Friday, October 30, 2009

About Processing Your Pictures

Recently, on Flickr, I was asked about Easy to use software for processing your photographs.  What I have here is an expanded version of what I wrote in response.

Digital photography has become very popular these days.  No longer is the average person limited to the alchemy of the film world.  Now they can literally point and shoot to get awesome results.  But that same simplicity has not quite reached the post processing world to date.  Many photographers are content with the out of camera results and take them to Costco or leave them on their computer and Facebook pages.  That is a shame for some that are very talented and are simply afraid of the software they feel compelled to use.  Let me suggest the programs listed later here for those willing to wade deeper into the waters of post-processing.         
For me to be comfortable with a Post-Processing Software, it needs to fit my minimum work-flow.  So here is my list of things from my work flow that are essential.

Three Essentials

1. Some Kind of Brightness and Contrast Control.  Being the excessively visual person that I am, I use a Curves Tool for most of this.  However, even if the tool supports the basic Brightness Contrast control, I am happy.

 2. Some form of Saturation Control.  Being able to control the saturation of the photo's colors is important to me.  Particularly when shooting landscapes or skin tones where the photographer can control what I like to call the "richness" of the finished product.  Vibrance control is nice as well, but being able to control Saturation is the most important.

3. Sharpening.  The most essential.  All, let me repeat myself, ALL photographs created with a digital camera benefit from sharpening.  If a post-processing program doesn't allow sharpening, find one that does.

Three Niceties I Look For

The following are things I use regularly, but in a pinch, I can do without.

1. Layers.  Being able to keep a separate layer for each adjustment is organizationally wise as well as allowing you to keep your original image intact.  Your creativity can be enhanced with this feature.  Every successful Photoshop user I know uses layers extensively.  A number of other products have them as well.

2. RAW support.  If you don't know now... If your camera shoots in RAW, use it.  The latitude, flexibility and control you have with RAW is well worth the trouble.  Particularly when it comes to exposure control.  Most cameras come with RAW control, but if the converter is native to a program and is first rate, it eliminates an annoying step of changing programs in your work-flow.

3. Plugin Support.  From  noise control to special effects, plugins allow a great deal of creative control.  Supporting Photoshop plugins  is even better.  (Most all do).  

There are other features to be sure, but I hope you get the idea that there are essentials to post processing.   In my work-flow, I will often only touch the first three mentioned.  You might have other things you like to do, but my recommendations that follow fit the needs I express here.  I guess this is my way of making a disclaimer!

So What Do I Recommend?
I use Photoshop and have since version one.  However, I realize there are two barriers to using PhotoShop.  It is an expensive and complex tool.  It costs a lot and as result it is out of reach of the average user.  Heck, it's upgrades are usually in the $200 range let alone the full package!  It is also a package that caters to a very sophisticated crowd and a photographer does not necessarily need many of the features in the product.  So with Photoshop out of the running, what else is there?  

 Check out these three: ( is a free package that is relatively simple and yet satisfies many of the photographer needs. I have played with it a little bit and am quite impressed.  While I am not an expert with it, it appears to be very easy to learn as far as these kinds of programs go,  Powerful, easy to use and heck, its free. Worth giving it a try.

Adobe Photoshop Elements. This is not that easy to learn, but it's a lot easier than its big brother and it takes all the really cool plugins like Flood and Noise Ninja. You will periodically see this on sale at Frys and other locations for under $80 and at Christmas time it may be even less or bundled with Premier Elements for the same price. Premier is a video editing tool, and is another discussion all together.  Further, it is a good step towards PhotoShop if  one does eventually want to jump to the big one!

Adobe Lightroom.  Lightroom is very powerful and easy to use (relatively speaking) once one learns its interface. Still, it is complex and for someone who is new to this kind of powerful program, it will present a longer learning curve. The good thing is that it is laid out for a photographer. If you have been in a Darkroom, then the process with Lightroom will seem familiar. I believe that it is selling around $299. Most every pro I am familiar with now uses this and only goes to Photoshop occasionally.

