Archives For Photoshop

This tutorial actually covers every type of image, color or black and white. For landscape, you might process the sky alternately from land but, this process is especially relevant to Leica Monochrom shooters who work on monochrome files from the start.

Black and white imagery is simple and the power of an image comes through the composition, but the instantaneous impact is down to the dark room process. Imagine Ansel Adams’ photography without the beautiful contrast work he employed to varying degrees and sections of each and every one of his photographs? Great photos, still, but so much less impact.

I will work through an example to show how I utilize masking, within Photoshop, to get the best from the major areas in an image. It’s not a great composition, so apologies up front.

This image above is straight from the camera. No in camera settings applied, so it is tragically bland. Thankfully the Monochrom files retain immense levels of detail.

There are 3 areas to concentrate on.

  • I want to see a great range of soft tones in the woman and with a good level of contrast, but not so much she looks hollowed out
  • The window display is behind glass and I tend to process reflective areas harshly with great clarity and contrast
  • The masonry work should look worn, but still bright. This means very little clarity/structure

The image below is processed for the woman, but the window display is lack lustre and the masonry looks the worse for wear.

This next image is processed for the window display, but the harsh nature of the process leaves the woman over ‘processed’ and the masonry is just awful.

And lastly, below, we have processed for the masonry work and brought back some of its majesty, whilst reflecting age and wear.

Photo manipulation is probably off somewhere celebrating a near 100th anniversary, so I can have my cake and eat it!!

A warning for you color photoshoppers – your selection accuracy for the purposes of layer masking should be a lot more accurate than the ‘mostly accurate’ method I show here for monochrome work.

You should have all your specific layers stacked in a single image within photoshop. Having only processed them, they should all be down to the pixel aligned ;-)

Remember with layer processing that the topmost layer will be seen first and, if set to 100% opacity, you won’t see anything under it!

I will select the masonry from the ‘Masonry’ layer first and I will not select round the woman’s legs because she will be the topmost layer!

I will use the selection tool to select the masonry.

Click to show the Refine Selection dialogue.

It’s clearer to me to have unselected portions of the image highlighted in red. Click on the ‘View’ drop down to select this option.

I simply use the brush tool to ‘paint’ my selection edges and let Photoshop find the ‘edges’ for me.

You should end up with a more elegant selection edge, like so…

With the ‘Masonry’ layer selected, I can simply click on the ‘Mask’ button…

… and Photoshop will create my mask based upon my refined edge selection!

The layer should now have a mask applied. Black areas will not show, but white will. Shades between black and white, within the mask, will be grades of opacity depending on how near they are to black or white.

Here are the layer masks, clearly showing woman, on top hehe, window display and masonry work…

… resulting in our final image. Click on it for a larger 1600 pixel version.

Again, apologies for the choice of image, but we have a clear demonstration that a single image wide process will not provide desired results but, with layer masking, we are allowed to process elements of the image however we wish.

 

Winter Is Coming!

November 12, 2013 — Leave a comment

Barflies
While the inclement winter weather rolls in I will still be out there photographing London’s streets.

Of course, the dynamic of people photography changes slightly with them not actually wanting to be outdoors, but great photos are still there to be had. We street photographers just need to work a little bit harder ;-)

With this in mind, here are my tips for keeping you productive out there in the freeze!

  • Lined, fingerless gloves are essential for keeping as much of your hands warm whilst retaining dexterity.
  • Lip salve certainly prevents my lips from splitting.
  • Good footwear is essential year round however, in winter conditions, I recommend well polished leather shoes or boots or breathable waterproof equivalents.
  • In addition, and again this is year round, I recommend Sorbothane style impact gel insoles. They make the difference between sore knees the next day or not!
  • Clothing wise I wear layers and, on the coldest days, a long sleeve thermal top – Marks & Spencer stock my favourite.
  • Minimise condensation in your camera when moving indoors to a much warmer environment by putting your camera back in your pack before going inside. Leave it in there to acclimatise slowly.
  • Batteries drain far more quickly in the cold, so have at least one fully charged spare.
  • I carry ziplock bags sized for my phone and batteries and camera. There will be a time when the heavens open and you will be caught 10 minutes from the nearest transport. You won’t mind getting soaked knowing your kit is dry.

