November 22, 2012

the reality of Photoshop

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

I cannot tell a lie. Especially on a day like today. If I don't behave myself I just might end up with the "Pope's nose", a.k.a. the "piece that went over the fence last"...

My confession? Sorry folks, I "Photoshopped" in that big yellow sun in the photo above.     (Happy Thanksgiving to everybody, by the way)

In my defense--the sun was actually there, but I just couldn't move into position to capture both the real sun and the Turkey Vulture. But yes, that is a real bird, and what it is doing is drying it's wings in the morning sun.

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

Very rarely do I employ such trickery. And I'm betting that many people have the wrong impression of what Photoshop is actually for. Image editing programs such as Photoshop and Lightroom are primarily designed to get the best qualities out of an image and fix a few mistakes--not trickery.

In the process of Photoshopping, a myriad of defects can be treated and corrected. If most of your images come out of the camera absolutely perfect, than you are a much better photographer than me. Once in a blue-moon I am able to make an image that doesn't require at least some sort of corrective treatment.

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

The church (above) is St. Mary's in the tiny West Marin County farming town of Nicasio, California. If interested I'll explain the technical details next.

Camera: Canon 5D Mark2 with the second generation (II) 70-200mm f-2.8 I.S. "L" zoom lens at 142mm, set at f-8 with Aperture Priority and no + or - Exposure Compensation. With my ISO set at a low 100 to keep "noise" at a low level, the camera automatically set shutter speed to 1/1600 of a second.

I was shooting in the highest quality format available; RAW, which has a much deeper bit-depth than the common JPEG format. (RAW can handle underexposure beautifully, but overexposure is always difficult to correct.)

So, after opening the image in the RAW Converter "CameraRAW" the first thing I checked was not the image itself, but the image's "Histogram" which is a graphical representation of all the brightnesses in the image. I first checked to see where my high values maxed out on the Histogram, and since this image was slightly underexposed I needed to stretch the whites up to a higher value on the Histogram. Similarly, I then checked my dark values and saw that I had enough solid blacks on the low end so no stretching of my blacks was required. The main idea here is to get a full range of tones, although the final image was intended to contain no pure white.

Next came my "Curve Adjustments". I noticed that the dark values were obscuring some detail, so I manually tugged on the low values of the "Curve" to bring the "low tones" up just a bit, while being careful not to disturb the "blacks" themselves.

Next I checked the Color Temperature, and although I often will warm up my images just slightly, I left this image as it was. Then I checked if any specific color needed just a little boost, or reduction of its Saturation. This image, being fairly monochromatic required none, and just to make the image even more monochromatic I reduced the Vibrance quite a bit. Often, when I make an exposure in the shade, and especially when I underexpose on purpose, I'll need to remove blue.

I noticed quite a bit of Vignetting in the corners of this image, but decided not to make any corrections. In this case I thought the Vignetting worked.

Okay, so after making these corrections in the CameraRAW converter it was time to actually open the image in Photoshop.

First, I re-checked the Histogram to see how the tones were falling on the scale. I think I remember deciding to lighten up the whites just slightly.

Next I checked to see if the image was straight, and seeing that the steeple and cross were slightly skewed I made corrections by pulling on corners of the image. On this image I did not do any cropping, taking advantage of every bit of quality available on a "full-frame" 24x36mm digital sensor.

Nearing the end here, I checked the image carefully for signs of dust and dirt on my sensor, and yes I found a few spots that I was easily able to remove with Photoshop's "Spot Healing Brush".

Finally, I had to make a decision if the image should be sharpened or not. I left it the way it was because sharpening could have produced a halo artifact between contrasty parts of the image. Also there is NOTHING worse looking than an over-sharpened image. This was sharp to begin with even though I didn't use a tripod or even bother to brace the camera against some available object such as a tree or fence--the high shutter speed of 1/1600 second plus Image Stabilization helped.

So, satisfied with the work I had just done, I saved the image first as a full size 5616x3874 lossless TIFF that I will keep if I want to print this image. Next I made my usual set of JPEGs, sized to 960x640, 640x427, and 500x334. So there you go, folks, that's how I use CameraRAW and Photoshop. All of that took no longer than 10 or 15 minutes to complete.

It's a "piece of cake"... Hope you like this church. I'm not a terribly religious person, but I respect ALL religions. I am also an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church if anyone needs to get married or blessed. Seriously!

CLICK for new slideshow on my "BIG" photo website.


Anonymous said...

Nothing wrong with repositioning that sun. We're NOT photojournalists!!

LOOOOVE the show of St. Mary's church. Such subtle beautiful hues. Great composition too. And oh so holy.

One additional thing that you might explain to folks is "lossless TIFF"

Anonymous said...

Oh ... forgot to sign my name ....


AphotoAday said...

Thanks JB (Jan Bell) for the compliments.
And if anyone is curious who Jan Bell is, he has sort of been like my mentor the past 5 or 6 years in terms of my photographic education. Jan is a Photoshop whizz and has taught me a lot about the craft. Visits here in the west as often as his wife lets him off his leash. Anyway, if you want to see Jan's work, you can visit his website at I've been helping him over the years with that website in terms of coding and geeky HTML/CSS stuff. He'll be adding more new images after the first of the year so check his site then also.

Civic Center said...

Cheater (just kidding). Photoshop is a miracle tool, but as you know, it needs to be used with respect or you can get filtered crapola fast.

And happy thanksgiving, dude.

Anonymous said...

It's a digital darkroom as I see it:)


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