The Camaraderie and Benefits of a Photo Clubs and Image Servers: Part 3

While the prior installments in this series describe the function of personal servers, there will soon be an even cooler (cheaper, simpler, and more powerful) alternative server product available to photo club members. Trial configurations of Cloud9 Photo Club Servers (much larger and faster server arrays) will soon come online in a handful of photo club locations providing some very innovative services and features in addition to ample personal image storage.

These servers can be shared by all participating club members, providing generous private image bank storage, educational areas, and expanded social features reflecting the personality and activities of individual photo clubs. Cloud9 servers will be much more efficient than private servers in both speed and cost to participating members. A simple elegant GUI (graphic user interface) will provide access to a wide variety of monthly (and even weekly) club updates, keeping members informed and tuned in to all club activities and providing communication channels with fellow members.Cloud9 UI DesktopCloud9 Photo club servers will provide many services and benefits for the entire club at a fraction of the cost of personal servers (and with none of the technical responsibility). Once each club member uploads their library of images to their private image bank, they can then view and share those images with anyone else in the club (or non club members by personal invitation) with the click of a button. While I cannot list all the features of the club servers, I can tell you that these servers will provide an amazing array of social services and educational programs within a single, very secure and private online source, centered around each local photo club’s interests.

The Cloud9 Photo Club Server is a new concept in server technology specifically designed around the needs of photography clubs and their members, consolidating image storage and dozens of services and features in a single server package.

Cloud9 Banner Menus
Cloud9 Photo Club Server is an online extension of the local photo club, offering a vast variety of services and resources in addition to significant online storage space for each participating photo club member.

Photo club servers provide participating members with high-speed anytime cloud access to their personal images, as well as upload services, group calendars (announcing activities and upcoming events), chat rooms, Power Point presentations and slide shows from past meetings, educational courseware, and much more; all while protected by automatic (RAID) backup services and system immunization from malware and viruses.

Cloud9 Features and Benefits

These are the current proposed features and benefits included in the Cloud9 Photo Club Server. Each member is availed not only a generous amount of image storage space for remote access, but a boutique resource digest of social, educational, and research vehicles.

Preparing servers to accommodate individual members takes significant time and planning, but once configured, the participation cost to the members will be minimal while the benefits will be enormous. The design, configuration and administration of these club servers is made possible through the joint efforts of individual club administrators and the server developers to make certain that all participating members have proper training and anytime access to all their images, while enjoying the club services and programs.

Each participating member will have their own gallery on the server to store a slew of their favorite “keeper” images. Each RAID-based server will be backed up to 3rd party commercial cloud storage as well as a weekly backup kept in a separate physical location just in case of theft, fire or natural disaster. That little bit of extra protection is essential to not only member peace of mind, but also to the club’s fiscal liability.

Cloud-laptop array
Storing digital images on popular commercial cloud system affords remote access from anywhere on the globe but this storage comes with not only a significant price tag, but also a sacrifice of both personal security and personal information sharing.

Photo club servers differ from commercial cloud storage most notably by the amazing variety of quality features and club-focused programs provided posted and updated weekly to the server. While photo club servers will require a monthly subscription, the benefits and services will far out shadow the modest monthly fee. Cloud9 Photo club servers provide much more than simple image parking space. The image viewing service provided will include both keyword and visual search functions as well as hi-res viewing, print, publish, and download functions, all online. And unlike Facebook photo club groups, the photos you share with photo club server members will not mysteriously show up on Google or Bing images next week!

Participating clubs will appoint a member as Coordinator to upload regularly-updated club information pertaining to individual events, announcements, and club news bulletins while a variety of fresh, timely photo news content, educational, and subscription services will be posted to the servers automatically. This online clubhouse atmosphere will bring new interactive life to each club by attending the growth and social interaction of individual club members.

Club servers will provide ample storage and advanced features (courseware, training videos, pro-tips, photo blogs and guest articles, etc). 

Cloud Photo Library

Photo Club Servers offer a wide variety of remote services to club members, including current DPS posts, display and downloading of personal images, club calendars, photo challenges (uploads and slideshows), educational materials, member directories, and more.

Well, there you have it; this is your invitation to get totally immersed in the activities and benefits of your local camera club AND to join the Cloud9 Photo Club Server community. Don’t miss either opportunity.

