Workflow

Workflow is a tool that promises to save you time, stress and money if used and delivers! Allow me to explain.

Say you just finished taking photos of your child’s birthday party and the camera is set down out-of-the-way until you can deal with downloading the pictures and do your minor edits. When do you pick it up again (to download the pictures or on your way to the next event)? Probably on your way to the next event, right? Perhaps I can give you some cheery news.

Cameras now being digital are made to be “plug and play” ready. That means that as soon as it is plugged into the computer the computer recognizes the camera and can do almost anything with the information for you by automatic protocol. This is not scary, just be aware of what goes on after key events.

Key events being the device having been plugged in to a computer (laptop or desktop); opening a program while the digital recording device is plugged in; etc.

Take a moment to read the owner’s manual for your camera or read an internet “how-to” on your software to help yourself better understand the tools given to you and ready for use at your finger tips.

Many digital camera manufacturers offer some basic programs that will download your photos automatically to a place on your computer hard drive. There are many other programs that also do this as a means of processing workflow and personal convenience. Take some time to look, read and make an inventory list of your tools to avoid working any harder than necessary.

Let automation take the work and stress out of your life by taking care of the small details for you.

If you have most of this available to you, try plugging your camera into your computer the next time you set it down after a shoot and let it work for you.

Revisiting “Darktable” – Part 2

I am not afraid to tell you, with my list of attributes it was not easy finding the right software package that fit them all. However software development companies have strategy sessions and customer feed back venues for just this purpose to develop their software to be the most applicable and versatile tool for the user available on the market. So do not be afraid to make a list of your desired software attributes.

Finding the software specifics:

Lightroom: Yes, to all but editing, and a drawback for investment. However, investment is not a bad thing, because it gives some assurance to customer support and software development.

Darktable: Yes, to all but editing. GPL and free downloadable installation. Good for starting, but how versatile is it really being free?

Aperture: Yes to all but editing and sharing to personal web albums. Is paying less than half for Aperture worth lacking the workflow to web sales? Not for me as workflow is very important.

Finding software to fit your situational requirements is research intensive, ending with all hope in an ideal solution. The start of the research period is difficult because no description of the program is the same as I search it. So the best form of research is to take the tact of searching “similar program to” the program with which you are familiar.

I have used and was familiar with Adobe Lightroom, so searching for similar programs was not easy to find, but I was familiar with the aspects of the program I sought. If my research ended with no other results, my opportunity to invest into Adobe Lightroom was a primary option for business workflow. Having found Darktable by interest from a recommendation I search it through the developer’s website “darktable.org” and found it very informative.

It is also beneficial to make informative contacts within your market description in or outside your market area. This is how I found out about the Mac software “Aperture”. Using resources for information and helping them by giving useful information is a great support in business and among hobbyists.

Service is important whether payment is rendered or with “gratis” consider its worth in relationship gained more than capital. Business is built and is maintained on relationship not spontaneously occurring capital gain.

Revisiting “Darktable”

In a post last year, we discussed software packages for photography workflow and one of them is named “Darktable”.

I am always on the hunt for software and hardware that will give me optimal performance with minimal effort to help me through an intense product workflow. After looking into other software packages for my specific criterion, I came down to two options. Let me walk you through my list and then we will discuss the process to get here.

This is a list of basics that are crucial  to portrait, scenery and still life photography:

  1. Editing power for spot removal, elemental selection tools and layering work. This ability must either be a part of the software package or ability for integration with an editing program. [These things are important for manipulate and image without also misrepresenting anything within the photo.]
  2. RAW adjustment ability for exposure, white balance, contrast, color pushing and pulling, Tonal adjustments, etcetera.
  3. Cropping photos in batch files to certain common print sizes and digital device resolution.
  4. Quality assurance is a particularly important part. No customer wants a picture that is unfocused or has poor quality. So the program should accurately read and adjust the printing quality of a photo in dot per inch (DPI).
  5. Upload batches of files to personal web albums and other public albums on commercial websites or social media for advertising.
  6. Intuitive Workflow through the program is a great help while not “necessary”, is better to have functions and menus organized and accessible without multiple steps.

Software packages like Lightroom, Darktable and Aperture will not contain as powerful manipulation processes as Photoshop, GIMP or Corel Paintshop Professional. That is why I said it should at-least be capable of import/export integration with the manipulation software.

Now that I have explained my list of software package attributes I wanted, I will discuss Lightroom, Darktable and Aperture in our second blog post this Friday.

Reflection – Part 3

– Troubleshooting the reflections –

Reflections can be very difficult to “diagnose”, though remembering that the reflections in the photograph can only be fixed if they are fixed from the viewing perspective of the camera.

Reflections may be fixed from your perspective separate from the camera and I am sorry to say ‘it may not fix what the camera sees.’ The best way to be sure the reflection is fixed or blocked is to view the scene through the camera with software or directly through the camera.

