Ebook review – Essential guide to B & W Photography

If you are a person who wants to make wonderful Black and White Photographs and many of your attempts proved to be futile, this book is a must for you. Of course – who does not wish to make great Black and white photographs? This book starts with a clear understanding about Black and White images.

As Scott Kelby once said – “The simplest black and white conversion is to remove saturation and boost contrast”. Yes, he said it is the simplest way. However, not all the conversion is going to be good at its first attempt. You may not aware what is happening to the colours. Possibilities are there you will end up making a dull, normal black and white photograph!

The book’s author David J. Nightingale, an experienced photographer, nailed down all the fundamentals of photography from Tonal ranges to Contrast, RAW files to ETTR, EV to Metering.

After the fundamental sections namely – The Aesthetics of Black & White photography, Equipment and shooting Black & White, David states about the conversion methods, why you should not use the default conversion method given in the software and what it does exactly to your image while converting. The software just takes the brightness level of a given pixel and converts it to a gray scale equivalent. In the next chapter, David explains about few other ways of making black and white photographs in Photoshop Channel mixing, Calculation method and Blending methods. In the end of this section, he talks about different plugins available for Black and white conversion from Silver Efex pro, Topaz and DxO lab in detail from its interface and what one offers. Also the author mentioned his personal favourite methods as well.

In the next section – Adjusting tonal range, Balance and Contrast, he explains about the single most powerful tool in Photoshop “Curves”. Adjusting the tonal range means shifting the original tonal range to what you desire via the curve tool. With the curves tool in place, you can adjust all the tonal ranges to its extreme without losing detail aka clipping. He further explains about the Basic S-curves, the baseline, altering the mid tones and how to do selective adjustments to a particular portion of the image using “Selective adjustments using Curves and Masks”.

Later, he explained about Creative vignettes aka Selective Vignettes – Vignettes been explained in detail here, starting from how it affects the viewer’s perception and the way it leads the eye and ends with how to make specific vignettes according to your photograph.

David made a separate section to cover Black and White Portraiture – Whoa; it is an interesting decision to add one dedicated section for portraiture alone. A section you would most probably love very much, since who does not want to make a striking portrait! David starts with the difference and importance between colour and B & W portraits, what kind of portraits would work with B & W and what won’t?

He clearly classifies the difference between different methods of converting one image into B & W and its drawbacks. For instance, why applying of red filter generically to all images will not work, or with Channel mixer or with Black and White conversion tool for that matter. He also clearly mentioned on how to bring out the details of the face and to brighten the eyes in the portrait. Why eyes are important in a portrait? He mentioned “Not only are the eyes the window to the soul, they can also be key to a successful portrait, but unless they are well lit they can often detract from an otherwise successful image – normally because they appear too dark in relation to the rest of the person’s features.”

The final section – “Monochromatic toning techniques” where David explains about the different methods of adding tone to your B & W images. He starts from the Black and White tool, Hue/Saturation tool, using Photo filters; using Selective colour tool, using Curves tool, and using Gradient Map tool. All of them explained in detail so that you can precisely tone your image as you might have envisaged to either your Whites alone or Blacks alone or to the mid tones alone or to the whole of your image. The important question is why you want to apply a tone to your beautiful striking B & W photograph. It is only to further enhance your image, as the sepia can bring a nostalgic feel about that image, a light blue tone will bring out a warm and industrial feel and so on.

The conclusion part is so striking and interesting that David made all the facts clear, I agree with all of his words. Hope you too will find this e-book helpful, in not only making striking Black and White Photographs, a better photographer as too.

This e-book is filled up all the way with necessary screenshots, interesting tips and tricks in a toned box, which will save you many time and energy. And more importantly this e-book comes with a separate recipe book which explains 10 different type of photographs and how exactly David converted it into a powerful Black and white photograph with all necessary illustrations and screenshots. He added both the original image and the final image after all the processing steps executed.

A word of caution – If you are using Photoshop as your primary editing software, you would love this book, but if you have recently switched to Lightroom as your primary editing software, this book helps you a little. Just thought of reminding you, but nevertheless there are some fundamentals about the filters, plugins, curves which I found very worthy. I hope that you might also feel the same, who knows. Grab one here and don’t forget to comment below how did you feel after reading the book.

