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Manufacturing Controversies in Pom-PomLand

August 21st, 2013 No Comments

Well, whaddaya know but a few persons Down Under have managed to cause a Photography Controversy in Pom-PomLand!

We almost always post a ‘Controversy of the Week’ on our professional and trade sister site but this is a light-hearted, mmph! type of controversy that is, perhaps, better suited to our retail site.

Surely it is common knowledge that animals too have, er, ‘private parts.’  Tourism Australia – not very smartly, it must be said – posted a picture on its Facebook page of a kangaroo in a reclining posture with his private parts pixelated.  The smart thing to do would have been to use another picture altogether but someone at Tourism Australia is evidently enamoured of the look pioneered and popularized by American news channels.

Next thing we know, this misjudgement blows up into a controversy – and who blew it up and where?  Why, those chaps Australia is playing the Ashes against in Pom-PomLand!

Daily Mail cried, “Australian Tourism staff cause outrage after posting censored picture of kangaroo.”  The Mirror cried, “Kangaroo Facebook picture sparks censorship outrage after Tourism Australia pixelates out animal’s genitals.”  Yahoo News UK cried, “Australia tourism bosses cause outrage by censoring ‘full frontal’ kangaroo Facebook pic.”  (Emphases added.)  

‘Outrage’?  ‘Censored’?  Note that all three media sources use these words.  Shouldn’t responsible media be talking about ‘outrage’ at ‘censorship’ of free speech in almost every country of the world, as speech limitations accrete and accrete and free speech rights erode and erode?

There was and is nothing controversial about the photo, there’s no ‘censorship’ and no ‘outrage’ – Pom-PomLand’s media have misrepresented jokey and mischievous comments, plus some put-downs, on the Facebook page as ‘outrage’ and pixelation as ‘censorship.’  This is actually an interesting example of how a perfectly non-controversial but ill-judged image can be blown up into a controversy by those who want it to become one – this is a manufactured, fabricated, controversy.

A good theory is that they’re just wanting to rub Aussie noses in it after the ongoing debacle in the Ashes.  It’s a hundred-to-one they wouldn’t be acting this way if Lillee and Thommo had still been around . . . they’d have had other things on their collective mind.

 

Post-Processing Filters can turn you into a Pissaro, Monet, or Van Gogh!

January 24th, 2013 No Comments

The very word ‘filter’ has come to connote something totally different from what it used to – pieces of tinted gelatin or glass from Hoya, Tiffen, and such.  How ‘totally different’ is brought to the fore in An Artistic Approach to Post-Production in Photography Using Filter Effects by Celso Bressan who turns his photographs into impressionistic paintings by applying post-processing filters!

Granted, it is perhaps a misnomer to use the word ‘filter’ for some of the effects available through the likes of Nik Software and Filter Forge, which Bressan mentions, but that’s progress (or redefining terminology, take your pick).

Bressan does not provide a mechanical how-to; rather, he explains his approach and outlook starting with “selecting photographs for work.”  “some pictures were just ‘made’ for the job” i.e. filter-based post-processing into “something that resembles a piece of art.”

That said, he offers two unequivocal technical pointers to get you off the ground: use low-res images and don’t discount noise.  Another one is to split photographs into two to four parts when applying processor-intensive filters because “some effects take hours [to process].”

That Bressan is very adept at his very unusual field of photography-art is obvious from his mini-gallery.  If you had not known about Bressan’s niche, wouldn’t this image have left you asking “Is that a painting or it is a photograph?”  And talk of paintings . . .

Here is something distinctly Monet’ish.  

Consider the subject, composition, and (very importantly) palette here.  Anyone else reminded of Vincent?

Isn’t something besides the name and the subject of this ‘photograph’ and this painting by Pissaro very similar?  How about the impressionistic style?

I hear you: “Just how did he make them?”  Well, even Bressan doesn’t know: “Some effects are so complex and random that, if needed to go back and do it again, more often than not it would be quite difficult or even impossible to obtain the same result again unless careful notes are being taken about every single step used.”

