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Preview: Matt Greer Photography

Matt Greer Photography

This is a site dedicated to photography. Its primary focus is on teaching and explaining editing techniques in Photoshop. The site also features my own photography; both as examples in the tutorials and as new images I feel are worth sharing. I apprecia

Updated: 2017-10-10T01:12:03.447-03:00


How to Photograph Artwork


How to Photograph Artwork, How to Photograph Art, Photographing Artwork, Photographing Art Hello. The following tutorial is a relatively quick and simple how-to for photographing 2-D artwork such as paintings, textiles, glass-covered images, reproducing newsprint, and more. I will also cover how to correct and post process the photographed artwork. I have found the easiest and most controllable way to photograph artwork is to use strobes or off-camera flash. If you are unfamiliar with off-camera lighting in general, I highly recommend you spend (a lot) of time reading and exploring Let's go over some basic gear needed to shoot artwork: A good lens, with no distortion or vignetting (see lens reviews at Photozone). Macro lenses are an obvious choice. Strobes or off-camera flashes, preferable with a PC-Synch port. Flash transmitters or receivers such as optical slaves, Cactus V2s, Pocket Wizards, or Nikon's CLS system. You can also use flash cords. Light stands that can go to the full height of the work you are photographing. Tripod to keep your camera steady, and to help keep the camera square to the artwork. Grey card (not essential, but will simplify the entire process). Camera! (Digital is preferred, so you can preview your work.) For photographing wall-hung artwork, I have found that using two flashes, each on a lightstand and each reflected into an umbrella, the best setup. One light goes on each side of the artwork, at the same height as the artwork and at 45° to the artwork. Below is a setup image of a hooked rug I photographed recently. I've increased the contrast so you can more easily see how the light is falling on the art. As you can see, the light is falling evenly on the hooked rug in the image as the overlapping fading lights balance out. Closer to the lights, however, the light falling on the wall is too strong, and if the artwork was within that range, it would result in bright spots at the edges. How to set up your lights and your camera: Set your camera's ISO to its lowest native setting (this will ensure optimal image quality). Set your camera's highest synchable shutter speed (you'll want to eliminate as much ambient light as possible). Set your camera's white balance manually (see paragraph below), or to cloudy, as that generally creates pleasing colours with flash. Set your aperture to between f/5.6 and f/11 - you'll want good depth of field and sharpness, but have some flexibility for controlling the light getting to the sensor. Set all your flash triggers so they are all on the same channel. Start with your flashes at 1/2 power. Do some test shots, watch your camera's LCD and histogram, and vary your flash power and aperture to get the light level right. Try not to bring your flash power up to full (1/1) power, as this will eat through batteries faster, and cause slower recycling times. Point your flashes into their respective umbrellas, and then the umbrellas at 45° angles toward the artwork. Start with the lights approximately 1 metre (3.23 feet) out from the wall, and 1 metre to each side of the artwork. Shift them around as needed. Once the lighting has been set up, the next step (not entirely necessary, but this will make post processing far easier) is to take a white balance reading from a grey card. The easiest way is to take a manual white balance reading with your camera (check your manual for specific directions) while using the same lighting setup you'll use for photographing. Your other option is to shoot RAW, just photograph a grey card under the light being used, and use the grey card to set the white balance in post processing, with a program like Adobe Camera Raw (ACR). I personally find the first to be much easier. Of the above-mentioned forms of artwork, I've found paintings to be the most difficult - oil on canvas in particular. That is because the reflective properties of the oil paint combined with the minute 3-D texture of the canvas make eliminating reflections very difficult. There is much you can do in post process[...]

Sharpening with Unsharp Mask (USM)


Hello, After just finishing an article on the importance of image selection, I felt an article covering an essential method of making your images truly shine would be appropriate. This article is all about sharpening your images, for whatever purpose (either printing or web view). I will describe some example values to use for different images, cover how to sharpen for specific sizes, how to avoid sharpening halos, how sharpening can be used for haze removal, and finally, how it can sometimes help save an out of focus image. What is Sharpening? (And what is USM?) Sharpening refers to an increase in the contrast of edge definitions. Increasing sharpness helps bring out fine detail and can increase local contrast. It is important to note that it does not work in the same way as general contrast or curves adjustment. Simply, here's a quick example of an image before and after sharpening has been applied (I will get into the specifics of the values later): We've now covered what sharpening is. So what is Unsharp Mask (USM)? At first glance at the name, it seems contradictory to our goal. But, as we learned in the tutorial on masking, a mask hides elements of a process done to an image. In this case, the mask is hiding the 'unsharp' elements. Essentially, USM creates a somewhat blurred copy of the image being sharpened, then subtracts that copy from the original. In doing so, the USM is able to detect any edges in the image and then increase the contrast along those edges. It sounds complicated, but fortunately, programs that utilize USM do all this work themselves. Your work lies in understanding what setting you can adjust in the USM tool, and how to apply different settings to different images. Let's quickly go over some terms that are essential to understanding USM. Below is the window that will appear when you apply USM (the image in the window is mine - of course yours will be a crop of whatever image you are sharpening). You access this window in Photoshop through Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask... There are three important fields in this window. They are: Amount: This is shown in percent and is the degree of sharpening applied (which is then qualified by the next two variables). Radius: This alters the edge size that is sharpened. A smaller radius alters smaller edges, and (hopefully obviously) a larger radius alters bigger edges. Threshold: This tells the USM filter how different two tonal values have to be before USM affects them. For example, sharpening a tree and sky shot - you would want the branches sharpened but not noise in the sky. Typically, values between 0 and 5 are all you'll need to use (higher value means a greater difference in tonal values will need to exist before USM will affect them). Finally, there are a few important notes before we get into specific sharpening techniques. If you are working with multiple layers, make sure you have the base layer selected. If you sharpen a non-image layer, sharpening will do nothing (though you can use USM on layer masks if they have a blurred edge). My preference is to duplicate the base layer, and apply USM to the new layer. That way I can alter the opacity, add a layer mask, or completely delete the sharpened layer later on. It is best to apply sharpening as the very last step. Changes such as resizing, adjusting contrast, and other steps can affect what degree of sharpening needs to be applied to the final image. Values for Different Detail Types Here are a couple of examples of USM values to use for different detail types. Now, these images are quite small, and so I used values specific to their size. More on that in the next section. Typically, fine detail requires a smaller radius with a greater amount, while coarse, blunt detail requires a larger radius with a lesser amount. When there is subtle detail in the image that you don't want sharpened (such as noise, skin texture, etc.), a greater threshold is required. Here are a couple of examples. Amount: 200 Radius: 0.3 Threshold:[...]

Upcoming Articles



Just a quick post. I've started a side bar of what my upcoming posts will cover. As you can see, I have sharpening using unsharp mask, resizing for web, and resizing & sharpening for printing in the works.

If you have any suggestions or requests, please Email me.

Just to be colourful, here are a couple of my recent pictures.


Shot with Nikon D70s and Nikkor 60mm Micro. ISO 1600 processed in Capture NX and Photoshop (NX Noise Reduction & Noise Ninja applied).

Shot with Nikon D70s and 70-300VR, in Lake Louise, Alberta. See the fellow in Blue on top of the ice sheet? He's between the two right-most trees.