Most professional line of cameras carry with them access to software for seeing the current camera view. If that is not an option, tripods or other mounting options will guarantee the least amount of movement possible. This will enable you to check the camera view and leave to fix the unwanted reflections.

Reflections will come in different ways. I will not have time or space in this post to help you troubleshoot them, but I will list those I have more recently met.

Round shiny objects, like Christmas ornaments, drinking glasses.

Flat reflective surfaces, mirrors, glass doors, heavily polished wood.

Liquids.

It takes a good head/eye for details to catch it early and a time or two of being caught with reflections in a photo to bring the point home, or paranoia. Okay, that  crack about paranoia was a joke.

I would caution that if you are taking portraits and your subject is wearing shiny jewelry or sunglasses which can give your reflection, be ready with alternate shooting angles and poses.

I wish I could give you draw illustrations of how reflections are made, but you are intelligent and very capable of learning this process or searching for other resources that will teach you in the way you learn best!

A quick story on myself before closing: “I was shooting a glass trophy that has an etched design in the center and an arched top. I was stumped how half of the arched trophy top was not block-able no matter what I put around it. Then I took the time to look closely at what detail I could see of the reflection and I realized, ‘I am seeing the etched inside!'”

No matter how you avoid some reflections, some will just have to be featured. Enjoy!

Getting The Most Out Of Your Camera

Have you ever found yourself in a situation and wishing you had a hot shoe flash with you? Well being the biggest “anti-flash fan” you know of (I’m just kidding! I’m not “anti-flash”. My concern and talking point is a caution against built-in flashes.) I have some things for you to look into if you are interested in getting just a little bit more out of your camera’s performance.

Having used my equipment in a lot of situations with varied amounts of lighting, I became very dissatisfied with blurry photos. So, in an effort to understand more about the performance of my camera and lenses, I began searching for methods of shooting without a flash and blur.

As I began my search I discovered that when shooting black & white (monochrome) pictures, my camera was more sensitive in lower lighted areas giving me the capability to shoot with a faster shutter speed.

At the same time, I did not want to only shooting black & white (monochrome) photos in low light, so how can I get around this problem? Some cameras come with editing software. Canon provides “Canon Utilities Software” with their SLR cameras, so there may be comparable software with other camera brands. In “Canon Utilities Software” post-exposure changes are possible by reading the EXIF data from the photo and altering the information in a new file temporarily stored in a separate data file.

However, before I prattle too far afield of my given topic, my point of shooting black & white (monochrome) photos to avoid needing to add light; the picture style can be changed in the editing process of “Canon Utilities Software”. What this mean is black & white (monochrome) shots can be change into color shots!

The camera takes the information of colors with each black & white (monochrome) shot, however not as it would when shooting in color. Do not be surprised when changing picture styles that the color is not as vibrant as when shooting in other pictures styles.

More on picture styles and black & white shooting in Part 2.

Post-Production Software – Part 3

Darktable – Non-Destructive, Data Protective, Photo Developmental Software

Design and Purpose: Darktable is designed to use the RAW Camera Data for dynamic photo editing without destroying the RAW Data. In doing so it provides some amazing capability for the photographer to use in post-production.

The purpose of a work flow program, such as Darktable, is to put the “final touches” on all photos in one album with minimal effort and time. For more personal touches on individual photos, there are presets to speed up those process. Creating your own presets is a great benefit considering each photographer has their own style and each uniquely set their camera settings. Presets will implement all effects on a photo that have been saved in the preset file.

Each Module that offers “presets” in the workflow will have a “preset” icon to access and use a different preset or make a new one! Hovering over items in the Darktable user interface will display a “mouse flag” with the name of the icons operation, such as “preset”. Review the Darktable website for more resources.

Capabilities: Non-destructive photo embellishments/editing, Complete workflow processing, Retouching tool, Water marking automation, Module presets, Film strip review and Customized panel of users favorite tools.

Strengths: Much of the Darktable program is able to be customized with the user’s specific information. Once a watermark is created it can be implemented into the software’s user interface by saving it in Darktable’s watermark specific folder. Please refer to Darktable’s user manual section 4.41. Darktable has good documentation on their website for most of the program.

Weaknesses: As with many start-up software builds there are problems in some areas. In my installation of Darktable I have not been able to create a HDR image, even though I follow a tutorial to the letter. Now, please understand this does not guarantee the problem to be a software problem! Even though my computer meets the system requirements for Darktable, I know that I am working a less than optimal set of hardware for peak performance. I write this as a program weakness so as to make you are aware, nothing is guaranteed to work out of the box. I am working with Darktable bug reporting team as I learn more about my system’s actions and the response from Darktable.