The Cloud9 Photo Club Servers are scheduled to be available to photo clubs by the end of the second quarter, 2020. If your club is interested in pursuing this opportunity, send me a note and I’ll keep you posted. Feel free to comment on what you think of the concept.

I enjoy speaking to schools, photo clubs and organizations every month presenting programs on digital photography, post production, and color science. If you’d like me to speak to your group, drop me a line. Check out my published articles on Digital Photography School… https://digital-photography-school.com/author/herb-paynter/

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The Camaraderie and Benefits of a Photo Clubs and Image Servers: Part 2

Welcome back to the continuing discussion about photo clubs and image servers. Let’s dive in and look at some of the issues involved. If you haven’t read Part 1 in this series, I suggest you go back and do so before you continue with this post.

First, let me address a question that I often hear concerning this issue of ownership versus using parking space online. Why set up a personal server instead of simply employing a public (or commercial) cloud storage system? Good question.

Public cloud storage is a wildly popular way to upload (varying limits of) personal images to an Internet-based parking lot somewhere in the sky (or more likely, an enormous data farm located in some rural hillside in South Dakota). Hard drive storage is quite inexpensive now and thus these data farm storage systems often offer parking parking space for next to nothing… often “free.” Yeah, right!

How can they offer such a volume of storage for no money, or very little? The simple answer is that immense money is being made in the background, at your expense! Every time you sign up for something labeled “free,” a red flag shoud go up in your mind. Read the user agreement carefully and see how your profile information and other personal data is being harvested and fed to business partners for marketing and political purposes. In short, business is made on your information. The secondary source of income comes from advertising revenues. You’ll probably nothice that the recent inquiries you’ve made on Google and the purchases you’ve made on Amazon reflect the kinds of ads you see in the sidebar. This is no coincidence. Now, back to the issue at hand.

Personal Server Installation and Configuration

If you choose to go the personal server route, most NAS servers you can be purchased for next day delivery from Amazon and other online stores. These are simple plug-and-play units made possible by the fact that they are so simple to configure. Personal servers consist of a CPU and one or more bays for hard drives. You can either purchase drives separately or the buy the server and drives as a pre-assembled unit. Be aware that uploading your images to any server will take time, so it’s best to begin the process just before you go to bed and let the process continue to work while you sleep.

Single user cloud servers start as small as 2TB. Multi-bay units with faster CPUs offer four or more bays, each bay housing up to a 12TB drive. Best practice is to sum up your collective image file sizes and multiply that amount by 1.5 to determine the drive size you’re likely to need. The sky is the limit on storage since many NAS servers are hot-swappable and expandable. Keep in mind that single drive units cannot be configured as RAID arrays; you’ll need two drives for that. In addition, for most servers, you can purchase and quickly install additional RAM, which speeds up search and transfer functions. Connectivity for most all of these units includes multiple USB ports and disk-copy functionality as well as dual Ethernet connections for ultra fast data transfer to the modem or router.

Personal Server Packages

Personal cloud server packages offer a number of additional app plug-ins that can be folded into the server software. These packages offer additional functions that are very useful but they can also tax the operation of the server’s CPU.

Each server manufacturer offers a variety of very useful mini-applications that provide additional functionality, including image viewers, multimedia players, notepads, WordPress, email and more. These apps are offered separately and should be installed as needed, keeping in mind that each app can tax the CPU’s energy. Configuring the base units and additional applications can take some time and call for careful thought about their usage, especially if the server services and contents will be shared with others.

Maybe setting one of these personal servers ain’t rocket science, but it is a detailed process that could take many hours of time (and the patience of Job) to handle right since servers are normally set up by IT geeks, not photographers. And incidentally, the server instructions are written by geeks and for other geeks in a language you probably won’t understand without a geek dictionary. Take your time and learn as much as you can from the abundant YouTube tutorials online.

If, on the other hand, you are not technically-oriented but you see the benefits in participating in a Photo Club Server program… stay tuned. Part 3 of this post will reveal a totally fresh, new slant on digital image storage; the Cloud9 Photo Club Server. 

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The Camaraderie and Benefits of a Photo Clubs and Image Servers: Part 1

If you do not yet attend (or better yet, belong to) a local photography club, you may be missing out on a very special affiliation and a personal growth opportunity. Photography may be a solo practice, but it is much more special when you can learn from and share experiences with others who enjoy your passion. Most photo clubs meet once a month to share experiences, knowledge, and learn from special speakers and interesting presentations. The camaraderie factor alone is worth the price of admission. But while attending these events is special enough, there is now a special project percolating that will make memberships in these organizations even more valuable: the development of powerful photo club servers. More on that in Part 2 of this series.

