I did a webinar for the Professional Photographers of California (PPC) last week. The subject was Photoshop including some ideas on creating art. Check out the Photoshop Party where I shared some ideas on Photoshop Selections, Blend Modes, Single image HDR with Aurora HDR 2019, creating cloud brushes and more…
While out to dinner with my wife I was studying, as I always seem to do, the light as it played across the room. I also watch the shadows on faces as people step into different light situations. Ray, the waiter, was standing with the large light source of the front doors shaping his face. I was taken by the way the light split his face. I asked if he would mind stopping for just a moment so I could get a quick capture. He agreed.
While the light and shadow were looking good on him The area in which he was standing left a little something to be desired. In the quest for the best of both worlds I exracted Ray for the scene, he was in and using textures, layers, blend modes and more shadows I created a bit more artistic space for him. As part of this exercise I also placed Ray into a scene I captured near St. Marks Square in Venice, Italy. See the tutorial for more info.
This video was requested by someone who saw the finished product and wanted to know how to accomplish this in post-production.
The image was captured with a Panasonic Lumix LX100 which I call the professional photographer’s point and shoot. Adobe Photoshop was the obvious choice for the completion of the personal project. I am always assigning myself personal projects to experiment, expand my skillset and keep in practice. If you don’t practice your photography and post-production skills on a regular basis, it always seems to be a strain rather than a pleasure to do post-production. Remember that to keep in top form you need to practice regularly, or the rust starts to form quickly. Think about professional golfers coming in from a hard day out on the course and heading straight the putting green or practice range as soon as their round is finished.
Hanging out this morning and thought I’d do some camera testing with my Lumix GX8 and the 100-300mm G Vario f4-5.6 (200-600mm equivalent) lens. I made these images handheld with stabilization turned on. Settings for these were f14 1/2000th sec at ISO 6400. I’ll share some hummingbirds in motion images at different settings a little later. I became enamored of this little critter because he had so much peppy personality. Looks like he just arrived from a long migration. He’s not one of our local birds and seems a little worse for wear.
Hummingbird Straight out of the camera. He’s checking me out.
After seeing me, he stuck out his tongue! Not sure if that was social commentary or not. Here’s the little guy after processing with MacPhun Noiseless and MacPhun Tonality (for sharpening the feathers just a bit more. Explanation below)
So these images turned into a processing exercise. Some photographers mention that they are concerned with noise in images from smaller chip cameras like the micro 4/3rds. Personally, I feel that we get a little too hung up on that as the newer algorithms that are used in processing give a very natural feel to the noise that replicates the grain structure we had back in film days. (can you hear my creaky bones as I talk???)
To see if there was an elegant solution for those who have a concern when you push the camera to higher ISO’s thought I’d see how software might be of help. Oh man, it does if you are on a MAC. I’m using MacPhun Noiseless, and it worked a charm. MacPhun is only for MAC OS systems. I’m sure there are similar products for those on PCs. One of the problems I had in the past with noise reduction programs is the removal of detail that I wanted/needed in some parts of the image. I’ll let you decide, but I don’t think that’s a problem anymore!
On to the processing!
Original detail capture SOOC.
Here’s the image after running MacPhun’s Noiseless software. There are lots of settings and possibilities. This was a fairly aggressive treatment. It smoothed out the noise in the background nicely without losing detail in the feathers.
This is the final. I used the Tonality software from MacPhun to sharpen the feathers a bit more. “Wait a minute Bob! isn’t tonality made for making an image black and white?” You bet. But, I liked the controls that allowed me to sharpen small details and micro control the contrast in different areas of the image. The secret is to do this on a separate layer and change the Layer Mode to Luminosity in Photoshop. Then only the information that is Luminous is applied to the image. Using a Layer Mask, I applied the sharpening to only the feathers.
Here is the Tonality layer without a mask. You can see where it sharpened the background as well hence the use of the Mask in Photoshop in addition to changing to the Luminosity Mode.
Here’s the Layers Palette. Background Layer is original capture. Layer 1 is with noise removal. Top Layer is Tonality with a mask.
I had an assignment from a game of Survivor we are playing in the Arcanum (a place of growing your photography skills at your own pace with a group of like minded folks. Click the link for a peek under the Arcanum’s hood)
The assignment was to shoot a self portrait to help share a bit of who you are. So I decided to make it a learning experience. Here’s the thought process I went though.
