The benefits of criticizing


This blogpost has nothing whatsoever to do with colormanagement or editing. It originated purely out of frustration and bewilderment of the online photo community. You might call it a rant, and it should be read that way: Take it with however many grains of salt you like.

“Great Image”

… That’s a phrase I see quite a bit variations of when browsing photo sharing sites and forums and, lately, Twitter.
All to often though, I look and the image and think: “No, it isn’t great”. Heck, in some cases, the image isn’t even what I’d call “good”.
Why these comments then? It might be because people don’t understand the value criticism can have and want to be nice…
Well, guess what: In my opinion, about the worst comment someone can make about my photos is “nice image”: I know it’s “nice”, otherwise I would not have posted it. But I also know it isn’t perfect. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that I see flaws myself in every image I make. I see them, and because of that I can hopefully avoid them next time. But because I’m not perfect, I might overlook other flaws. Since I want to continue learning, I’d like to have them pointed out: I prefer input over praise.

What’s criticizing then?

Read the rest of this entry »

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?


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.
Read the rest of this entry »

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.


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”.
Read the rest of this entry »

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.


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:
Read the rest of this entry »

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.


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 »

Sharpening in Lightroom 2

How does it work?

Lightroom 2 has two kinds of sharpening: Capture sharpening and output sharpening. Capture sharpening is used to neutralize the blurring caused by the Anti Aliasing filter in your camera.
Output sharpening is dependent on output (print or screen, what size) and meant to overcome the softening caused by resizing or happening when printing.


Output sharpening in Lightroom is simple: You get 4 options when you export the image: Off, low, standard or high. All else is taken care of by Lightroom. Ease of use for sure. Drawback is that you cannot preview it, so you’ll need to experiment a bit. After that, it’s “set and forget”.
Capture sharpening on the other hand, requires a bit more user interaction. The settings will depend on camera used, subject and personal preference. You can preview it, but only at 100% or higher magnification. So you either need to zoom in, or you can view sharpening in the microscopic small “preview window” Lightroom 2 has for this purpose.
(There is off course the workaround I mentioned in an earlier blog post)

The “Detail” Tab

…in Lightroom is where it’s at: You get 4 sliders for sharpening: Amount, Radius, Detail and Masking.
Some of these are quite self-explanatory if you know a bit about digital imaging, the others might be new to you. Read the rest of this entry »

Color management

An introduction

In the “analog” days, it used to be simple: You had a slide looking like you wanted, and that was a fixed reference point. So it was “somebody else’s problem” to make a print that matched the slide: WYSIWYG. Simple. Or at least: Not your responsibility. Negatives were a bit more complicated, but still: S.E.P.

Nowadays, you’ll have a file that looks good on your screen. Since you probably don’t want to lug your computer and monitor with you anytime you want to make a print, only to be able to show what you think the print should look like, how do you manage to get a print that looks like the image on your screen?

The keyword

…of course, is “manage”. As in: Color manage: “Out of the box” every monitor will display an image different. Ever seen a store with 20 televisions in a row? All TVs looking different? Same will be the case with computer monitors if you don’t take countermeasures.
While the TVs pretty much boil down to “personal preference”, with digital imaging it’s about accuracy.
Read the rest of this entry »


How to see what you’ll get

for a web gallery.
Normally, Lightroom will only let you preview sharpening and noise reduction at 100% view. This is a good thing™ in my opinion, since it is capture sharpening, meant to negate the effects of an anti-aliasing filter in front of the sensor. You’d get all kinds of moiré without an AA filter, as can be seen in the hilarious story Eamon Hickey wrote about the NC2000.
Since the AA filter softens the image a bit, you need to sharpen it. This is input sharpening. So it should be judged at 100%. Unlike output sharpening, which is better judged at reduced size, at least: For print. For web view at 100% and WYSIWYG.
Or is it?

A workaround

I recently was processing a few ISO 6400 images, which had severe noise in them. Here I ran into the problem that the NR isn’t shown at “fit window” view. So I had no way to judge what the images would look like online. Read the rest of this entry »

Hello world!

First blog post.


At least, on my own blog (to be).
I’ve commented a fair bit on other people’s blogs, when the subject was Colormanagement, and someone presented wrong facts. For instance if it was recommended to set Photoshop to use “Monitor color” as working space, since then anything would look the same in Photoshop and the (not color managed) browser. Color management just went right out the window, as well as any chance at consistency…

Therefore, I believe this to be *bad* advice, so often I’d comment something along those lines, or sent the poster an email. I can’t stand misinformation. I’m kinda funny that way.

Because I’m kinda funny in other ways as well, I also like to know how stuff works. (And if possible, also why)
That sometimes leads to hours of searching as to why something doesn’t work as expected, instead of just accepting the fact and get on with what you were doing… So probably not the best practice, both for your social life, and in the business kind of way. For the last, I couldn’t care less, and my social life is okay, thanks very much. Also, it is satisfying my curiosity has the added advantage of getting to understand the problem better, which gives an advantage when you engage other (peoples) “irrational” problems.

So, what to expect here then?

I have no idea yet. I don’t even know if it’s going to be a regularly updated blog, or more “website-like, static” approach. I’m not completely without a clue however:

First, I plan to post a few simple posts on the “how and why” of color management. Just to cover the basics. I’ve posted the same (or similar) on POTN.

Incidentally, that forum is probably what inspired me to start all this: I started a thread there a few years back about color problems. Due to my lack of organisation, limited knowledge at the time (and not locking the thread), it became what was lately accurately referred to, a “Huge meandering thread”. This blog is my penance, and an effort to bring some order to that chaos.

Later on (when I get comfortable with blogging), I’ll probably also post solutions whenever I encounter a problem (For instance: PSCS4 seems to have a bug regarding color managed printing, looking in to that as I have time to spare, I’m using PSCS2 until then)

I sincerely hope that later posts gain in structure compared to this one, and also are a bit more relevant. But this is at least better then the default “Welcome” post by WordPress… (And there’s no-one around to see it anyway).

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