JPEG Compression Levels in Photoshop and Lightroom

Determining the ideal JPEG quality setting in both Photoshop and Lightroom can be challenging, because we often see two different values to choose from. Photoshop gives us compression levels from 0 to 12 when saving JPEG images through the “Save” or “Save As” dialog, while Lightroom only allows us to input a percentage. While percentages are easier to understand than numbers from 0 to 12, as we relate to 100% being the “best image quality” easier, Adobe also created a confusion as to what number represents what percentage, since the ranges of numbers are not provided in any of the help documents. The truth is, the percentages we see in Lightroom do not really scale from real 0 to 100 in single digits. Adobe simply mapped the 0 to 12 scale to the percentage scale. This ultimately means that changing from one number to another, like from 85% to 90% might make no difference whatsoever in compression or image size, while changing from 84% to 85% would make a big difference.

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Adobe’s Poor Handling of RAW Files

With Adobe Lightroom being the most popular post-processing tool on the market, one might wonder how good the software really is in processing RAW images. After-all, that’s what we use Lightroom primarily for – to post-process our images and get the best out of them. Having been using Lightroom since the early release versions (dating back to Lightroom 1), I have seen the software grow from a simple RAW editor to a pretty complex piece of software for both image management and powerful RAW processing. While there have been many great additions to Lightroom over time, Adobe certainly has had its share of rather disappointing problems, from typical bugs and stability issues to poor handling of RAW files. True, the software has gotten much more complex and with that complexity, it is surely expected to see potential bugs and issues. But one would hope that things would get better with each new release and bugs would eventually get taken care of. Sadly, the direction where Adobe is heading with Lightroom has just not been looking good. It appears that with every update, instead of getting proper fixes, all we are getting is additional bugs and new features that are not ready for prime time.

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Why I No Longer Convert RAW Files to DNG

For a number of years I have been recommending our readers to convert RAW files from their cameras to Adobe’s DNG format. In my DNG vs RAW article from 2010, I pointed out the reasons why using DNG over RAW made sense – it simplified file management, resulted in smaller files (when compressed or when embedded JPEG image size was reduced) and seemed like a good way to future-proof RAW files. But as time passed, higher resolution cameras were introduced and I started exploring other post-processing options, I realized that DNG had a few major disadvantages that made me abandon it. In this article, I will revisit the DNG format and bring up some of my concerns on why it might not be the ideal choice that I once thought it was.

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How to Process Infrared Photographs

As the number of photos taken each year continues to increase at a nearly exponential rate, infrared photography remains a relatively small niche in the photography world, one that allows us to see and capture the world in a unique manner. Because of my infrared articles and photos, I often receive emails from others struggling to achieve good IR processing results, sometimes even from our illustrious leader. ;) Recently, I received a spate of questions regarding my technique and seeking assistance. I thought that sharing a detailed example of my workflow might be helpful for those of you who have an interest in this style of photography and are looking for some tips and pointers.

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Lightroom 6 Bugs and Performance Issues

Back in April, Adobe introduced the sixth version of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, which came with a number of new features, as highlighted in our Lightroom 6 announcement article. Since then, Adobe updated the software once with a relatively large release in mid-June, which was the first sub-version release for both CC (2015.1) and standalone (6.1). I have been using Lightroom 6 rather heavily for my work and I have found a few bugs and performance issues, which I would like to share with our readers. If you have identified other bugs or performance problems, please let us know in the comments section below!

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Creating an HDR Panorama with Lightroom 6

Many times in my travels I’ve happened upon a beautiful scene spread wide before me with a huge dynamic range that just begged to be photographed. It would require HDR to capture the range but also need to be stitched together as a panorama. I’d set up my tripod, snap the sequences, then get home and say “Verm, it’s time you give HDR another try.” Which would last about two minutes until the first bracketed set of shots made it into Photoshop HDR Pro and gave me a result that looked like someone painted a coat of gray primer over it.

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How to Blend Multiple Exposures of Cityscapes

During our recent photo walk in San Francisco, where we had over 30 Photography Life readers join us for some awesome time together, one of the participants noted that a number of photographers who came to the photo walk were carrying tripods. As we were shooting a brightly-lit scene, his question was – why would you even want to bring a tripod to photograph in bright light? He then pointed out the fact that he almost never carries a tripod, that considering how good the performance of digital cameras is today, that a tripod is unnecessary. While I agreed about the fact that modern cameras are certainly very good at handling noise and the fact that I rarely use a tripod in broad daylight myself, I stated that I still carry a tripod with me when I travel and pointed out one specific situation that took place a couple of days earlier, where a tripod made it possible to capture a dynamic scene that I could not have captured otherwise. I asked if the participants had previously seen the below photo of San Francisco, captured from Twin Peaks (which was in my San Francisco at Night post):

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How to Edit Videos in Photoshop

With almost all of our cameras featuring video capabilities (I’m looking at you, Nikon Df), most of you have probably considered going beyond the occasional family video. However, like photography, video requires post-processing for best results, and the prospect of buying After Effects, Premiere Pro, and SpeedGrade just to get your toes wet is daunting for many photographers. What you may not know is that you already have a powerful video-editing program in Adobe Photoshop CC, or CS6 Extended. This is an easy way for photographers to play around with film without purchasing hundreds of dollars worth of software, and is surprisingly effective. I’m certainly not a professional videographer as my example video will show, but I have enjoyed editing a few shorts, just for fun. The two most critical aspects of editing for video (not including cuts/sequencing) are color-grading and sharpening, both of which can be done relatively painlessly in Photoshop using tools you’re already experienced with.

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Using DxO Smart Lighting

After writing my recent article Birds-in-Flight Images with Nikon 1 V3, it occurred to me how helpful using DxO OpticsPro 10 was in processing the RAW files for the article, and specifically the DxO Smart Lighting function. The DxO Smart Lighting function is designed to adjust the dynamic range in an image. This brief article shows a quick example of the impact of using DxO Smart Lighting. Let’s start with an out-of-camera jpeg of an image that I did not use in my recent V3 article.

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Stitching Images with Microsoft ICE

I enjoy taking panoramic images of landscapes, cityscapes, street art or any other time when the view exceeds the frame. While an increasing number of cameras (particularly smartphones) are offering an in-camera panoramic mode, individual images and good stitching software is essential for high quality images.

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