Importance of Image Selection


Hello. This article is about the importance of image selection. Image Selection refers to the images you (as a photographer) choose to capture (with your camera), edit and display. I feel it is an important issue, and this is an article that I've been wanting to write for a long time - almost as long as I've been working on this blog (since December 2006, if anybody's keep track). I've defined what I consider image selection to be. But to be clear, I should define one more word. This blog (and digital photography itself) deals largely with editing images. For the rest of this post, I will refer to editing as the manipulation of images (either in camera, with software like Picasa [great, free program] or Photoshop, or whatever method you use). Image selection seemed to me to be an innocuous topic when I began discussing it with others, but it has caused some heated debates as well as many excellent discussions. The idea of image selection was first brought to my attention a couple of years ago by my good friend (and current MFA student at NSCAD in Halifax, NS) when I sent him an email with a half dozen images I had just shot and edited. There were really only two distinct images there, but several slightly different angles of the same two shots. I was not asking him for his opinion on which image was better and why - I was showing him those images to showcase my recent work. It was then that my friend, whom I had just shown several nearly identical variations of two images, enlightened me. He told me that image selection is a critical part of photography, and is a large part of what defines us individually as photographers. Educated Support It's important to point out that this notion of image selection being important is not just an idea that my friend and I support. I had a quick flick through my photo literature and came up with these sources supporting this same principle. First, from my favourite photographic author, Freeman Patterson (mental note: dedicate entire posts about him in the future). One of his many excellent books is Photography and the Art of Seeing: A Visual Perception Workshop for Film and Digital Photography (3rd edition, 2004, Key Porter Books Ltd.). src="<1=_blank&lc1=E3D378&bc1=FFFFFF&bg1=000000&f=ifr" style="width:120px;height:240px;" scrolling="no" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" frameborder="0"> This entire book talks about design and visual expression, but in the summation, the author states: "You must... become sensitive to the essence of the subject matter.... Then you decide which themes are expressed through the situation or event..., and select the details that best express the theme you choose to illustrate." (p. 145). Understanding your subject and how you want to express that understanding is essential to image selection. It is best, though not critical, to think about what you're shooting and why even before you put the camera to your eye. What is the subject; what guides your eye to the subject (and what leads your eye away); what is unique about the photo you will capture; what technical considerations must you make (DOF, focal length, detail, exposure...)? Are you capturing an image for the sake of capturing, or are you making the best photograph you (or anybody) can make? If you're taking the time to truly learn photography (and I hope that in reading this, you are), then I'm guessing you want to make the best image of whatever it is that you are photographing that you can. Another great book (that I wish the author would re-issue) is Photojournalism: Content & Technique (Greg Lewis, 2nd edition, Wm. C. Brown Communications Inc., 1995). In a section on photo editing and selecting photos for publication, the author states "photo editing is the entire process of selecting photos from the photographer's take, cropping them, determining, or at least influencing, their use [...]

Hyperfocal Distance


Hello. This has been a long time coming, but it's finally here! A tutorial on the whats, hows, and whys of hyperfocal photography. What is Hyperfocal Photography? First, let's cover what hyperfocal photography is. Simply put, hyperfocal photography is when you adjust the aperture and point of focus so that everything from a desired point (usually the foreground) to infinity is in focus. It takes work and an attention to detail, but mastering it and becoming efficient at it can certainly improve certain aspects of your photography. How is Hyperfocal Photography Achieved? Calculating hyperfocal distance can change depending on a number of factors, and different cameras and lenses have different ways of helping you figure out the hyperfocal distanc. Factors affecting hyperfocal distance include focal length (wide angle lenses have a greater depth of field than telephoto lenses), distance to nearest subject (two distant objects will have a smaller hyperfocal distance than a near and far object together), and sensor size (the smaller the sensor, the greater the depth of field). In order to calculate hyperfocal distance, there are a number of different things cameras and lenses have that can help you. Hyperfocal Lens Markings Some lenses (this seems be more the case with older lenses) have markings on them showing the hyperfocal distances for different apertures. An example of this is shown in the image below. In the image below, you can see that the lens is focused to 8'. On the barrel, you can see two vertical markings on either side of the focus point line - two lines correspond with the number 11, and two with 16. These lines tell you that when you have the lens focused at 8' and the aperture set at f/16, everything from 6' (on the right of the scale) to 12' (on the left of the scale) will be in focus. Adjusting the focus ring on this lens will change the hyperfocal distance (the area that is in focus) for a given aperture. For instance, you can see that with this lens, setting the focus point to 12' would give you DOF from 8' to 20'. Using DOF rules and your LCD There is a simple Depth of Field (DOF) rule that will help make hyperfocal distance calculations easy - your DOF is always 1/3 in front of the focus point, and 2/3 behind it. What that means is that if you focus on something 10' away and your DOF (area in focus) is 3', everything from 9' to 12' will be in focus. Using the above rule, you can resort to trial and error to achieve the desired hyperfocal distance. Set an aperture that will give you a large DOF (usually at least f/11, but you will need lots of light (or a tripod, which is a good idea anyway) to freeze action, or a static subject), set your focus 1/3 of the way past where you want your DOF to begin and where it will end. Shoot. Look on the LCD to see what was in focus. If not enough, you'll need a smaller aperture (larger f/ number); if too much, then you'll want a larger aperture (smaller f/ number). Using Your DOF Preview Button Many SLRs these days have a DOF preview button (read the user's manual for your camera). To use this, set the aperture you want to use and press the button. The viewfinder will become darker, but you will see how much of the image is in focus. With the DOF preview button pressed, adjust the focus ring until the desired hypefocal distance is achieved. If you cannot get the hyperfocal distance required with a particular aperture, close down the lens some more (increase the f/ number) and try again. Use Specially Designed Cameras Some cameras will use their software to get the settings right for a given hyperfocal distance (check your camera's user manual). You can set the front and back point to be in focus and the camera will set the aperture and proper focus point to get the entire range in focus. I have only ever heard of this feature on Canon cameras (and not all of them), but it may be in other cameras too. Another Helpfu[...]

New Images - April 29, 2007



The seasons are changing, and I'm trying to learn some new techniques, so I've been shooting a variety of different subjects lately, and hopefully many more to come.

In just a couple of weeks, I will be moving from Halifax to Calgary. There, I'll be working at a new job (hopefully), have a new home, finally be in the same city as my girlfriend (fiance, but I like the word girlfriend more), and have a whole new world to explore. It'll be a busy time, but I'm really looking forward to the many (photo) opportunities that lie ahead.

Please enjoy the following images. I am (perpetually, it seems) working on blog posts about night photography, and about digital pinhole photography. I'm trying to build up a respectable collection of images to go with each post, and having a blast taking them.

I have many more on my photo site, but here's a sampling of some of my favourite pieces.

Please enjoy, and email me any comments, or post them here.

My nephew Dawson. I quite like this image, and it has just (today!) won me a photo competition. The prize? A Canon A640.

A view just outside of Truro, NS.

A snow angel at sunset.

Me and my fiance, Amy, on Bell Island, NL. Fill light was an SB600 triggered wirelessly.

Mussel shells on a dock pulled out of water.

My friend Susie during a recent photo shoot. Shot in bright daylight with an SB600 triggered wirelessly - background underexposed and flash used to fill shadows and bring Susie forward.

