 days.

First on my list of recommendations is Lightroom, which you can still get with a perpetual license, although it is a bit tricky to find out where to get that as Adobe wants to sell the CC version by subscription (not a bad price at $9.99/month for Lightroom and Photoshop - if you are making money from photography - don't forget to add that cost in to your cost of doing business).  My next choice would be to own Photoshop CS6, but you can no longer buy it from Adobe and not sure it works with Windows 10 (hopefully someone will come out with a similar program without a subscription).  My next choices would be the other two - Elements and PSP respectively.  ON1 Photo Raw 2018.1 may become the answer if they fix a few issues as it now is (some bugs and slow speed).

As mentioned previously, LightZone is free so no trial version is needed and it can do probably all you will need to do.  It doesn't have some of the extras that the others have but is pretty easy to figure out.

There are other specialized software programs.  Ones specifically for portraits, some for changing backgrounds in photos, others for HDR (High Dynamic Range, meaning extreme contrast), etc.  For portraits, I'm using PortraitPro 17 (lets you change lighting, add make-up, change facial expressions and backgrounds, and more).  For backgrounds, I've shot photos of walls, clouds, sunsets, etc. for the purpose of adding them to other photos, like this one of the clouds.

Here are several variations of a photo I shot a few days ago - the original with no editing, and then editing to change the backgrounds and one to totally change the makeup.  First, I imported them into Lightroom to do some minor adjustments and to see which ones I either liked or didn't like as much.  It turned out I liked the expression better on the one with the eyes closed, so moved the eyes from the first one to that one in Photoshop which can be seen in the third photo below.

Next, I went to PortraitPro 17 to make the lighting better - it was a bright sunny day outside and this was an unplanned shot, so had no reflectors or anything - just her, me, and the camera.

Next, I dropped out the fence background and experimented with several different ones.

For this final experiment below, I also used PortraitPro 17 to add some makeup to highlight her eyes and give a little more color to her face.  Of course, when you start with a beautiful face it makes it so much easier to get a great result.  I only shot two close-up images of her.

I've been experimenting with another photo editing software called Smart Photo Editor for changing backgrounds and more.  I had gotten it mainly for swapping out the skies in some of my photos.

Don't forget that the first step is to get the correct lighting, focus, backgrounds, exposure, etc., in your camera.  The more you get correct in camera, the less you'll need to do in all of these editing programs.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Bye Bye Winter

I just saw a post by Tamara Lackey (photographer) that reminded me of some of the hardships photographers will endure in order to get the shot.  It reminded me of the time I was getting the following shots in Ithaca, NY, in about 10-degree weather.  In order to shoot the photos, I had to take my gloves off to operate the camera - a Nikon FTn with a 50mm f1.4 lens.  The photos faded and color shifted over time, but with editing software, was able to almost get them back to their original colors.  The first three photos are the result of the spray from a nearby waterfall.  As Rod Stewart said, "Every Picture Tells a Story." 

The above photo was of a small waterfall that was just about completely frozen, much like me and my fingers!

If you look closely at the walls in this photo, you can see the icicles from water that oozed out of the cracks.  My fingers felt like those icicles.  But I'm glad I shot these.

This bottom photo reminds me of the book by Kurt Vonnegut - "Cat's Cradle" and Ice-9.  It looks like an ice cloud covering the sun - now that is cold.  Aren't you happy to say bye bye to Winter?  

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Digital Photography Editing Software

It was a rainy day in Los Angeles yesterday (March 10) so I decided to check out a bunch of different RAW photo editing software to see if there was anything that might be a good alternative to Lightroom and Photoshop.  I don't do a lot of photography so don't want to sign up for Lightroom and Photoshop CC subscription.  I prefer to buy software just once, and perhaps every several years, pay for an upgrade if the upgrade is significantly better.  And of course, I try to shoot photos that at most need minimal editing.  Unless I want something a little artsier.

Besides editing ability, I was looking at organizing ability and speed.  One program that advertised itself as loading images faster (and it did do that) unfortunately did everything else slower.  Another claimed that it exported its result around four times faster than Lightroom, and it did that, but again, everything else in doing actual editing was extremely slow.  I went through about 5 programs, some free, some not.  The paid ones offer trial periods for their software.  After testing each program I decided to stay with Lightroom and Photoshop for now.  What I had hoped to find was one program that had the benefits of both Photoshop and Lightroom in one package - some looked like they attempted that, but they were in the too early stages of development with too many problems.  Too bad the best parts of each program couldn't be made into one.

Some of the ones I tried were Affinity, ON1 Photo RAW 2018.1, Raw Therapee, LightZone, and one other one called chasys_draw_ies_4_52_01 - couldn't do anything with that last one.  In the past, I also tried GIMP (free), but haven't checked it lately.  I'll probably check it this week as we're supposed to get lots more rainy days.