Street photography is still fun in zero degrees, but only when you’re prepared for it!

Processing images in Photoshop is seriously dull. I’m literally after the final result, but no camera will read your mind to reproduce those inky blacks we all love monochrome photos to be drenched in.

In addition to the above, the composition is paramount. The scene. If there’s a blown highlight that doesn’t distract or litter, well that’s what I saw. Real life. I don’t move or remove stuff.

And that’s just it. Street photography, to me, is a collection of life moments that have collided with my lens.

This image below then. I spotted the arrows and thought, “That’s like a travelator!” and I waited for people to walk past. click. click. Hmm, not working. At which point I thought a composite would be an excellent expression!

> > > > >

Is it still ‘Street Photography’?

It all happened. Four frames, composited in Photoshop. Real Life… compressed.

I like it.

MW-T Pro Mono Workflow sml

Just to let you all know, I will be bringing out a DVD with a series of video tutorials for the conversion of colour images to black and white.

The videos will cover conversion to monochrome with, or without, tools such as Silver Efex Pro 2.

There will be instruction on dealing with conversion of portions of the image using accurate pro level masking.

At least half the instruction will deal with the production of exhibition quality black and white.

Initially, focus will be on working with Photoshop. Shortly after I will release videos for achieving these results in Lightroom.

Example conversion styles below…

Generations [Explored]

Impressed

Best Friends Forever

Hard Sell On The Vintage Cameras

Calm

 

There may be some teaser videos during October, but stay tuned.

Michael

I’ve had my Monochrom for a while now, in excess of 5000 captures and I have a solid workflow; I can produce the image I thought about at capture time.

This is a significant point and raises a question for all of you.

Do you visualise the final image when you first see the scene to be captured?

I do and it’s the principal reason I have a good percentage of keepers. A large part of this is knowing that a composition won’t work but, in no small part, visualising the final image means I’ve already processed the image before I get to the computer.

I’ve already written a piece on how I process images from the Monochrom and here you can find Leica Monochrom Workflow.

Has anything changed?

I have a better understanding of how the contrast blend modes, Soft and Hard Light, affect my images. This means I choose and manipulate Silver Efex Pro 2 filters more accurately to achieve the contrast I need. That’s definitely down to practise.

And I have a new sharpening technique, which I will detail in this post.

It’s probably best to work through an example. Here’s an image, as exposed, but resized.

Images straight from the Monochrom are simply exposures. All the detail and tones are in there and they just need manipulation.

Personally, I use Photoshop CS6 and Silver Efex Pro 2. It really saves time, but do be careful as it can be misused. For example, High Structure filters will texturise the walls and paved floor so much so the scene will look like a nuclear bunker.

The first layer is a base layer, 017 Full Spectrum. Structure +45 and Dynamic Brightness +30.

Here’s an important distinction with SEP2. If you start the filter program from the floating toolbox window, SEP2 will take your entire image and flatten it. That’s what you will work with.

If you select a layer, in Photoshop, and then go through the menus, Filters > Nik Software > Silver Efex Pro 2, you will only work on the selected layer within the Nik software.

I always process from the background layer, which was the output from Adobe Camera Raw. Always.

Select the background layer, through the menu go to SEP2 and I choose the 023 Wet Rocks Filter. Film Type to Neutral. Dynamic Brightness +30, Midtone Brightness +15, Contrast +10, Structure +25. All other settings remain untouched.

I chose Wet Rocks because its higher structure lends itself well as a contrast layer.

You have to move this new layer to the top and to set its Blend mode to ‘Soft Light’.

This is already a better result, but it’s too dark. Did you know…

A Curves Layer set to a Blend Mode of Screen, opacity 40%, is basically an extra stop of exposure.

I want to concentrate the viewer’s gaze on people in the centre of the image, so I will apply a mask to this curves layer, which will look like this in the layer palette.

