Masking Effect

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Today’s Question: As a part of my workflow in Lightroom, I hold down the Option key [Alt key on Windows] and move the masking slider to adjust the area in the image that I want to sharpen. Sometimes when I am doing this, I think that the result that I see would make an interesting abstract. I think this must be a little like the posterization effect in Photoshop, but when I try to use that approach, it doesn’t seem to produce the same outcome I get with the masking slider. What is it that is actually happening in Lightroom with the masking slider and how could I best reproduce that effect in either Lightroom or Photoshop?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The effect you’re seeing is somewhat similar to a result you can achieve with the Find Edges filter in Photoshop. The approach involves using the Find Edges filter and then creating additional contrast and possibly inverting the result.

More Detail: To get started, open the image in Photoshop. Then create a copy of the Background image layer. From the menu bar choose Filter > Stylize > Find Edges. There are no parameters for this filter, so you’ll simply see the result in the image.

Next, add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, and reduce the Saturation completely. This will remove the color created as part of the Find Edges filter, so that you have a black and white version of the image.

You can then add a Levels (or Curves) adjustment layer and drag the black and white point sliders inward to create extreme contrast for the photo. You will generally want to bring these end points very close to each other, possibly all the way until those end points are touching each other. Pay attention to the detail within the photo to help choose where those two end points should meet.

You can then add an Invert adjustment layer if you’d like to reverse the areas that appear black versus white, which will provide the same basic result you were seeing in Lightroom. You may also want to apply a slight blur to the Background Copy layer, using the Gaussian Blur filter.

Note that in some cases you may prefer the effect produced by first working with a lower-resolution image, and then increasing the size of that image to exaggerate the size of the lines created by the effect.

It is worth noting that you could also simply produce a screen capture of the effect directly from the Develop module in Lightroom when using the preview feature (by holding down the Alt/Option key on the keyboard) while adjusting the Masking setting for the sharpening effect. Because the image is abstract, having a relatively low-resolution screen capture won’t have a significant effect on the appearance of the final image.

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Fisheye isn’t Circular

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Today’s Question: I rented a fisheye zoom lens (Canon 8-15mm) to try out, because I’ve never used one. I am not getting the circular images that I was expecting. At the widest zoom setting there is a little vignetting, but the image isn’t a circle. How do you achieve the circular image that to me represents a fisheye photo?

Tim’s Quick Answer: It sounds like you are using a camera with a “cropped” sensor, meaning a sensor smaller than full-frame. To achieve a circular fisheye image, you need to use the lens on a full-frame camera.

More Detail: The Canon 8-15mm fisheye lens (http://timgrey.me/atg815fish) is indeed a genuine fisheye lens, capable of capturing the classic circular images with an extremely wide perspective. I should clarify that the image itself will still be rectangular, but the circular fisheye image will appear within that rectangle, with the rest of the image area being black.

A fisheye lens like this projects a smaller image circle than other lenses, enabling you to capture the circular image effect that is commonly associated with photos captured with a fisheye lens. However, this lens is designed for a full-frame sensor. A smaller image sensor will crop the image circle, so that you aren’t able to see the full circular effect. Instead, at the shortest focal length you will simply see some vignetting in the corners of the image.

This lens includes a “Limit” switch, enabling you to lock the lens so that you can’t zoom out beyond a 10mm focal length. At focal lengths from 10mm onward, you won’t get the vignetting at the corners of the image, because the image circle is effectively being enlarged to more than fill the area of the smaller sensor.

In this case if you want to achieve circular fisheye images you have two options. You can either work with a full-frame camera using one of the various fisheye lens options available, such as the 8-15mm noted above. Or you can use a fisheye lens designed for cropped sensors, such as the Sigma 4.5mm (http://timgrey.me/atgcropfish).

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Video to Two Cards

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Today’s Question: You had recommended setting your camera [the Canon EOS 7D Mark II] to record to two memory cards at the same time. My camera has this feature, but when I capture video it is still only saved to one card. Photos are going to both cards. How do I fix this for video?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can’t fix this on the 7D Mark II (or as far as I know on any other digital SLR). While photos can be saved to two cards at once thanks to two cards slots on this camera (among others), you can’t save video to two cards at once.

