“Sunlight through the Sugar Maples” captured during the 2012 Autumn Alumni Workshop
Welcome to my “Tech Talk” page. E-mail me (email@example.com) with questions or scroll down to read postings on photography technique. Free downloads of my Photo Workshop tutorials are posted after each article. I start with basics on setting up the camera for creative shooting, segue into color management and Photoshop practices and move on to fine art printing. Pretty much soup to nuts. In between, I’ll squeeze whatever other “pertinent” info I think might be helpful to share.
Always start with a Formated Memory Card. Formatting clears the memory card not only of all the photos, but also any metadata left behind from the last bunch of photos you had on the card. (Format is found on the camera’s Menu list)
Set ISO to the lowest setting you can get away with. Best image quality and the least digital noise will be at 100 as opposed to 800. A higher ISO will give you a faster shutter speed for hand held shots!
Set Camera to Aperture Priority. Yes, I know this is an auto exposure setting and you’re a pro, but using these settings will get you close to the perfect exposure instantly. You select the F-Stop and the camera sets the shutter speed. I use Aperture Priority almost exclusively because controlling depth of field gives lots of creative control. If I need to stop action, (wildlife, sports etc.) or when I’m off the tripod, I’ll goose up the ISO for a faster shutter speed.
Select Picture Style and White Balance. The cameras processor decides how your JPG image will look. Each preset in the camera menus Picture Style renders the file Natural, Faithful, Vivid, Portrait, B&W, etc. Custom options allow you to set up the Contrast, Saturation, Sharpness and Color Balance to your own liking. Choose the one you like best.
Check exposure with Histogram. This is the best thing since peanut butter! Once you learn to use the Histogram feature you’ll have great exposures all the time. Over or under exposure “clips” information, leaving shadow areas solid black and highlights without any detail. That’s a BIG no-no! A shortcoming of digital cameras is the limited dynamic range. In contrasty light, often one end or the other gets clipped. Rule of thumb… Expose for the highlights. Most DSLR’s have a “Highlight Warning” setting that blinks on the image where there’s a “blow-out”. Keep an eye out for that where there’s important info being lost.
Adjust exposure with Exposure Compensation Control. Once you have a look at the Histogram and info is “clipped”, lighten or darken the image by adding or subtracting exposure. If the image is too dark, + exposure. Too light, – exposure. The beauty of Aperture Priority is that once you select the proper Exposure Compensation, you can change to any F-stop and maintain the same exposure. It’s fast, it’s easy, Ya gotta love it!
Here’s the BIGGY!! Always save as raw files!!! Set Quality to RAW or RAW + JPG for any photo you care about. JPG’s compress files, throwing out most of the info the camera records. JPG’s rely on the Camera’s computer to choose color, contrast, white balance, sharpening and other important image properties. Raw files give you millions more colors and a file that will not degrade when adjusted in Photoshop, not to mention putting you in creative control of the photo. If you want the best quality image your camera is capable of… ya gotta do raw!
Color management is the key to controlling what the image you share with the world looks like. If you’ve been to a department store and seen a bank of TV’s on sale, then you know that every screen looks different. Getting on board with color management ensures that what you look at on your monitor is what everyone else in the photo community is looking at. Most importantly, it’s the only way to see the info in your files accurately! Here are my four easy steps to color management and making the print match the monitor:
Set up your Monitor in a dimly lit area where light levels stay constant. Ambient light will effect the color you see, so stay close to 6500k.
Use Adobe Gamma Calibrator or Apple’s Display Calibrator Assistant to calibrate your monitor by eye. You can profile a pretty good screen (with practice and some talent), but it is no replacement for hardware calibration — a puck that reads the screen — Look for X-Rites inexpensive “ColorMunki Smile”. Start with your native monitor profile (that’s the profile that comes with the monitor and is selected in the display preferences dialog box), then calibrate from there to D65/6500K and 2.2 gamma. Recalibrate when the rooms light conditions change.