DIY Lighting Equipment


March 24, 2007 Update: Added examples for each of the three flash diffusers. Hello. This is a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) guide to making some really good lighting tools. I cannot take credit for all of these, but hope this will be a useful resource. There are several Flash Diffusers that are cheap (anywhere from free to a couple of dollars) to make, a homemade double-sided Reflector, and an excellent Light Box. I'm all for finding new DIY items, so if you have something to share, please Email me. Let's get to it! Flash Diffusers There are three (four, if you include both film canisters) flash diffusers here. A yogurt container (for a slave flash), film canisters (for on-board flash), and a foam diffuser (for slave flash). Let's cover them in the same order as listed here. Yogurt Container Diffusers This diffuser is easy and inexpensive. It will really soften the light of your slave flash and is ideal for any macro shooting. First of all, it will move the actual light source forward (because light will radiate out from all parts of the container, and the end extends a few inches past the end of the flash head itself) so shooting objects close to the front of the lens will not have a shadow created by the lens. It also makes the light source very large (the full area of the yogurt container). One thing to be cautious of a slight colour tint. Even with all the red on the yogurt container pictured, the colour balance only warmed up slightly. I usually prefer a slightly warm colour balance, but it's something to be aware of. To make this diffuser: Simply trace out the shape of the front of the flash head onto the lid of the yogurt container. Cut out that shape with an exacto knife (do be careful - this may sound patronizing, but it always pays to be aware of the risks). See if the lid fits a good inch or so down over the flash head. If not, make the necessary adjustments. Put the yogurt lid onto the container itself (make sure its empty and clean - I hope that part's obvious), put the flash on the camera, and shoot as per normal. Assuming your camera has TTL flash, it'll make any necessary power adjustments. This diffuser is handy, because if you know you're going some place where they have extra yogurt containers (I've always got a couple in my cupboards), you only need to bring the lid with you. Handy stuff! Example of what the yogurt container diffuser can do. Film Canister Diffusers These diffusers are great for on-board flash. You can use any near-clear film canisters you have lying around (or most photo stores are happy to let you have some of their stash). Film canister diffusers don't diffuse as much as the yogurt container diffuser does on slave flashes, but they do still increase the light source area, and make a slight improvement for close-up shooting to (help to eliminate the shadow caused by the lens). As you can see in the two images above, you can make the diffuser to fit over the on-board flash width-wise or length-wise. It's more a matter of what will fit on your camera. To make these diffusers: To make the tall-and-narrow diffuser, discard the lid and cut notches out of both sides of the canister with an exacto knife. Make the notches wide enough to fit over the flash, but narrow enough to make it a snug fit so it won't fall off. To make the short-and-wide diffuser, remove the lid and cut a hole in the side of the canister the same approximate shape as the on-board flash. Try the canister on the flash for fit and adjust as necessary. Replace the canister lid to keep the diffuser snug. These diffusers are small and useful. They'll fit in your pocket and soften the harsh shadows caused by flash, making it great for close-up work and portraits. Example of what the canister diffuser can do. Foam Diffusers This diffuser is easy to make and makes an incredible difference to the look of the[...]

New Images - February 10, 2007



Winter isn't the easiest time for me to shoot; it's cold, the days are short, and nature's colours are dull. This is no reason to pack up the camera gear, however. Sure, fewer opportunities means we have a little more time to shop for good deals on used gear, and make sure cameras, sensors, lenses, tripods, bags, flashes, batteries, chargers, accessories... are clean and in tip-top shape, but it's a great time to learn, too.

I set a goal for myself - 1,000 pictures a month over the winter. That's approximately 30 pictures a day. That means I have to go out every day and look for inspiration: new objects, new composition, new techniques. It hasn't been easy, but I think it's really been paying off. My hit rate isn't quite what it was in the summer or fall, but I'm getting some pictures I'm really happy with.

I have many more on my photo site, but here's a sampling of some of my favourite pieces.

Please enjoy, and email me any comments, or post them here.

Lip prints on a steamy window.

A screw under blue paint on a rainy day.

An old Toyota in the snow.

Sea smoke on Halifax Harbour.

Thanks for sharing.

Matthew Greer

Photo Posts



In an effort to both share my latest photos here and keep the sidebar links succinct, I've decided to create a post that lists and links my previous photo posts. I'll keep this page updated with the latest links, and the two most recent posts will also be in the sidebar under 'My Images'.

So take a look at what I've shot so far, and check back regularly (several times a month) for new photos. Don't forget the Photoshop and photography tutorials! And as always, I keep all my work on my Photo Site - this is just a sampling of my latest shots.

Here are my previous posts. The most recent posts are listed on top.

April 29, 2007

A variety of new images and techniques.

February 10, 2007

Wet and foggy images.

January 3, 2007

A year of images - My camera turns 1!.

December 17, 2006

Sunrises and Reversed-lens macros.

December 10, 2006

Frost, textures, and dimming light.

Please do check back often. And if you have images you want to share, I'd love to see them.


Black and White Conversions


Hello. Today we are going to cover black and white (B&W) conversions. Converting images to B&W is a powerful tool, and there are many different ways to do it, each with a different look. These processes are for Photoshop CS2. There are endless options, but I will cover four major, flexible conversions in this tutorial. They are the Channel Mixer, LAB Conversion, and the Greg Gorman and Daniel Diaz b&w conversion methods. After going through these steps, it would be a good idea to review my tutorial on Actions, as it will make your life easier to automate these conversions. I will mention this again, but it's important to note that there is no one right conversion. I often try several different conversions on the one image, as it is not always clear what the image will look like until each is applied. And you can combine two different conversions into one, using Layer Masks. For now, let's focus on the conversions themselves. One final note - I would recommend doing most of your editing on the image before converting it to black and white - cropping, curves, cloning, removing distortion, etc. Channel Mixer Using the Channel Mixer is probably the easiest way to do b&w conversions, and it's flexible, too. When trying different b&w methods on an image, I usually turn to this one first. You can easily see what its effect will be simply by looking in the Channels window (Window > Channels). By clicking on the Red, Green and Blue (Ctrl+1, Ctrl+2, and Ctrl+3, respectively) channels, you can see the effect each has on the image. It is the same as using a Red, Green or Blue filter on the front of a camera when shooting b&w. Each channel blocks its own light, and accentuates its opposite. For example, a red filter will make red objects look white, and blue objects look black - excellent for making blue skies (or cloudy skies with patches of blue) really dark and contrasty. So, we've looked at each channel in the Channels window. Here's how to add the channel mixer to your image. (First, make sure you select the RGB (Ctrl+~) channel, so you'll see the effect on the actual image.) Open the Layers window (Window > Layers). In the bottom of the Layers window, click the Add New Adjustment Layer icon (half-black/half-white circle), and select Channel Mixer. In the bottom-left corner of the window, click on the 'Monochrome' tick-box. Adjust the Red, Green, and Blue sliders to taste - try to keep the total at approximately 100%. If you preferred the blue channel from the Channels window, put the Blue slider at 100%, and the other two at 0%. Of course, any combination of the three is fine. I prefer to lighten and darken the image by increasing or decreasing the Red, Green, and Blue sliders, (or with Curves after the fact) but you can adjust the Constant slider if desired. Click 'OK'. That's it! Now, you can take this one step further - you can combine two channel mixers on the one image. This is useful if you want to have the effect of one channel on part of the image, and the effect of another channel on a different part of the image. To do this, simply create two (or more) Channel Mixer layers, and adjust each the way you want it (I would recommend renaming each layer (by double-clicking on it) to either the part of the image it corresponds to, or to the channel is uses). Then Mask the part of each Channel Mixer layer you don't want to apply. Note: Using masks with channel mixers may result in overlapping layers where colour shows through. To avoid colour showing through, I would recommend (only after applying the channel mixers and then flattening the image) converting the image to greyscale (Image > Mode > Greyscale), then back to your colour space (eg: Image > Mode > RGB). LAB Conversion LAB b&w conversions result in lower-contrast images w[...]