More Detail: While you can’t record video to two cards, you can choose which card the videos get saved to. The result is that your photos will be saved on both cards, but your videos will only be saved on one of those cards.

In general I would tend to use the fastest media card of the two for saving video. However, I actually opt for the SD card rather than the CompactFlash card as the card that my videos get stored to. That is because my primary computer has a built-in SD card reader. In other words, I prioritize convenience in my overall workflow rather than the performance of the card. And, of course, I use relatively fast cards in any event.

In the case of the Canon 7D Mark II you can choose which card to record videos to from the menu on the LCD. Under the “Set Up 1” menu you can choose the “Record fun+card/folder sel.” option. Then, with the “Record func.” option set to “Rec. to Multiple”, choose the Playback setting and choose the card you want to use for playback. That card will then also be used as the card that video is recorded to.

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Custom White Balance

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Today’s Question: You made reference to setting a custom white balance in the camera based on a gray card. How can this be done?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The specific process will vary from one camera to the next, but in general that process is the same. You simply capture a photo of a gray card (or similar neutral object) and then use that photo as the basis of a custom white balance setting in the camera.

More Detail: The concept here is that if you capture a photo of a neutral object (such as a gray card) under the same lighting conditions as the subject you will be photographing, the color of that object as it is captured can be used as the basis of an automatic white balance adjustment for subsequent photos captured under the same conditions.

While a gray card is certainly a great tool to use in this process, it is also possible to employ any other neutral (non-colored) object, such as a bright white sheet of paper. Perhaps the most important part of this process is to be sure you are photographing the gray card (or alternative) under the same lighting conditions that will illuminate your subject.

In other words, this process works best when the lighting on your subject is relatively consistent and uniform. You can then place the gray card in that light, and fill the camera’s frame with the gray card. Once you have captured a photo of the gray card under the lighting conditions for your subject, you can set that photo as the basis of a custom white balance adjustment.

Again, the specific process will vary by camera model, but in general you can simply choose the custom white balance option within your camera’s menu system and then select the appropriate photo as the basis of that custom white balance.

I should hasten to add that this custom white balance option is different from the similarly named option that enables you to dial in a specific Kelvin value for the white balance compensation. The process described above offers a relatively automated approach to compensating for the color of light on your subject through the use of a “sample” photograph captured under the same conditions.

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Color Accuracy

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Today’s Question: If you are using Lightroom and you setup your camera for white balance by using a gray card, is it still necessary to use the ColorChecker Passport to setup a color profile the get accurate colors?

Tim’s Quick Answer: That depends on the degree of accuracy you require. For situations (such as product photography) where color accuracy can be critical, I would recommend building a profile based on the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport (http://timgrey.me/checkerpassport). For situations where the color accuracy in the original capture isn’t as critical, using a gray card is generally adequate.

More Detail: When using a gray card (or other color-neutral object) as the basis of a white balance adjustment either in the camera or in post-processing, you’re only applying a simple compensation to the color in the image that will produce a neutral value for that gray card. The X-Rite ColorChecker Passport includes a series of color swatches that can be used to apply a more accurate color adjustment to your photos.

In many cases, especially when you are exercising a degree of artistic interpretation for the colors in a photo, the accuracy provided by the ColorChecker Passport is generally not necessary. By using a gray card to compensate for the color of the light illuminating the scene you’ll be able to get a reasonably accurate result.

What you’ll find is that a gray card enables you to compensate rather effectively for the color of the light source. But the individual color values may still not be quite perfect. Because of the multiple color swatches on the ColorChecker Passport, individual colors will appear more accurate after applying the profile. This will produce a subtle (but sometimes important) shift in some of the individual colors within a photo.

It is worth pointing out, of course, that in some cases you don’t really need to use a gray card or other approach to compensate for the color of light. After all, using this type of approach is focused on removing the color element of the light illuminating the scene, and in many cases that color is a big part of the reason you captured the image in the first place.

