Photography thread (Image Intensive)


#41

If you have the opportunity, it’s best to go hold the cameras yourself and see how they feel in the hand. How easy (or difficult) it is to operate the controls, how comfortable everything feels, the weight, etc. I don’t think there’s a huge technical difference between the two so these factors will be much more important.
If you can’t get hands on time I would get whichever is cheaper. Also don’t forget to buy a 50mm prime lens! Very important!


#42

I’d second what @Rizzo36 said. All modern DSLRs will meet a pretty good minimum level of quality; that’s not to say that there isn’t value in more expensive cameras, but a lot of that is either just convenience (e.g. more physical controls), or more specialist requirements (very high resolution isn’t essential unless you’re printing very large, high burst rate is mainly for sports photographers, etc.). If you’re starting out, get what you can afford, and if you can save a bit on one model versus another, put that towards a lens. In practice, the lens you chose will almost certainly have a greater impact than the camera. In almost all lens systems, the best bang for your buck at the cheaper end of the scale is usually a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens (with the Sony full frame mirrorless system the 28mm f/2 is actually cheaper, but don’t worry about that - that whole ecosystem is pretty pricey). With a nifty fifty you’ll have something small and light that offers a pretty natural angle of view (meaning the depth isn’t compressed or expanded and that there won’t be visible distortion) and has a wide maximum aperture for low light and shallow depth of field effects. I don’t know about Nikon, but the Canon 50mm f/1.4 isn’t too much more expensive (comparatively speaking), and is still one of my favourite lenses. But even that’s probably more than you want to be spending as a beginner (unless you’re rich!).

Anyway, I’m getting into the weeds a bit - sorry about that. The point is that you can get good images out of any camera, so what will matter the most day-to-day is how comfortable and convenient it is to use. So, to again echo @Rizzo36, if at all possible try to get your hands on each. Maybe there’s a local photography store that will let you handle them each? Or, better yet, if you can afford to hire them each out for a few days you could get some practical experience, and see what you miss from one in the other. How does the control layout compare? How about the viewfinder display?

I did none of that, though. I bought a Canon pretty much at random. Probably don’t obsess over it too much. On the one hand, you are kind of committing to one lens system or the other, but on the other, people manage perfectly fine on either side of the divide.

Also, although I’d been told the thing about lenses being more important and that made sense to me, I guess on some level I didn’t really believe it because before too long I’d upgraded my camera for a fancier model. I really like the newer camera and wouldn’t get rid of it, but spending that money on lenses instead would have had a greater impact on the actual pictures.

Finally, as an aside, you can get a bit more out of your lens by getting a lens reversing ring. This lets you mount your lens on your camera back-to-front, turning it into a macro lens. A ring costs next to nothing and it’s a fun way to experiment with another facet of photography. It helps if you have a tripod because it can be hard to keep things steady at that level of magnification, and you may find yourself making longer exposures, but I wouldn’t say it’s essential. Oh, and it does mean exposing the rear element to the world, which is a bit risky, but if you’re doing it with a nifty fifty you’re not putting hundreds of pounds/dollars/whatever on the line.


#43

I’m interested to know what people still think of Adobe Photoshop! Is it still considered the market leader in image editing? I haven’t used it for some time, as I think CS3 was the last one, but I found that it was just too complicated for an amateur and that my phone/Instagram was more than enough for basic editing. This article: https://www.1and1.co.uk/digitalguide/websites/web-design/finding-alternatives-to-adobe-photoshop/ mentions GIMP and Photoscape… are these programs potential rivals to PS? I’d just like to know what’s happening in the industry.


#44

GIMP is fine for image editing. The main advantage it has over Photoshop is that it’s free and open-source. For photos I only ever use Darktable which is also FOSS, but designed solely for photo editing and the UI reflects that.

Flickr was great, but then Yahoo managed to have that ridiculous password database leak then hide it under the rug for months and I just don’t trust them any longer. I get the impression that other sites risk more toxicity, have tighter image restrictions, or just aren’t that great for community.

I enjoy my photography, but I live in a pretty limited location at the moment so don’t have much motivation to go out shooting. Hopefully I’ll be moving to the city where this was taken fairly soon (bonus points for identifying it!).


#45

I have been using Adobe Lightroom for some years (a copy came with my last camera, back before Adobe turned everything into a monthly license) and generally enjoy the results and interface. If you’re just looking for photo development of RAWs (and would consider some of the more extensive things Photoshop can do as “cheating”) then I think Lightroom (either older versions or even the current CC license) can work out cheaper than Photoshop.