Setup Photoshop Color Management System. Open Photoshop and go to Edit> Color Settings and set to “US Prepress 2 Defaults”. This setting fully enables Photoshop’s CMS (Color Management System) and quickly gets everyone on the same page. Your working RGB color space is now Adobe RGB 1998 and you will be prompted whenever you open an image file that is not. Make sure to embed the Adobe RGB 1998 profile when you save the image file as a TIFF. (JPG’s compress files and toss out info)
Setup Print Utility. Open Print Utility: Photoshop> File> Print. “Photoshop Manages Colors” not “Printer”. It is extremely important to select the correct print profile from the drop down list! Find the profile for your model printer and the media type. Example: for an Epson 2200 printer using luster paper choose SP2200 Prem.Luster 1440.icc.
Remember: Use the specific Print Profile for the specific printer/paper/ink being printed. Each printer profile only works for ONE specific printer model, specific ink set, and specific paper combination! If you’re using an Epson 2200 printer, with Ultrachrome ink, and Ilford paper then you’ll need a print profile for that combo.
Photoshop Ten Step Workflow
1. Review images with a browser (Bridge, Lightroom, etc.).
2. Convert Raw File. Open Raw file with Raw Converter and set Workflow Options –Depth: 16 Bits/Channel (this opens a file with trillions of colors), Size: Choose largest file size, Space: Adobe RGB (1998) – use for color printing and as default color space. sRGB – use for small web JPG files – has fewer colors. Prophoto – largest color space, but outside monitor capability. Adjust image to preference using sliders – keep histogram “unclipped”. Sharpen to compensate for the slight blurring effect of the low pass filter found in front of most camera’s imaging sensors. Apply sharpening while viewing image at 100% magnification. Hold the alt/option tab while using the sliders to best see the effect. (Use a Radius of .6 and Sharpening Amount of 40 for most images. Apply Detail and Mask to taste)
3. Open in Photoshop. In the Window dropdown menu, check the Tools, Options and History to show on desktop workspace. Crop and or rotate image if needed. Use the Ruler Tool to straighten horizon lines and use the Crop tool to remove extraneous detail and perspective distortion.
4. Adjust the picture’s tone. Make both overall image adjustments to a photo’s brightness and contrast using Curves (command M). Use the Lasso Tool to select specific areas that need additional lightening or darkening (Use command H to hide the “marching ants” and use command D to deselect the lasso selection). The Shadow/Highlight adjustment is used to open up dark areas and adding detail to washed out areas.
5. Adjust the picture’s color. Overall corrections are best handled using Curves, with adjustments made to individual color channels as needed to remove or modify a colorcast. Make image color adjustments using Hue/Saturation (command U) to individual color channels in the Master drop down menu. The Photo Filter adjustment can also help to remove or create color casts.
6. Reduce digital camera noise. If you shoot at your camera’s higher ISO settings, you may notice noise patterns appearing in the photo’s shadow areas. Use the Magic Wand Tool to select the affected areas and correct using the Reduce Noise Filter. Apply while viewing Actual Pixels.
7. “Save As” TIFF File. Always save the master file just created as a TIFF File. Give the file a name and place it in a folder you create for all your finished images. (The original Raw file will remain for future use.) JPEG files compress data and throw away information.
8. Set Image Size. By checking Resample Image, you can create a larger or smaller image to print from your master file. For print making, 360 pixels per inch is the maximum resolution that can be reproduced, however you will see satisfactory results with lower resolutions for larger print sizes.
9. Sharpen for Printing. Apply the Unsharp Mask Filter before sending the file to print to compensate for detail that can be lost in the output process. Adjust sharpening while viewing at actual print size. Rule of thumb – small files require smaller amounts of sharpening. Never sharpen more than twice.
Follow color management practices to ensure accuracy from monitor to print. It only takes the few adjustment tools and filters laid out in these 10 steps to produce beautiful prints and ensure a smooth, consistent workflow for every photograph you process. Each time you work with Photoshop, take time to explore the many tools available. By adding to this starting point, little by little you will master the print making process. Enjoy and have fun!