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Hiding the Grid

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Today’s Question: Somehow I’ve accidently activated a ‘Grid’ that is overlaying every image that I open in Photoshop. I have gone into ‘View’ but the ‘Clear Guides’ command is not active (greyed out).

Tim’s Quick Answer: In this case it sounds like it is actually the Grid display option that is an issue, not the Guides. So all you need to do is choose View > Show > Grid from the menu to disable the Grid display.

More Detail: Photoshop provides you with a variety of non-printing display options, primarily aimed at helping you align various objects within a document. Of course, when you enable one of these options by mistake it can become a bit distracting.

For example, one of the other grid options is the Pixel Grid, which can also be found on the View > Show submenu. You’ll find other options as well, some of which you may find helpful from time to time.

There is also an “Extras” option on the View menu, which you can think of as something of a “master switch” for the various display options found on the View > Show submenu. In other words, if you like to enable some of the options found under the View > Show menu, you can temporarily disable (or re-enable) all of them by choosing View > Extras from the menu.

It is worth noting that these various display options can be toggled on or off. When an option is enabled, you will see a checkmark icon next to the name of that option on the menu. When an option is disabled you will not see that checkmark.

Also note that some of these view options have keyboard shortcuts associated with them, which you can see to the right of the applicable options on the menu. Those keyboard shortcuts provide an additional option for quickly enabling or disabling specific options. I suspect that in most cases when one of these options is activated by accident, it happens by pressing a keyboard shortcut unintentionally.

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Image Stabilization Benefit

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Today’s Question: With reference to your answer about a rule for minimum shutter speed relative to lens focal length, how does the presence of image stabilization in the lens impact this? In other words, can’t I use a slower than recommended shutter speed when employing image stabilization?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Image stabilization technology does provide a benefit that could enable you to employ a slower shutter speed (longer exposure duration) than would otherwise be possible when shooting hand-held (and even when shooting on a tripod in many cases). However, my preference is to treat this benefit as a “bonus” and to continue following the rule of thumb about minimum shutter speed relative to focal length.

More Detail: As a reminder, the rule of thumb about minimum shutter speed relates to lens focal length. More accurately, this rule relates to field of view. With a narrower field of view, any movement of the camera will essentially be magnified, requiring a faster shutter speed to ensure a sharp image. As a general guideline, it is recommended that the lens focal length be used as a minimum value for the denominator in the shutter speed. So, a 100mm lens would call for a 1/100th of a second or faster shutter speed, and a 300mm lens would call for a 1/300th of a second or faster shutter speed.

Image stabilization technology is generally promoted as providing a benefit expressed as a number of stops of light. You might achieve a benefit of anywhere from one stop to about five stops, at least according to marketing materials from various manufacturers. For illustrative purposes, let’s assume a two-stop benefit from a given image stabilization technology.

With a two-stop benefit you could use a slower shutter speed than would otherwise be possible. So with a 100mm lens you could use a 1/25th of a second shutter speed rather than 1/100th of a second. With a 300mm lens you could use a 1/75th of a second shutter speed rather than 1/300th.

While I certainly appreciate the benefit of image stabilization technology, I also realize there are limitations and a variety of other real-world issues that may affect the sharpness of my photos. Therefore, I prefer to follow the rule of thumb about shutter speeds relative to focal length without taking image stabilization into account.

As a result, any benefit caused by image stabilization becomes a “bonus” benefit, further increasing the chances of capturing a sharp photo when shooting hand-held.

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Rotate in Develop?

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Today’s Question: When I’m reviewing my photos in the Library module in Lightroom I have rotate buttons below the image preview. But when I go to the Develop module those rotate buttons disappear. Is there no way to rotate photos within the Develop module?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While the rotate buttons are not available on the toolbar when working in the Develop module in Lightroom, you can still rotate images by using a menu command or a keyboard shortcut.

More Detail: In most cases, of course, you aren’t likely to need to rotate your photos in 90-degree increments, because your camera will have set a rotation flag automatically for your photos. But in some cases you may find that the rotation wasn’t applied correctly, or that you want to alter the rotation for an abstract photo.