First I wanted to give people an idea of how busy it can be in my head. So the title became ‘Under the Hood’.
Let’s see what’s under the hood in Bob’s Brain…
Set up the photo
Start with a solid head and shoulders studio self portrait. Main light forward and bounced off the wall to get a large source with medium contrast. Two strip light soft boxes with egg-crate grids attached were set to camera left and right slightly behind pointing to skim and add separation and spice to the look. Lumix GH4 camera with the 42.5mm 1.2 Nocticron lens mounted on a tripod with the Wifi activated allowing camera control from my IPhone. I use Paul C Buff lights and modifiers because of the good value, selection and great service when needed.
On to the Photo Art
Original concept was to have a zipper peeling back from my forehead to allow the reveal. After some experimentation that didn’t feel like it was going in the direction I wanted. Next thought was to cut off the top of the head and tilt it back but that made it difficult to show what was coming out of the head. Finally, on the third try I took the top of the head and tilted it to the left and got the base image for which I was looking.
Adding Photo Elements to Tell the Story
Then the search was on to search for and create elements that were to tell the story. Inverse square law. Brain. Smoke brushes. Neon signage. “Wait I’ve got an idea, a light bulb went on in my head.” Textures for blending element together. All images were layered in Adobe Photoshop using various blend modes. You can see the Layers and their Masks used to put this together. Got a question? Give me a shout…
Photoshop Layer stack showing Layers and masks…
Hope this inspires you to take a project and push yourself to a new limit.
The photography world is changing around you as I write this post! At least it feels that way as new cameras and features are introduced in short order. I’ve never been on the front edge of technology before and it’s fun trying to figure uses for features as they come out. A lot of the new capabilities is driven by possibilities not available before 4K mirrorless cameras came on the scene.
This is a very interesting new feature called Post Focus.
This is for stable non-moving subjects where you might not be sure of the focus point you want and would like to have options to choose later for a totally different look and feel to a subject of a scene.
Here’s how it works. The camera makes a quick video of a scene while moving the focus point throughout the frame. Because the camera is automatically set for Photo Mode each still frame can be extracted from the video as an eight MP file. At the end of processing after a few seconds you can see the individual frames on the back of the camera and choose any that you would like to save out as individual jpeg photos.
Want to be able to choose later? Not a problem. Download the video file and take it in an editing program like Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro, or Lightroom. There you can step through each frame and choose at your leisure on a large screen and save out your file.
I decided to see if I could use the system to help with the capture of Macro images and the process of focus stacking to get deep detail in an image.
And guess what ?? It works!
I Imported the MP4 file into Adobe Premiere and used the right arrow to move through each individual frame. Selected the ones I wanted to work with and pushed the save as an image (camera icon) and saved the images out as a TIFF. Then it’s off to Adobe Bridge.
Screen capture of Bridge selections with all 28 files selected with the still captures pulled from the video.
With files selected the next move is Tools > Photoshop > Load Images into Layers
Layers Palette with all layers selected in preparation for Photoshop magic.
Once all layers are selected they need to be put in registration because a change in focus changes the size of the image. Menu Edit > Auto-Align Layers.
Once layers are aligned Menu Edit > Auto-Blend Layers with the Stack Images and Seemless Tones and Colors checked. Depending on the number and size of your files the the RAM horsepower of your computer this could take a little while but it’s doing all the work you see below masking in all the sharp portions of the images.
Palette window with proper selections for picking and masking in all the sharp bits it can find in the images. Making all of these masks would be super time intensive. Sometimes the individual masks may need a little tweaking if you didn’t get enough detail or colors and tones are very close.
Grasshopper with detail and depth of field exactly where I want it.
The image was captured with the Lumix GX8 and the 45mm f2.8 Macro lens set at f9 in Post Focus Mode. “Why f9 and not f22 and be done with it Bob?” When photographing close-up Macro subjects the DOF is very shallow even at f22. In addition as the aperture gets smaller diffraction is introduced starting to blur details. (learn more about diffraction and check out your camera lens combo to find the sweet spot here)
Yours in Creative Photography, Bob
PS – No grasshoppers were harmed in the making of this tutorial. The grasshopper was already mummified when I found it on my porch.
Occasionally I'll send out a digest version of the blog posts on Successful-Photographer. I'm not a fan of Spam and I'm sure you are not. Your Email address is safe with me. Bob
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