May 10, 2015

Improved Resizing in the new Photoshop CC

It wasn’t too long ago we used to rely on third-party software programs for really detailed enlargements of our images. Sure, there were ways to do this with just about any version of Photoshop, but sometimes the results were sometimes just so-so or involved too many steps.

For years the standard go-to program was Genuine Fractals from onOne Software, which these days is called Perfect Resize 9.5. That’s still a great program, but with the newest version of Adobe Photoshop CC, our needs to strictly use that program has changed.

These days most cameras have plenty of Megapixels, usually somewhere in the 20 Megapixel range, which means you can crop away parts of your images and still have plenty of detail. But sometimes you’ll want to enlarge just a specific area and still keep all the details.  Maybe you’re creating a composite or something and you want to blow it up 200 or 300% or larger?  Another reason might be to enlarge a photo taken with your smart phone or a lower resolution camera.  Whatever the reason, Photoshop CC can help you out. 

This image here was taken with a Canon G15  a 12 MP camera. Times like these are when we usually went to third party software to do this quickly and easily. These days I’m happy with my results right in Photoshop CC.   

Photoshop has had two options for enlarging images in the past, Preserve Details and Bicubic Smoother, but they really didn’t stand up most of the time when you needed to really enlarge your image. These options are still there, but they’ve been totally revamped in Photoshop CC and do an excellent job.  I know a lot of our Photoshop friends these days are really into composites and with the newly improved algorithms inside Photoshop CC, which were designed for optimizing clarity and detail, I think you’ll be surprised. 

The image of Bob the Duck was only shot at ƒ/4.0 and really wasn’t tack sharp to begin with, but it was blown up 500% from the original. What do you think?  You really should try this out for yourself, I think you’ll be impressed.

As always, remember to keep shooting and have some fun.

April 6, 2015

The All New Lightroom Show

These days just about anyone that is into photography, as a hobbist or as a professional, is familiar with the Kelby Media Group. For years they have been a leader in the photographic industry and I’ve written about them several times here on my blog.  Needless to say I’m a huge fan of their work. I’ve been a member of Kelby One and NAPP  for many years and have attended several training seminars and Photoshop World conferences.

In 1988 two brothers (Thomas and John Knoll) created a program called Photoshop to edit digital images and graphics. Needless to say, it was an instant hit.  It wasn’t too long before Photoshop started becoming a household word and people wanted to learn more. That’s when a man named Scott Kelby, started holding training seminars and classes all around the country and NAPP was founded.  NAPP  (the National Association of Photoshop Professionals)  started publishing Photoshop User Magazine and did a weekly webcast called Photoshop User TV.  Believe it or not, that actually started as a Photoshop User Radio, with no video!

Due to the increasing popularity, it was pretty clear that people wanted more and the Photoshop World Conference was started. This was (and still is) one of the biggest and the best events of its kind where people from all around the world could get together for a so called “three day love-fest” to learn from some of the best people and instructors in the industry.  At Photoshop World  you could learn anything from Photography to Lightroom, learn how to use speedlights and studio lighting, learn the in’s and out’s of social media, how to edit digital video, and how to harness the power of Adobes Creative Cloud. It offers something for everyone from the home hobbyist to people making a living in the industry. 

These days, NAPP has morphed into Kelby Media, the one place where creative people can learn how to take their passion, their creativity, and their craft to the next level all using the style of learning that suits them best. If you like reading a book or watching a video, this is the place.  You can even sign up for membership with Kelby Media where you will not only get an annual subscription to Photoshop User Magazine but you also can watch thousands of hours online training classes by some of the best people in the industry any time you’d like. Kelby Media TV also produces some of the best (I consider the best) free weekly webcasts like: Photoshop Tips and Tricks, The Grid, Photoshop User TV, and the all new (long over-due) show, The Lightroom Show

This show, like all the other programs they offer, is filled with all sorts of tips and tricks designed to help you get the most out of the program. It’s a great way for anyone just getting into Lightroom  (or even for some of us who’ve been using it for a while) to help you really learn and better use and understand the program.
Lightroom is now on version 5 and I’ve often wondered why they waited so long to add this one to their line-up?  The first episode started Feb. 13th and a new episode will be released every Friday.  Like all of the Kelby Media webcasts, it’s free and you can watch them anytime, on any device. You can even download episodes and watch them on your own schedule. They’re a great way to take your skills up a few notches. If you’re into Lightroom you owe it to yourself to check it out here (The Lightroom Show)  Be sure to check out their other webcasts too!  If you’re like me, you’re going enjoy them also.