Cheers and Happy Photographing.

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The power of Alphabets in Lr 5


Not having any specific title, but the intention is to post one article today. After some amount of nail biting, decided to write about the most helpful list of shortcuts in Lr. Despite the amount of information spread across the internet in out of seconds of googling and a dedicated Lightroom shortcut display in each module in just one click (Ctrl + ‘), the smart list of keyboard shortcuts is still a scarce. Here is one, which you will use it day in and day out for sure.
 
I have maintained no order with respect to either the modules or the list of tools/functions. The only thing I kept in mind is the one which we will use often. The pdf file of the same can be easily downloaded, the link is at the bottom of this article.

R – Crop tool

     O – after pressing “R” will displays the rules of composition overlay in cyclic mode
     Shift + O – will make different versions of the current compositional overlay
     X – Rotate crop
     Pressing Ctrl will activates the level tool
G – Grid view in Library module
D – Develop module
E – Loupe mode in library module
P – Set select flag
X – Set reject flag
U – Unflag
J – Highlights and Blacks clipping
F – Full screen view
T – Display Tool bar
V – Convert the current image to B & W, press again to back
Q – Activates Spot removal tool
M – Activate graduated filter tool
L  – Lights dim/Out in cyclic mode
W – Activates White balance selection tool
K – Activates Adjustment brush tool
     O – Show/Hide paint overlay
     H – Show/Hide adjustment pins
     [ – Make your brush size smaller
     ] – Make your brush size bigger
     A – after pressing “K” for auto mask on & off
Y – View before and after side by side
     Alt + Y – View before and after up and down
C – Compare mode
N – survey mode
Z – Zoom view
Library
Ctrl + Alt + A – Select all flagged
Ctrl + Shift + E – Export window opens up
Ctrl + Shift + I – Import window opens up
Ctrl + D – Select none
Ctrl + A – Select all
Ctrl + , – Create virtual copy
Ctrl + ‘ – Display the key board short cuts pertains to the particular module
Ctrl + L – Library filters on
Ctrl + U – Auto tone
Ctrl + Shit + U – Auto White balance
Ctrl + Backspace – Delete all rejected flagged photographs (a dialog box will open up and ask whether to delete the images or just remove them from the catalog)
Ctrl + S – Save metadata to file
Tab – Hide side panels
Shift + Tab – Hide all panels
Backslash (\) in Library module – Library filter bar on & off
Backslash (\) in Develop module – before view
(/) Slash in develop module – deselect active photo
Develop
Shift + F – Full screen working space cyclic
Shift + M – Activates radial filter
0 – No star ratings
1-5 – respective 1 star to 5 star rating
6-9 – colour labeling
F5 – Show Module picker
F6 – Show Film strip
F7 – Show Left module
F8 – Show Right module
= = Increase grid size
– = Decrease grid size
Hope this article helps to save your valuable time and the pdf file can be downloaded by clicking here. If you have got any other smart shortcuts, share it in the comments section.
Cheers and Happy photographing. 🙂

Ultraaaa wide

Recently I have been commissioned for to shoot for a dental hospital. It has surgical facility and all the associated laboratory facilities. Any person coming to the hospital with a dental problem can get all his needs attended to under a single roof.

To get on to the theme of this topic, this type of indoor shoot sessions need to be preplanned and made execution-ready with a certain thoroughness and seriousness. This would apply to all shoots that need to backed by a weighty commitment. I fixed an appointment with the client a week ahead, to firm up on the schedule and locations of the shoot. I also had a long discussion with the client about how they want the photographs, and for what purpose they want, in an attempt to understand what are their intentions/ideas are and the use the photographs are going to be put to. I came to know during the conversation that they are putting up a website to show to the world the facilities/competencies they have. It was, at this point of time, important to understand the level of lighting that needs to be maintained at the time of the shoot session. The choice/trade-off was between using auxiliary/sophisticated lighting at extra cost or use existing lighting/minimal equipment and bring out the best possible pictures under the circumstances. Needless to say, the customer wants pictures that would be used in a marketing showcase, be it in digital form or print form(web, brochures etc.).

