Workflow

Framing your masterpieces

Framed Pictures

Selling pictures without frames keeps my costs low and lets me sell my work at very competitive prices. It also gives my customers the choice to shop around for good deals on frames or build their own custom frames. That is the official story. In reality, I dislike the framing work.

I used to go to my local art store for custom jobs or to get ready-made frames. Their selection of existing frames is often not satisfying and custom jobs can become very pricy. Building your own frame is a viable alternative, but I prefer to spend as little time as possible on the framing job and more of my precious little time outdoors, taking photos.

As much as I hate framing pictures, I love anyone who makes it easy for me to get the job done quickly. Therefore, I was very excited when I found this picture frame store. They offer an astounding variety of frames in all shapes, colors and sizes and somehow still keep their products very affordable.

HDR Expose - Evolution of Perfection

HDR Exposre Result 1

When Unified Color released HDR PhotoStudio in 2009, I was stunned with the color accuracy and the natural look of the processed images. With their new release of HDR Expose, the successor to HDR PhotoStudio, Unified Color released further refined software that has more advanced processing options, is easier to use, and produces better results than the already stunning HDR PhotoStudio.

The interface of HDR Expose has evolved, too. All the controls are on the right side with a brightness histogram in the top right corner and the image controls below it. I love how the software keeps a stack of your previous processing steps, allowing you to go back and make changes to previously applied steps, without losing the changes you made later.

Instead of a review that is counting down features, I chose to demonstrate the processing steps. This should give you a good idea on the ease of use and some of the capabilities of HDR expose. Click the images for a larger view.

7 Tips for Efficient Image Processing

How to save time editing your images and get better results.

Toronto

During the past two years, I have been overwhelmed with so many things, that I rarely did get to edit and publish my photographs. I still have “undeveloped” RAW files on my hard drive that are two years old. I need to reduce my backlog, so I figured I needed to increase my efficiency.

Instead of writing a long tutorial, I decided to share some insight into efficient image processing instead. Since I do not have a lot of time, I usually process my images this way:

RAW HDR Processing

Update

Learn how to create stunning HDR photos from a single RAW file.

The rapid progression of camera technology and new options in Photomatix require an update to this tutorial.

Cameras are now 14-bit

Bathesda Fountain

HistogramWhen I wrote this tutorial over 1.5 years ago, most cameras were using 12-bit sensors. Camera makers have switched to higher dynamic range sensors now. I am currently using a consumer level Canon Rebel XSi which already exceeds the performance of many professional cameras of just a few years ago.

Ideally, 14-bit RAW files contain 4 times more information than 12-bit RAW files in the shadows. Realistically the gain may be limited somewhat by noise, but the noise levels also improved, leaving us with more bits to use. This much dynamic range just begs being made visible.

The picture above was taken in Central Park. The picture on the left side was processed via this HDR method. You can see a larger version here.

In the processed image you can see people outside and the fountain, while those are clipped in the unprocessed version. The histogram of the uncompensated picture, a picture processed for highlights and a picture processed for shadows is shown on the left side. The HDR is a combination of 5 images between EV-2 to EV+2.

Creating wall sized prints

Wall Sized PrintDefying conventional wisdom, we printed a wall-sized picture of the Golden Gate Bridge.

When Boris contacted me 3 months ago, he sounded desperate.  He had a special request and not much hope of getting it met. Boris wanted to have a wall-sized print of one of my pictures. He wanted to print one of the pictures he found on this website at 128x100 inches. At first, I was puzzled and I asked him to confirm his request. I guessed that he was German, so I translated his request into metric units for confirmation.

After confirmation, I suggested some of my large-scale stitched images as an alternative solution, but Boris knew exactly what he wanted and stayed firm in his request. I therefore discussed the potential outcome of resizing the desired image with him. We quickly dismissed the possibility of re-taking the shot, due to the cost and the unknown outcome. Atmospheric conditions in San Francisco are not predictable.

We focused on the more predictable issue of upsizing the original image and on print quality. After explaining that even an 8.2MP file of the Canon 20D is several times larger than the highest HDTV resolution, we concluded that it has to look better at those giant dimensions too. You need to see a 72” HDTV at full resolution to know how good these look at 2 Megapixels (1080p).

A good-looking result was also our goal. Boris had already found a specialist in large-scale printing and left it to them and me to figure out the potential of success. I suggested working with CCS Digital on a test print, a slice of the upsized image at full resolution.

After experimenting a bit with different upsizing methods, we settled on a result that Boris ordered from CCS for review. One week later, I had the order filled. Gaining a better understanding of the limits of printing, satisfying a customer and my own curiosity made it a worthwhile effort.

I asked Boris for a picture of the result and permission to write this article.