March 10, 2015

Selecting the Correct AF Point for Sharper Focus

Has this ever happened to you?  You go off with the family for a nice day at the park.  It’s a great day, beautiful weather and everyone’s having a good time. The kids are playing on the swings and climbing the monkey bars and you top it all off with a nice little picnic lunch. All this while you’re snapping photos left and right, hoping to get some great family shots of the day.  When you finally get home, you download your photos onto your PC only to find out that a lot of your great family shots are not even in focus?  What’s with that?

Trust me, 90’% of the time it’s not the cameras fault, it’s because the camera has locked focus on the wrong focus point. By learning to set your correct focal point and focus mode, you can avoid that from happening to you in the future. 

The problem is these days’ modern cameras can really make life too easy for you. What I mean is that the camera will set the focus point, exposure and white balance all automatically for you, almost guaranteeing a great shot every time, just by pushing the shutter button. Notice I said almost.  By learning how to change and control focus points and focus modes, you can learn how to take better control of your shots and get better photos. 

Cameras these days are actually little high-tech computers and all of them are capable of taking really awesome photos, assuming the user knows what they’re doing. That’s kind of mean, but seriously, kind of true also. I’ll bet your own camera can do plenty of things you aren’t even aware of. By learning to control little things like focus modes and setting focus points, you can concentrate on taking better images consistently.

For myself, when I’m out 
Focus Point - Joystick
shooting I want to make sure that what I want to be in focus, is always in focus when I push the shutter button. Personally, I set up my camera to use the center focal point 99% of the time. I just position my center point on whatever I want to be in focus, recompose, and fire off my shot. Pretty simple right?  You probably already know how to change your focal point and if you don’t, check out your owner’s manual.  It’s usually pretty simple and you should know how to do this quickly on the fly.
I’m a Canon shooter and the mode names might be different for various brands, but they are basically the same three:  One Shot AF, Al Servo AF or Al Focus AF.
One Shot AF is the mode I use 90% of the time. This mode is best for still subjects. When you press the shutter halfway the camera will focus once. Usually you’ll get a beep and a confirmation light in your viewfinder. While holding it down halfway the focus is locked, you can then recompose or reframe the subject and fire off a shot. If you want to focus on something else, release the button and lock it on something else. Most good DSLR’s also have a AF-ON button which will also lock focus. 

Al Servo AF is best used for moving subjects or where the focusing distance keeps changing. For example, when someone is running towards you and you want them to remain in focus. While holding the shutter button down halfway on your subject, the subject will be focused continuously. Keep in mind, most cameras will not beep even when focus is achieved and the focus confirmation light does not show up. This is also different for various brands, check your manual. 

Al Focus AF in theory is a good idea, but it’s been very hit or miss for me. It has got better over the years, but isn’t reliable enough for my liking. It's been my experience that AI Focus isn't as intelligent as Canon would like you to think.  What it’s supposed to do is to lock focus on my subject and if it starts moving, track my subject. Unfortunately, sometimes it will keep searching for a subject and in the meantime you could miss the shot? The way I figure it, if I need AI Servo, then I'll use AI Servo, otherwise, I'll use One Shot focus mode right?

For myself I usually stay in One-Shot AF unless I know I want to track subjects like at a sporting event or something, and then I’ll switch to Al-Servo AF.  My suggestion would be to train yourself in using your center focal point and see how your images improve.

For those of you that would like to know more, or get another explanation of these modes, check out Neil van Niekerks blog.  Neil is an awesome teacher and a great photographer and share's his knowledge on his Tangents Website. He wrote an article on Focusing Modes that I think you might enjoy. I hope this helps you out in your next shoot. As always, remember, keep shooting and have some fun!
© D. Gould Photography