Cloud Photo Library

Being able to access and view your photos online is a real necessity in today’s culture, but the cloud storage options come with risks.

We photographers like to show off our pictures to friends, customers, associates, and family at every opportunity. Those of us who provide professional photo services rely on quick, reliable, and private access to our images so we can share them with both current and potential clients. If you shoot pictures for a living, you know that you never stop prospecting and selling your services. Even those who simply enjoy shooting for the creative exercise and simple enjoyment have occasionally found themselves wishing they could show others some images located back on their desktop computers.

Every one of us (think airport layovers and doctor office waiting rooms), would love to reclaim that “wasted” time by doing something more productive than viewing out-of-date magazines or playing games on our mobile devices. While there are numerous ways to access the images that we’ve uploaded to various cloud services and social media platforms, sometimes the size restrictions, vulnerability, cost. and unauthorized public sharing of our images can be annoying. We love the social aspects of online services but privacy and personal security are becoming bigger problems than ever. And if you haven’t noticed recently, many of these “cloud” systems are rewriting their contracts, conditions, restrictions, and fees… and not to the subscriber’s advantage. Maybe its time to reconsider the options! Wouldn’t it be great to access any image you’ve shot at any time and from any remote location without clogging up your phone or dragging your library around with you?

QNAP

QNAP provides several affordable personal servers for consumers and professionals alike.

Personal Cloud Servers 

As I outlined in a recent article (https://digital-photography-school.com/set-up-your-own-personal-cloud-system/), there is an attractive alternative to commercial cloud services; the personal cloud server. Personal servers are Windows or Linux-driven CPUs hooked up to one or more server-grade hard drives. Once you upload copies of your photos to a personal server, you can view (and download) them from any location, any time. These toaster-size devices require only an Internet connection, a hard drive and a password to provide secure access to your entire photo library. Server-grade hard drives (like Western Digital’s Red and Seagate’s Iron Wolf series) are designed to operate continuously, twenty-four-seven, for years. Bargain hard drives simply cannot take that kind of beating without wearing out.

A personal server isn’t attached to your computer at all; but to a modem/router via Ethernet cable which makes it accessible from any remote location that offers Internet access. Through this device, you’re able to work on all the images you have uploaded as though you were sitting in front of your desktop computer at home. How cool is that? The hardware cost of personal servers ranges from $200-$750 (depending on the model and disk size chosen), and provides anywhere-access to the image files for each individual owner.

Synology918+

Synology offers a broad spectrum of reliable server products that can house multiple hard drives and provide massive storage (up to 12TB each drive) for all you digital images. Your entire library can be housed on a single online image vault, making every image available for work and display from any location on the globe.

Hopefully you can see the benefits of both photo clubs and personal NAS servers. In the third installation of this series, I’ll present an even more attractive proposition; Cloud9 Photo Club servers. This exciting new concept will revolutionize and revitalize photo clubs by serving (pun intended) as an extension of local photo club participation and services. Stay tuned in for the details on this new development.

I enjoy speaking to schools, photo clubs and organizations every month presenting programs on digital photography, post production, and color science. If you’d like me to speak to your group, drop me a line. Check out my published articles on Digital Photography School… https://digital-photography-school.com/author/herb-paynter/

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Why Published Images Will Look Different than Inkjet Prints. Part 2

A two-part post on preparing images for publication.

Publications use the geometric structure of halftone dots to interpret pixel values as tonal values on paper surfaces. Each pixel produces up to four overprinted color halftone dots. These halftones dots translate darker values of each color into large dots and lighter values into smaller dots. The full range of darkest-to-lightest tones produces dots that vary in size from occupy variable.

Color Halftone Dots

To avoid the visually annoying conflict that occurs when geometric grids collide (called a moire pattern), each CMYK grid pattern is set on a very carefully calculated angle. The positive edge that inkjet images have over halftone images is that the image resolution required for inkjet prints is much less than what is required by the halftone process employed by publication images, though that’s not the real surprise.

