Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Photo of 'extinct' tiger sparks controversy

Posted By T. Michael Testi

Photo of 'extinct' tiger sparks controversy

Updated: 2007-10-18 19:32

XI'AN -- A newly-released photo, which Chinese forestry authorities say proves the continuing existence of wild South China tigers which have been thought to be extinct, has sparked heated controversy from Internet citizens, questioning its authenticity.

The digital picture, purporting to be a wild South China tiger crouching in the midst of green bushes, was released by the Forestry Department of northwest China's Shaanxi Province at a news conference on October 12.

Zhou Zhenglong, 52, a farmer and former hunter in Chengguan Township of Shaanxi's Zhenping County, photographed the tiger with a digital camera and on film on the afternoon of October 3, a department spokesman said.

Experts had confirmed the 40 digital pictures and 31 film photographs are genuine, the spokesman told reporters.

But dozens of netizens expressed doubts about the authenticity of the digital picture -- the only one of the 71 taken to be released at the news conference -- after it had been posted on the Internet, especially in on-line forums discussing Photoshop (PS) technologies.

Netizens suspected that the picture had been processed with PS technologies before release, citing the irregular effects of illumination and focus, and the unreal fur colour of the tiger. Read It All...


Friday, October 19, 2007

Around the Net with PhotographyToday


From Scott Kelby about the "Paper" rant on Jeff Revell's blog comes an unofficial response

  • "Last week, Epson announced their groundbreaking new Signature Worthy Exhibition Fiber Art paper, and after I wrote about it here on the blog, Jeff Revell (Over at the popular Jeff’s Photo Gallery Blog), did a post (he called it a rant), about Epson’s choice of only offering European paper sizes here in the U.S. (you can read Jeff’s rant right here)." Read it all...

John Nack reports on what the pros use; Lightroom vs. Apperture

From Uwi Steinmueller is an interesting article on using Lightroom Stacks to capture more light.

  • "As mentioned before we now shoot 3 or 5 images brackets for each scene. We outlined why in our "Exposure Mix & Match" article. There is of course one downside to this method: a lot more exposures. There are two aspects to deal with:
    • Storage capacity and backup
    • Image Organization
  • This article covers the aspect of Image Organization. We use Lightroom as our main Image Organizer. This means we first import the images of a new shoot into Lightroom." Read it All...


Software Review - Adobe Photoshop Elements 6.0

Written By T. Michael Testi


Adobe Photoshop Elements 6.0 is the latest release from the Adobe Photoshop family. By now most readers are aware of the release of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 1.0 early in the spring of 2007 (now on version 1.2), and the release of both versions of Adobe Photoshop CS3; Standard and Extended, that happened later in the spring. Well Fall, 2007 brings the release of Elements 6.0.

Just what is Adobe Photoshop Elements 6.0? It is the little brother of the industry standard digital imaging software product Adobe Photoshop; in this case CS3. Photoshop is considered by many to be the best digital imaging product on the planet. While Photoshop is great for the professional, it is not always good for casual user, or amateur for a couple of reasons. First, with a high end product, there is usually a high end learning curve that can take months; even years to get good at. Second, with a high end product usually comes a high end price. In the case of Photoshop CS3, new can mean $649.00 USD for Standard, and $999.00 USD for the Extended version. Adobe Photoshop Elements 6.0 on the other hand is $99.00 USD, or bundled with Adobe Premier Elements 4.0, is $149.00 USD.

What do you need to run Adobe Photoshop Elements 6.0. Currently it is only available on Windows, with the Mac release coming early in 2008. So, on Windows you need 1.3GHz, or better machine, with 256 MB (512 recommended) A Mouse. A 16-bit Color display with 1024x768 resolution at 96DPI or less. A CD-Rom, and around 1.5 GB hard disk space available.

So what is new with this version of Adobe Photoshop Elements?

• Get Going Faster – As expected one of the main goals of any software is to try to increase the speed with which you can get things done, and this is no exception. With things better organized, you can move more efficiently.

• Smart Albums – You can now bring together just the photos that you want to see. You can set up to 10 search criteria; things like type of camera, date of shoot, or other info, then click on the Smart Album, and you will see the matching set of photos.

• Enhanced Library Performance – They have sped up your ability to scroll through your photos, apply tags, view, and retrieve your photos.


• Dedicated Project Bin – This allows you to gather the photos you need for a specific project into one place. It provides you with easy access to all of your open photos, photo book pages, and saved albums.

• Enhanced Step-by-step assistance – will walk you through each step needed to edit blemishes, touch up scratches, or other tasks that will improve your photos.