I have installed Darktable on a MacBook Pro, running Snow Leopard (still within the system requirements of Darktable’s build for Macintosh computers) and Darktable will not open. This bug has been reported by other Mac users and is currently being resolved.

I called Darktable a “start-up”, and I do not mean that in a disrespectful way. The newest version release of Darktable is 1.0 and for MAC osX 0.9.2. The programmers have done a great deal of hard work! Congratulations to them for their accomplishments! The fact being which they readily admit is there are going to be some hang-ups here and there. So as a network of users and programmers let us all work together to make the program better!

Post-Production Software – Part 2

GIMP – GNU Image Manipulation Program

First I would like to be clear; I do own and use other software besides these three free programs I have mentioned. I also have used the installations of other programs on my friends computers. I am not writing these posts from a prejudiced point of view that “free software is every bit as good as chargeable software”.

My premise is this: “each piece of software has its strengths and weaknesses”. Strengths and weaknesses which we can use to our benefit! It is my desire to share with you, my reader, the ways that I have found to use these programs in tandem or independently to achieve my desired outcome for each photograph and their functionality of mass file alterations.

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is designed to create an image or manipulate an image already created. That is to say, any changes made to an image are saved to the original file and thus over-writing any previous data. So long as the user is aware of this there will be no problems in making your own image progression by changing the file-name (even one character difference is enough to distinguish between files).

Capabilities: Layers, Channels, Gradients, Patterns, Image history, Document history, Wide variety of Tools, Paths and the ability to edit every function of the program or write new scripts in PERL for customized performance. This is a rather brief description of the program capabilities but we can go into these specifics at a later time.

Strengths: GIMP is a wonderful program for the artist working on individual pieces of art or “fine corrections” on specific parts of an art piece. It is a powerful GNU GPL (General Public License) software making it available for tweaking by studious users. All of the Tool Brushes can be copied or new Brushes made to suit your specific purposes.

Weaknesses: For many users not being a file organizer is a turn off. (Thus it is listed as a weakness of the software. I personal still use GIMP for this purpose.) Scripts for complicated processing are minimal (i.e. HDR creation, Panorama stitching and Automatic Watermarking.) It would benefit from better RAW Camera Data reading and manipulation.

These are my professional critiques. For personal uses, this program has always exceeded my desires and performance requirements. It is a solid, fully developed piece of software that is well worth your time to learn and use!

NEXT:… Post-Production Software – Part 3 (Darktable)

Post-Production Software

Where do I start? Where can I find good software which will not require me to file for chapter 11 bankruptcy? Now, I am exaggerating and being very sarcastic. Let me be clear. All of the software which is sold by companies like Adobe, Corel, Sony, Canon & Nikon, cost a bit more than most of us would spend on a whim. They are well priced to cover the cost of production, packaging and shipping as well as hopefully a proper amount of profit.

All of that production, shipping and profit adds up to a lot of money for private users and even small businesses. So is there effectively operative software that is free?

Here are a few free programs of which I know to operate well at basic level.

Now, GIMP and “Darktable” I know have versions which will run on Windows and Linux operating systems, but “MyPaint” I have only found for Linux distributions.

You can read about these programs on sourceforge.net or on their own websites and they will provide links from which to download the software.

I would like to give you a brief overview of each program from the photographer’s point of view which will not be included in the information to be found on sourceforge.net.

GIMP is an image manipulation program. In fact, “Image Manipulation Program” are the last three-quarters of the program name. GIMP is an abbreviation for “Gnome Image Manipulation Program.” It operates with simple tools to edit, create and manipulate digital graphics files. It saves the completed files in several formats such as .PNG .GIF .BMP and its own native format .XCF. The .JPEG format is proprietary so it requires the download of the .JPEG package to save images in this format, but it is still free and completely possible to enable. GIMP is not a program that is hard to learn or void of tutorial lessons on any topic you may desire to read.

Do not fear, we will get into more specifics of each program in future posts.

“Darktable”: I only recently downloaded and installed “Darktable” on my computer, so I will be learning “on the fly” and sharing it with you. If you know about the functionality of “Adobe LightRoom” you will take up “Darktable” quickly and with a great amount of skill. I will describe though the basics of its operations without the predication of our prior experience with “Adobe LightRoom”. “Darktable” is a program that is designed to make working with a group of photos from a shoot and streamline the process of post-production, maximizing your time without compromising the quality of the photo. How does that work? Please be patient and we will discuss that in-depth in a future post.

“MyPaint” is a program designed for the digital artist who uses digital equipment like Graphics Tablets. “MyPaint” is designed not so much for editing images as creating them. “MyPaint” does not require a Graphics Tablet, but its capabilities are certainly optimized by using a Graphics Tablet.

Please “tune-in” Friday for Part 2 of “Post-Production Software”!