I surmised that the shoot can be done only by ultra-ultra wide lenses and I selected Canon 16-35mm f2.8 L II as my boy along with Canon EOS 5D M III as my recorder and Canon 50mm prime f1.8 for few portraits of the staffs. This shoot is not really an artistic portrait, you don’t have to look out for exotic views or angles as the photographs are meant for the general public (patients too). Simplicity and neatness are the key elements.

Simplicity

During the shoot I stick with one rule “Either keep the room’s vertical lines parallel with the vertical lines in the frame or horizontal lines in the room parallel with horizontal lines in the frame, if possible keep both. But definitely not without either, which will make something extraordinary or ugly. Even when you shoot this cautiously you will end up with a  noticeable amount of both barrel and pincushion distortions .

Lightroom comes in to rid the pictures of all the distortions and it does automatically if you select Auto for most of the lenses. Manual intervention is required for all the ultra-ultra wide lenses for manual correction might be necessary because automatic correction based on lens profiles are not very accurate when distortion levels are too high.  It is necessary to be careful while making corrections for distortions. You have to careful while correcting though.

Both of the photographs here have been corrected in Lightroom. Here is a quick peek into Lr Lens Corrections. The Lens correction panel has been further divided in to Profile, colour and Manual. The first sub panel “Basic” is the front control of the next two panels. If you check the check box all the auto correction will be applied by Lr. Even after the auto corrections, if you feel to fine tune it you have to click the respective panels. When shooting jpeg some older cameras might not provide lens information in the image file and in such cases we have to remember the lens used and later choose it in Lightroom’s Profile subpanel,  if it is present there and then Lightroom will apply the relevant corrections to the image.

Neatness

If you are not satisfied with the Lr’s Chromatic Aberration correction, you can do it manually by clicking the eye dropper directly on the image where the CA appears. You can easily find it out by viewing the image on 1:1 and for further fine tuning there are sliders. Finally the manual adjustments for lens distortion correction. The distortion slider fixes the pincushion distortion if you move the slider towards left, it fixes the barrel distortion if you move towards the right side. The vertical and horizontal slider fixes or adjusts any vertical/horizontal perspective correction if any, you wish. Rotate slider is to use it for any level correction or slight distortion too. Scale slider is to either stretch out or to squeeze in the image for any reason which may be because of the distortion correction you have applied or too much of perspective correction applied. Aspect slider is to enlarge or squeeze the image in one axis for some creative purposes and can be useful to fix images from certain heavily distorting lenses that stretches the image along one axis causing it to look skewed. Finally Constrain crop, I keep it checked all the time, so you don’t need to see the portion which is not going to be part of the photograph due to the corrections being applied. On a lighter note once the “Constrain crop” is checked here, the “Constrain to Warp” in crop tool is also being checked automatically.

It is not advisable to use the vignette here and I don’t use for the following reasons – a. The controls here are minimal – only Amount & Midpoint, these controls are  required to eliminate only the vignetting produced by the lens,  and so it is not very flexible when we want to create artistic vignetting effects b. If you have cropped the photograph and you have applied some vignette, you are not going to get the full result rather you might get some unimaginable result, because the vignette you apply here is for the full image, it won’t consider the crop you have made via crop tool.  I suggest you to use the Effects panel and use post crop vignette where you have more controls.

Heading back to Lens corrections in the Basic sub-panel at the lower level there are Level, Vertical, Full, Auto and off options. They are to correct the perspective corrections which I am not using because of following reason – I do my crop as my first correction in the develop module, while I crop I have to do the level corrections and if any perspective issue I switch to the Manual section in Lens correction panel as for the above photographs. So I am in no need to use the auto function, but I have heard from my friends that Auto does a neat job in most cases.

If you are interested in reading more about CA click here and have you heard about mustache / complex distortion or if you want to read more about distortion click here and write your thoughts in the comments section.

Cheers, Happy photographing.

“R” in Lr.

♦  The moment you Press ‘R’ from whichever the module you may be in Lightroom, you will be taken to develop module with crop tool activated, and the “rule of thirds” overlaid on your image. Check the screenshot Fig – 01 below.

ImageFig – 01 Crop tool activated and Rule of thirds overlaid on your image.

