Doug Stockdale's Singular Images

October 25, 2017

Solving Crunchy photographs – part 2

Filed under: Middle Ground, Photography — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 12:33 am

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San Diego, January 2017 (Middle Ground) copyright 2017 Douglas Stockdale

Back in early August, I was lamenting over some “crunchy” looking photographs and what I thought was the resolution to my problems. Now I am pretty sure I was not quite right, but nevertheless close since in fact I was very much over-sharpening my JPEG capture images. So here is how I came to find out out what the real problem was.

While comparing some prints recently with some other photographers, I noted that some of the prints were looking a lot sharper in detail for one photographer than I recalled seeing in the past. Especially when I had some images that were a bit mushy and my sharpening process was not doing the trick. We then proceeded to get into a long discussion about the merits of sharpening with a high-pass filter versus using the more traditional unsharp mask to sharpen (the latter my defacto image sharpening method). So while subsequently investigating the high-pass filter, found out that this is highly recommended for out-put sharpening. Neat, something to experiment with.

But that came with a note that using the unsharp mask was like using a dull edge knife to cut steak. hmmmmm. So I decided to look for recommendations for image capture sharpening to compensate for the slight image degradation by the aliasing filer in front of the camera’s sensor. Like I said, until now, my defacto for many, many years was the unsharp mask as a layer to provide the first sharpening action. So while reading all of this stuff, there was this other note, that for JPEG capture, not only do you lose a lot of image information as compared to raw, JPEG also does an image sharpening process.

What? Had I just overlooked this aspect of JPEG for this many years?? I suspect so, as I now find other references to the fact that shooting in JPEG for image capture will also provide sharper images that already compensates for the aliasing filer. In other words, for a JPEG image, I do not need to start my image processing with adding a layer to sharpen the image and in fact that process will start me down the road to over-sharpen the image towards crunchiness.

So I have gone back to inspect a bunch of recent JPEG capture images to evaluate with and without the initial capture sharpening. It appears that I have been doing myself a little injustice with adding that initial unsharp mask layer for JPEG images. The good news is that by eliminating that duplicate background layer for the unsharp mask will make my images files a lot smaller and image processing a bit faster. Nice!

So a reminder: don’t capture sharpen those JPEG images. For raw capture image, that’s going to be another discussion as I have learned some things here as well.

Note: the image above is from my project Middle Ground and is a JPEG (capture) image that I just processed without resorting to an initial capture sharpening process of an unsharp mask layer. I think it looks pretty good ;- )

Cheers!

 

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August 7, 2017

Solving “Crunchy” photographs

Filed under: Photography, Projects/Series — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 12:18 am

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Seaweed, San Clemente beach, June 2017 copyright Douglas Stockdale

A month ago I was discussing about my on-going summer beach series that I was posting on Instagram and when I was looking at the resulting print from this post, it appeared kind of “crunchy” (below). The foreground where the seaweed was has some odd halos and the I think the image was not smooth and continuous looking, especially as I was printing the image at 11 x 11″ and 15 x 15″.

In thinking about this I realized that on my monitor the photograph looked fine, but when I was saving it to a jpeg, I have a practice of adding one more un-sharpening to account for the softening by the jpeg conversion. Since this is a Samsung image, perhaps the last un-sharpening, which was not an issue for a Canon 5DMk3 image file, could be problematic for the these smaller files?

In returning to the original PS image and then repeating the steps to save the image as a jpeg but this time without sharpening & then subsequently reopening the file; presto! No crunchy image without halos! I had fallen victim to mindless file sharpening. So lessons learned (yes, also a re-do on some similar recent Samsung photo images)

Just to make sure you are not thinking that all of the visual changes between the two images is due to just not sharpening I also made some other image modifications. I decided that the soft blur effect in Snapseed for the photo below was also a bit over the top, as this was when I was still experimenting with this effect and I applying it a bit strong. Nevertheless I liked the softening effect of the pier to keep the viewer interacting with the seaweed and breaking surf. So for the image above, I added a slight Gaussian blur to the top third of the image to soften the pier. Last I reduced the overall contrast of the photograph while still attempting to keep a slight overcast appearance.

Cheers!

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March 25, 2016

Revising Black and White Conversion workflow

Filed under: Lest I Forget, Photography, Projects/Series — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 11:45 pm

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Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, California, 2016 copyright Douglas Stockdale

In my last post discussing my evaluation of a new work flow for Photoshop CC, what was implied, but not really stated was that one of the key CC attributes under evaluation was the conversion of my color digital photographic files to Black and White images.