Being Adobe’s app that’s purely for photo development then it’s a pretty clean UI that only contains those features, which sounds like it might help improve your workflow compared to using PS.


#46

Lightroom works great if you’re looking to process photos (Especially photos in bulk) while Photoshop is for when you want to get creative or do some more detailed editing.

There’s an excellent (And free!) mobile editing app called Polarr if you’re looking for something that’s both simple to use but also has options if you’re looking to dive into color correction, noise, et al. A few months ago I took some RAW photos at a concert, transferred the shots to my phone and edited on the go on Polarr the next day:


#47

Nice feedback! Yeah, the monthly subscription for Adobe really irks me, but it seems to be a business model that’s quite popular? Maybe only way many of these companies can survive now.


#48

I like Lightroom, and got really into the whole non-destructive-edit mindset, so I never really got used to the idea of doing things in Photoshop without being able to go back and tweak them later. Then I got a copy of Capture One at a cheap discount with a Sony camera, which I also really like. It’s similar to Lightroom, and superior in a number of respects, but a bit fiddlier in others. It has some cool colour tools, some nice presets, and when I got it the layer support was much more advanced than in Lightroom, though I think maybe newer versions have caught up a bit. Unfortunately the discounted version only lets me edit .ARW files from Sony cameras, and the full licence is pretty expensive. It’s not a monthly thing, though, which is something.

I’m curious to know what people’s approaches to editing pictures are. I still often struggle with where to start, or deciding whether there’s even something there to be found. I’ll start with white balance (and try taking it to extremes to avoid the risk of becoming inured to, for example, a strong yellow cast), then tweak the exposure, then the black and white levels, and maybe the highlights and shadows a bit. After that, if it doesn’t already look how I want it, I tend to be at a bit of a loss.

A common problem for me is that the colour just doesn’t seem to be working for me. An easy solution is just to put things in monochrome, and often that works pretty well, but it’s not always what I’m after. I did hit on one solution with the photo of the man with a cigarette that I included in my first post in this thread. It was a beautiful day, but the original version of the photo really didn’t seem right; the colours seemed flat or something. It didn’t capture how it seemed in my head. So I quickly became a bit frustrated and resorted to black-and-white, which I think worked rather well. Then a few weeks or maybe even months later, I was going back through my photos (which I rarely do), and I decided to take another crack at that one. For whatever reason I decided to try dialing the saturation right back; I guess I was trying to replicate what worked about the B&W version without losing the colours altogether. Obvious in hindsight, perhaps, but to me that seemed completely counter to capturing what a sunny day it had been. Anyway, that seemed to work. Other than that, I upped the clarity to make it look a bit sharper, and introduced a tiny bit of blue/yellow split toning, though I’m not sure that that’s really visible in the end result. As far as I can remember, that’s it. I think it looks pretty good, if I do say so myself.

But I’ve not really had any other similar revelations that have - in my estimation - completely turned an image around. Maybe I just need to go a bit wild with experimenting, but there’s so many available vectors that it really does feel like fumbling around in the dark. Maybe I just don’t usually have a good picture hiding in there to be found.

Except, I suppose, for the C1 presets. Some of those are lovely, but I don’t really understand what they’re doing, so I feel like I’m not learning anything by using them. (I’ll post an example when I have access to my PC.)

So do any of you fine people have a more defined process for processing? Or does everyone sort of muddle through? Or do I just not have the artistic eye to see where things need to get to? That’s always my suspicion.


#49

I don’t have a good process for print (but also don’t print often - when I do then I’ve generally been able to wing it/follow spec request from the printer and everyone seemed happy with the results from the printers) but for screens I have:

  • a primary monitor (currently a 4K IPS TV that’s not 100% DCI-P3 or close to AdobeRGB but wider than sRGB, configured slightly cool because that’s my preference),
  • a second screen (a TN panel, ideal for looking at how it will display on something cheap as this doesn’t even hit 100% sRGB and inverts when viewed at angles),
  • a laptop/tablet (Surface Pro which was factory calibrated and is pretty warm plus shows how it looks on a very high dpi surface).

This lets me develop the shot for my preferences (ideally that would be on a calibrated DCI-P3 screen but when money is a consideration then you use what you’ve got, before this TV I had an old wide-gamut CCFL screen) and then quickly see how it looks on different screens to avoid it only looking good on my setup. Sometimes there’s small tweaks that make a big difference on worse screens while basically retaining the image on the good screen.