♦  Now it is your turn to select an aspect ratio and give a try. Select an aspect ratio from the drop down menu in the crop tool bar (the tool bar works on demand based, you can’t see unless you activate the crop tool), once you selected the aspect ratio the size of overlay will change on the image. Now drag the overlay as you wish – towards your right, left, up or down – literally recompose your shot by placing the overlay in relation with the prime subject in the photograph. Press enter or click close or press ‘R’ once you are done. Check the screenshot Fig – 02 below.

ImageFig – 02 Aspect ratio selected as 1 × 1 and encircled in red.

And note the remaining portion apart from the potential image area is dim already, which makes decision-making as an easy one.

♦  How about adjusting your image to perfect horizon or to perfect vertical.! There are two options to do it in Lr, either by clicking the spirit level symbol in the tool bar, click the spirit level (encircled in the screenshot Fig – 03) and draw a straight line on the horizon or when the crop tool is active, keep the cursor out from the image area and drag up and down, there will be more grid lines overlaid (which will act as reference lines) as you move the cursor and you will be in a better position to evaluate your image to make it perfectly horizontal or vertical.

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Fig – 03 Spirit level tool encircled in red.

♦  Want to make a free form crop, with your own aspect ratio !. Click the lock symbol to unlock and to make it free form, drag your cursor inside the image area from one top corner to another diagonally opposite corner to make your own crop. Check screenshot Fig – 04

Image Fig – 04 Lock symbol encircled.

♦  When you make lens profile corrections, possibilities are there to include the corrected portion (the edges mostly). To avoid that click constrain to warp, as in the screenshot. Once you make constrain to warp on, the image will be cropped after the correction or it can be applied alternatively in the lens correction panel also. Check screenshot Fig – 05

ImageFig – 05 with Constrain to Warp check box encircled.

Here is the most interesting part in this tool.
♦  Want to see how your image will look according to different compositional rules, Lightroom comes very handy here. Your crop tool is activated by pressing “R” and the rule of thirds is overlaid, at this juncture press “O” and watch the image area, the different compositional rules will be overlaid as you press “O” repeatedly. These options are in Lr to make your photograph a much better than you thought while clicking the shutter. Look at the screenshots below.

ImageFig – 06 Screenshot with diagonal rule of composition overlaid

ImageFig – 07 Screenshot with Rule of triangle overlaid.

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Fig 7-a. Screenshot with Rule of triangle applied in a reverse manner (read further below on how to activate that).

ImageFig – 08 Screenshot with Golden rule overlaid

ImageFig – 09 Golden spiral rule overlaid.

There are total five no. of rules can be displayed and applied to your photograph in Lightroom.

a. Rule of thirds

b. Diagonal rule of composition

c. The golden triangle

d. Golden ratio

e. Golden spiral

Out of these five rules “The golden triangle” and “Golden spiral” can have a different versions like in Fig – 7.a, which can be activated by pressing and holding Shift along with press “O”. You can do the same for Golden spiral rule too, it has more versions. Check out and comment below, what do you feel about that.

I wish Adobe Lightroom add “Rebatment of rectangle” too in to the rules list in their further releases, it is also interesting one. The light intensity of the rule lines can be controlled by pressing and holding “Ctrl” key. Apply the rules together with different aspect ratios, the options are too many to make a better photograph.

Cheers. Hope you enjoyed this article. If so share it with your friends, they might also like as you did.

My five.

a. Print is the ultimate quality checker.

b. Carrying a tripod is not an arduous job; make a habit of carrying one.

c. Make it as a habit to use the crop tool while processing, it is your second compositional tool.

d. Learn to delete images pitilessly.

e. Clean your gears by yourself.  

PRINT – Given the situation today that our life is filled with screens everywhere, from Smartphone, tablet, laptop and to your workstation, Print appears to be not a required one. But remember print is your ultimate quality checker, what you see in your screen is not the same when you try to make one, to print what you see on your screen, itself is a great job and remember, to see your work on a paper will give you a sense of yours  feeling. Which no screen will give you. And most importantly photographs not just made to see via screens, they are meant to be printed framed and hung.

TRIPOD – It is not difficult to carry a tripod then to find a situation on your travel where you need a tripod or a tripod would improve significantly. Better carry one tripod regardless of where you travel either on a family outing or paid trip or friends outing. You never know what kind of situation you might face.  