Dad Color HTEven more shocking is how much less resolution is required for either process than what is commonly perceived. The universally preached standard for printed images printed at 150lpi (lines per inch- the method used to measure printing dots) is 300dpi at final dimensions (a 4×5 inch image reportedly requires 1200 pixels horizontal and 1500 pixels vertical). This 300dpi image will produce a file that is 5.15M.

The physical science behind lithography (the Pythagorean theorem) has proven that this calculation is quite excessive. The actual resolution requirement for printed images is only 212dpi, which produces the identical quality reproduction but at half the file size (2.57M). This means that you can store twice as many files on your hard drive with no loss in quality. That’s a big deal!

inkjetvshalftoneThe same good news can be applied to the inkjet printing process though the image size required is even less than litho images. Common assumption (usually stated as dogma) is that images sent to inkjet printers should also be 300dpi at final dimensions. This assumption is also grossly overstated. Inkjet printer technology (even at 14.4K print resolution) requires only 150dpi to produce stellar results. This inkjet resolution will produce images weighing in at only 1.29M. That’s just 43% of the size. 

But the most important issues that must be addressed have to do with color fidelity and tonal reproduction. There is a huge difference between the way inkjet images and print publication images are reproduced, making a significant difference in the way the images appear when they come out the delivery end of the process.

Inkjet printers are like ballet dancers while printing presses are more like Sumo wrestlers. It’s chamber music vs Thunder clap. One is graceful and articulate, the other violent and powerful.

RGB Inkjet printerThe biggest difference can be seen in the control over highlight and shadow detail. Inkjet inks are sprayed onto substrates through a very controlled matrix of 14,400 dots per inch using a slow and measured inch-per-minute process. Publication presses smash ink into paper under extreme pressure, at speeds exceeding 10,000 rpm translating the entire tonal range into a limited matrix of just 150 variable-size dots per inch. Publication presses are huge, high-speed, rotary rubber stamps.

CMYK

You can dress a Hippopotamus in a tutu but you can’t expect it to pirouette. Something has to give, and in this case, it’s the entire reproduction curve. The shadow details want to close in, the highlights tend to disappear, and the middle tones bulge. While the printing industry has addressed many of these problems with their G7 process controls and plate curves, the beast is still a beast.

Next time you edit you photos, think of how distinct the detail was in the original scene. Let that be your guide. Don’t overproduce your images. Just determine to show your viewers what the original scene dynamics looked like.

DrivewayB4&A

Think about it!

Please leave a comment.  If you find this worthwhile, please share it with your friends and sign up for more. This ain’t rocket science, but it is information that is many times overlooked (and sometimes overstated). Take some time to get back to the basics and your photographic results will give evidence that you did.

That’s the way I sees it. If you have an argument with this position, take it to a higher court! In the mean time, sign up (above right) to get personal notices of future posts. You can’t beat the price.

I enjoy speaking to schools, photo clubs and organizations every month presenting programs on digital photography, post production, and color science. If you’d like me to speak to your group, drop me a line.

If you’d like to understand even more of what makes color work, how light behaves, and how easy it is to shape the light in your photographic images, go to http://gottaknowvideos.com and get Bright About Light!

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Why Published Images Will Look Different than Inkjet Prints. Part 1

A four-part post on preparing images for publication.

It is a known fact that images viewed on computer monitors don’t always match what comes out of desktop printers. This is because the color pixels captured by digital cameras are defined quite differently than pixels portrayed on the computer monitor and the monitor’s pixels differ quite significantly from the inkjet patterns that are literally sprayed onto the paper.

Laser Dots and Inkjet Spots

Color halftone dots (left) and Inkjet spots (right)

Inkjet, Halftone, Monitor Cells

Digital pixels (left), Halftone dots (center), and Monitor pixels (right)

But do you know that images that are printed on inkjet printers usually don’t deliver the same appearance when printed in publications? This is quite true, but why?

The answer to this mystery eludes many of today’s magazine publishers and even many publication printers. This is a problem that the digital imaging community (photographers, image editors, and pre-press operators) have struggled with for decades. Color Management Professionals (CMPs) undergo rigorous color science studies to understand how to maintain the same look in color images that are reproduced on different substrates and a variety of printing processes. Since you may want to produce your images in print, we’ll look at a synopsis of what the challenges are and some surefire ways to produce the results you’re looking for.