• Enhanced Fine Tune Exposure – gives you more power to adjust color, brightness, and contrast in your photos while preserving much of your original photo data.

• Selections – With this new technology, you can make image selection in a snap. You only have to brush your selection, and then use sliders to make the adjustment blend into the background.

• Enhanced Clone Tool – If you need to remove unwanted details such as a telephone pole, a car passing by, or Uncle Vinnie, all you have to do is copy one portion of an image, and apply it over another to cover it up.

• Enhanced Spot Healing Brush – Brush away wrinkles, and unwanted objects. You can preview your changes prior to commitment to get the best results possible.

• Enhanced Black and White – Transforming your color originals to Black and White has gotten better with the new slider controls for contrast adjustments. You also have larger previews that make it easier to get the results you desire.

• Photo Blending – Now you can take multiple images and compose them into one great one. The new photo blending technology allows you to combine the best facial and body language from a series of shots to create a perfect composite. See below.


• Enhanced Photo Books – This allows you to create professional looking photo books that enable you to view spreads, flip through your book, and rearrange pages. Then, when you are satisfied, you can order one by clicking on the order button and have professionally printed and delivered to your door (Note that this is available only in North America and Japan).

• Enhanced Sharing – You can share your images via e-mail, online galleries, as well as burning to CD from the new Sharing Center.

• Enhanced Interactive Sharing – using Adobe Flash Technology by creating animated web galleries.

I really like the changes to Adobe Photoshop Elements 6.0. It uses the dark interface to make your image clearer, and the background less distracting. There are two work areas which may seem confusing to some users, but coming from the Photoshop background, it makes perfect sense to me. In Photoshop you have Bridge to organize photos, and the main editing program to process them. In Adobe Photoshop Elements 6.0, you have Organizer and the Editor.

If I had one complaint, it would be that more basic items should be in the Guided Edit. Techniques like Whiten teeth, remove glare from glasses, etc. Adobe Photoshop Elements 6.0 is an amateur's dream come true. All of the basics of its big brother Adobe Photoshop, with a lot less of the hassle, learning curve, and the price.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Around the Net with PhotographyToday

Posted By T. Michael Testi


     From John Nack

"We know that many people have been unhappy with printing from Photoshop CS3 (overwhelmingly on Windows), and we've been working on changes that will make things work better. Unfortunately the process isn't as quick as we'd like, given the sheer number of hardware, printer driver, and operating system combinations. We've made some changes & will be issuing an update to Photoshop CS3, but it's not quite ready to be shared with the world at large." Read it all


From Matt Kloskowski's Photoshop Lightroom Killer Tips

"I’m really excited to introduce a new feature on this site. Presets (or downloads or whatever you want to call them)! See…I realized I had an extra 15 minutes each week that was being wasted, so I decided to give myself one more item on the weekly “to-do” list." Read it All


From Jeff's Photo gallery - a rant

"A few months ago I purchased an Epson 2200 printer so that I could finally make some “large” prints. First let me say that I love my 2200! The color, sharpness and tonality are everything you would expect from Epson. But that aside, my real issue falls upon the archaic paper sizes that are available from Epson and more imprtant are the ones that are not. Let’s talk 13×19, 17×22, and 24×30. Yes it’s true that I can only print up to the 13″ paper width on my 2200 but besides that, what do all of these paper sizes have in common? "  Read it All


Finally from Uwe Steinmueller and Digital Outback Photo

"We very much feel like food critics if we write about papers. Selecting papers is so subjective and the internet cannot show really their qualities.

In September/October 2007 we had the chance to get early or even very early samples of a new generation on fiber based fine art papers which all try to emulate the classic air dried silver papers. We have for each paper a dedicated page where we share our personal findings. This page tries to compare some of these paper's properties. The papers are all very good (and also expensive). In the end it comes down to personal choices." Read it All


Book Review: The Digital Photographer's Notebook By Kevin Ames

Written and Posted by T. Michael Testi

This is a great new book by Photoshop User columnist and commercial photographer Kevin Ames.


"Photographers live in the moment when shooting and I believe we do the same when in front of the monitor," claims Kevin Ames, the President of Ames Photographic Illustration, Inc., a photographic studio that specializes in commercial photography, retouching, and post production services.

In his book The Digital Photographer's Notebook, the author will attempt to show you what can be done, using Photoshop CS3 (including the Camera Raw plug-in), Lightroom, and Bridge, to manage your portfolio, and create head-turning photographs. He shows you what he has learned in the last 30 years as a professional photographer, and the last 15 while making the transition to digital.