CROP tool – Not everyone’s tool or it is required to use one. But try to use it on every image will bring out your compositional power. Next time you will be more conscious about composition when you head out with your camera. Try it differently try new aspect ratios, you don’t have to stick with the one comes with your camera. Exclude some portion of the image, try out 1 * 1, it is interesting one.  

DELETE – Yeah, one difficult thing probably and this is the one I have learnt recently. Delete images pitilessly, you have to learn which one to keep and which one delete. Review it immediately once you take or when you come back from the shoot sit back on the couch and delete what you don’t want and second refinement probably on the computer screen before you push it in to your editing software. Another important reason is being digital, you tend to take more images because you have got the flexibility to delete it. Thanks to digital, This doesn’t let you to keep all the Okay okay images, you don’t have to keep those images.

CLEAN – This one may not be possible all the time particularly when you are busy with your shoots and deliverables. But when you have got some little time clean your optics, camera, tripod etc.,will give you a sense of satisfaction and a feeling which nothing else can give you.

Y Processing.

As a photographer, it is not uncommon to come across these questions quite often; “Is post processing necessary?” “Why do you shoot in RAW and then convert it?” “Should I shoot in RAW or JPEG?” This blog post is trying to answer these questions about processing.

“A photograph is made in the camera, not in the computer”; while this statement remains true, in this digital era, a computer and camera go hand in hand. Processing (Computer) is all about bringing out the best from the RAW data (Picture in RAW format) your camera recorded. This is literally impossible with JPEG.

Before getting into the real subject, a basic knowledge of how your camera captures images in RAW and jpg, will make things easier.  Firstly, RAW is not an Image format; it is the data that is seen by the camera sensor which is recorded into the memory medium. jpg, however, is altogether different. The sensor sends all the RAW data to the processor and the processor converts it into jpg format with the preloaded instructions based on the time the image was captured and exposure value. The important part to be noted here is that the processor discards the rest of the data after converting it to jpg. Remember, the instructions preloaded by the manufacturers are not specific to the images; it is generic and every correction made by the processor on the image like sharpening and contrast, such as, are global and not local. And the reason you get a fairly neat image is because the instructions are based on 10000+ images shot by the various top photographers then across the globe.

This is the very first reason capturing a picture in RAW and post processing is important to bring out the best of the camera.

The second reason is the ability to process the image. Processing here includes White balance correction, exposure adjustment, contrast correction or boosting, correct to the true colors, sharpening, color cast correction etc. The extent to which one has to process the picture is entirely a personal choice. It is your picture, so you should define how it looks, and tweaking around with the above given parameters is acceptable, in all contexts.

It is very important to note that post processing and image manipulation are altogether different. I don’t consider manipulation as a part of photography processing. By manipulation I mean the inclusion or exclusion of some or more parts of the image. The reason one should not manipulate the image is that, I feel that he/she is an expert photoshoper but not a photographer.

Photography is an art form and processing is also part of that very art. Learn it; there are lots of websites out there. I use Light room for my all processing requirements with few plug-ins like Nik collection, Enfuse, Mogrify, The Fader etc. I strongly say that photography and processing is equally important task by its very nature.

I can very strongly vouch that Photography and post processing are equally important tasks, especially in today’s digital era of photography.

Again, all this is a personal choice. Kenrockwell, a very technically sound photographer takes his images in JPEG only. So the choice is entirely yours.

Keep clicking,

Cheers.

Y Lightroom.

In a broad perspective,

 No layers – This is purely for people who are not good with the layers concept.

Non –linear editing – Which means you do any correction at any time, there is no order. Non-destructive – Yes, you do any correction you want, your original file is undisturbed. All the corrections are written as complex instruction files and applied over the originals.

Outstanding Image management – You can manage tens of thousands of your images in an unimaginable easy way via keywords, folders, color rating, star rating, flagging, unflagging, smart collections, quick collections and location tags.

Camera profiles – All the latest camera and lens profiles are preloaded and gets updated for the latest arrivals in the market periodically. Which means in one click you are fixing all the profile corrections. (Distortion, Vignette, Infringement etc, sometimes you have to fine tune manually because software are not smart enough as you are)

Presets – Any settings which you might be using repeatedly from importing photographs, local corrections, develop settings (global corrections), exporting images, can be saved as one single instruction called presets.