No problem – the photo-artist has given you a clue or two.  It’s up to you, shutterbug, to make a Picasso now.

One Little Filter, So Many Applications . . .

January 22nd, 2013 No Comments

You know just what Lightroom’s graduated filter tool does but where and when do you put it to best effect, i.e. how do you recognize a situation that would benefit by one or another application of a post-processing graduated filter?

In 4 Uses for Lightroom’s Graduated Filter Tool, Jason Weddington shows four kinds of situations where use of Lightroom’s graduated filter can create a more compelling image, and not all of these uses may be intuitive and obvious.

For instance, a grad filter doesn’t have to be a grad filter: tip 3 explains that, though you apply the effect across a part of the image, you can use it to adjust white balance thus, in effect, strengthening a hue or shifting a tint.  The ‘after’ shot is a vast improvement on the ‘before’: the blades of grass and flare (both lens and iris in a single image) fairly pop.

Tip 2 offers something very different.  Weddington doesn’t use that (now old-fashioned) word ‘polarizer’.  However, polarizers used to be used to (among other things) ‘cut through the haze’ and that’s just what is explained in ‘Reducing Atmospheric Haze’, with the example photo demonstrating a dramatic improvement in clarity on the horizon.

Tips 1 and 4 are two sides of the same coin; as Weddington says, “This technique builds on #1 above, because we are actually manipulating exposure.”  Though the same technique is applied, it is applied for extremely different purposes: in the first case to correct a perceived defect by smoothing out tonal range; in the second, to strengthen or highlight a particular area of a photograph to deliberately draw the eye into that area.

That is where “recogniz[ing] a situation that would benefit by one or another application of a post-processing graduated filter” comes into play: though there’s one filter there are many applications; you have to recognize the picture and the situation to exploit.  If you have a relatively low-contrast seascape with a washed-out sky, would decreasing exposure of the sky by a stop help?

For a more aggressive application of post-processing filters to achieve quasi-painterly images, check out our next post!

 

One Little Post, So Much Stuff!

October 29th, 2012 No Comments

Even as Fuji not only makes a respectable line of digital cameras but even stamps its own distinct brand identity on them and goes ‘high fashion’, it still supports film! 

In conjunction with two other entities, Fuji has announced a photo contest for students.  Only photographs that have been taken using film may be entered.  Though this contest is open only to photography students in the U.K., it is newsworthy worldwide because of the ‘film’ part.  Film is not dead!

Our HDR post on our sister site got lots of views so here is a collection of beach HDR photographs.  Some are in good taste while others are over the top; some are perfectly realized, others verge on the unnatural.  Enjoy the mini-gallery.

Heard about Hurricane Sandy?  Look at her from space, courtesy of a NASA satellite.  There is sooo much a photographer can learn from this awesome image and it’s so obvious that surely one doesn’t need to belabour the point . . . 

From the space to the earth thence from the earth to the sun:– Here’s a staggering collection of photographs of this year’s solar eclipse.  Among the many wonderful photographs of the eclipse itself is one that works in the eclipse into an image that is a lovely photograph in its own right.

Caution: do not photograph solar eclipses unless you (a) know how to do so safely and (b) know what you’re doing, otherwise you risk permanent blindness.

In closing, the Canon EOS M just launched in the U.S. at a sub-$1000 price and is worth taking a look at.  This APS-C mirrorless has 18 MPs, builtin HDR, Night Scene mode and more sharp features.  

This is one of those cameras that make for a very good starter camera for the beginner yet allow him/her to ‘grow’ as a photographer, not only because of the full complement of appropriate Canon lenses but also because of the advanced features and specs of this EOS.