When reviewing your photos in the Library module you can have rotation control buttons on the toolbar below the image display (or on the thumbnails themselves). You can hide or reveal these rotation buttons when working in the Library module. Simply click the downward-pointing triangle at the far right of the toolbar below the image preview area and choose the “Rotate” options.

When you are working in the Develop module, however, these rotation buttons are not available. However, the menu commands for rotating your photos are still available. You can, for example, right-click on the thumbnail for a photo on the filmstrip and choose the “Rotate Left” or “Rotate Right” command. You can also go to the Photo menu on the main menu bar and choose the same options.

In addition, you can use keyboard shortcuts to rotate your images while in the Develop module. To rotate the image left (in 90-degree increments) hold the Ctrl key on Windows or the Command key on Macintosh and press the left square bracket key ([) on the keyboard. To rotate the image right, hold the Ctrl/Command key and press the right square bracket key (]).

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Basic Panel Missing

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Today’s Question: I have upgraded to Lightroom CC and am confused as to why I am not seeing the Basic panel in the Develop module [screenshot included].

Tim’s Quick Answer: In this case it sounds like you have hidden a panel section without realizing it. You can re-enable the Basic section by right-clicking on one of the headers of the right panel in the Develop module and choosing “Basic” from the popup menu that appears.

More Detail: Lightroom enables you to hide individual sections of the left and right panels in the various modules. This can be helpful if you want to reduce clutter by removing sections you never make use of. However, it can also be confusing if you manage to hide a section by accident.

Fortunately, it is very easy to reveal a hidden panel section once you know the “trick”. To hide or reveal any sections on a given panel, you can first right-click on one of the headers for any section. For example, you could click in the area where you see the “Basic” header or the “Tone Curve” header when looking at the right panel in the Develop module.

When you right-click on a header on one of the panels, you will see a popup menu with a list of all of the available sections for that panel. In the case of the right panel in the Develop module, for example, you will see Basic, Tone Curve, Adjustments, Split Toning, Detail, Lens Corrections, Effects, and Camera Calibration.

A checkmark icon to the left of these section names indicates that the section is enabled. If there is no checkmark it indicates the section is hidden. You can toggle any section between being hidden or revealed by clicking the applicable option from the popup menu. So, in this example with the Basic section missing you could simply choose “Basic” from that popup menu to reveal the Basic section on the right panel in the Develop module once again.

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In-Camera Noise Options

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Today’s Question: As a follow-up to the May 12 question about in-camera versus post processing long exposure noise reduction, do you have the same opinion on high ISO noise reduction?

Tim’s Quick Answer: No, there is an important distinction between long exposure noise reduction and high ISO noise reduction in the context of noise reduction applied in the camera. The high ISO noise reduction in the camera does not directly affect RAW capture data. Results will vary, but in general I find that I prefer to apply the high ISO noise reduction in post-processing rather than in the camera.

More Detail: The long exposure noise reduction I referred to in the May 12th edition of the Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter does apply to RAW captures. The second “dark frame” exposure is used to subtract noise from the image in the camera, changing the information in the RAW capture.

High ISO noise reduction operates differently. For JPEG captures, this high ISO noise reduction will of course affect the original JPEG capture. However, for RAW captures the high ISO noise reduction will not affect the actual data recorded by the image sensor. Instead, this information will be added a special metadata within the image. However, in general the only way to make use of that special metadata regarding noise reduction is to use the software provided by your camera’s manufacturer to process your RAW captures.

In other words, if you are using software such as Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw to process your RAW captures, the high ISO noise reduction settings in your camera will not apply to those RAW captures at all.

As noted above, for the limited number of cameras I have tested for in-camera high ISO noise reduction, I have found that I am happier with the results I can achieve with post-processing noise reduction. For example, Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw now provide excellent noise reduction, which I have generally found to be better than the in-camera noise reduction that is available.

So, while I do recommend making use of long exposure noise reduction in the camera, I generally don’t recommend using in-camera high ISO noise reduction. Note that even when you have applied long exposure noise reduction in the camera you will likely want to apply additional noise reduction when processing your photos after the capture.

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