Important Photography Links


Hello. I've compiled a list of sites that I have found useful, and that I believe have a lot to offer. This list is obviously far from exhaustive, but I hope this will be a helpful resource for you all. If there is a site that has helped you immensely and want to share it, please Email it to me. I do want to keep this list as compact as possible, but want to make sure to share important information. Broad Photographic Resources DPReview Perhaps the best place to not only begin, but to learn a lot about photography. Camera reviews are top-notch, and the forums cover everything photographic. Radiant Vista Learn much about Photoshop (see Photoshop Workbench) and about how to "see" images. Informative and easy to follow video tutorials. Thom Hogan While mostly geared towards Nikon equipment (his user guides are essential), he's a wealth of level-headed knowledge. Keep an eye out for him in the DPReview forums. Luminous Landscape A great resource with many tutorials and reviews - reviews go beyond just cameras to printers, software, tripods, scanners, etc. Photozone Just about any lens you can think of has been tested here. Lab and real-world tests - very reputable. Portrait Information Portrait Lighting Some basic concepts for lighting and portraits. Wedding Photos A fabulous guide on how to take and light great wedding photos (with gorgeous examples included). Eye Editing Tutorial on improving eyes in Photoshop - really helps to make a portrait picture pop. Lighting Strobist This, to me, is one of the best sites for lighting (flash) information. It goes beyond the how-to (and covers so much of that!), and really inspires. Truly is a must-see. Light Box Instructions on how to make your own, inexpensive light-box. On-Camera Flash How to effectively use on-camera flash. Photoflex Lighting School They cover lighting from the basics right up to studio lighting with complex kits - clear and well explained. Dozens of specific lighting tutorials. Covers a lot of issues that come up when lighting a subject, and how to get around those issues. Wedding Lighting An excellent walk-through for wedding lighting. Written for Nikon Flashes. Bouncecard 1 Bouncecard 2 Bouncecard 2 Three different do-it-yourself (DIY) flash bounce cards. They're all cheap and easy to make, and all do wonders! Wireless Flash Compensation In-depth Wireless Flash Compensation instructions for Nikon CLS flash systems. Sharpening Sharpening 101 Thom Hogan's Article on sharpening. Clearly covers the how's and why's of sharpening. Advanced Sharpening A tutorial with some solid, advanced sharpening techniques. Un-Sharp Mask How to apply un-sharp mask (USM), and just as importantly, the theory behind the task. USM Values Some USM values - useful as a rough guide until you get the hang of things. Haze Removal Using USM to remove haze from pictures - powerful tool, wha? Photoshop Action Central This is the site that introduced me to Actions. Has many actions already built that you can load into Photoshop. Also has some great tutorials so you can build your own actions. Photoshop Lab This page has several Photoshop tutorials - many of which go beyond regular photo editing. Russel Brown This guy really knows his way around Photoshop. The links stretch long down the page, so make sure you take a good look. Colour Management Colour Management Basics The basics of Colour Management, including aRGB and sRGB. Covers when to use each for JPG, RAW, printing, and the web. Colour Management Discussion A good discussion of the many pros and cons of using different colour spaces. Sources of Inspiration Matthew Hollett My friend, Matthew Hollet's, website. He has a natural eye for photography, and a gift for w[...]

Happy Birthday, Camera!


Well, my camera turns 1 today. It's my Nikon D70s. What a year it's been! Just shy of 15,000 pictures; many techniques learned, with the camera, the lenses, flash systems, Photoshop; and many sights seen that would not have been explored without a camera at all. It's also been a year since I last used film, except for the odd Polaroid for fun. I've decided to celebrate with the sharing of some of my favourite images. All shot with the D70s. I've added any relevant information below each image. Enjoy the show! My brother playing guitar - with 50mm 1.8, ISO 1600. A farm in PEI. 18-200VR A building in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Perspective Corrected. 18-200VR. Rain out my apartment window. 80-400VR A duck and its home reflected - Public Gardens, Halifax, Nova Scotia. 80-400VR. A tree reflected in a burned out, smashed up tractor. 18-200VR. Cormorants in PEI. 80-400VR. A Grey Jay in St. Anthony, Newfoundland. 80-400VR Swans in Bowring Park, St. John's, Newfoundland. 18-200VR. Western Brook Trail, Gros Morne, Newfoundland. 18-200VR. Bottle Cove, Newfoundland. 18-200VR. Window Washers, Purdy's Wharf, Halifax, Nova Scotia. 18-200VR. Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick. 18-200VR. Cabin at Night. St. Anthony, Newfoundland. Sigma 20mm 1.8. Beetle in Victoria Park, Truro, Nova Scotia. Sigma 20mm 1.8. Slug eating Mushroom. Nikkor 60mm Micro. Sunflower. Sigma 20mm 1.8. Shot in the Rain. Nikkor 60mm Micro. Shot with Nikkor 60mm Micro. Fall colours in puddle. 80-400VR. Amy, my fiancée, in Aylesford, Nova Scotia. 18-200VR. My sister, Jenny, and her new born son, Dawson. Nikkor 28mm 2.8. My Mom, far in front of a cave in Bottle Cove, Newfoundland. 80-400VR. Thorny branch. Shot with Nikkor 28mm 2.8 reversed. Lone Branch. Nikkor 60mm Micro. A construction site in Halifax, Nova Scotia. 18-200VR. Sunrise from Dartmouth Bridge, Nova Scotia. 18-200VR. Halifax Harbour Sunrise, Nova Scotia. 18-200VR. The moon and part of the bridge girder, Halifax, Nova Scotia. 18-200VR. Frost melting off a leaf. Nikkor 60mm Micro. Boat on the Horizon and Sunset. Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland. 18-200VR. Kingsburg, Nova Scotia. 18-200VR. My Dad stirring my tea at lunch, with reflection in tea pot. 18-200VR. Funky houses on the horizon at sunrise. Kingsburg, Nova Scotia. 18-200VR. Shed (lit remotely by SB-600) and sunset. 18-200VR and SB600 - triggered wirelessly. Broken down shed in Kingsburg, Nova Scotia. Lit inside, and front outside, with two SB-600s, triggered wirelessly. 18-200VR, 2 SB-600s. So, many many images, and even more fond memories. This camera has served me great, and will continue to for years, I'm sure. Now, back to shooting! Happy Birthday, camera. Thanks for sharing. Matt[...]