I find Lightroom default orders basically by how I process things. I always start with the crop, because that gives me the final surface I’m going to care about. Then onto white balance (if the camera calibration isn’t good or I’m going for a specific look). Tone: exposure/contrast first then tweaking the curves (clipping turned on so I can see where I’m dropping off the bottom or top of the scale as I typically think you can find a good photo within the bounds). Clarity is a tool I’m always slight hesitant with (I prefer a less processed feel so no local tools unless I’ve got something that needs to be removed) but is basically a nicer (local) contrast tweak for a lot of things so it really helps the final image (either softening for people or sharpening the contrasts for nature). I always stick to Vibrance over Saturation (depending on if I want a punchy or washed out look) and then move down to HSL to tweak individual bits of the spectrum (if required - often I can want to selective lighten the different lights so yellow Lum can push up indoor lights while blue does the outdoor light). I have a couple of defaults for night/indoor/outdoor noise reduction that automatically get applied on import but sometimes I need to tweak by hand. Lens corrections also all come in via the import so no real need to tweak there unless it’s the rare time for a vignette (which I’d initially add with the exposure tweaks). I have also been known to use a graduated filter or two to fix something, usually to bring out the details in the sky (as with vignette, I should add it early and then tweak if needed but really it happens when I see there’s a need for it).

Once I’m done, I sit back, check on each screen, and sometimes wonder what I was thinking. If it’s part of a series of shots from a single location then I’ll often check for consistency of white balance etc. If the colour looks off then I often only really have to wrestle with it at this point and then go back to the top and have another pass (knowing what I didn’t like about the first attempt).

I think it helps that over the years I’ve come to know what my style is, usually a softer contrast (that still ultimately reaches the extremes) and either heavy desaturation or a slightly saturated look (although I have moved around on this with time and used to never boost vibrance). 90%+ of my shots will have a boosted shadow and dropped highlights, tweaked by eye. Typically I develop more shots than I think are worth it, just because I can generally do it quite quickly while working on a batch - then I can go through and really pick out the ones I like some while later. Ignoring burst captures, I develop at least half of the shots I take (which probably says something about the economy of my shot taking that I should work on to give myself more options).


#50

Oh definitely - I don’t use it all the time, and when I do use it I try to be quite restrained. I’m not into the clarity-to-100% look some people seem to be into. But I do find that sometimes a touch of it can be enough to draw out the edges and details without making things look too weird.

I guess I don’t really know what my style is, though, or if I even have one.


#51

Oh wow, I must admit that I’d not played with the most recent Adobe updates (not really much for the rentware stuff) so I thought I’d have a look at version 7.0 and opened a trial only to find that Lightroom was… let us say extremely lacking in the power user options I had grown to expect ever since starting to use it (with 4.0).

What had happened? I know I’d clicked on the Lightroom CC download from the Adobe site so this must be the very latest version and yet it looked like 90% of the interface had been cut away to only give a few panels of the actual settings (almost as if I’d downloaded the mobile version). Turns out… Lightroom CC is now the mobile version, they apparently renamed the actual desktop productivity app to Lightroom Classic CC late last year. o_O


#52

@James You might find this video helpful with coloring. It was something I struggled with for so long but watching this video really helped in my current mindset when it comes to coloring.

As for process, I’m the same with Shivoa in that I usually go down in the order Lightroom has. I do recommend using and experimenting with split toning! They can be super useful in color correction. Living in the Philippines tends to make light a little more green-yellow and split toning has helped a lot, and it’s also useful if you want a set of photos to have a certain mood.


#53

Some shots from Hong Kong from over two years ago that I didn’t bother to edit until four months ago, lol. One my favorite trips anywhere, tho.


#54

Yeah, I think there was a popup about that a while ago which I found confusing and unappealing, but the version I use when I use it is the Classic one with roughly the same feature set and layout. They really seem to be pushing the mobile stuff a lot. I guess they reckon that’s where the money is?!

Thanks @arlo, that video was interesting. I was well aware of the HSL tools, and have used them before to selectively tweak saturation, but only really when there’s some specific detail I want to emphasise or de-emophasise. I’ll experiment with using them to achieve a more general creative effect.

I’ve really not been doing any photo editing for a while now, and not too much photography in general. To a certain extent I’ve been focusing on film photography, since that’s been the a thing for me this last year. I’m still enjoying that, but I also feel I should probably stop neglecting the digital side of things.


