Friday, January 25, 2008

Video Training Review - Photoshop CS3 Prepress Essentials With Taz Tally From

Written By T. Michael Testi

If you are trying to prepare your color or black-and-white images for print use, it can be a nightmare what with what you see on screen being represented in the RGB color set and what your printer uses is based on CMYK color set. Unless you take the time to learn what you see is definitely not what you get. In this video, Taz Tally, Ph.D will show how to use Photoshop CS3's prepress features by guiding you through concrete, practical exercises in image editing, correction, and adjustment to get real-world professional results. Photoshop CS3 Prepress Essentials runs 7.5 hours and is divided out into 13 lessons.

Lesson 1, "Concepts and Setting Up" begins by letting you know in no uncertain terms that the author likes to get things done and to get them done fast. So he begins with an overview of the Photoshop CS3 interface. Then you will learn about RGB and CMYK Setup. Finally you will set up preferences for working efficiently in the Photoshop environment. The operative word here is efficiency.

Lesson 2, "Integrating Bridge with the Prepress Workflow" then takes you in to the world of Adobe's workflow companion; Adobe Bridge. Here the instructor shows you how this product fits in to your prepress workflow. You will customize preferences and learn how to navigate files as well as work with Metadata.

Lesson 3, "Workflow Enhancements" shows you how to create and work with duplicate images so that you can work on copies and not harm your original images. Next you will learn how to setting up your workspace which will allow you to change workspaces depending on your output needs. You will also learn how to easily navigate through your images and the various tools via the keyboard.

Lesson 4, "Image Fundamentals" delves into the world of pixels and vectors. Here you will begin to understand image channels, bit depth, and RGB/CMYK images. You will also get into AM and FM halftone Screening and Ripping; Raster Image Processing.

Lesson 5, "Working with Input Devices" briefly examines the concepts of calibration and the calibration of devices. While you concentrate on input devices, the concepts apply to both input and output devices. You will also learn about the cleaning of scanners and images.

Lesson 6, "Dimensional Adjustments" begins with a discussion of how the resolution requirements for specific screening outputs will affect the resolution of your images. This is followed up by making linear and dimensional adjustments, cropping and re-sampling images and working with vectors as Smart Objects.

Lesson 7, "Assigning and Creating Colors" shows you that to get accurate color in prepress, you will need to get in to Pantone swatch books. Here you will learn all about Pantone, the process of assigning and building process colors, assigning spot colors, and matching colors from Photoshop to other applications.

Lesson 8, "Correcting and Adjusting Grayscale Images" begins by evaluating an image to find out where the important parts of the image are. Here you will examine tonal regions, work with histograms, curves, and the info palette. Then you will work with an image adjustment layer to set highlights, shadows, adjust brightness and contrast, as well as make adjustments for newsprint and dot gain.

Lesson 9, "Correcting and Adjusting Color Images" now applies some of the same techniques learned with black-and-white to your color images. Whereas the last lesson worked with one channel, now you will apply your knowledge to multiple channels.

Lesson 10, "Image Editing" focuses on what needs to be adjusted for prepress output. The topics here include JPEG posterization, the removal of dust and scratches, image sharpening, creating silhouettes, and adding type to images.

Lesson 11, "Mode Conversions and Color Separations" asks the question: if you want to print in grayscale, should you capture in grayscale or capture in color? Here the instructor shows you how to convert between modes such as RGB to grayscale, RGB to CMYK as well as creating custom CMYK profiles.

Lesson 12, "Output" is all about putting your image into some other format. To output to other formats reliably you should know about these target formats (TIFF, EPS, PDF, DCS) and the programs that will use them.

Lesson 13, "Automation" will show you how to streamline your efforts by creating actions within Photoshop. As was said at the beginning, this is all about efficiency and how to get things done without being bogged down. By using actions you can automate many of the routine tasks and get back out to doing what you would rather be doing; shooting pictures.

Photoshop CS3 Prepress Essentials can be a technical topic for those who have not worked with it before. It can also be confusing because you are dealing with different color spaces to generate output that looks correct. What looks good on the screen, most likely will not look good in print unless you get it done right.

In Photoshop CS3 Prepress Essentials, Taz Tally takes his time and guides you through the pitfalls of learning how to work with prepress techniques. If you are finding problems getting the output that you want or need, then this video will clear up a lot of problems and get you well on your way to getting that correct output.

You can get Photoshop CS3 Prepress Essentials two ways. One is as a DVD training package Photoshop CS3 Prepress Essentials 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 Prepress Essentials 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 Prepress Essentials 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 prepress output generation. You can also try out the the first and part of the second lesson for free at


Friday, January 18, 2008

Book Review: Take Your Photography To The Next Level By George Barr

Written by T. Michael Testi


Success in photography is like success in anything else, growth comes in steps. You spend time learning your craft and about the time that you begin to think that you are becoming accomplished in it, you find someone else who is a little bit better, or you become more critical and find that there is something missing that you can't quite put your finger on. George Barr, in his book, Take Your Photography to the Next Level: From Inspiration to Image will attempt to do just that — show you what is missing.

Take Your Photography To The Next Level is for the photographer who strives to achieve a higher level of results in their work. It is based on a series of essays that were published on the Luminous-Landscape and have been expanded, updated, and added to with new essays. It is 199 pages divided in to six main chapters. There is also a forward by Michael Reichmann from the Luminous-Landscape.