Correcting Image Distortion


Hello. In today's tutorial, we will cover how to correct image distorion. Photoshop CS2 has some excellent, powerful tools to help with these problems, and I will cover them in detail. We will learn how to straighten the horizon, correct Pincushion and Barrel distortion, a couple of ways to modify perspective (correcting the illusion of buildings leaning back from shooting up at them), and finally, removing Vignetting. These tools, once learned, are quite easy to use. While they aren't as prominently featured in Photoshop as other features like Levels, Contrast, and Saturation, they can be just as essential in creating amazing images. Let's begin! Straightening the Horizon The horizon in this shot is obviously not level. The best solution to this would be to reshoot the image, this time with the horizon straight (some tripods come with levels; you can get bubble levels that fit on the hotshoe of cameras; and many Nikon cameras have on-demand grid lines in the viewfinder that help with achieving a level horizon). Short of that, however, there's an easy fix in Photoshop. With the image open, select the Measure Tool from the Tools Pallet (Window > Tools), shown below. It is hidden under the eyedropper tool. You can also access the Measure Tool by pressing Shift + I repeatedly, cycling through the tools under that keyboard shortcut until the Measure tool is selected. Now, with the Measure Tool selected, click one point on the horizon, then drag the line across to another point on the horizon - a line that should normally be perfectly horizontal. For fine tuning, you may find it easier to zoom in on the image (Ctrl + Space + Left-Click - zooming out is Alt + Space + Left-Click). If you made a mistake with your line, simply click Clear in the Options window at the top of the screen. Now that the line is drawn, click Image > Rotate Canvas > Arbitrary, and the correct value for straightening the horizon will already be calculated. Simply click OK, and the image will be rotated. Now, you will notice that the corners of your image need to be cropped off because of the empty white spaces left by from the rotating. Simply select the crop tool (C), select the area you want to keep, and either press Enter or click the check-mark in the Options window. As you can see, you lose a considerable amount of your image by doing this, which is why it is important to always pay attention to your horizon while you're shooting. Still, it is better to lose a little bit of your image than to not be able to use the image at all because it is crooked. Correcting Pincushion and Barrel Distortion Many lenses today have some level of distortion (see Photozone's lens reviews for more information), especially super-zooms. Much of the time, the distortion isn't noticeable. When you really see distortion is when there is a straight line running near one of the edges and it is bowing inward (pincushion) or outward (barrel). Much like using the Measure Tool mentioned above, correcting this type of distortion is usually fairly simple. Note: if you have multiple Layers, be sure you have either flattened the image, or have the image layer selected. This tool does not alter the entire canvas - just the selected layer. As you can see, the above image has some obvious pincushion distortion. (The blue lines were added as guides with the ruler tool (Ctrl + R) for reference.) While this sort of distortion is fairly obtrusive, it is quite easy to fix. While in Photoshop, click Filter > Distort > Lens Correction and you will see the following window. There are a few points to make note of in this window: Make sure the Remove Distortion Tool (D while in this window) is selec[...]

Photoshop Adjustment Layers - Curves


Hi there. I've been looking forward to doing this tutorial since I started the blog. We will be covering Curves - including adjusting brightness and contrast with simple and complex curves, and adjusting colour balance using curves. Curves is a very powerful tool and is a big part of what (I believe) Photoshop and post processing is all about. There's much to cover, so let's begin. Background Information Let's cover a little history first. In a previous post, I talked about what my most common Adjustment Layers were, and how to quickly add them with Batch Processing. I will quickly cover adding a Curves adjustment layer here, but it would be a good refresher to go over those tutorials quickly. I'd like to go over four quick point that I think will make using curves easier for you. Pressing Alt + Left-Click in the curves window will switch back and forth between a small and a large grid. I prefer a small grid as it allows for more visual accuracy. Clicking the icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the window will alternate between a big and small window. Again, I prefer a bigger window for better accuracy, so long as I don't need the screen space. If you have added a point on the curve that you want to get rid of, simply click on it and drag it into an adjoining point - either the white-point or black-point on the curve, or another point you've already created. If you have created a complicated curve that you want to reset, the easiest way to do so is hold down Alt and Left-Click on the Cancel button. Note that Cancel becomes Reset with the Alt button pressed. We will start in Photoshop CS2. First open an image you want to adjust the brightness and/or contrast of. Now, you can either run an action to apply your adjustment layers, or you can click on Window > Layers, then click the New Adjustment Layer icon in the bottom of that window (half black - half white circle) and select Curves. For now, click OK on the layers window, because we are going to change the blending mode of the curve. In the drop-down menu under the Layers tab (where it currently says 'Normal'), select Luminosity from the list. This will help prevent posterization from occurring between colour and tone transitions. One last thing to do before we begin - the histogram. This is a chart that tells us how much information is in the black point and shadows (left part of chart), the midtones (middle of chart), and highlights and white point (right of chart). To bring up the histogram, click Windows > Histogram. Then in the drop-down menu histogram window, choose Luminosity as this will show your actual brightness values. RGB simply shows the combined values of the Red, Green, and Blue levels and is not an accurate guide to the brightness values of your image. Note that this window will stay open until you close it - though you will often need to change the mode back to Luminosity. Not every histogram will look like the one above - it will change depending on the brightness values of your image, and will change as you make adjustments to your image. When changing the brightness or contrast of the image, try to make sure no part of the histogram gets all the way to the left or the right - if it does, that means you have lost information to completely black shadows (left), or blown out hightlights (right). Altering the Curve Now, on to the editing of the image! Back in your Layer window (Windows > Layers), double click on the half-black, half-white circle next to the Curves Layer. That will bring the Curves window back up. I have highlighted the major points of the curve above. The leftmost point on the curve is the black-point (where detail in the image has no li[...]

New Images, Dec. 17, 2006


The days are still getting shorter, so with less light, it means more time to spend on the computer side of things. I've been busy getting Photoshop tutorials ready, and catching up on the last bit of my photo editing. I've just posted several new images on my website:

The new images are all in the 'New Images' folder. Quickly though, here are a few of my favourites.

The first three are from Halifax, Nova Scotia. I had always wanted to walk across the bridge to Dartmouth, so my friend Matthew Hollett and I got up early one morning in November to capture a beautiful sunrise. Minimal processing done to each image - just a matter of capturing the right light.

A view of Dartmouth with the ferry going by.

Warm early morning light painting the bridge yellow.

The moon shining high above the bridge's supports.

All of the above images shot with a Nikon D70s and Nikkor 18-200VR in RAW - processed with Adobe Photoshop CS2 and ACR.

The next image is the male end of an electrical plug - shot with a Nikkor 28mm 2.8 and a reversal ring. Getting the image sharp and steady was difficult, but I really enjoy the results!


Male electrical plug - beyond macro.

And finally, also shot with the Nikkor 28mm, this time mounted normally:


Two Honda motorcycles - both yellow - but not much else the same.

The EXIF info for all of these can be found in the album itself - click on More Info to the right of the image.

I plan to have my next tutorial cover Curves in Photoshop CS2 - both for editing exposure (brightness/contrast) and for adjust white balance. Check back in a couple of days!

Matt Greer

Image File Management


Hello. Today's tutorial covers image management on your computer. Proper image management begins with setting up an organized system, and includes having a clear, hierarchical folder system. This system has to extend from when you first transfer images to your hard drive, to managing your edited images. It is also important to be aware of proper backup storage techniques. One of the best aspects of digital file storage is the ability to apply tags to your images with software such as Adobe Bridge, then finding your files based on key words or ratings that you've given them. Image management is very important, and becomes even more so with every picture you shoot. Without proper management, your images could be lost or destroyed, and tracking existing images could be a cumbersome, onerous task. The good news is that image management can be easy and efficient, but you have to have a solid system in place first. Why can't you just throw all your images into one folder, or even, say, just all your edited images? Well, if you're bored some afternoon, put 500+ images in one folder. Give your computer a minute to catalogue them all. Then reboot your computer and open the folder again. Your computer won't hold a cache for all those images, so it has to recatologue them. Imagine now that there are 20,000 images in there. How would you ever find what you wanted? How could you take the time for the computer to load the folder in the first place? Being organized isn't such a pain - set up a good system once and it will pay off forever! The above image shows the properties of the folder containing all of my images - originals and edits. This is about 11 months worth of shooting, and though I may shoot a fair bit for an amateur, you get an idea of how this sort of thing can get out of hand. Close to 30GB, and more than 15,000 images. It's important to stay organized! Setting up an Organized System It is important to have a good system in place. Of course, it is easiest to start this from the beginning, but by the time you realize you need a better system, you probably already have a problem with your current one. This is the method I use, and that I have found several other people use. It's efficient, pragmatic, and clear: If you have the money, buy a second hard drive for your computer - one that is only for your photographs - no other files, no programs - just your photographs. Create one folder each for every year of photographs you have - this will be your primary filing level. In each 'year folder', create one folder each for every month - this will be your secondary filing level. In each 'month folder', you will have one folder for every day of shooting you have done - this will be your tertiary (and final) filing level. I prefer to create mine as I shoot, as I do not create images every day, and I do not need excess, empty folders. Be careful having too many subdirectories. You will want a simple, clean system. Also, as I will mention again, some burning programs only accept a maximum number of characters - going over will result in a truncated (and thus unclear) file name. This is a balance of clarity and brevity! Naming Image Folders As important as organizing your images is, you must be able to find your images later on. Be clear in your folder naming: When creating folders for a given day, put the month and day in the title (ex: April 17). For single-digit dates, be sure to put a zero (0) in front of the date number (ex: February 02), so that when the folders are sorted alphabetically, the 2s will not be in with the 20s, nor the threes in with the 30s, and so on. It is a good [...]