Plug ins – You can install external plug ins for further enhancement as well for exporting, HDR processing, backups etc., (Nik Efex, Enfuse, Mogrify, TPG Back up and many more)

Virtual copies – You make some standard corrections than you wish to make some experimental processing, you would love this virtual copies. Lr creates a small DNG file of exactly where you are now and you can do all your experiment there. I just love this.

No Layers

Whatever the enhancement you do to an image in Lr, it won’t make a layer and you don’t even know what exactly Lr does. What you see is the image gets adjusted according to the sliders movement. I just do not like the layers concept and this is purely personal, and I seen some of my friends who says Lr is confusing, it is because they might be started with Ps and they feel difficult to switch, it is also personal. On the above all this is not a post about which one is superior or inferior, you work in any of the one both goes to “adobe” and adobe is not the only one who makes layer based editing software. Or people who started photography before Lr are forced to use Ps, those all are difficult to change now the way they work, but as of now they might be having a huge collection which might require an outstanding organizing. Both has got its own uniqueness, thing is you don’t have to work on a pixel based editing software (Ps) for photography now (least processing).

Non-linear editing

It is a term derived from film editing world. To understand this properly we should know first what is linear editing. Linear editing is something you can do on a pre laid path you should start from the very first point and finish it at end only. You cannot do it otherwise. Non linear editing is you do anything at any point, no harm made to the originals. That is the reason it is non-destructive.

Outstanding Image management

In order to feel the power of this portion you should use this software. Few think that Lr is basically image management software but Lr got some outstanding image editing capabilities as well, way beyond. The filter options are highly customable from star ratings, flagging’s etc, it is very easy to find the very picture you want within seconds provided you also organized Lr well in a proper folder hierarchy, keywords, shoot name etc,

Presets

Whatever you do in Lr repeatedly you can create a preset and apply it whenever and wherever you want.  Like when you import your files you can apply the presets like the metadata presets which will be applying the copyright details, author name and all the metadata details. When you import you can actually apply develop presets as well like camera, lens profiling, standard sharpening (you can fine tune while working on the very image), White balance correction for a particular shoot, Camera sensor dust cleaning, Standard crops (aspect ratio corrections) if any, Tonal value adjustments these all you can do it while importing itself. Local corrections presets like skin smoothening, teeth whitening, eyebrow darkening, few are now pre loaded in the latest versions of Lr. When you work on your image you find some interesting process outcome save it and share it with friends. Make more virtual copies and try a lot. When it comes to Export presets you can configure the presets for different requirements, like image in Adobe RGB gamut for Prints, sRGB gamut for screen version, file sizes, different watermarks, and file output sizes.

Plug-ins

You can install external plug-ins for further enhancement of image or where Lr lacks that particular facility. I use Nik Silver Efex  for Black & white images and it is one of the smartest plug-in out there, that is why google has acquired Nik recently. I use Mogrify for borders and further sharpening which is a pretty decent plug-in and most importantly you do not have to go to Ps for borers. Enfuse is to make HDR images, very straight forward one, and there are lot of plug-ins now in the market.

The above are not an exhaustive list of what library & Develop module can do for you, it is more powerful that what you may think. I did not utter a word about Split toning section in develop module where you can add two colours in the form of Highlights and Shadows interestingly, Effects panel where you can add vignetting and grains to make the image more compelling. Before and after effects of an image in a click, before and after effects of a particular panel in a click. Detail panel where you do all the noise correction and sharpening (noise correction is one of the industry’s best apart from special softwares), Color panel where you can affect the individual colors by its Hue, saturation and luminescence values and an another tool called TAT (Target adjustment tool).

There are so many other features apart from Library and develop module like Map, Slideshow, Print, Book, and Web. I will write about it once I am well versed about that particular module.

Finally Lr would be loved by photographers who do not want to sit in front of computer for a long time.

If you are looking for to buy Lr, buy  good books to learn Lr, buy Nik, buy plug-ins click respectively.

Do grab this free ebook from Victoria Bambton, an ebook spreaded for 76 pages with a pretty decent intro into every module and every panels of Lr.

 

Thanks for reading, do share after you like this.

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