To get the radial mask effect, use the Gradient Fill and select the Radial Gradient.

You can also cheat a little and imply more contrast than there is by adding a further contrast layer to the outside using an inverse radial gradient mask!

Duplicate the Soft Light contrast layer and set it to Hard Light.

Apply the mask we just talked about. Invert the mask in Images > Adjustments… > Invert

I’m happy with the process, so far, and I will double check exposure levels by going into Image > Adjustments… > Levels. Click on Auto with the preview ticked to see how much the image levels change. My monitor is calibrated and so i don’t usually see much difference. It’s a good basic indicator you have missed exposure though!

Do not underestimate the effect of correct sharpening. If applied correctly the viewer shouldn’t really be aware of it. Not enough or too much will be quite obvious.

Here’s what I do.

Flatten all the existing layers from processing. Now duplicate this one layer 3 times!
For each of these new layers, apply the High Pass Filter, then set to Blend Mode Overlay…
First layer – Not the base layer! – High Pass, Radius 4.0 pixels. Layer opacity 20%.
Second layer, High Pass, Radius 2.0 pixels. Layer opacity 20%.
Third layer, High Pass, Radius 1.0 pixels. Layer opacity 40%.

Flatten the image and you can now resize for screen. My images, landscape, are set to 1600 pixels and I use the ‘Bicubic (Best for smooth gradients)’

If you didn’t work in sRGB, which the Monochrom uses so this shouldn’t be an issue, convert the color space to sRGB. Also convert the image to 8 bit.

Here is my final JPEG image.

Cynical Father

Please send questions if I’ve not explained anything sufficiently. And, of course, there are a good number of ways to process the Monochrom’s images. This is just my own potion.

Thanks for reading
Michael

[Last] Monday morning blues…

Broken Wheel
Broken Wheel at Smithfield Market

Grumpy
Grumpy in China Town

Suffering In Silence
Suffering In Silence

This post was going to be about sharpening your images. Its effectiveness for maximising impact in your own photography, most especially when showing work for competitions.

And here’s an image, from a cell phone, to show how effective sharpening can be.

2012-08-23-0028  2013 comp

Except it doesn’t really work, because I processed it. I boosted the saturation and the contrast which, let’s face it, is the very definition of sharpening. The improvement in this image is attributed to a balanced effort of colour processing and additional sharpening which, if correctly applied, should be crisp without noticing any pixels!

So, the direction of the post has stepped back to the importance and effectiveness of processing your images.

I don’t know why but I am still surprised to find people who don’t process their images. They’re quite accepting of this fact and, a significant proportion, are quite proud of their images straight out of the camera.

I’ll state this clearly and concisely for the record – capture your photographs to the best of yours and your camera’s ability. Get the best light you can. if you need to and can move, do so, use a flash, whatever. Forgive my language, but you simply cannot polish a turd. Photoshop is not an excuse for your shortcomings at capture time. Don’t get me started on people ‘rescuing’ their images by converting to black and white. That’s another post entirely!

Where was I. Oh yes, those deluded people who don’t need to process their images…

If you’ve set up your camera’s picture mode for a bit of extra contrast, sharpening and, possibly, saturation. Or you’ve set Vivid or Landscape Mode, etc. You do realise you are post processing? Well, your camera is and at capture time. You don’t count in my subset of misguided photographers.

These days the sub set of cameras I consider extremely capable of capturing scenes properly is just ginormous. Literally the base to mid end of the compact camera market and cell phones comprise the sub par machines.

The principal reason for editing images is to exert your own particular style on your photographs and this has been going on in dark rooms well before the digital era.

Another reason for post processing is to compensate for the additional layers on top of your sensors. Colour cameras need to deduce colour and require a Beyer filter. In addition, your camera probably also has an Optical Low Pass Filter to correct colour and reduce moire patterning.

My camera is one of the few with a ‘naked’ sensor and still I would not consider putting forward unprocessed images.