Custom Photoshop Paintbrush


Hello again. In this tutorial, we are going to create a custom paint brush. This technique has many uses - you can create a signature to apply to your images at any size or colour, or a particular pattern you want to be able to apply to your image. The best news - it's quick and easy to do once you know how. Above is the corner crop from one of my images where I have applied a simple signature. I only had to type those letters out once, then created a paintbrush for it. Now every time I want to use that, I can make it any size I want and any colour I want. Then one click and it's applied! I'd like to go over one thing first. There are several Keyboard Shortcuts that assist when using the paintbrush. Follow that link to view them. First we are going to start with a new canvas in Photoshop (File > New > New Image or Ctrl + N). Be sure to make the background contents transparent, so the spaces in your paintbrush allow the background to show through. Make the new image fairly big - it's better to have a big paintbrush that you can later make smaller, than to have a small paintbrush that you have to distort to make bigger. If you are creating a signature paintbrush, I would recommend a canvas at least 1,000 pixels across, and however high you need it to be. I believe your brush will max out at 999 x 999 pixels, so there is really no need to go beyond this max. We don't need to use the entire canvas either, though, so feel free to give yourself room. You can now create any pattern or image on the canvas you want. You can even use part of an existing image, if you like. For me, my main use was creating a quick and easy signature brush. I used the text tool, T, and with black and 100% opacity, wrote out what I wanted for my signature. Black is good to use the first time around as it is solid and clear - you can change the brush colour to anything you want once the brush itself is created. Note: To create the Copyright (©) symbol, press Alt + 0 + 1 + 6 + 9 on the keypad. Here's the step-by-step from here on in: You do not want to flatten the image, as this will make the background white. Then every time you use your brush, it will have a while box around it. Now, select the area of the image you want to use as your brush with the Rectangular Marquee tool (M). Make sure you are making the selection from the layer with detail on it - view layers in the Layer Window, Window > Layers. Now click Edit > Define Brush Preset and name your brush whatever you want (I prefer specific names, because sometimes the brush icon isn't clear for large brushes). That's it - you're done! Now, to use your custom brush: Select the brush tool (B). Open the brush pallet (F5 or right-click on the image while using the brush tool). Click on your custom brush to select it. To close the pallet, press F5 again or Esc. Choose any colour you want from the colour pallet in the Tools window. You can adjust the opacity with the slider at the top of the screen, or by entering a value (pressing 1=10%, 2=20%, 3=30%, etc.). You can adjust the brush size in the top toolbar as well, or by pressing [ to make it smaller, and ] to make it larger. Quick. Simple. And you're no longer restricted to the brushes provided to you. I hope this has made your life a little bit easier! Thanks. Matt[...]

Photoshop Layer Masks Tutorial


Hi there. This is going to be a long post - we have a lot to cover. I posted a tutorial earlier this week on Adjustment Layers and then had some requests for a tutorial on how to add layer masks. Layer Masks are amazing tools and there are several ways to use and apply them. In this tutorial we will cover masking with Paintbrush, masking using the Colour Range selection tool, how to Move, Copy and Invert masks to other Adjustment Layers, how to adjust the Mask's Edge, and finally, using the Gradient Tool to mask. Let's first start with some background. Layer masks are applied to specific layers and affect what part(s) of a layer (or Adjustment Layer) apply to the image, and to what degree. You can black-out entire parts of a layer, or reduce its effect by greying-out parts of the layer. We discussed Adjustment Layers in another tutorial, but you are not limited to this kind of layer. One that comes to mind that I use frequently is copying the background layer. To do this, you first need to bring up the Layers window (Window > Layers, or press F7). Whether you only have one layer (your background layer) or several layers, simply right-click on the background layer and click Duplicate Layer... Then a window will appear where you can rename that layer. (Note: Any layer can be duplicated - I'm just using the background as an example.) You can rename the duplicated layer anything you like - I chose 'Noise Ninja' for this one because I was about to run Noise Ninja on it. Sorry for the diversion - I just felt it would be handy to cover that quickly. Now, on to layer masks. Some layers (most Adjustment Layers) will have masks attached to them when you add them. In the layers window, masks are the white boxes to the right of the layer itself. If you need to add a mask (and layers can have multiple masks), click on the Layer Mask button on the bottom of the window - it looks like a front-load washer. Blank layer masks have no affect on the layers they are on, so don't worry about having the mask there if you have not utilized it. Now, let's get to the fun stuff! Masking with Paintbrush Let's cover this with an example. Let's say you apply a Curves layer or Levels Adjustment Layer, but once it is applied, you realize there is part of the image you do not want that layer to affect. What to do? Go to your layers window, click on the mask (white box) next to the layer you want to mask. Now, take your paintbrush, set the size and opacity (Keyboard Shortcuts) you need, and paint with the paintbrush over the part of the image you want to change. A couple of things should be noted here. Layer masks only use shades of grey. If you try to paint using a specific colour, it will convert it to an equivalent shade of grey. I find greys are most easily accomplished and adjusted by using black and painting with a reduced opacity. If you need to lighten the mask you applied, you can paint over it with white, either at full or reduced opacity. Painting with white on a blank mask has no affect. Be very cautious of brush edges - too hard an edge and you can clearly see where the mask has been applied. I find it is best to use a brush with a soft edge - the hardness being dictated by the task. Adjust the brushed edge by pressing Shift + [ or Shift + ] If you want to see exactly where in the image the mask is applied, press Alt + Left-Click. To hide the mask's effect, press Shift + Left-Click In the above image, you can see the image with no adjustment (layer off), the adjustment on (mask off), and the adjustment made with a mask applied (mask on[...]

New Images Posted!



It's been a while since I last updated my photo website. Well, I've finally added a few images. I'm behind on my photo editing, but finished up October's edits last night - images from home (Pasadena, Newfoundland). There are images of the first frost of the season and a trip to Western Brook Beach in Gross Morne National Park.

The images are currently in the 'New Images' folder of my website. Here's a small sampling of what I just posted.

Frost melting off leaf with sun's heat.

Frost on a wood fence with a warm background.

Ripples in the sand - Western Brook Beach, Newfoundland.

Fishing boat on horizon - with sunset.

The EXIF info for all of these can be found in the album itself - click on More Info to the right of the image. They were all shot with a Nikon D70S and one of three lenses: Nikkor 60mm Micro; Nikkor 18-200mm VR; or Nikkor 80-400mm VR. All editing done with Photoshop CS2 and reduced/uploaded with Picasa 2.

Take a look around and let me know what you think. I usually update it a couple of times a week.

Now, back to work on the Layer Masks tutorial!