 

Best Photo Editors for 2012

June 19th, 2012 No Comments

Way back when, there was no such thing as ‘photo editing’.  If you wanted a colour negative printed with particular filtration or wanted to dupe and sepia-tone an old print, you had to head to the photo studio.  Then along came PhotoShop and its competitors, which you had to pay a pretty penny for and keep on your hard-drive.  Now, it’s all ‘out there’ on the Net . . . and it’s free!  True blue photo editors that professionals can use are available online at no charge.  

Here’s a roundup of a few best-in-class entries.

Photoshop Express 

PhotoShop Express is a smooth-as-silk online app.  It may as well be called ‘PhotoShop Lite’ for, in truth, that’s what it is.  You do not get layer-based photo editing though you do get basic photo editing tools such as burning, dodging and red-eye correction.   PhotoShop Express, like most of its online brethren, is geared for novices and beginners.  To this end it offers a large array of predetermined clickable choices respecting contrast, tint, and so forth plus fancy effects for party photos and greeting cards.  Though you cannot fine-tune saturation and colour hues using RGB / CMYK sliders, boy, is it easy to use.

Fotoflexer 

Fotoflexer is a smart and useful entry in the field.  It is an approach-based or needs-centric app. You enter it by choosing what task you want to complete.  Unlike most photo editors Fotoflexer does not lay out all the features straightaway on a plate.  The initial category-by-category interface is a boon for newbies to photo editing who get to understand their options up-front instead of getting overwhelmed with a gazillion tools, preferences, and menu items when they start editing their photo (or ‘canvas’).  That said, the choices are manifold: from plain-jane ‘Shapes’ to a nifty new functionality, ‘Distortion’.  One caveat is that it is comparatively quite slow to load.  Another is that a few bugs need to be squashed.

Pixlr 

The heavy-duty online photo editor of choice is probably Pixlr which provides PhotoShop-like tools.  Use this app to create images from scratch as well as manipulate existing images into a mind-numbing variety of styles and effects.  More relevant, it includes tools for standard photographic techniques, such as dodging and burning, plus manipulation techniques such as solarization, posterization and a brilliant ‘Kaleidoscope’ effect, all of which are applicable to the canvas or to the selected marquee, and are easily mixed and matched.

Pixlr’s professional chops are indicated by the fact that it provides for multiple layers a la PhotoShop and other similar software.  All the familiar tools and editing functions respecting colour curves, contrast, and saturation are available to the hilt.  Indeed, in layout, feature-set, user interface, and overall impression it is clearly targeted to professional photographers and designers on the go.  Its various effects are not discrete but vary over a continuous range (use the slider or key in a number) and the degree of effect is displayed in real-time.  Interestingly, this feature-rich pro-quality online editor is much quicker to load than competing photo editors which are not quite as powerful.

A bonus for Mac Lovers 

In a roundup of photo editing software it would be remiss not to mention an ever-youthful OS X warhorse, for it is (oxymoron alert) a ‘bleeding-edge grandaddy!  Prosaically-named GraphicConverter is sheer poetry to use.  It has been around since the days of pre-OS X coloured iMacs and, after repeated rebirths, is one of the ‘go to’ choices for well over a million users, many of them professionals.  On a platform targeted to multimedia, one which is flooded with PhotoEditors including those from Apple itself, GraphicConverter is a leader.

Technically, GraphicConverter is not free; it costs €35.  Practically, however, it is a free app because much, if not most, of its functionality is available indefinitely in the trial version.  Though it is the champion of file format conversions it is also the ‘sleeper’ among photo editors.  The richness of its toolset and feature-set can scarcely be described here; suffice it to say that everything that has been mentioned above is available plus quite a few pro-level effects and features.  Dither, vectorization, alpha-channelling, assortments of colour permutation and destructive-effect filters Ð it’s all here.  What’s more, most features are customizable and adjustable so the user has both, power and fine control. 

