Saturday, March 31, 2007

Book Review: Photoshop Blending Modes Cookbook For Digital Photographers by John Beardsworth

by T. Michael Testi ( , PhotographyToday, ATAEE)

If you have ever tried to work with Photoshop's layer blending modes, you probably found that they are not always easy to understand; so much so that many times this feature is overlooked. Photoshop Blending Modes Cookbook For Digital Photographers, using its recipe–format style that made the O'Reilly Digital Studio series famous, will help you on your way to understanding this specialty feature.

What are blending modes? The basic answer is that they are effects that allow one layer to interact with another layer — that is, blend. In CS2 there are over twenty blending modes. They range from those which darken and lighten an image to ones that increase contrast and others that manipulate color.

Photoshop Blending Modes Cookbook breaks out into four sections beginning with "Introduction to Blending Modes". Here Beardsworth sets forth the basic concepts of blending modes. He explains why and when you would want to use blending modes and he describes two main reasons to use them — one as a flavor, the other as an entrée! That is, sometimes you want to make a small subtle effect — a flavor. Or sometimes you want an in-your-face statement to be made — an entrée.

The next section, "Blending Modes in Detail", takes you through each of the blending modes that are available in Photoshop CS2. For example, Color Burn — the author explains that it is the third member of the Darken group. He explains how it works, and gives some examples of where it can be used as well as an example of using it with the Gaussian Blur.

Then the author gets into what Photoshop Blending Modes Cookbook is all about, the "recipes." The recipes are simple, short effects that you can add to your images to give them that little nudge to make them more effective. You will find that you can add a little glow to highlight a face, or to make the skin look softer. There are sharpening techniques and hard shadowing techniques.

The whole point of the book is to allow you to learn simple specific techniques without having to learn everything else about Photoshop. You will learn to manipulate the colors, hues, and saturation as well as working with color shifts. You will be able to adjust lighting, control contrast, and add surface effects and textures. You can even go over the top by adding special color, graphic, and drawing effects to your images.
I found this book easy to read. It has clear, easy to follow instructions that will allow someone with minimal Photoshop experience to make great enhancements to their photos. There are 49 recipes that are highlighted with colorful examples that will have you saying "I never knew you could do that!"

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Website/Video Review: The Luminous Landscape Video Journal: Issue 15

by T. Michael Testi ( , PhotographyToday, ATAEE)
For those who don't know, The Luminous Landscape is a phenomenal website for those who are into photography, especially landscape photography. As with any quality photography site it has its galleries and essays as well as product reviews and tutorials. It has all the things one would expect in a professional photography website.

You may have read my review of Alain Briot's Mastering Landscape Photography: The Luminous Landscape Essays, a wonderful book that explores what it takes to become a master of landscape photography. On the site you can also read Briot's column called Briot's View. The publisher and primary author is Michael Reichmann. He has forged the site into a multimedia learning center with the The Luminous Landscape Video Journal. He is also the host of the video.

The Luminous Landscape Video Journal: Issue 15 is the latest offering from the Luminous Landscape. Although this is the first issue being offered as a download version, the one I am reviewing is the DVD version I ordered from the site. Let me make one point; my only minor disappointment is that from the time I order a DVD until the time I receive it takes about two to three weeks. I suspect this delay has to do with it coming from Canada. Our friends to the north will find the delivery time much shorter, but to me, it deprives me of my instant gratification. When issue 16 is available, I may be trying the download.

In this video, Michael (I have to use the familiar, since I feel acquainted with him from the videos) and the workshop participants are on location in Bangladesh. They have workshops also. The next one is going to the Amazon in April, which already sold out. They explore the wonderful aspects of being in an exotic location and getting the kind of shots one could only imagine being done by a National Geographic photographer. They journey down the river to the woodland of the Sunderban. They explore the Sadarghat - Dhaka's main ferry terminal. They examine the Bangladesh people - poor in wealth, but rich life and spirit.
What makes this work is that the experience is videotaped and shown as a travel film so you can experience the trip, but then they show the stills that came from the trip. You can see the scenery, then you see the image. It gives you the sense of being there and taking in the pictures. The video journal does not stop there. There is a second section featuring Bill Atkinson on Color Management. This is the first of a two-part video that features discussion on color management and profiling. There is a lot of interesting inspiration you cannot get anywhere else.

Part three continues with Bill Atkinson on matte board cutting and print mounting. Here they demonstrate Atkinson's method of cutting and building double matte techniques for gallery quality prints. The last segment is with Brooks Jensen, the creator and co-publisher of the bi-monthly Lenswork, the magazine on the art of photography. It is truly amazing to see what it takes to put together a high quality magazine on a regular basis.

I have been sold on the video journals since the first one I ordered. These are quality DVDs that will provide you with the confidence you need to explore your world. You can now see through the eyes of a photographer and learn the techniques that will elevate your skills to the next level. You can only buy these DVDs at the Luminous Landscape store. If you are trying to enhance your skills as a photographer, and it really does not matter if you specialize in landscape or not, you will want to order The Luminous Landscapes Video Journal # 15.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Book Review: Commercial Photoshop Retouching - In The Studio by Glenn Honiball

by T. Michael Testi ( , PhotographyToday, ATAEE)

Photoshop is the market leader and industry standard for commercial bitmap manipulation. In the photographic world it is known as the "digital darkroom." You've seen the work that commercial artists have done in manipulating images, whether it is to take an existing car and put it into a more appropriate background for an advertisement or to remove blemishes on the face of a bridal image to bring out picture perfect memories. Commercial Photoshop Retouching: In The Studio will show you how to do the same.