Photoshop Keyboard Shortcuts


Hello. I was beginning to write a tutorial on Layer Masks, and in the first few lines of my outline, I was wanting desperately to speak of the useful keyboard shortcuts like they were all know and old-hat to all. Well, they are hardly old-hat to me. I learn (or re-learn, as the case often is) new keyboard shortcuts daily, and find they greatly improve my image editing efficiency. So, here's a list of the major keyboard shortcuts that I use for Photoshop CS2. If there are others you feel are essential and useful for others, please email me. I'm happy to learn and share with everyone else! Note: I just added a short section at the end here on Custom Keyboard Shortcuts. Thanks to all the people on DPReview forums who helped with this! Many of the keyboard shortcuts can be found easily by putting your mouse over a tool in the Tools Window (accessed by clicking Window > Tools): Many shortcuts can also be seen by clicking on something in the menu bar (File, Edit, Image, Layer, etc.) then seeing the keyboard shortcut (if it exists) to the right of the command. Here are some shortcuts that I find very useful. Any letter or keyboard command shown in bold in this tutorial is meant as a keyboard shortcut - this will eliinmate me needing to say 'press on the keyboard....' Also, where you see shift + ... means press Shift and whichever key - not Shift key and Plus Key and named key.: Brush Shortcuts While in brush mode, B, you can switch the paint brush colours to their default (black and white) with D, and/or switch the foreground and background colours with X. This is handy if you're using two different colours; you can put one in the main pallet, X to switch, change the new main pallet colour, then switch them back and forth as you need to. Still with brush B (it's good to practice - makes them second nature!), you can decrease the brush size with [ and increase it with ] and - left = smaller, right = bigger. Similarly, you can soften the edge of the brush with Shift + [ and harden it with Shift + ]. You can change the brush's opacity with the number pad (top or side) simply by pressing a value. This has a quick-mode built in: press 2 and it becomes 20% opacity; 9 and it becomes 90%. If you need a mid-point value, like 23%, press2 + 3 quickly. If you need a sub-10 value, press 0 first (ex: 0 + 7 gets 7%). Finally, 1 + 0 + 0 is what's needed to return to 100%. Also, you can change the brush flow by pressing Shift + 'value' on the top number pad with all the same rules as with with changing opacity, above. Finally, you can use the colour sampling tool while using the paintbrush by pressing Alt and left-clicking with the mouse. The colour sample tool disappears as soon as you release Alt. Common Tool Keyboard Shortcuts V: Move tool - moves image or active layer around canvas. C: Crop tool. Once an area is selected, Enter will confirm the crop. J: Spot Healing tool (Shift + J cycles through spot healing, healing brush, patch tool, and red eye). I:Eyedropper tool - colour selection. H: Hand - similar to 'Space' below, but does not switch off when released. If you are zoomed into an image to the point were it takes up more area than the screen size, this will allow you to move the image around without affecting its position on the canvas. Other Useful Keyboard Shortcuts Tab hides/unhides all the non-image windows - very handy if working on a large image. Space while using any tool will bring up the hand tool until you release the space bar - handy if you need to move a large image around t[...]

Batch Processing to Folder


Welcome back! In my last post, Actions and Batch Processing, I talked about how to add adjustment layers to a group of images using batch processing. In that tutorial, the images were neither saved nor outputted to a specific folder. I had a number of requests for instructions on how to batch process with Source > Folder and Destination > Folder. So, while this set of instructions is fairly wordy, it is meant as a sub-tutorial to my last one. Let's start off with a bit of background. If there is a series of commands you apply to images on a regular basis, and you do it the same way every time, you can set up something called Actions. Some examples of this would be flattening layers in .psd images, changing the colour space, resizing them for web, and adding Unsharp Mask, or a black and white conversion method you like for portraits that has several steps. You can create actions for this that will run the commands on images automatically. Then, if you want to perform those commands on a specific group of images (either a group of images you have open, or all the images in one folder), you can do so with Batch Processing. That is what we will talk about now. I am assuming now that you already have an action created. The first time you do this, it is a good idea to copy several images into a test folder so you can run through these steps without having to worry about doing something bad (and likely permanent!) to your original images. With Photoshop CS (or CS2, which is what I based this tutorial off), click File > Automate > Batch. This window will appear: Play box: Choose the set and action that you want applied to the group of photos. Source box: Choose either Opened Files (Note: This will apply the action to all images open in Photoshop) or Folder. If Folder is chosen, be sure to select Override Actions "Open" Commands if 'Open' is part of your chosen action. Decide whether you want to include subfolders or not. Choosing Suppress File Open Options Dialogs will cause Photoshop to steamroll through this step. ie: the File > Open options window will not appear for you. You decide if you want to select this option. (Note: I don't have the Open command as part of any of my actions.) Suppress Colour Profile Warnings may be a good one to leave unchecked as you could lose colour information (and thus image info), forcing the image from its native colour space into another. Destination box: None is what we covered in the Actions and Batch Processing tutorial. Use this if your action does not have Close as the final step, and if you want to keep working on the images after the action has run. (Note: for actions that require further work after the action is applied, I like to omit the Save command. This is just my preference. Save and Close will save the images back where they came from and overwrite the originals. I prefer to keep my originals as is. (Note: if you have created layers, or your action adds layers, make sure to add Layers > Flatten Image as part of the action, or saving as a .jpg or .tif will not work.) Folder is my preference. You can choose the same original folder, but with the steps below change its file name easily! Now, choose your output folder. I recommend changing the folder if the images are batch processed for a one-time use (ex: uploading to a website, then deleted from hard drive) or if you do not rename the images somehow. I always prefer to rename a newly saved image no matter where I put it (ex:img-sharpened.jpg, img-web.jpg, img-b&[...]

Actions and Batch Processing


Update Jan 9 /07: I've added a section here on loading pre-made actions. In the last post, I talked about adding layers to photographs. In future posts, I will talk about how to use these layers in editing photographs. In this post, I will talk about how to add these layers to photographs using something called actions. Running Actions can be applied to just one photo, or you can add layers to all the pictures you have open (or all the pictures in one folder) using Batch Processing. Creating Actions In the last post, I talked about adding Adjustment Layers. If there is a task that has several steps, such as this, that you do frequently to images, creating an action can make this easier. An action is a series of tasks that you can program Photoshop to remember, and run all of them automatically at the press of a button. To create an action, first open an image (any image) in Photoshop, then click Window > Actions. The window shown below will open. Note: if you want to add several tabs to this one window (as in the above image, where Layers, Channels and Actions are together), simply open each window (clicking Window > "desired window"), then with all windows open, simply drag the tab of one window into another window until they are all consolidated. Now, click the folder icon on the bottom of the Actions window (labeled "New Set") and name it "New Layers" (or whatever you want to call it). Then click on the turned up page icon (labelled "New Action") and name it "Standard Layers". This will begin the recording of the action automatically. You can stop and start the action recording at any time by pressing the Stop and Record buttons, respectively. I discuss the adding of layers in the previous post, Adding Layers. You can follow the steps in that post to create this particular action. Once you have completed all the necessary steps in the action, simply click the Stop button. Tada! You've just completed recording your first action in Photoshop! Running/Playing Actions Now the hard part is done. (Well, the composing, shooting, editing, publishing, etc. is the hard part, but you know what I'm getting at.) To run or "play" the action on a single image, have an image open and selected in Photoshop (you can have several images open for this scenario, but the action will only run on the image you have selected). Open the Actions tab, or click Window > Actions. Open the "New Layers" folder and click on "Standard Layers". Click the button labeled "Play". In just a few seconds, Photoshop will add all the layers to your photo, with all the blending modes, just as you specified. In one click! Now, to use the layers (as I will discuss in future posts), click on the Layers tab, or click Window > Layers to begin editing. Batch Processing Batch processing runs an Action on a group of images. You can specify the group two different ways: either all of the images currently open; or all of the images in a specified folder. I prefer to run actions just on open images, because I edit images 10-15 at a time, and a given folder (sorted by one-folder-per-day) can have hundreds of images. Batch processing requires that you have an action set up already, as I discuss earlier in this post. Note: The following instructions deal with running the above mentioned action specifically. If you create an action that requires the image to be saved as part of the action, then separate steps need to be taken. Note #2: These actions cannot be run on RAW fil[...]