The Digital Photographer's Notebook is 342 pages long divided into 21 chapters and four parts. I will break this review down into the four logical parts. The author wants you to know that this is not a compilation of his articles of the same name that have been published in Photoshop User magazine — rather this is a restating, and updating of the topics, and thought processes, and presents them in the light of the new Adobe products.

Part 1, "Acquisition: From Capture to Computer," begins by talking about the shoot; whether on location, or in the studio, it all begins with the capture. In this case, the location is Africa in 2001. Looking back at the kind of equipment that was available at the time, and what is available now, it is really quite remarkable — both from a hardware, and software point of view. Ames also explains about the problems that can arise from location, such as dusty conditions.

You will also learn about working with Adobe Bridge, and how it can be used to import, and rename your files, why you should backup your files, how to apply Metadata, and how to set your white balance. Next you learn about shooting tethered — that is, your files go directly from your camera into the computer. This can be really good when shooting in the studio, as it gives you instant gratification. You will also learn about getting the light right, and quantity vs. quality of light. He also shows you why you should go out and shoot some clouds.

Part 2, "Management: From Computer to Archive," shows you why you can get into trouble managing your images if you don't take control early on. Here, Ames begins with the Metadata, and how it can be used to manage your files. From here, he shows you how to name your digital negatives by providing some guidance on what, and what not to do when naming your files. Once you have managed this, you need to archive; but just backing up may not be enough. This is followed up with the use of Lightroom Catalogs, and why they should be used.

Part 3, "Showing Off: From Archive to Review," takes us down the road to working with the files. Here you learn some techniques to bring out the best in your images. Ames discusses the differences between JPEG and RAW, as well as what a digital negative is. You will learn more about Lightroom, and what it can do for you. You will explore color correction, and tweaking exposure. He explains about web photo galleries, and how you can take your images to the NET. He also gets into email presentations, and how templates can make your job easier to generate contacts.

Part 4, "Photoshop: From Review to Completion," explores what can be done with using Photoshop to create images. Here composite images are explored, as are Black-And-White conversions; where he uses Channel Mixer to do his conversions. Here you will learn a bit about Photoshop Actions for automation of tasks. He then looks at enhancements, and retouching photos.At this pointhe shows you how to fix blemishes, clean teeth, and brighten eyes.

Part 4 continues with how to lighten without lights. Sometimes what you see is beyond the ability of the camera to record — at least in a single shot. Here Ames shows you what you can do with HDR, or High Dynamic Range imaging. Here you learn how to create a perfect shot without the perfect lighting. Ames finally finishes up by talking about how to overcome other interior nuances.

I predict that the The Digital Photographer's Notebook will become a classic in the annals of Photoshop books. It is well written, easy to read, easy to implement, and most of all, practical. It is not a "how to do everything in Photoshop" — rather it is a walk-through that makes a lot of sense. It gives you some tips and tricks along the way, much like if you went over tosome old friends' to learn how they work, and process through their images. I highly recommend The Digital Photographer's Notebook.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Video Training Review: Photoshop CS3 Color Correction From

Written and Posted by T. Michael Testi


If you want to learn color correction and you like to be shown as opposed to reading about, this video is for you. Taz Tally breaks down what it takes to take your color correction to the next level.


One of the hardest things for most people to get a handle on when they are trying to get a good image is the color. This video will help you evaluate and correct your color images. The instructor's goal is to not only show you how to get color correct, but how to do it quickly and easily so you can get back out to what you would rather be doing; shooting more pictures. Photoshop CS3 Color Correction runs 7.25 hours and is divided into 10 lessons.

Lesson 1, "Setting Up Photoshop for Color Correction" begins by talking about color workflow preferences and some of the things that you can do to streamline your color management efforts. You will assign your color settings, learn about the color tools, customize your workspace, and learn how to use shortcuts on your keyboard.

2, "Managing Images with Bridge" explains navigation and management within the Bridge environment. You will learn to sort, label, and insert copyrights into your images.

3, "Color Image Fundamentals" is where the core learning begins. Here you get your hands dirty with pixel dust. The instructor feels that you need to understand what is going on under the hood, to understand why do a particular technique so when it doesn't work on another image, you will be able to figure out why. You learn about grayscale, channels, bit depth and its relation to grayscale and color as well as learning about how the histogram displays color. You will learn about Info pallet measurements in RGB, and CMYK, as well as learning about Lab color is.

4, "The Evaluation Process: Physical, Visual, Graphical, Numeric" explores four methods of evaluation of your images and asks the question "Should you correct or adjust?" One is where the color is just wrong, and you need to get it right; correction. And one is where the color is good, but you just may want to bring it out more, or change it entirely; adjustment.

5, "Evaluating and Fixing Physical Characteristics" shows you what to do with the physical properties of your image. That is, what size should it be, how do you straighten and crop the image, as well as finding, and fixing noise from within your image.