Eye-Pixel-HT

Original image (left), Digital pixels (middle), Halftone dots (right). View these images from a distance of 7-10 feet away to see the visual illusion of similarity.

Viva le difference.

The inkjet printing process is completely different from the print reproduction process. As a matter of fact, the two systems are overtly dissimilar. If your images are headed for print and you are not sure of which printing process will be utilized, you might be headed for trouble. Here’s why.

The possible surfaces for inkjet printing vary wildly and include everything from paper to wood , from metal to fabric, and on virtually every surface and texture in-between. To accommodate this range of printing applications, inkjet “inks” are basically translucent liquid, and they must be sprayed onto the surface of the substrate. The colors printed by an inkjet printing system can range from basic black to more than a dozen colors. The inks are translucent because they must blend create other colors, and they are liquid so that they can be applied somewhat evenly to accommodate irregular and uneven surfaces.

Ink Absorption and Absorption

Ink absorption. Inkjet inks: Uncoated paper (left), Coated paper (middle), Laser toner (right)

The extremely small droplets sprayed appears more like a mist than a pattern; each pixel value (0-255) creates a microscopic and irregular pattern so small that the human eye perceives the dots as continuous tone. Due to the smoothness of the tones and graduations of color, inkjet images require a bit of sharpening to deliver detail (detail remember is a product of contrast, and contrast is not a natural inkjet strength).

Both the inkjet and publication processes convert the RGB (red, green, and blue) values of each pixel into equivalent CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) values before printing those colors onto paper. But then the two processes take decidedly different paths to delivering ink on paper. While Inkjet printers utilize micro-dot patterns that are sprayed onto a surface, printing presses use grid-based, well-defined dots that are impressed into paper surfaces.

I’ll describe the two reproduction process in more detail in Part Two of this series.

Please leave a comment.  If you find this worthwhile, please share it with your friends and sign up for more. This ain’t rocket science, but it is information that is many times overlooked (and sometimes overstated). Take some time to get back to the basics and your photographic results will give evidence that you did.

That’s the way I sees it. If you have an argument with this position, take it to a higher court! In the mean time, sign up (above right) to get personal notices of future posts. You can’t beat the price.

I enjoy speaking to schools, photo clubs and organizations every month presenting programs on digital photography, post production, and color science. If you’d like me to speak to your group, drop me a line.

If you’d like to understand even more of what makes color work, how light behaves, and how easy it is to shape the light in your photographic images, go to http://gottaknowvideos.com and get Bright About Light!

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Images Look Darker in Print Than They Do on Your Monitor

and they always will. It’s an unavoidable reality.

The reason for this has little to do with color management, inks, paper surfaces, device profiles, or any other adjustment-related issue. The simple fact is that your monitor’s white is illuminated by a projected light source and the white of your paper print is illuminated by reflected light. This tone range difference takes its most egregious toll on the darker parts of the image; the three-quarter tones. The very tones that get slighted by your camera’s image sensor are also the most vulnerable in print.

As I often claim, detail is a product (result) of contrast. Contrast is the measured difference between two tones. On the printed page, this statement has to be further clarified… detail is determined by the perceived difference between two tones. Here’s the visible proof behind the statement.

ShadowTone Adjustment

Consider the visual extremes (light vs. dark) of both of these media vehicles- paper and the computer display for the moment. In the case of pictures in print, the white of the printed substrate (usually paper) is determined by the whiteness of the paper and the strength of the light reflecting from the unprinted part of the paper. The darkest color (usually a multi-color, composite black) of the print is determined by the density (or light-absorbing) opacity of the colorant (usually ink).

The computer display plays the contrast game by a completely different set of rules. While the black of the monitor does have its opacity limitations, the white illuminate of the display is limited only by the brightness of the (typically) LED (light emitting diode) elements; which in turn are affected by the brightness or gain dialed in by you, the user. Brightness directly affects contrast. With more light comes more potential contrast, and where there is contrast, there is detail.

Which system do you suppose displays the most contrast? Duh!

As a color separator in the litho trade, I faced this same type of problem when reproducing images from photographic prints versus photographic transparencies. It was always easier to capture detail from a transparency than from a print. In technical terms, a printed page typically measures a reflective contrast of 1.7 points of density, while a transparency can display upwards of 3.8 points of density, depending on the strength of the backlit light source. More dynamic range produces more steps (bits in digital lingo) in the tonal scale and thus more detail. With digital images, the spread is even higher. When prints are compared to LED displays, the contrast ratio is huge on the display but remain the same for print.