So there you have it: four wonderful photo editors to choose from.  Confused about your choices?  I’ll simplify them for you.  If you’re a novice who wants to doodle and funkify her snapshots, go with PhotoShop Express.  If you’re an intermediate photographer who is not familiar with photo editors but is comfortable with software and wants to take the next step on the photo-and-image-processing ladder, try Fotoflexer.  If you’re a semi-pro or pro designer or photographer who wants a serious app for producing high-quality images and precisely calibrating your photographs, Pixlr is for you.  And if you (like yours truly) love photography, image-processing, and Mac OS X, go grab GraphicConverter!

5 minutes digital makeover (continued 2)

October 26th, 2010 No Comments

Part 3 – Adding the final touches

Already you should be noticing a lot of difference between your original image and your new one, and you may feel it is ready for printing but there are still a couple of final touches we can add to really bring the life out in them. First of all we can adjust the colour balance of the picture, and we can also adjust the brightness and the contrast. First, we will cover the colour balance tool

Colour Balance

These days, your camera is pretty smart, or at least it thinks it is. It tries to pick the best range of colours for you, as does your computer. However, sometimes what the camera and computer think is the best set of colours isn’t quite what you had in mind. Once more, you can let Photoshop do what it thinks is best for your photo, by going to the Image -> Adjustments menu and selecting Auto Color. You can also try fading the effect (Edit -> Fade) to see if it looks better. However, if you want more choice, or want to create a certain effect, then you need to do things manually.

To do this, go once more to the Image -> Adjustments menu, but this time select Color Balance. This menu has three sliders: Cyan/Red, Magenta/Green, and Yellow/Blue. Once more, working in small increments is a good idea. By default, the preview checkbox is ticked, which means your adjustments will show up on your image in real time (or close to it). If you want a quick check of what you’ve done, then deselect this box to turn of the preview and have a look at your original image. Try toning down the green on photos of trees and plants, or moving towards red to adjust flesh tones. You might also need to fix bad lighting from fluorescent or incandescent lighting. Another thing to try is combinations of adjustments, often you may need to fiddle with more than one of the sliders. Once more, remember that undo is your friend.

Brightness and Contrast

Lastly we will adjust the Brightness and Contrast, these should really be the last adjustments needed for your basic digital makeover. The brightness basically refers to the lightness of your photo, and the contrast is the difference between light and dark. When you are adjusting both of these values, you should be careful. In this case, less is definitely more. When you are fiddling with the brightness and contrast, try moving the slider or entering values 1 or 2 points at a time. You shouldn’t need to go to more than -10 or +10 on either value. To adjust the brightness or contrast, go to the Image -> Adjustments menu, and selectBrightness/Contrast.

Adjusting the brightness is a useful technique for fixing washed-out photos. Most of the time this is a problem when you’ve been using the flash, although it can also happen when you’re taking photos out in the bright sun. Try moving the brightness slider to the left, only 1 or 2 units at a time. You should be able to get your photo looking good without going past -10 for the brightness. You can also try adjusting the contrast up or down, but pay attention to what happens to your shadows when you do.

If you don’t want to do this by hand, then you can try Photoshop’s Auto Contrast, from the Image -> Adjustments menu. Remember, if you like the results of the auto adjustment but want a bit less, try Edit -> Fade, and fiddle with the opacity value.

After just a small bit of adjustment you should be able to see the amount of difference it has made to your images. The focal points of the picture should be more clear, and the colours should now be looking their best which is the most important thing when sending them to get printed on canvas. You are now ready to save them in a “lossy” format, such as JPEG, or GIF and send them on their way to us

5 minute digital makeover (continued)

October 25th, 2010 No Comments

Part 2 – correcting some basic problems with your images

In our last article we showed you how to set up your images to get them ready for editing. We are now going to cover some techniques to get the best out of your pictures.

Sometimes when we take a photo, we have the camera at a bit of an angle, or we might have it on its side to get a more vertical shot. If we had to keep twisting our head to look at it straight then we’d end up in hospital, so the next step is to straighten up our photo. The way to do this is to go to the Image menu and select Rotate Canvas. From here you have a number of choices. If you’re simply trying to put a vertical photo the right way up, choose one of the 90° options. If you’ve only got a bit of a tilt, then you will have to choose the Arbitrary option. In this menu you can choose any number of degrees, the best idea is to start of small and undo after each attempt until you get it right.