There are two others you will hear about but that I personally don't care for.  That said, I am not above letting you know about them if they fit your needs better. 

GIMP is a free program. Very powerful, but difficult to use. It does out feature But it also has a steep learning curve with a very primitive interface.  Its biggest strength is that it is available on a number of platforms including Linux.   

Paintshop Pro from Correl. This was a shareware product from days gone by. At that time it was great, but the new, Corel version is bloated and the interface - for me at least - is inconsistent.  However, if you are a Correl user, then you might find some common interface elements that may make its use easier!

Final Word

There are a lot of products out there from free to as much as you might ever want to spend.  What I have presented here are easy to use and economical choices.  I hope it helps! 

Best to you always,

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Special Appeal

"Our friend Jenny is in the process of adopting a little girl from Ukraine. Her name is Sasha and she is 7 years old. We are selling raffle tickets for $2 or 3 for $5. There will be a drawing on Oct 23rd for a $500 VISA card. Just tell me how many ra...ffle tickets you want and you can then mail the $. If you want to make a financial donation. Write a check to Aloha Fellowship, 4742 42nd Ave SW, #426 Seattle, WA 98116."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

And Then There is The Print!

To me, it is not enough to just see the shot on the screen, I want to see it n print.  Here are ten tips from my Twitter blog.  I hope to expand on them in the coming weeks.

Post Proc Tip#1:Go w/ your gut. Start w/ a basic workflow, but ultimately, what makes a good shot great is how you finish it.

Post Proc Tip#2: Learn how to use curves. I start with a classic S-curve and then work on fine tuning it with the rest of what I am doing.

Post Proc Tip#3: Sharpening should be the last step before printing. It should be adjusted for any size changes, and last but not least don't over-sharpen!

Post Proc Tip#4: All digital photos need sharpening. for global sharpening, High pass filter works well. See Scott Kelby 's Photoshop books for Digital Photography

Post Proc Tip#5: Subscribe to JP Caponigro's site at . Lots of great Post Processing content

Post Proc Tip#6: Use lens correction from your post processing software on WA shots and panoramas if it looks fisheye & you don't want it.

Post Proc Tip#7: When doing B&W from digital, always shoot in color. Post-processing programs create better B&W images from color masters.

Post Proc Tip#8: Always work on a copy! Protect the original file! As your skills improve, you may want to render a different version.

Post Proc Tip#9: Always use RAW if your camera has it - I adjust the White balance first. Whites and Blacks should be clear, then mid tones.  OK, last tip was not clear. I adjust the White Balance first and then the White and Black points. I usually don't have to set the mid tones.

Post Process Tip#10:Backup your photos. I make 3 copies of everything. 1-Working drive 2-Duplicate Drive&3-Off-site Duplicate once monthly.

Bonus Tip: When I seek Post Processing info, I am reading Scott Kelby or JP Caponigro . Both are exceptional in their advice & both are on Twitter.
Best to all,

Friday, October 2, 2009

Are other Lens Companies able to build a great lens?

I am a huge fan of Nikon lenses. Nothing is wrong with the others, but I primarily shoot Nikon so that is where my loyalty lies. The Nikon lenses in my collection are well built and amazing performers. There are, however, other lenses as well. Of the nine lenses in my collection, three are not Nikon. And I can tell you that all three are great performers and one or two of them will stay in my bag for a very long time.

Here is what confuses me, a number of people think that, in the DSLR world, only Nikon and Canon can make superb lenses? If that were true, what can be said about Pentax, Olympus and others?   One might think that they are simply unable to create lenses that perform at the same high standard as the "Big Two".   Sigma, Tamron and Tokina must be clueless as well.

I know there will be people who will site tests that they claim proves one lens is better than the other. For me however, the proof is what the lens does for a photographer taking photographs in the real world.  There are specific qualities that show the folly of the Nikon/Canon think out there.  Here are three lenses from the aftermarket companies that lay to rest this issue.