You simply cannot pour enough light onto a page to bring the reflected brightness to the level of a projected display, just like you cannot dial down the brightness of the display to match the normal contrast of a printed picture. It’s apples and peanuts anyway you “look” at it. The two methods of viewing a picture are simply, fundamentally, and totally different.

THIS is why you can see detail in the darker portions of a displayed image that you just cannot see in the printed version of the picture. The contrast ratio visible in print is simply not in the same league as your backlit computer display. It is woefully insufficient.

ShadowTone Adjustment2_1

So, what can be done to close this light range gap? Can you do anything to improve the detail in the darker portions of the image? Absolutely. But you must 1) recognize that this issue exists, and 2) you must learn how to effectively compensate the tonal range for the difference. You can make a significant difference in your printed images by taking the same actions that we litho folks have done for decades… you have to learn to shape the internal contrast of the images before they go to print, and that includes your inkjet.

Remember that camera image sensors record light linearly, one photon at a time, but your eyes/brain perceive light quite differently. Camera images record light with a serious bias toward the lighter side of the tone scale (an area we call quarter tones), while recording very little data in the darker portion of the tone range (the three-quarter tones). The result in print is almost always a lack of detail in the darkest parts of the image. When this lack of data is combined with the print’s lower contrast ratio, shadow detail takes the hit.

Tone Region ControlsHere’s the secret to maintaining detail in the darker (3/4) portions of your image. Slide the Shadows slider to the right. How much to adjust the image will vary with each image. Low key images will require more adjustment than full range images. Learning to adjust your images to print all available detail is critical for serious photographers. Pay attention to separating tones in the darker parts of the image where detail can be buried when printed.

Think about it!

Please leave a comment.  If you find this worthwhile, please share it with your friends and sign up for more. This ain’t rocket science, but it is information that is many times overlooked (and sometimes overstated). Take some time to get back to the basics and your photographic results will give evidence that you did.

That’s the way I sees it. If you have an argument with this position, take it to a higher court! In the mean time, sign up (above right) to get personal notices of future posts. You can’t beat the price.

I enjoy speaking to schools, photo clubs and organizations every month presenting programs on digital photography, post production, and color science. If you’d like me to speak to your group, drop me a line.

If you’d like to understand even more of what makes color work, how light behaves, and how easy it is to shape the light in your photographic images, go to http://gottaknowvideos.com and get Bright About Light!

Posted in Tonality and Appearance, Underpinnings and Core Issues | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

It All Starts With Tonal Clarity

No matter where you go with image preparation, it all begins with distinction; the purposeful shaping of the image’s tonal values. Regardless of whether you prefer color or black and white, exposing detail (without over sharpening) is job number one.

YallerFlawer-O YallerFlawer-F

YallerFlawer-F-Slice

YallerFlawer-BW

I suppose I could have either picked a more perfect flower or even “fixed” the imperfections in Photoshop, but the intent here was to reveal the detail, scars and all. Sometimes the truth ain’t pretty, but it’s always the truth.

Had I just published what I captured with the original shot, you would have never seen the amazing little hairs on both the stem and the business end of this flower. But they were there and now you see what I saw.

YallerFlarers BasicYallerFlarers Sharp

The simple truth is that camera image sensors don’t capture as much detail as the simple diagrams make you believe. While the pixels you see on the screen are perfect checkerboard squares, the initial image pixels that are captured by the camera are somewhat blurred due to RGB filter averaging and always benefit from a little additional sharpening during the editing process (see above). I didn’t go to extremes to reveal this detail, I simply made some internal tone adjustments and added some minimal sharpening.

Next time you edit you photos, think of how distinct the detail was in the original scene. Let that be your guide. Don’t overproduce your images. Just determine to show your viewers what the original scene dynamics looked like.

Camera-Bayer array

Think about it!

Please leave a comment.  If you find this worthwhile, please share it with your friends and sign up for more. This ain’t rocket science, but it is information that is many times overlooked (and sometimes overstated). Take some time to get back to the basics and your photographic results will give evidence that you did.

That’s the way I sees it. If you have an argument with this position, take it to a higher court! In the mean time, sign up (above right) to get personal notices of future posts. You can’t beat the price.