In Commercial Photoshop Retouching, Honiball's goal is to provide the fundamental tools to allow you to take your pictures and create professional-looking retouched images in the most efficient and realistic way — that is, by using simple tools, a creative sensibility and time tested techniques, presenting an image that looks natural and does not look retouched.

Commercial Photoshop Retouching is presented in nine chapters and the images themselves can be obtained online from the O'Reilly website.

In the first chapter, the author describes what it takes to build a retoucher's studio. Here he describes his work flow and equipment as well as what a day in the life is like for a retoucher. Chapter two, "Shadows and Light" explores how light and shadows interact, how creating a realistic shadow can be a challenge, and how shadows, while subtle, are very important in setting an object into its surroundings.

Chapter three focuses on corrections, or how to improve reality. Corrections can include adding texture to an image to make it more vibrant, neutralizing an image to bring out its natural color, or adding grayscale to bring out more shape. This is one of the areas that can change an image so dramatically that many people can't believe what you started with.

Chapter four looks at making something from nothing. These are elements that are put in place to add atmosphere to your image, say, adding steam to a cup of coffee, or adding an element because you removed something undesirable from an image — a person, telephone pole or other unsightly distraction where you now need to add something fill to the void.

Chapter five handles color requests. In commercial retouching, you are often asked to change the color of a car, or shirt or some other item in the image. Here the author shows you how. Chapter six examines how to merge images. You have seen it many times especially in advertisements where they show some product, say a car, sitting on the moon. You didn't really think that it was shot up there? In this chapter, Honiball will show you how to handle these changes while making it look seamlessly put together.

Chapter seven concentrates on how to take your page size advertisement and convert it to fit a billboard. This is important when you don't have the resources to re-shoot for the larger size. Chapter eight shows you how to prepare images for newsprint. Preparing for a newspaper can be a challenge in itself because of the type of media; the images can look flat, soft and lacking in contrast. Here the author shows you what can be done bring out the life in your creation.

Chapter nine finishes up with how to prepare images for use on packing materials. If you are creating images for use on items other than traditional print media - such as potato chips containers, mouse pads, coffee cups, calendars, etc - then you will need to know how to prepare your images for use with the Flexo press that is used to print on odd materials and so has challenges of its own. Here the author shows you how to read the printer’s spec sheet and properly prepare your image for production.

Regardless of whether you are a production artist facing unrealistically tight deadlines or a studio photographer trying to get the right look, or even a student of photography with intermediate skills with Photoshop, Commercial Photoshop Retouching: In The Studio will give you the fundamentals you will need for success.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Book Review - Scanning Negatives And Slides: Digitizing Your Photographic Archives by Sascha Steinhoff

by T. Michael Testi ( , PhotographyToday, ATAEE)

For people who have been taking pictures for more than just the last five to ten years, photography is more than just digital images. It is also all of those slides and negatives that they have collected prior to the onset of the digital age. Even today, there are times when the most die-hard pixel junkie may have the need to shoot film. The question is: how do I get them on to my computer? The answer is Scanning Negatives And Slides: Digitizing Your Photographic Archives.

Sascha Steinhoff found that it can be just as challenging to get a quality scan as it is to get a quality photo. After spending several rainy seasons in Ireland learning what it takes to create a quality scanning workflow, he lays out his methods in his book Scanning Negatives And Slides. The book is divided into 15 chapters and a DVD that contains some scanner software, image editing software as well as sample scans from film as well as flatbed scanners.

He begins with an introduction to scanners, workflow and the alternatives to film scanners. From here he moves on to the performance characteristics of film scanners. He discusses all of the essential parameters for evaluating a film scanner as well as a wish list that he would like to see in future film scanners.

He then proceeds to discuss scanning film. He points out that you cannot have your scanned images turn out better than the original film. You must handle your negatives and slides with care. From there you must choose the right file format to scan into for creating the best quality image. Here he shows how to choose the best format and resolution for your particular purpose. He also discusses the use of RAW format in scanning.

Color management then becomes the topic as it is very important as the image passes through the various devices on its way to the final output. Here he describes the basics of color management and profiling your equipment.

Scanning is done in several steps and in chapter six he explores the steps needed in generating a good scan. This includes the thumbnail, the preview and the scan as well as multi-sampling. From there the author describes scanning correction filters that can be used to smooth film grain, restore faded colors as well as removing scratches and imperfections.

The next four chapters are concerned with scanning software and setting it up. Steinhoff explains that there are a lot of different drivers and settings depending on your equipment and software. Some tasks must be done before scanning and some can be done after. In this book he concentrates on three scanning programs; "Nikon Scan", "VueScan" and "SilverFast". He continues with these packages in the chapter on "Scan Workflows" in which he talks about what needs to be done first and then how to work with the three scanning packages.

The author then switches to editing software. In chapter 13 he covers Nikon Capture editor and chapter 14 he covers Photoshop editing. Overall these are pretty lightweight, but in the scope of this book, I would expect them to be.

He finishes up the book with a chapter on archiving and backing up your data. He explains that just because it is saved does not make it safe. He also gives ideas on image management.

What I like about Scanning Negatives And Slides is that it explains the technology and works in to setting up a quality workflow that is both practicable as well as usable. Overall, he makes it understandable. The author does focus on Nikon's film scanner a lot, but it seems that much of this can be translated to other scanners as well.