Take this one. This image is as captured. No additional settings or processing, but a correct exposure.

LMM1001458 no processingMy good friend, Jarret, drying his underwater housing for his Nikon D300

Jarret
Processed with Silver Efex Pro 2

Try not to get distracted by my choice in processing. What is evident is the detail and textures that were present in the image data and 2 minutes of work has produced this markedly different result.

Here’s another example, again from my Monochrom.

Maintenance - Unprocessed, as shot
These Underwater Photographers are constantly fiddling with their cameras!

Maintenance

Do get serious about processing your images. If you need pointers or assistance, let me know.
Michael

Just. Keep. Walking.
Just. Keep. Walking.

Subject not related to image, by the way. I found this mural near Shoreditch High Street and instantly loved the symmetry and the piece. Just gotta wait for one of those pesky pedestrians to enter the frame. I waited. 2 minutes! Thankfully the first person to walk past I could see had a purposeful stride. Shutter speed a little slow to exacerbate the moment. Framed. Pause. Captured. I’d hoped to get across a little anxiety. Did it work?

I get asked a lot, “Why Photoshop over Lightroom?” and I think my answers over the years have, much like my requirements and experience of these products, evolved.

Lightroom excels with image management and as a workshop for the RAW image. If, like me, you purely use Bridge and Photoshop you’ll be well aware you need to apply a little discipline to organize your own images. As for working with camera RAW files I already did the work for exposure and framing – do you use your feet? ;) So my time in Adobe’s Camera Raw is fleeting.

When LR first emerged my better half, Suzy of the impressive reefbeasties.com, embraced Adobe’s offering as an eco system for her photography. In addition to the file management and camera RAW work, there is a comprehensive array of image finishing tools; gradients, brushes for dodging, burning, healing, et cetera.

Suz and I prepare images quite differently. She’s principally a nature and wild life photographer so all the effort is at capture time, some raw manipulation and some sliders and backscatter removal.

I work images in layers, not available to LR. Most of the time, the image above for example, my workflow will result in an image base layer, a filter from Silver Efex Pro 2 and an additional low contrast SEP2 filter set to a layer blend mode of Soft Light.

Where Photoshop excels for me is I can vary the opacity of these layers which, I assure you, can transform the photograph in terms of contrast and depth. I can save the photoshop document and come back later to re work it. Yes, I know there are virtual copies in LR, but I find it easier to manage layers inside a single file. Horses for courses, I think.

I’m going to wrap this up for fear of rambling, but Photoshop clearly spanks Lightroom in terms of accurate manipulation of portions of the image. LR’s brushes and gradients just will not do and it’s all too easy to end up with those rotten halos around objects. I can select an area, refine that selection and create a mask. I doubt portrait photographers will work on hair with Lightroom. They’ll export to Photoshop.

Personally I don’t remove anything from my images, but I will process areas separately. Water and other reflective surfaces require a much higher contrast manipulation than people or buildings. I’ll quite often increase clarity and structure for wood like textures. Trust me, this high contrast high structure work does not go down well with female skin. Accurate mask based layer work also hides areas of transition between the different areas of work; essential when printing.

Of course, it’s entirely possible I get my images to where I want them through sheer dumb luck, but no one tells me I don’t know what I’m doing :D

If you’re in the UK, enjoy your Monday public holiday!

Michael

Tour London With Me!

April 8, 2013 — 1 Comment

Directions

Minus peaked caps, sticks or walkie talkies, I do take small groups around London to photograph the streets, views and architecture.

St Thomas' Hospital

It is difficult in an unfamiliar town, with precious little time and a lot of film, to work out where to go to get a sense of the place. That’s where I, a local photographer, come in handy.

There’s more information here, linked from the top of my blog.

My next free slot is the morning of April 15.

London Streets

April 4, 2013 — Leave a comment

Buildings. Locals. Tourists.

Admiralty Arch

Queen's House

Commuter

The Screen On The Green

Dedicated

St Pauls Cathedral

Too cool for security detail

That security guard is literally too cool for school!

Enjoy
Michael