I enjoy speaking to schools, photo clubs and organizations every month presenting programs on digital photography, post production, and color science. If you’d like me to speak to your group, drop me a line.

If you’d like to understand even more of what makes color work, how light behaves, and how easy it is to shape the light in your photographic images, go to http://gottaknowvideos.com and get Bright About Light!

Posted in Tonality and Appearance | 2 Comments

The Image Saturation Balancing Act

Saturation is a founding member of color’s sacred trinity of color elements; hue, saturation, and brightness. Hue is the color of color, or what differentiates red from blue, or green, or orange. Brightness (or luminance) deals with light; how bright or dull a color appears, largely a matter of light and dark. Saturation is the measure of how intense or diluted the color is; the difference between pungent and pastel.

Everybody likes nice rich pictures, they are the eye-candy of life. But there is an important balance that must be struck between that brilliant color and the image’s overall tonality. Tonality is the form of an image; the skeletal structure that gives purpose and definition to the color. Think of tonality as the Christmas tree structure that supports the lights and ornaments. That structure retains the shape or definition of the image.

YelLily

Even though we all love saturated color, great care should be taken when boosting saturation in our digital images because there is a thin line between optimal saturation and tonal range damage.

Max SaturationSaturation has a photographic definition and a household definition. I believe we need to understand both in order to accurately balance saturation with its counterpart, tonality.

Photographic saturation is basically color intensity, expressed as the degree to which it differs from black and white. Get the picture? It’s what differentiates a grayscale image from a color image. A color image without saturation is just luminance (tonal structure).

No Saturation

Now consider the more common “household” definition of saturation: the state when no more of something can be added. Combining these two definitions actually provides a very practical guideline to the use of saturation in digital imaging. It’s called “too much of even a good thing is still too much!” In a practical sense, there is a balance point in which too much saturation actually robs the image balance and definition. If your image lacks highlight detail, consider backing off the saturation level.

Don't Lose Your Balance.

Don’t Lose Your Balance.

Try this simple exercise to understand the the function of saturation. Open up an image in Photoshop and pull up the Hue/Saturation dialog box. Now slide the Saturation triangle all the way to the left. See what you have left? A grayscale (what we use to call black and white) image… all form and no color. Now slide that Saturation triangle all the way to the right side of the scale. After you pull your eyeballs out of the back of your head you’ll notice that the image’s form has now been pretty much destroyed… overboard color and distorted form.

We all enjoy very colorful things. Current television programming confirms this. Note: I grew up in Miami and can’t remember ever seeing a perpetual state of late afternoon lighting like I see on the Miami crime shows. God gave us an imagination that is very rich and colorful. And frankly, sometimes really dull digital images need a little boost in color. But take great care in the exercise of your imagination as it can push your pictures beyond “believable.”

Here’s a tip on how to how to maintain the “best” of a good thing. Go back to the Hue/Saturation adjustment dialog and carefully slide the Saturation triangle to the right but stop short of losing any tonal definition. You must strike a balance. If you enjoy more saturation, try backing off the luminance (brightness) channel to achieve the same result. Just like other issues in photography, more saturation in an image isn’t necessarily better, it’s just… more!

Think about it!

Please leave a comment.  If you find this worthwhile, please share it with your friends and sign up for more. This ain’t rocket science, but it is information that is many times overlooked. Take some time to get back to the basics and your photographic results will give evidence that you did.

That’s the way I sees it. If you have an argument with this position, take it to a higher court! In the mean time, sign up (above right) to get personal notices of future posts. You can’t beat the price.

I enjoy speaking to schools, photo clubs and organizations every month presenting programs on digital photography, post production, and color science. If you’d like me to speak to your group, drop me a line.

If you’d like to understand even more of what makes color work, how light behaves, and how easy it is to shape the light in your photographic images, go to http://gottaknowvideos.com and get Bright About Light!

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Histograms Can See in the Dark

The lowly Histogram is truly a functionless graph that merely monitors the tonal distribution of an image. It functions much like a thermometer in that it reports the current condition of the image. And it only reports one aspect of the image:luminance. Even when you view individual color channels, the graph only reflects the relative (dark-light) range of the color’s values. The image’s color issues (saturation and hue) are not addressed directly, though changing either will influence the luminance.