 

Optimizing Images for the Web and Email

Women Sitting on Curb in Black and WhiteSomeone sitting on the curb

Learn how to optimize pictures for websites without sacrificing quality.

The benefit of small pictures is immediately obvious. Requiring less bandwidth will reduce your cost and the cost to your visitors (time or volume charges). People will not remember your site as being slow and come back again (although slowness might happen for other reasons).
I also reduce the size of personal images I send via email to friends and family.
It is thoughtful not to waste other people's time and mailbox space.
The image on the left is only 13.8kB and can be loaded, even through a dialup connection, in a fraction of a second (the text on this page is bigger). Further optimization could reduce the size of this image to about 10kB without too much loss of quality. To save time, I have automated my workflow (including the final compression), leaving some room for further improvements.
I will demonstrate how to optimize your images with Photoshop, but you should be able to reproduce these steps with just about any Photo Editor

Color Management Tips for Photographers

Stairs from Point Reyes LighthousePreserve the Colors of your Images Recently Ron sent me an email and hinted me towards the fact that I missed the last mile on my workflow tutorials.
I was asked to give some more insight into the process of preparing images for web viewing and/or printing.
In this tutorial I am going to cover some of the basics of color profiling and in the next tutorial I am going to talk a bit about resizing and compression of images. After all you want your images to look good without annoying your viewers (and your wallet) by large data transfers. As you can see this site has a reasonable amount of graphics, but (hopefully) still loads fairly quickly. Part of the reason (besides a good host) is that I optimize my images for online viewing. Since I have automated the process, I forgot to cover this subject. You can use the same technique to send your pictures via email.

Color Profiles and Management

I am by no means an expert in color profiling, nor do I understand all of it. But I can give you some tips on what worked for me without drifting too much into technical jargon.
Color Management should be part of your digital workflow and it is tightly interwoven with all the applications.
Since different devices use different technology (an LCD uses light and color filters to render pixels while an inkjet puts ink onto a paper), you need color management to make the picture look the same on either of them. You want the picture to be printed the same way it looks on your screen. Today's consumer grade LCD screens are often too bright and too cold (blue/green tint). I guess the reason behind this is that manufacturers want them to look brighter in the show room. Unfortunately, this really messes up your color management, so if you are serious about getting the best quality from your pictures, check out my short article on LCD Color Calibration.

About Stitching and Color Space

Point Reyes Farm in FogPoint Reyes Farm and Fog

Often I get questions via email and I think the answer to many of them could benefit others as well, so I decided to introduce my new series From the Mailbox where I will publish a few of the questions and answers. Don't worry, I won't reveal any contact information, so your emails will be safe.

 

Hello Andre, Thanks for so much information. Couple questions: 1. Equipment: For your stitching I see you use a 50 prime. Have you tried say 180mm Telephoto lens? 2. I use a mac... What Stitching SW would be good? I've tried PTGui ...seems ok bu the final file is always a smaller than what i get from CS3. 3. The instructors for Photoshop at the UC ext. courses there in Cupertino always said to use Adobe RGB color space. Now I see that people say sRGB might be better. I upload photos to the web and did A-B comparisons and they look very close to me. I've heard said that Adobe RGB web photos have dull washed out reds. Any thoughts? Maybe a tutorial on uploading photos to websites. Keep up the good work.


 

 

Reply:

I just returned from my weekend trip, so I will try to be brief. Don't hesitate to send me some more questions if things aren't clear yet. For the Machu Picchu Image (222 Megapixel Mosaic) I have used a focal length of 200mm. It's really just about how much resolution you want to get. I don't limit myself to 50mm. It was just an example. Stiching: I use PTAssembler on PC. I think PTGui is good. The size you get is probably related to how the control points are calculated and how things are warped (I know thats a poor explanation, but check this link ) About the color space: I use ProphotoRGB for editing and sRGB for output. ALWAYS use sRGB for display and printing, but use something with more Gamut (Adobe or Prophoto) for editing. Convert using the Adobe Perceptual Engine. Most people's monitors and browsers are not calibrated and sRGB will defenitely look better. AdobeRGB contains too much gamut and will result in out of gamut colors on many peoples screens (posterization effects).

 

In my hasty response I forgot to mention my article on color calibration, that might be a good source of information. LCD monitors that you buy these days at Electronic Outlet stores are not very good and are over saturated and usually have a cold tint (blue / green). They need to be calibrated in order to render color correctly. Otherwise your prints will not match your monitor output.

The tutorial sounds like a good idea too, maybe spiced up with some general color recaps.

The picture on the left is a quick B/W conversion with some curves adjustments (mainly contrast boosting) of one of the photographs I took this weekend at Point Reyes. During the summer months Point Reyes sees more fog then any other time of the year. Fortunately thats not bad news for us. While most tourists chose not to get out of their cars, I used the chance for soft light.