What had inspired my earlier change from Photoshop CS to CS3 was the addition of the Black and White Adjustment layer. Wow, was this every a great process improvement. Now with Photoshop CC comes the companion Adobe Bridge CC, which is the adobe RAW image processor. Bridge CC has incorporated an additional two color channels to further refine and tweak the color to black and white conversion. I am only amazed that Adobe was smart to include two additional color channels (Orange and Aqua) in Bridge CC, but did not think to add these two additional channels to the Photoshop Black & White Adjustment level. sigh.

Although I enjoy the further fine tuning that can be accomplished with Bridge CC during the RAW conversion, it does mean making a commitment to the Black and White adjustment settings before opening the file in Photoshop. As an adjustment layer in Photoshop it was easy to make some other changes to the image (such as a Curves Layer adjustment change) and then rethink my Black & White settings, followed by opening the Black & White adjustment layer and tweak the settings.

Martin Evening provides two options to make the Black and White conversion in RAW, one results in a Grayscale file (HSL/Grayscale RAW & Hue tab, click Convert to Grayscale, make adjustments and open file) and the other can opens as a RGB file (same HSL/Grayscale RAW panel, but select Saturation tab, move all of the sliders to -100 to entirely desaturate, then open the Luminance tab and make the adjustments to obtain your Black and White conversion, but then you can still return to the main RAW panel and make further adjustments with the Vibrance and Saturation sliders).

I tried both RAW conversion options, but I found that the direct to Grayscale seemed to work the best for me (at this time), which is the revised version of my image, above. For reference my first attempt with the RAW Black & White conversion is provided below, which is a just tad bit darker overall than I envisioned. Even so, it is not too far off the mark.

Now I think I okay to get back to working my new files for the In Passing – Lest I Forget project. Nevertheless, I still have a few new RAW tricks to iron out for the color photographs.

Cheers!

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March 24, 2016

Revising my Photoshop workflow

Filed under: In Passing, Photography, Projects/Series — Tags: , , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 9:42 pm

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Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, California, 2016 copyright Douglas Stockdale

Late last year I moved from Photoshop CS3 to the Adobe Photoshop subscription CC (aka the 2015 version). A bit of new CC changes were in the way the RAW Browes/converter looked and functioned; a few of the controls were not so obvious to obtain the same actions in CC as I had become well accustomed to in CS3 (one of those nagging reasons I usually resist software upgrades).

One of my easy & quick investments to fix this issue was acquiring a copy of Martin Evening’s “Adobe Photoshop CC for Photographers”, espcially since I was relatively happy with Evening’s CS3 version. So first thing I accomplished was how to make my CS3 workflow function with CC. And I was content for a while.

Now I am back into Evening’s book and realizing the greater functionality of the RAW converter to make even more corrections to my image prior to opening it in Photoshop. So even though I am not through reading the RAW section of his book (I am now into the fine tuning options), I wanted to check his recommended RAW workflow that might replace a bunch of what I was correcting/tweaking in Photoshop before.

I have two versions of one of my recent photographs from my In Passing – Lest I Forget project posted here. The version above is with Evening’s CC RAW workflow, and below is a version that I had developed last month with my old CS3 workflow. Even before printing these two versions I could see one big difference in the high contrast with my old CS3 workflow output, which required an adjustment layer to burn-in and try to control some of the highlights (and even then, not entirely successful). The CC image has a lower degree of contrast due to using the RAW contrast slider, which I adjusted the bulk of the data curve back towards center, reducing the overall contrast of the image. While still in RAW I adjusted the highlights and whites to control the very white and almost blown out plastic flowers on the memorial. On the CS3 image, I still have the whites of this same flower right at the edge of being blown out even after burning it in with an adjustment curve layer.

For the CC photograph as a printed image, the results appear quite nice. I like it.

So am I full convert to the new workflow; maybe. I have been making a lot of macro image adjustments with RAW before this while using CS3, so working in the RAW window is not entirely new. Nevertheless, I will work with Evening’s recommendations and after some evaluation, keep those that seem to be making life a little easier.

Now hopefully with these workflow changes I will not decide to go crazy and think that I now need to re-evaluate every RAW image I had every made. (I have done this before when I made the change from CS to CS3!)

Cheers!

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