Once you’ve fixed the orientation of your photo, you can try the other tools in any order. The tools you use will depend on the quality of the photo you are working on. Most people will also quickly find a preferred way of working through the steps.

Cropping:

You’ve just taken a great photo of your kid riding down the street. Absolutely beautiful shot. When you get it off your camera and look at it on your computer, you see your neighbour in the side of the shot, wearing nothing but a pair of dirty old shorts. This may seem like a disaster, but there is a simple solution. Cropping is the act of selecting which parts of an image you want to keep, and getting rid of the rest. To crop an image, simply select the part that you want to keep, then go to Image -> Crop. If you don’t like the look of the new image, then just undo it. You might want to crop an image for a number of reasons. Firstly, you may have accidentally got something in shot that you didn’t want, such as your neighbour, or just too much background. You might also want to crop an image to add interest, or to focus on a particular bit of the scene. There are a few rules for composition of images that work well, and if you haven’t quite got it right in the original photo, then you can fix it by careful cropping.

  • Off-centre is interesting: It is better for the focus of the photo to be a bit off-centre that right in the middle of the shot. Generally, you want the focus to be a bit off to one corner.
  • Moving targets need somewhere to go: If you’ve taken an action shot, whether it be a dog running along the beach or your kid riding her bike, there should be more room in front of the moving object than behind. Just remember to leave them somewhere to go.
  • Horizons: The horizon shouldn’t be in the middle of the frame, try to get it about one third of the way from the top or bottom.

Your image should be looking much neater and more focused after just these simple steps. In our final article we will show you how to add the final touches to your images to really make them look their best.

5 minute digital makeover – don’t let your photos out without it!

October 24th, 2010 No Comments

Part 1 – Getting started

Digital cameras are a marvelous invention, and something that is increasingly common. However, using them to take great photographs is a much more challenging proposition (see this article). If you are going to spend money on getting them printed on canvas you want to make sure that your pictures are perfect – including things like great colour and a strong central focus. In this three-part series of articles we are going to show you how to use Adobe Photoshop to give your photos a “digital make-over” that should take no more than 5 minutes. These tools are quick and simple, but they can have a great impact on your photos. By the end of this series, you should have a number of tools in your belt that will allow you to confidently get your photos printed on canvas.

The hints in these articles are intended for a beginner Photoshop user – but also apply to most of the other major photo-editing programs

Important tip:

Photoshop has multiple levels of undo. Undo is your friend, having multiple levels means that if you do a number of things to your photo and don’t like them, you can go back to the point at which you are happy with your work. To do this in Photoshop you need to select Edit -> Step Backward. If you try something and it just looks like it’s gone a bit far, then you can also choose toFade the last action. This just reduced the intensity of the last change you made, so you can fine tune your image. Again, you can select Edit -> Fade.

Many of the tools discussed in this article have automatic options, which will often do as good a job or better than you can manually, at least until you get more experience. However, sometimes it can go horribly wrong, and there are times when you may want to have more control. In these cases, you can adjust things manually.

Getting started:

The first step when you’re working on any file is to save a separate copy. Most cameras save their photos in the JPEG format, which is what’s known as a ‘lossy’ format. It reduces the file size of the images, but at the cost of quality (see this article). When you’re making changes to your photos, it’s best to save them in a ‘lossless’ format, that way you can keep the quality good throughout the process. To do this in Photoshop, open the photo, then go to File -> Save As. The best format to use while you’re editing is the default Photoshop format (psd), as this allows you to save various layers as well. Once you have saved a copy of your photo, close Photoshop and reopen the PSD file (or whichever format you chose). This is to make sure that you’re working on the copy and not the original.

