As we already mentioned in the previous article “Where are my Mid-tones?“, most raw converters apply some hidden adjustments to a raw shot, often resulting in a bumped mid-tone, clipped highlights, and compressed shadows. This is done to make the shot look good, but can also lead to all sorts of confusion. If you are using or planning to use some raw converter, you may want to know what “beautifiers” it applies, and their price.
When the world saw the very first photographs, the idea of being able to capture the world as we see it took off rapidly. In a relatively short period of time, film photography evolved from black and white to color photography. From there, it made motion pictures possible, allowing us to see the world from our couches at home. When the first digital camera was invented, little did the inventors know that it would later revolutionize the world of photography and media in general. Today, billions of images are captured and shared between people and the number of image recording devices is growing at a rapid, unstoppable rate. There are cameras literally everywhere – in our mobile phones, homes, computers, cars and even in wearables like eyeglasses and watches. We trust these devices to give us a glimpse of reality, documented moments of time that we can go back to and review. And yet with the fast growth, ease of access and use of image and video manipulation tools, we have been seeing more footage that can twist reality: whether we are looking at popular magazine covers, Internet sites or news media, the imagery we see is getting harder and harder to trust, since it is being altered, faked or staged. Media turned out to be a powerful tool to influence and manipulate people, which brings up the question and the importance of ethics in photography. Should photography only be allowed to display reality, or is it acceptable to alter images for presentation purposes? And if manipulation is acceptable, what are its limits, if any? These are very hard questions to answer, but with some common sense, we can create a set of ethical rules and guidelines that should help photographers in determining what’s acceptable and what’s not.
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.
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):
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.
Adobe has been enjoying their place in the software industry for a very long time now. It’s a monopoly, isn’t it? Despite the effort made by Corel, DxO, PhaseOne and others, the benchmark is still Photoshop and Lightroom (even if the latter does not actually lead in every area). In fact, Photoshop has actually become a synonym to the word “post-process” or “edit”. “To photoshop something”, how many times have you heard someone say it? Exactly. And all of this is well deserved, because there simply isn’t any better alternatives. But for us, the users, monopoly is not such a good thing. Lack of proper competition puts the developer in a rather lazy state. Fortunately, an alternative might be in the works, called Affinity Photo (currently in Beta stage). Unfortunately, it is only available for Mac at this time.
Adobe Photoshop is really not about speed. I can’t say it’s ever been – even back when I was using the then-current version 5 (and the more capable 5.5), it was packed full of features and required not only lots of time to even begin to master, but to use for the simple things, too. Not to say it’s slow to work with, exactly, but if you want to accomplish your task quickly without any excuses, Lightroom is perhaps more suitable. It certainly ought to be. Yet if you work slowly and methodically, if you spend not minutes, but hours and even days post-processing a single image or a series, that is what Adobe’s heavyweight is most suitable for. Not for the sort of work where you click a few buttons and move on, but for the patient sort, where every detail matters, where there can be no sloppiness. Simply because of its vast, enormous capability. To own Photoshop just for one or two features is, more often than not, a bit of an overkill.
Just a few years ago, if you wanted more saturated colours in your landscapes or any other sort of photography, there was one basic adjustment to apply – saturation. Especially for beginner photographers, the Saturation slider in Photoshop was one of the most useful tricks to learn and seemed to change everything. You start with a boring, flat looking sundown, and you end up with this magnificent landscape to behold.
I will be honest, I am not a fan of Adobe as a company. I never liked their business model: their practice of gobbling up competition (sometimes out of fear), their Creative Cloud extortion and their sleazy management that only cares about their next quarter revenues. But most of all, I never liked Adobe’s poor software development practices. In my past tech life, Adobe products were always a big pain due to numerous security holes and huge, frequent updates. In fact, Adobe has been notoriously bad with releasing poorly tested software with too many security holes. In 2011, Adobe dominated Kaspersky Lab’s top ten PC vulnerabilities list, with “extremely critical” security vulnerabilities that allowed attackers to gain access to computer systems and execute arbitrary code. These security vulnerabilities spanned several Adobe products, which most PCs had at the time and even today: Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash Player. No wonder Apple did not want to support flash in its iOS (which thankfully resulted in the slow demise of the Adobe Flash), since Flash was a very badly written, resource intensive platform to begin with. Although Steve Jobs mostly blamed Adobe Flash for being a PC-era platform, two of the biggest reasons why Flash support was excluded from iOS were in fact related to security and stability concerns.
Love it or hate it, Facebook has become an important social media platform for not only promoting your work, but also for finding new clients. Whether you choose to create a fan page for your business or just upload your photographs in your own profile, you might be wondering what the best resolution and export settings should be for your images, so that Facebook can display them at the highest quality. In this article, I will not only go over Facebook’s resizing and compression behavior, but also show you the proper settings to use when exporting images from both Lightroom and Photoshop.