Adobe CC

It wasn’t exactly a surprise…

Yet it still throws up a shitstorm in the photographic community: Adobe goes subscription only. No Adobe CS7, we get Adobe CC instead.
Except, I won’t. Not for as long as I can help it anyway.

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“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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Canon DPP or Adobe Lightroom?

Or: Why I shoot Raw

I shoot a lot of Performing Arts. That often involves “difficult” lighting: Different light sources, with different color temperatures. And to make matters worse, they are fitted with colored gels most of the time.
While I mostly try to go for “pleasing color”, rather then “neutral skintone” (the lighting was done a specific color for a reason I think), this still poses some challenges every now and then.

Simply setting ‘tungsten’ white balance is an okay starting point, but with certain types or colors of lighting, I need to do quite a bit of tweaking to get the image where I want it.

For that reason, I choose to shoot Raw: Gives me the most flexibility, and allows me to change whitebalance without causing too much harm.

Raw converters

Most of the time, I use Lightroom 2 for editing these images: I prefer the workflow over using the combination of DPP and Photoshop: I can do local edits on the Raw file in LR, and I can save the DNG with all edits included. With DPP/PS, I have to save a layered psd file of each image (which might be about 100Mb or so. With hundreds of images, that eats up HDD space rather fast).
This might not make sense to everybody, but makes sense to me.

DPP offers better noise reduction and sharpening in my opinion, but most of the time LightRoom is good enough for the intended purpose (images for the web).

Sometimes not

Occasionally however, I come across an image that simply will not give decent results in LightRoom. Blue gelled lights often give problems: For one: No way to reduce noise without obliterating all detail on the process. A while back I processed one of those images.
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Tethered shooting with a Canon camera

Why should you?

If you are shooting portraits or architecture, it can be very useful to be able to view the images on a larger screen then that on the back of your camera: You can better judge focus, expression, exposure and composition for instance. Not only because the screen is bigger and of better quality (not to mention calibrated!), but also because the software you use might have some visual aids (clipping warning, grid, 100% view, stuff like that)

What do you need

Obviously a camera and the proper cable: USB for most consumer models and the Eos 1D(s)3, Firewire for the Canon 1D(2) and 1D(s)Mk2(n).
Apart from that, you’ll need some software to connect the camera to the computer and some kind of viewer or raw converter.

The software

There are a few options: Capture One Pro is highly regarded, and does all in one package, but the price is fairly steep.
Then there’s Bibble Pro. Quite a bit cheaper and supports more (older) cameras then C1Pro. Both of these support Nikon and Canon. Bibble also supports other brands. Both are available for Windows and OSX, Bibble also for Linux. Neither allow remote control of the camera, but Capture one allows you to fire the shutter remotely.

Free

Lucky for us that Canon also offers a free solution: Eos Utility. It came on the disk with your camera. If it didn’t, or you lost the disk, you can download it, following the instructions here.
Once installed, you’ll also need a viewer. I prefer to use DPP on my laptop, since that’s a dinosaur an old Powerbook G4 with a 12″ screen. Others prefer to use Lightroom. I’ll explain how to use both:
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Black and White

What do humans see?

The human eye is most sensitive for yellow-green light. Take a look at the next gradient for instance:
Color gradient image

To me, indeed the green-to-yellow part looks brightest. Not so to Photoshop however.

About a hundred ways to lose the color

Well, maybe not thàt much, but quite a few anyhow. The easiest way (but offering zero control) would be to go through Image > Mode > Grayscale. That’ll give you this:
Gradient image converted to grayscale

Your image just became 1/3 of the original size, and that weight loss is caused because there’s now only a ‘gray’ channel instead of a red, green and blue one.
Big drawback of this method, is that it’s destructive: You indeed loose the color: It’s gone for good. Since you also have zero control, I’d never use this method.

Layers

So, we want something that’s reversible. Lots of ways to do that, using (adjustment) layers, but not all of them good… Let’s start off by naming just about the worst way imaginable: Desaturate. What this does, is that it removes all color information from an image, without the option for any user intervention. While that may or may not be important to you, this should be: All colors are treated as if they were equal.
While equality is a great thing, in this case, it isn’t, since to us different colors aren’t equal. Read the rest of this entry »

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