6, "Evaluating and Correcting Your Color" explains how to use master channel histograms, as well as individual channel histograms, to evaluate the distribution of data within your image. You will work with highlights and color sampler. You will see how to identify and correct for shadows, find and use potential neutrals correction, as well as correcting for skin tone.

7, "Special Topics" cover things like removing noise and screens; a screen pattern in the background, sharpen noisy images, and how to retouch. Also covered is RGB sharpening, and working in Lab Color for better results and control of the sharpening of your images.

8, "Putting It All Together" takes you through the workflow paces by physical changes, setting up the info tool, evaluating the image, setting color sampler points, making corrections, fine tuning, tweaking, proofing and sharpening.

9, "Target-Based Corrections" introduces you to target-based corrections, two-step target based corrections and multi-step target based corrections.

10, "Color Correction Projects" allows you to work through specific images to really learn the art of color correction. You will be working with histograms, the combination of histogram, color sampler and Info, working with highlights, neutrals, skin tones as well as creating image adjustments.

Taz Tally has a remarkably down to earth teaching method that makes the user feel at ease, and makes this a good learning experience. He is clear, and concise, and is not one to just tell; he explains, so that you feel that you really understand what you are learning.

You can get Photoshop CS3 Color Correction two ways. One is as a DVD training package Photoshop Lightroom Essential Training and the other is part of the online training experience at The DVD Training Package is $99 USD and contains everything you need.

The online training Photoshop CS3 Color Correction comes in three flavors. Monthly at $25 USD/month gets you all of the videos that are available online (approximately 21,811 videos on 318 topics at this time). Annually at $250 USD per year or Premium at $375 USD per year which get all the videos as well as all of the exercise files. Take note that the exercise files are not included with the monthly or annual subscriptions. They are included on the DVD and Premium subscriptions.

You can use Photoshop CS3 Color Correction as a training program for the individual student, as well as the college or vocational teacher looking to supplement their educational materials. It is of benefit to anyone who needs help understanding the color correction. You can also try out the part of the first lesson for free at

Photoshop CS3 Color Correction Lesson Listing:

Setting Up Photoshop for Color Correction
Managing Images with Bridge
Color Image Fundamentals
The Evaluation Process: Physical, Visual, Graphical, Numeric
Evaluating and Fixing Physical Characteristics
Evaluating and Correcting Your Color
Special Topics
Putting It All Together
Target-Based Corrections
Color Correction Projects


Friday, October 05, 2007

Software Review - Photoshop Plug-in: Snap Art From Alien Skin Software

Posted by T. Michael Testi

There are a lot of great plugins avaliable for image editing programs like Photoshop, Elements, and the like. This new product from Alien Software is pretty unique in that it will bring out the artist in you.


Did you ever have an image and think to yourself, "This would look great as a painting," or "I would like to see this image a pencil drawing, or even as a comic drawing?" Well look no further than Snap Art for a one step process to do all of this, and more.

Snap Art is a plug-in for Adobe Photoshop as well as other image editors. It offers several effects not available in a plug-in such as line drawings; in both pen, and pencil. It also has a wide variety of traditional effects such as painting techniques, colored pencils, charcoal, as well as oil pastels.

All in all Snap Art offers 10 filters that includes color pencil, comics, impasto, oil paint, pastel, pen and ink, pencil sketch, pointillism, stylize, and watercolor. Each is very easy to use, and can be implemented as easy as one click. Each also has many options and can be used in combination with each other. Snap Art is also scriptable with Photoshop actions, as well as supporting 16-bit images.

"Color Pencil" uses hatching and shading techniques to recreate an image as a sketch artist would. Options include paper stock, and lighting controls. "Comics" give the photo the look of a comic strip with posterized colors, shading and half-toning. Options include the number of colors, and halftone size.

"Impasto" is an oil painting style where the marks made by the brush or painting knife remain visible. Options include brushes, strokes, and canvas type. "Oil Paint" captures the feel of painting with oils. Options include brush size, paint thickness, and stroke length.

"Pastel" simulates painting with pastels, including regions of soft tone, and color. Options include soft, hard, and oil pastels, as well as paper type, and lighting. "Pen and Ink" represents your image as monochrome dots, lines, and fills. Options include pen tip, size, coverage, and stroke length.

"Pencil Sketch" creates sketches that emulate graphite pencil, or charcoal. Options include pencil width, pressure, stroke length, canvas, and coverage. "Pointillism," a style created by Seurat is a technique that uses dots of solid color that blend together when viewed from a distance. Options include dot size, coverage, canvas, and lighting.