We are now ready to begin editing your image, in the next part of the series we will learn how to use some of the great tools Photoshop has to get your pictures the best they can be and ready for print.

Restoring old photographs for printing on canvas

July 29th, 2009 No Comments

This is only a general guide for restoring images. The first thing to decide on is the image editing software to use. For this purpose, if the plan is to restore an old photograph that is torn, stained, and faded, an image editing software with the following features must be considered.

 

  1. Layers – Software that is capable of creating layers for each of the editing elements will make restoring easier. This way going back to original photo is easy once a mistake is made.
  2. Selection Tools – These are dependent on the image editing software being used. They may be called different names on different software. Some of the common tools are the pen tool, magic wand, and the lasso.
  3. Clone Tool – This is a very important feature as this used to fill color and spaces that have been damaged by time. This tool is used to repair crease and folds, as well as filling parts that have been torn or discolored.
  4. Filters – For restoring old photos, the best filters to be used are for blurring, sharpening, and noise reduction.
  5. Color Adjustment – This feature is useful for tired old photographs. When used alongside the brightness/contrast feature, colored photos can become vibrant again.
  6. Brightness/Contrast – By increasing and decreasing one or both of these, it can brighten an old photo and making it look new again.

The Process

 To demonstrate, here is a sample photograph to show the step by step process of photo restoration. This faded black and white photo shows creases and discoloration.

 

 

Edit photos for free online

October 9th, 2008 2 Comments

 Edit Photos Online for Free

You have just received a set of photos from your recent vacation. You know your friends are eager to see those pictures. You’re about to upload them to your Flickr photostream when, while browsing through the photos, a thought hit you: they need editing. But you’re in the office and your office computer does not have Adobe Photoshop installed. And even if there is, you know you’ll get lost simply trying to adjust contrast. So what will you do?

All you need is an online photo editor. With it, you would not need Photoshop to perform simple corrections or enhancements on your photos. These online photo editors allow you to perform the following basic functions:

·         Cropping

·         Adjusting brightness and contract

·         Sharpening

·         Blurring

·         Resizing

·         Creating effects like sepia and grayscale

·         Saving in multiple image formats

You have to take note though that since your photo editor is web-based, there may be limitations compared with standalone applications like Photoshop or Picasa Editor. But there are tools out there that give you almost everything you need. I’m going to present to you 3 of the most loved photo editors in the web today. And the best thing about them is that they are FREE.

If you use Flickr, you’re probably already familiar with Picnik. It’s Flickr’s completely integrated photo editing application. All you need to do is go to your Flickr photo, click the Edit Photo button to launch Picnik, and you’re set to play. Of course, if you don’t like to edit inside Flickr, it’s fine. Just sign up for free at the Picnik website. Then when you’re done editing, you can upload your photos to Flickr. Clever, eh?

Picnik is Flash-based. It is considered the fastest in the new breed of online photo editors and has the most intuitive user interface. It’s probably the best of the bunch. Thus, it is no surprise that its fan base grows with each day. For a handy set of Picnik Tutorials check out our previous blog posts.

While we love Picnik. It’s certainly not the only option available. 

Unlike Picnik, Phixr is developed using Ajax. As such, it has the potential of giving users complete editing satisfaction. The most attractive feature of Phixr is its ability to make artistic Polaroid snapshots and to insert comment bubbles and effects in your photographs. Also, you can directly upload your edited work to a lot of photo-sharing websites like Facebook, Flickr, and Picasaweb among others.

And just when you thought online photo editors cannot even come close to what Photoshop delivers, think again. Formerly known as Fauxto, SplashUp is an intricately designed application that closely resembles most features of Adobe Photoshop, including its look and feel. It is completely developed using Flash, and it is the first online tool to introduce a layered editing environment. As a bonus, you can save your unfinished work in the application’s own file format so you can continue editing later.
 

What are you waiting for? Explore these online photo editors and begin transforming your photos now.

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