One of the most frequently asked questions I often get at Photography Life, is related to post-processing images. Specifically, our readers want to find out how they can make their images look good without spending too much time post-processing them. After-all, not everyone has the skills or the patience to learn how to use the many different tools in different software packages like Lightroom and Photoshop. I thought of things that I normally do to my images when I want to make quick edits and came up with a few steps that I consistently apply to all of my images. In this article, I will provide these steps, so that you can quickly make changes to your images and make them look good without having to go through a lot of learning. I will highlight the steps using Lightroom and Photoshop, but you should be able to imitate similar steps using other post-processing software as well.
With so many new cameras being released each year that allow capturing images in RAW format using different compression levels, bit-rates and other proprietary data, it is becoming increasingly difficult for post-processing software to keep up with all the changes and provide full support for RAW formats. Although camera manufacturers have been bundling their own image converters, such tools are often underdeveloped, buggy and lack the necessary features to be able to rely on them for post-processing images. Despite the fact that some post-processing software tools as Adobe Lightroom and Capture One provide frequent updates to support new cameras, it is getting practically impossible to provide full support for every new camera and RAW format features. It is time for camera manufacturers to come up with a single universal RAW format that can be easily supported by all post-processing software and we as consumers need to push camera manufacturers to adopt this format.
One of the biggest frustrations with Lightroom’s built-in watermarking tool, is the fact that it often ends up making watermarks appear too soft / blurry, especially when extracting smaller JPEG images. This happens due to Lightroom’s rather poor implementation of watermarking on images. Not only does Lightroom seem to apply sharpening to images before adding a watermark, but also, the resizing algorithm used by the software appears to be pretty bad. No matter what image dimensions one chooses, Adobe has not provided a way to turn off scaling in Watermark Editor, even if one provides transparent PNG / GIF images with the correct dimensions. For this reason, many photographers end up using Photoshop for adding watermarks to images, which certainly does take more time and effort, but certainly delivers much sharper results in comparison. After seeing poor watermarking results, I decided to look into alternative methods to see if there is a way to make watermarks sharper using the same tools. After some experimentation, I came up with two methods that ended up working well and that’s what I am going to share with our readers in this article.
A strength of Photoshop is being able to perform edits non-destructively. Most edits can be performed on their own layer, preserving the original background layer. The Spot Healing Brush, Clone Stamp, and Patch tools all work this way and they can all be used to remove unwanted objects non-destructively. However, if you have ever tried to remove an object from an image using Content-Aware Fill, you will have noticed that you can’t do this on a new blank layer. This tool requires pixels to work. But if you use Content-Aware Fill on your background layer, you end up changing those pixels permanently. You could create a copy of the background and use the tool here. However, this needlessly increases the size of your document. In this short article, I want to show you an easy workaround, which will keep your original background layer intact.
Working on your photos in Photoshop, you might have come across the situation where you begin to see weird lines appear in places where they shouldn’t be and weren’t before. This issue is especially common for very smooth gradients, such as skies, and can undoubtedly destroy even the most beautiful photo. And unlike other problems, this issue doesn’t seem to be triggered by anything particular; one moment it’s not there and the next time you look at the image – there it is. So, let’s figure out what this is, why it happens and how to fix it.
We are very excited to announce our second course, Level 1: Workflow and Post-Processing, which we have been working on for the past few months. We are currently in the process of adding some more bonus material and putting some finishing touches to the videos, which we are planning to release early next week. For now, I would like to present the trailer of the upcoming course, so that our readers could get a chance to see what we have in the course and what one can expect from it. This course completes our Level 1 basics courses, which means that from here on, we will be able to move up in content and complexity – we are already planning to start filming a Level 3 course on landscape photography later this summer, with the scheduled release of Q4 of 2016. It is truly exciting and rewarding to be working on these courses, because we are creating a strong foundation which we can build on in the future.
Lens distortion is a common issue we photographers deal with on a daily basis. It can be split into two groups – distortion by perspective and distortion by optics. Be it one or the other, it often causes unnatural-looking deformation of photos we take. As a result, we end up searching for ways to address distortion issues in the field, or afterwards in post-production. Usually lenses with longer focal lengths produce less distorted results than wide-angle lenses. And as you might already know, distortion is much more noticeable closer to the edges of the frame than in the middle. If you shoot landscapes or cityscapes at wider focal lengths and you have straight vertical elements near the corners of the frame, distortion might significantly bend and skew those elements, making them look very strange. There are several ways you can address such problems, so let’s talk about those now.
Arguably the most versatile adjustments in Photoshop are the layering and masking tools. Together, layers and masks make up a large portion of the work most photographers do in Photoshop, both for subtle and complex edits. However, if you are just beginning to work in Photoshop, these two irreplaceable tools may not be completely intuitive. In this article, I will cover the basics of using layers in Photoshop and discuss layer masking – laying the groundwork for far more advanced post-processing adjustments.
Sharpening remains a particularly confusing topic among photographers, especially given the tremendous number of post-processing options available. Some post-processing software has so many options that it is hard to know where to start; others do not let you use optimal methods in the first place. If you are trying to use the best sharpening settings – including the lowest possible levels of noise and other artifacts – the ideal method is three-step sharpening.
Have you heard of the Orton Effect? This post-processing technique has been around since the 1980s, if not earlier, but the trend has exploded tremendously in the past few years. If you haven’t heard of it, you aren’t alone – it only recently began to gain mainstream popularity. And yet, in some ways, the Orton Effect is swallowing the modern world of landscape photography. This is barely an exaggeration; after seeing the Orton Effect in practice, you should be able to spot it in at least a third of the trending 500px landscape photos, as well as many winning photo contest entries. This article covers all the basics of the Orton Effect, including a tutorial on how to implement it in your own images – and a discussion on why you may not want to do so.