“Hacking” Grain settings into ACR and more

Noise

While most people in this digital age seem overly concerned with noise, and mainly want noise reduction, I tend to like grain: It can really improve a digital image, and even make it appear sharper. Until now I had to simulate it using Photoshop for instance.

No longer: Recently, Adobe released ACR 6.1 and LightRoom 3. In these there was a new option added: “Grain”, with three controls: “Amount”, “Size” and “Roughness”. It produced some pretty nice “film like” grain. Way better then a simple “add noise” in Photoshop for instance.
That could be a time saver and simplify the workflow quite a bit.
Of course, I’d need to upgrade to LR3 for this feature. But, along with the mayor improvements in IQ due to the new demosaicing and processing algorithms (Process Version 2010) that would be totally worth it to me. Some of the other new features would be the icing on the cake.

One problem

I’d need a new Mac to run it: LightRoom 3 and PSCS5 only run on an Intel Mac, not on my Dual G5 PPC.
Since buying a new Mac just for this is a bit over the top, I decided to see what my options were.

A while back, Adobe updated the previous versions of ACR and LR to ACR 5.7 and LR 2.7: These versions also support the demosaic algorithm from Lightroom 3.
From what I’d read on the web, these should render the file as seen in Lightroom3, but not allow you to make changes to the new Develop settings, like “Grain”.

A bit more researching led (as often) to the excellent site of Victoria Bampton, AKA. Lightroom Queen. She had a bit more detailed info: ACR 5.7 should use the same Demosaic, and match the new additions closely. She also mentioned “5.7 can read LR’s settings but there’s no UI to change the new settings.” Sadly, LR2.7 will ignore the new LR3 settings. (Why Adobe, why?)

Then I got an idea when answering a question on POTN. Would it be possible to “hack” an .XMP file to only adjust the Grain settings?

The answer? It is!

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Pixels per inch for web

What is the significance?

Simply put? Nothing.
Well, if that were all I had to say on the subject, this would have to be my shortest blogpost ever… Okay, a bit more info then:
A lot of first time DSLR users are concerned that their shiny new camera delivers files that are “only” 72dpi, while their old point and shoot delivered 300dpi files. Why is this concern unwarranted? Surely 300 is more then 72, and more is better, right?

Wrong

The old wisdom saying is that “300dpi is for printing and 72dpi is for screen”.
There are a few things wrong with that.
First and foremost, the term “dpi” stands for dots per inch. In a digital file there are no dots, only pixels. So the correct term is pixels per inch (ppi).
Also, 72ppi originated as it was the resolution of an ancient Mac monitor. Current monitors have a much higher pixel density: My old 12″ PowerbookG4 for instance has a screen resolution of about 100ppi. Most current screens are somewhere between 80 and 120ppi.
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Photoshop CS4 Color Settings

Once, and for all

Never thought I’d blog about something as individual as PS Color Settings… Then again, there is so much conflicting, incomplete or downright inaccurate info on the web, I thought it might be time to set the record straight.

Individual

First of: Like more things in photography life there is no “Magic Bullet”. If that’s what you are looking for, better get used to this idea: You need a basic understanding of Color Management.
On the bright side: The settings in the Color Settings dialog box affect a number of things. However, unless done totally wrong, how your images are displayed is not one of those things.

Settings nobody should use

There is no “Magic Bullet”, but there is a “one size fits no-one”: The setting called “Monitor Color”.
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Printing to an Epson R2880. Theory and practice

The “5-95%” rule

In a thread on Photography-on-the.net a while ago, someone mentioned reading some advise to set black and white point to 5% and 95% respectively. That’s approximately RGB values (12,12,12) and (242,242,242). Otherwise, shadow and highlight detail would be lost in print.
My first thought was “no way”. After all, white is 255, right? I’d say that’s what printing colormanaged and .icc profiles are for.
I’d accept a bit of a loss, but not thàt much…

So I started to search the web.

Whàt?

One source of the advise was at www.lynda.com: Prepress Essentials by Taz Tally.
He was talking about offset printing. There was also an example about Newsprint. According to that, for a (hypothetical) example where the newspaper press could print a minimum white highlight dot of 20% and a maximum shadow below 80%. The tutorial proceeded to adjust output levels similar to this:
Levels
According to the tutorial, you’d be preserving highlight and shadow detail as much as possible for those particular presses.
Yeah, right. What highlights and shadows? They all became midtones…
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