#55

Bear in mind that when developing photos digitally, people’s routines will vary with the software they use. For example, I use Darktable (which I’ll keep banging on about until the end of time) which will present you with a very bland image straight off the bat, and won’t even have any lens corrections applied. The general steps I go through are as follows:

  1. Apply lens corrections - always chromatic aberration correction, but distortion and vignetting correction may sometimes not be applied if the image looks better without.
  2. Base curve - this is a basic tone and colour curve that is usually appropriate to the camera, but I’ll sometimes pick a bolder, darker, or lighter curve depending on what I think the image demands. If it’s a woodland scene with interesting bark detail in the shadows then I’ll pick a lighter curve to save a bit of hassle later.
  3. Monochrome - for me the tonality of an image is pretty much fundamental to its quality. I always do the bulk of development in black and white so as not to be distracted by colour.
  4. Cropping/trimming - it’s near impossible to take a perfect image. Sometimes I’ll crop to a different aspect ratio because it suits the scene better than the original (though I’m doing less now that I use a camera which natively permits the capture of four different aspect ratios - Panasonic LX100). However, I’ll almost always end up trimming the edges just to remove distracting, high contrast details at the border.
  5. Exposure - more for consistency than anything else, in the vast majority of my images I’ll make sure the highlights hit white and the shadows hit black, i.e. stretch the tones so the histogram touches both sides.
  6. Tone curve - I might use more than one depending on the image. Usually the first will try to bring the overall tone up or down to emphasise the very general feel of the entirity. If there’s interesting detail in the highlights or the shadows then I might create a new curve to squeeze a little more contrast in that area.
  7. Local contrast/sharpening - As a rule of thumb these should not be obvious. Excessive local contrast is really crude looking, and over-sharpening creates ugly halos. These days I have a couple of presets which tend to do the job, but with particularly important images Darktable has an excellent “equaliser” tool which provides a crazy level of control over the strength of these over locality.
  8. Vignette - again, should not be obvious. I dial this right down so it’s at a level where the viewer is subconsciously drawn to the main subject of the image, but no more. With good masking you can ensure that the vignetting doesn’t dim highlights which can otherwise make the effect really obvious.
  9. Remove monochrome - only if colour is actually important to the image. I hate messing with colour, mostly because I do most of my development on a crappy laptop screen with shite colour reproduction. Otherwise I’ll just adjust saturation and vibrance to taste.
  10. Frame - I always add a thin black frame to my images to contain the borders. This provides a bit of control over contrast at the edges in case viewers are looking at it in a window or something.

Other tools I might use include perspective correction (architecture!), spot removal (for dust bunnies), and denoising.

I don’t often use denoising because digital noise doesn’t look too bad in black and white. However, when using high ISO in colour photos I’ll use a colour-only wavelet denoise up to the point where green-magenta blotches are eliminated. I’m usually happy to leave luminance noise in. Sometimes an artificial grain helps when the luminance noise is just too busy.


#56

If you ever want extra practice balancing colours, I can recommend offering to digitise 300 slides that have been sitting around since the 1970s (before the marches of times completely destroys any of them or bad weather/a leak ruins the lot). Also includes the game of guess if the slide’s details have degraded with age or the shot was slightly out of focus when originally taken.


#57

I’m totally with you on the noise front - though heavy digital noise can be ugly, the fuziness of a heavily denoised image is usually worse to my eye. I do find that colour denoising is very effective, however, and just leave that as is for all images (I think at something pretty high like 50, but honestly I’m not sure because I never find myself having to touch it). I guess in theory it could damage colour information in an image with random high-frequency colour changes, but that seems like such a contrived scenario that it’s barely worth worrying about (unless I’m missing some dreadful colour artifacts in all my pictures).

Capture One does have a small amount of luminance denoising enabled out of the box. I didn’t initially realise this, and haven’t found to be particularly destructive, so I treat it as a sensible default.

Developing in monochrome even for colour pictures is an interesting idea. I might give that a go.


#58

What an amazing portrait of a man with a cigarette!


#59

One day i will learn making portraits, i hope.


#60

Great shots in this thread! Keep it up everyone!

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus lately while I focused on some other projects. My favourite genre to work in is new topographics and I love the work of people like Todd Hido, Stephen Shore and Alec Soth. I used to use a variety of digital and film cameras and even experimented with medium format for a little while, but have stuck to a Panasonic LX100 and my phone as my primary shooters for the sake of portability these days.

I haven’t got anything recent, but here are some of my favourites from the past:

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