The Histogram cannot alter an image’s condition, it simply reflects any changes to the tonality made by adjustment tools. It has one spectacular feature that makes it my very favorite diagnostic tool; it can literally see in the dark.

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My first peek at shots on my camera’s memory card happens in the camera, right after I finish shooting each subject and just before I put the camera back in the sling. The second look happens when I’m culling and transferring images onto my computer. This second look is usually an evaluation of content and composition more than exposure. I can usually tell which shots are preliminary keepers by viewing the collection from a very impersonal and objective viewpoint. If the shot doesn’t speak to me at first glance, I’m quick to erase it (both RAW and JPEG icons) immediately. Yes, I always capture both file types and yes, I immediately throw out extras. I can’t afford the clutter.

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When it comes time to see the keepers at a larger size, my criteria changes to tonal range. Unless the shot involves known and acceptable stark (black or white) backgrounds, I want to know how much elbow room I’ll have to rearrange the tonal range. Most of the time I can tell just by seeing the relative contrast of the image, but many times (and for many reasons), this visual process can be deceiving. This is when I start looking at the Histogram. This graph has its limitations, but the one talent it has is it’s ability to see potential detail beyond what my eye can see.

LowKeyHere’s a truth you can take to the bank. Even if the image visually appears too dark and beyond repair, if there is a slope, even a steep slope that can be seen on either side of the graph, then both shadow and highlight tonality can be rebuilt.

Put the Histogram to work early in the photo process. Let it diagnose each picture and show you the truth that may be eluding you on the monitor.

That’s the way I sees it. If you have an argument with this position, take it to a higher court! In the mean time, sign up (above right) to get personal notices of future posts. You can’t beat the price.

I enjoy speaking to schools, photo clubs and organizations every month presenting programs on digital photography, post production, and color science. If you’d like me to speak to your group, drop me a line.

If you’d like to understand even more of what makes color work, how light behaves, and how easy it is to shape the light in your photographic images, go to http://gottaknowvideos.com and get Bright About Light!

 

Posted in Tonality and Appearance | Leave a comment

Photo Finishing

Digital photos require a three-step process just as film cameras did two decades ago. It’s popular to think of photography requiring two steps (shooting the picture and producing a physical print), but the process involves three steps with digital images too, even if you print an image directly from your camera. Surprised?

In film days, images were 1) captured on physical film, 2) the film was developed in a photo lab and hung to dry, and then 3) prints were produced from the negatives… three steps. It would seem that digital pictures only require two steps; capturing the image and printing the picture, but you should know that there is a third process that will (and must) take place before the image is printed. All digital images that are printed must include capture, processing, and printing.

Virtually all digital images are captured by the camera’s image sensor as RAW data. You may choose to save the images in JPEG format, but your camera originally captures RAW data. That’s the way digital camera work! It is the single function of the image sensor to collect all the light data from the scene. What happens to that data after the capture process is totally up to you. You can opt for the camera to process the image as a JPEG (literally let the manufacturer decide what your picture should look like) or you can choose to save the RAW data and then YOU shape the image on your computer.

JPEG Files. The image sensor sense reads each point of light and passes the information on to the camera’s image processor to convert the light measurement into digital data. If  your camera is set to save JPEG images, the processor parses the data (analyses the light hitting the sensor) and forms it into an average contrast picture. Most JPEG images deliver reasonable results from average lighting conditions. If you set your camera to save only JPEG images, the original RAW data is converted to JPEG before it is discarded, and you’ll be the proud owner of a “reasonable” picture. Hm-mm.  Photo finished!

OR, you can choose to save the image as a RAW file and process it yourself. Even if you choose this option, your camera’s version of the JPEG image will display immediately when you open the file in Camera Raw or Lightroom. Nothing lost! If you like the camera interpretation, you can keep it (sounds like a political phrase, but it’s not).

However, if you want to make some adjustments to the image, that RAW file is packed full of adjustment options (color and tonal elbowroom) that allow you to be your own photo finisher. Now that’s true photo finishing. Absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Any questions?

That’s the way I sees it. If you have an argument with this position, take it to a higher court! In the mean time, sign up (above right) to get personal notices of future posts.

Speaking Promo

If you’d like to understand even more of what makes color work, how light behaves, and how easy it is to shape the light in your photographic images, go to http://gottaknowvideos.com and get Bright About Light!

 

Posted in Tonality and Appearance | 2 Comments