There is a Nik Collection plug-in from DxO that is free to download - it used to cost $500 and does some pretty neat stuff, and the new price of $0.00 is certainly right.  I've just downloaded and am installing the newest version.

One free program that I found had some good features and is called LightZone.  I sometimes use ON1 Effects 10.5, which is free.  It has some nice presets (pre-made adjustments built into the program) plus the ability to edit those presets and create new ones.  I also use PortraitPro 17 for portraits when needed - it can do things like change backgrounds, change lighting, add make-up, and make skin look much better with a whole lot of presets and adjustments.

Most of the paid programs come with free trial periods, usually from 10 - 30 days depending on the program.  A good idea to try them first - a few programs crashed and one caused my computer to crash, too.  Knowing what I know now if I was new to editing software, I would pick Lightroom an Photoshop as my first choice if price didn't matter.  For a lower price to entry, my next choices would be Photoshop Elements or Paint Shop Pro (I started with these years ago).  However, if you do a limited amount of photography, Lightroom is probably all you will need, along with the free programs mentioned.  I may do a future post on just PortraitPro 17.

Below are some examples of editing - each series is from either the same original image or a very similar one - the variations that can be achieved are pretty much limitless:

That's me with minimal editing.

These two are of the same photo, with lots of experimental editing and a lot sharper - part of the reason was to see how sharp this lens (Nikon 28-300) is capable of shooting.

From a different photo.

The following two series should give you an idea of what you can do with editing software.  Some edits are pretty subtle, some not so much.

 I think this top photo is the original without editing

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Photographic Portraits, Lenses, and Sharpness (and a Litttle Post Processing)

People always seem to be asking what the best lens is for portrait photography (or for that matter any other kind of photography).  The easy answer is whichever lens will give you the results you and your client want.  Generally, most photographers would say that would be something similar to an 85mm f1.4 prime lens (or perhaps a 50mm f/1.4 lens on a cropped frame sensor camera, which would be equal to a 75 or 80mm lens on a full frame camera).  Sigma Art lenses are pretty popular.  One photographer I know of uses a 58mm lens (among others).  Most will say a prime lens is best, but it really depends on what you want to accomplish.  Prime lenses are usually the sharpest, but perhaps you don't want the final result extremely sharp for a portrait.  Many times in post processing, photographers will soften the image.

The other reason for a prime lens is for its narrow depth of field so the only thing that will be in focus will be the person or people in the photo.  If you want to travel light, or you don't have a lot of extra money, you might want to consider a zoom lens.  Some of these have fixed focal lengths, usually around f/2.8 for the maximum aperture, or they may have variable apertures depending on what focal length is being used, and may go from f/3.5 at the maximum aperture which will be at the minimum focal length, to around f/5.6 at the maximum focal length.  Besides focal length for depth of field, the distance to the subject will also affect depth of field.  This photo was shot with a 28-300mm lens.  There were a lot of people walking by, so had to get in close.

Keeping all of the above in mind, here is a photo I shot at Venice Beach by the paddle tennis courts.  The lens was set at f/10 and 45mm (due to a limited area to shoot in).

This first photo was shot at the above settings.

In fact, the next three are the same photo used to illustrate what it would have looked like at larger and larger apertures.  Because I shot only the one photo, I actually used post-processing to throw the background out of focus and simulate different f stops.  

If I had something like a 50mm f/1.4 lens, it would have been much easier to get the bottom result without having to do the post-processing to blur the background.  The photo below was shot with a 50mm f/1.4 lens, probably set to f/2 or f/2.8 - shot with B&W film.

And finally, the following photos were shot today.  Whenever I need photos to illustrate something, if there is no one else around, I'm always available, ha ha.  (Although I would have preferred to photograph the one above for the following series).  All the photos of me were shot with a 28-300mm Nikon lens with almost no post processing other than to adjust the brightness.  Depending on the distance from the camera as well as the f stop determines how much of the background will be in focus.  The other point is the sharpness of the lens.  As mentioned above, zoom lenses are not as sharp as prime lenses, but if I was the client, I would have to say these photos are more than sharp enough.  The moral is:  don't always believe what others say.  Experiment and research from multiple sources.

 40mm at f/4

Same as above, but with post-processing to illustrate the sharpness of the photo and how sharp it can be made in post-processing.  This was done with a preset from ON1.  This would not normally be used for a portrait for obvious reasons unless you wanted to look like you were lost in the desert for several weeks.
40mm at f/4

 58mm at f/6.3

 58mm at f/4.5

 90mm at f/6.3

 105mm@ f/5.3

122mm at f/6.3