The Tokina 12-24 f/4 and Tokina's 11-17 f/2.8 are both top notch.  These lenses are built like tanks.  The Tokina 12-24 was the first lens I owned that I consider high end.  The lens is solid and the build quality is as good or better than the Nikon or Canon counterpart.  It also happens to be a great performer optically giving way to Nikon's equivalent lens only in the area of some minor CA control.  Something that is easily controlled today in camera and post processing. Not bad for a lens that retails for about half the price!

Sharpness/Picture Quality: 
When I look at a lens, I am looking for sharpness where I am in focus.  I am looking for that very nice Boca (out of focus areas of the picture).  And I am looking for color and contrast.  My best example of this is Tamron's 28-75 f/2.8 lens.  Nikon's current 24-70 f/2.8 is an amazing lens and I would compare nothing to it, but it costs nearly $2000.  The Tamron is very sharp, and its color and contrast are simply first tier.  The Boca(pronounced "bow kay") is nicely rendered and very subtle. Everything I could want in a lens! Is the Nikon better by over $1500... maybe to some, but not to me. 

My Tamron cost me used, a mere $275 and new it can be had for under $400.  Even against Nikon's earlier offerings, you can buy the Tamron new for less than the used versions of the Nikon.  But what of a lens that I use less seriously.  I am a very average wildlife photographer, but I love doing it.  Of course, you need a long lens to do that.  Enter Sigma's 120-400 OS lens.  It is very acceptable in all categories, though a bit slow aperture-wise at the long end.  However, I found it used for $525.  Nikon's 80-400 is new at around $1500 and the Sigma focuses faster!

There are other lenses that these manufacturers have that I could use.  Tamron's 180mm macro; Sigma's 8mm-16mm and Tokina's 16.5mm-135mm lens all interest me.  The point is, that For some lenses, you can get a bigger bang for the buck without a drop in image quality. 

There are other issues.  Tamron and Tokina focus a bit slower than Nikon does.  Sigma has had quality control issues in the past.  Sigma seems to have improved their quality issues for the most part.  Tamron's and Tokina's most recent offerings have provided faster and more reliable focus.  As to the others camera brands.  You won't find a better quality series of lenses than Sony's Zeis lenses, Olympus' Zuiko lenses or Pentax's Limited lenses.  They are every bit as top tier as the Big 2. 

I doubt I will ditch the Tamron.  Maybe I will keep the other two, but I know what I want and what I like to do and, for the time being anyway, Tokina, Tamron and Sigma have empowered me to do everything I want to do!  So when it comes to getting a lens that works for you, be sure to check out all the options.  The winner might surprise you.

Best to you all!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

My Review of Tokina 12mm - 24mm f/4.0 PRO DX Autofocus Zoom Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras

Originally submitted at Adorama

Tokina 12mm - 24mm f/4.0 PRO DX Autofocus Zoom Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras

Good, Sharp and worth evey penny...

By RMPossible from Bothell, WA on 10/1/2009


5out of 5

Pros: Consistent Output, Durable, Sharp Focus, Strong Construction

Cons: Average Focus, Heavy

Best Uses: General Use, Night Photography, Landscape Photography, Special Effects, Macro

Describe Yourself: Semi-Professional

This is a good hearty lens that is as good or better as any DX WA lens out there. The only WA lens I have seen that beats it is the Nikon 14-24... of course that lens is the best available these days. The Nikon 12-24 is a fine lens, and some consider it better than the Tokina, but I honestly can't tell the difference.

Further, focus is not a real issue on WA lenses, this is not AF-S or its equivalent; but I can tell you I have never missed a shot because of the AF. The lens just doesn't have to travel far to focus... the nature of Wide Angle lenses.

It is sharp from corner to corner from f/5.6 on and there is only minor corner focus issues wide open. Very very sharp!

It can take filters very well, but don't expect it to take standard height filters if you want to go to the wide end. I have a thin line B+W CPL that I use with it that seems to do a great job.

There is a slight distortion at 12mm, but it is very minor and easily straightened in post processing.

It is really a fun lens with Macro tubes. Mostly at 18-24mm, this is a great and fun lens.

If you have the lower end cameras such as the D40, 60, 3000 and 5000, you will need to get the newer version with an internal motor.