Standard Photoshop Adjustment Layers


How to Add Standard Photoshop Adjustment Layers As promised in my last post, here is a guide of the adjustment layers I use most frequently when editing photos in Photoshop CS2. The following posts will describe the adjustment layers I use, what blending mode I use for each adjustment layer, and how to efficiently add these adjustment layers to your photos while editing - using actions and batch processing. Benefits of Editing with Adjustment Layers Most of the editing I do with adjustment layers can be done without layers - that is to say that edits such as Curves and Hue/Saturation can be applied directly to the main image layer itself. The benefit to using adjustment layers is that no edit is permanent until you flatten the image. You can even save the image with all of its adjustment layers as a Photoshop Document (.psd), and when you reopen it, all the changes you made to the adjustment layers will still be there for you to change back, remove, or alter. If you were to, for example, edit curves without layers, then go on to change saturation, crop the image, then add vignetting, the only way to go back and change what you did to the curves would be to go back in the history, to when you changed the curve (thus losing all work done since), or start the image editing from scratch. With adjustment layers, however, so long as that adjustment layer is still there, you can go back and alter the adjustment at any point in the editing process. It is a lossless editing process, and very handy. Sometimes one edit will affect the way another edit appears, so the first edit may need to be tweaked. This makes editing far more efficient and accurate! Most Common Adjustment Layers These are the adjustment layers that I use most often. I do sometimes use other layers, and often I don't use all of these. I tried to pare down the number of adjustment layers to something that would easily fit in the layers window, and still offer what I needed most. These are my selections, but YMMV. *Note: Blending Modes are shown in bold under each section. Selective Colour (Canadian spelling - no 'u' in Photoshop) Lighten/Darken specific colours Add/Subtract sub-colour values (ex: decreasing the amount of cyan in the greens) Mode: Normal Hue/Saturation Used for adjusting the hue and saturation of individual colours Mode: Colour (prevents posterization of colours) Curves This curves layer used mostly for contrast and brightness adjustment. Colour balance can also be done with curves, but I prefer to add another curves layer for this. I often use several curves adjustment layers as I find it easier than creating one very complicated curve. Multiple curves can be used in conjunction with each other, or applied to specific parts of images with masks (to be discussed in later posts). Mode: Luminosity Levels Adjusts whitepoint and blackpoint (levels at which brightness values reach their extremes). Sometimes used for brute-force brightness/contrast adjustment. When holding Alt while moving the black or white sliders, preview will show which values have maxed out. Good way of checking to see if you've lost all detail on either end of brightness spectrum. Mode: Luminosity Soft Light Layer Paintbrush strokes can be used as gentle marks, when used at low opacity. Add vignetting with a large, soft, low-opacity paintbrush. Lighten/Darken specific areas that would be too complicated to adjust with curves or other adjustments. Add colour tint to spec[...]

Photoshop Techniques


I haven't been doing much actual shooting lately. Most of my "photography" has been concentrated on editing pictures (finally starting to catch up) and plan where I want my photography to go: including what, how and with what I will shoot; what I will do about my current website, including what is on it, how it is laid out, and if I will stay with google or get my own website; and what I want to do with this blog.

For now, my clearest plan is for the latter - my blog. I want the majority of this blog to be about photo editing with Photoshop CS2. I will discuss editing with specifics - beginning with a photo that I took straight out of the camera (either a .jpg or .nef (RAW) file), and all the steps taken to get it to how I wanted it to look. My hope is that by using carefully selected specific images, I will be able to cover a number of editing techniques and situations.

I have learned much about photo editing from others via the internet, and I want to create a resource for others to learn photo editing.

I will not get into any technical specifics in this post, but I will say how I will begin.

I do all of my editing as layers in Photoshop, and while I do use a number of editing techniques with layers, I have five layers that I use most frequently, and so I add these five layers with an action to every image.

My next post will discuss which layers I use, why, how I create them, which blending mode I use, and how I add them (quickly, too!) using actions in Photoshop. Stay tuned in the next day or two for more.

If you haven't in a while, please check out my photos. I update them regularly - usually several times a week.

Matt Greer

Taking Photos in the Rain


Several months ago (June of 2006, in fact) the light outside was perfect for macro work, but there was a problem: it was pouring rain! My camera is not even weatherproof, let alone waterproof, so I did not want to risk damaging it even for a couple of shots. I was determined to get pictures, and was excited about the possibility of getting shots with waterdrops in them. The Weather Network for Halifax told me it would be raining for days, so I could think of only one solution - waterproof my camera! I equipped my Nikon D70s with a Nikkor 60mm Micro (with lens hood attached) and an SB-600 flash (for fill-light, if needed), then covered the entire camera in a large, clear, plastic bag. The opening of the bag was at the bottom of the camera and I tied a knot in it there (right next to the tripod mount). I used blue mail elastics around the front of the lens hood, the front of the flash, the base of the flash, and around the viewfinder (with the eyepiece removed, there is enough of a lip there for the elastic to grab onto). I then cut one hole for the front of the lens (I would keep the camera pointed down to keep the front lens element dry - the lens hood aided in this) and for the viewfinder. Elastics at both of these points are crucial to keep the rain out. I did not cut a hole for the flash, as the plastic would make little or no difference to the flash output or white balance. Now, for camera settings. I was able to change camera settings though the plastic bag, but it was slow and tedious, so I tried to set what I could while both the camera and I were dry. First, I shoot in Aperture Priority - this way I can control the depth of field. Next (and this was the first time I'd done this), I shot in Auto ISO, telling the camera not to go below 1/125s. This would ensure I had enough (though sometimes just barely) shutter speed to eliminate handshake from the images. I had the SB-600 for fill flash, and it worked excellently. I rarely used it, but it did save a number of shots that could have been ruined by high-ISO noise or slow shutter speed that ISO would not be able to compensate for. There was a lot of light, despite the heavy clouds and rain, so the odd time I used the flash, it was not the primary light source. It just bumped up the light enough to allow the shot to happen. Here's an image from that day - shot with the setup described above, and no flash. So, why was the light perfect for macro work? I find dark, heavy clouds diffuse sunlight very well, so that overly bright highlights and very dark shadows are eliminated. It is not so much so (as you can see in the image above) that texture and depth are sacrificed, however; on the contrary, more detail is able to be captured, light balance and colour balance are easier to control because they don't change as frequently as they do in sunlight (because of shadows, clouds, and reflections from other objects). How did I keep myself dry? Well, good ole' Gore Tex. Three-ply XCR jacket and pants combo from Mountain Equipment Co-op did the job, and sandals on my feet. So not only did I get the light I wanted, and the water drops I craved, but I had the park (Halifax Public Gardens) to myself. Everyone else stayed home that day because of the pouring rain. What more can a photographer ask for!? Thanks for taking the time to read this. My main goal lately has been catching up on photo editing. I'm t[...]