"Stylize" converts images to smooth regions of color. This can create a posterized Pop-Art, or Flowing Line Art look. Options include texture, lighting, the number of lines, posterization, pen color, pen style, and pen width. "Watercolor" simulates the soft color washes created by watercolor paint, and paper. Options include brush size, fine edge detail, paint coverage, canvas, and lighting.

Snap Art is a very easy to use plug-in and renders very believable effects. There are a lot of options for each effect; both standard presets as well as customizable options. The rendering time was not as speedy as I would like and when you are tweeking your image and having to wait for rendering, it feels that it takes longer than it does. What you pay for with rendering time though, you get back with an easy to use product that gives you a superior quality rendering.

Snap Art is great for stylizing photos or graphics into what is really, an unlimited variation of artistic styles. So many so, that some can get down right ugly; I was having fun experimenting with what can be done, and perhaps what should not be done as well. While some of these can be created within Photoshop itself, the amount of pain that one would have to go through, would not be worth it to me.

If you are looking to add some creativity to your work, or just want to have more options available to you and your customers, Snap Art will give you a totally new dimension, without a lot of work. Snap Art is available at the Alien Skin online store for $149.00


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Camera Lens Review - Lensbabies 3G

Posted By T. Michael Testi

Every once and a while a product comes along and you really miss judge it. It may be that you are too hasty, or that you just don't understand the potential that it really brings. Or it just may be that it, over time has matured into a really great product.

When I first saw an ad for the Lensbabies SLR camera lens, my first thought was that this was just a gimmick, trick lens that after creating a few images, well, would just look gimmicky. Usually, something whose total support rest upon a gimmick tends to fade away after a while. I kept noticing that the Lensbabies lenses were not going away. In fact they were coming out with new and improved versions. When someone asked me if I would like to tryout the new Lensbaby 3G, I did not hesitate to say yes I would.

OK, what is a Lensbaby 3G? Basically, it is the combination of a bellows camera; a lens that is focused by moving the lens back and forth by manipulating a bellows device, and a tilt-shift lens; the ability to maneuver the bellows by tilting the lens to cause blur in part of the image.

The bellows when fully extended focuses to about 18 inches. When compressed it focuses to infinity. After adjusting your Camera's diopter for your eyesight, you first have to find your focusing point. Once you have that, you then tilt the lens to find the "Sweet Spot" where what you want focus, focused and what you want blurred is blurred. At that point, you lock down your lens using a locking button.

From there you make more precise adjustments to your focus by rotating the Fine Focus Ring and/or fine tune the Sweet Spot by rotating the metal rods. Once you have everything in place, you collect your image. If this sounds easy, it is, once you get the hang of it. When you first try to use it, you feel that you need a third hand.

The lens it self is a coated doublet, soft-focus 50mm f2 lens having manual aperture changes of f2.8, f4, f5.6,8,f11, f16 and f22. I say manual because to change apertures you must place magnetic disks on the front of the lens. There is no electronic communications between the lens and the camera body. And the lens is available for all major digital and film based SLR cameras. Automatic light metering is done by shooting in aperture priority mode for most cameras.

While I have never played with the Lensbaby 2.0, from what I have read, it was a good for intuitive photo-journalistic shots whereas the 3G was clearly made for professional photographers who need much more control and precise focusing; complete control. With this control comes the ability to work with long exposures, experiment with light, as well as playing with the sweet spot to create creative images.

The only complaint that I had with using the lens is the manual aperture mode. While it is not hard to do and it works really well, it does leave you open for dropping one of the rings and possibly loosing it; especially in the field as I do a lot of outdoor work.

In many ways, the 3G is an addition to the Lensbaby line, not necessarily replacing the Lensbaby 2.0, rather targeting it to a different audience and/or use. While, this is obviously not a lens that you will use for a majority of shots, it is one that will perform magic, on those that you need it to. You can watch Flickr if you want to see what people are doing with the Lensbaby 3G and Lensbaby 2.0

Lensbaby 3G Specifications:

Optic: Coated optical glass doublet (same optic as Lensbaby 2.0)
Focal Length: Approximately 50 mm
Focus Type: Hybrid Manual Compression / Manual barrel
Aperture Type: Interchangeable levitating aperture disks
Apertures: f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22
Minimum Focus: Approximately 12" (30.48cm)
Maximum Focus: Infinity
Size: 3" (7.62cm) high x 3.25" (8.89cm) wide
Weight: 5.7oz (161.59g)
Available Mounts: Canon EF, Nikon F, Olympus 4/3rds/Panasonic, Pentax K/Samsung, Sony Alpha/Minolta Maxxum