Chapter 1, "Seeing," begins by stating what should be obvious, but I believe is missed by many photographers. To see, you must first look. According to the author, the single most important exercise for any photographer is to study the work of the masters. You must make a study of your particular interest, and of other styles of photography. You must not only study photography, but paintings, and even sculpture. In this chapter the author helps you understand how to see.

Chapter 2, "Finding Images," challenges your ability to see, to extract the image from the setting. Just because you see a rusting old truck, does not mean that it has to be the center of your image. In this chapter, you will learn how to "work" the scene. The author includes tips and techniques for when you know that there should be an image, but it is just not coming at you.

Chapter 3, "Composing" an image is certainly an important factor in capturing a great image. In this chapter you will learn some exercises that will, over time, allow you to compose great images in your head. You will explore complexity, centers of interest, decisions, compromise, framing, and cropping.

Chapter 4, "Assessing Images," explores what it takes to truly assess images. Many times you come back from a shoot only to be disappointed in the images that you have created. These disappointments can come from a number of sources. Here the author gives suggestions on what you should do; one of the most important in my opinion is to not discard those images that you think are bad. Here he gives his top ten reasons that images fail.

Chapter 5, "Mind Games," shows that even photographers can get into ruts and get a form of "writer's block." You begin to think that your images are too similar to each other, or that you can't create a good photograph. In this chapter you will explore 12 ways to challenge yourself.

Chapter 6, "Take Your Photography to the Next Level" is all about what it takes to move to that next level. According to the author, most of us spend many hours "agonizing over technical issues (sometimes not even the right ones), while mostly ignoring theaesthetic." In this chapter you will begin by finding your level, determining where you are. Then you will learn how to get help to assess your level. Finally you will learn how to move on to making better images to the next level.

Take Your Photography To The Next Level is a motivating book, focusing on what it takes to evaluate your skills and how to improve upon them. It spends a lot of time reinforcing scrutiny of photographs and examining what makes them good and what constitutes problems with them.

While there are many great photos in Take Your Photography To The Next Level, there are also many inferior ones that the author shares as a way to evaluate one's work. By treading into rarely discussed aspects of successful photography, one can really learn to grow as a photographer. This is not a technical book, but rather more of a practical aesthetic book that will develop your photographic eye.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Software Review - Adobe Photoshop Plug-in nik Sharpener Pro 2.0 From nik Software

Written by T. Michael Testi

nik Sharpener Pro 2.0 is the latest update to nik's collection of digital photographic filters and effects for Adobe Photoshop. The goal of nik Sharpener Pro 2.0 is to simplify sharpening of your images.

So, with three methods to sharpen your photos from within Photoshop already, why would you want to pay for someone else's method? Well, the first reason would be that it takes a bit of work to do it the old fashioned way and you have to learn some skills to do it well. Second, even if you are a seasoned pro, nik Sharpener Pro 2.0 can do it faster.

System requirements are Windows 2000 or better, Mac OS 10.4 or better, 128 MB RAM (512 MB Recommended), 60 MB of disk space, and Photoshop CS2, CS3, Photoshop Elements 4.0, or any image editing software program that accepts Adobe Photoshop Plug-ins.

To do sharpening well, it takes more than just random radius and threshold manipulation. You have to take into consideration variables like image size, intended viewing distance, paper type, and printer resolution. Using traditional methods, you are really only effectively sharpening for the monitor that you are working on. With nik Sharpener Pro 2.0 you can plug in these variables and come out with a much more effectively sharpened image.
nik Sharpener Pro 2.0 allows you to sharpen during two different stages of workflow. The first is known as pre-sharpening. It adds a small amount of sharpening without introducing sharpening artifacts or unwanted details The second is as the very last step and is the output sharpening stage. This is the important sharpening and it works based on the needs of your printer.

There are four main methods of output available: Inkjet based which include generic, Canon, Epson, HP, and Lexmark filters. Continuous tone printers which include Photographic & Dye sub, Fuji, or Lab. Halftone printer such as lithographic, gravure, flexographic or any other printing process that uses an ordered dither halftone pattern to create image detail. Finally there is electronic display device for images to be projected on to a screen.

So what is new with nik Sharpener Pro 2.0?

• First is the ability to work directly with 16-bit images. In the past you would have to convert to 8-bit to implement sharpening.

• Selective tool now allows you to brush on where you want to implement your sharpening. If you want to sharpen the eyes while leaving the skin less sharpened you now can.

• Advance panel gives you more control over the amount of sharpening to the entire image as well as to specific areas within the image. There are five sliders that control the amount of sharpening across a different color range.

• Raw presharpening allows you to sharpen based on images converted from a raw format. Raw files are generally less sharp than their processed JPEG counterparts.

• Larger Preview lets you see more of your image as well as display before and after panels as well.

• Analysis Modes give you two overlay modes to show you what will be sharpened and just how much it will be sharpened.

I think that nik Sharpener Pro 2.0 is a must have addition to your photographer's tool box. Remember, sharpening does not make blurry images clear; it makes clear images crystal clear. It is one of those improvements that without it, your images will be ordinary. With it, they will look professionally done.

The biggest downside to nik Sharpener Pro 2.0 is the price, but fortunately there are two versions available. The Complete edition which retails for $329.95 USD and contains all output devices; the version reviewed here, and the Inkjet edition which retails for $169.95 and contains the filters for Inkjet and Display output. You can get a full demo version to try it out for 15 days.

There are a lot of plug-ins that are available for Photoshop and most specialize in one fix or another. nik Sharpener Pro 2.0 is probably one of those unique products that you will use for every photo you process to display and to that end, it is probably the one you need the most. nik Sharpener Pro 2.0 is highly recommended.


Book Review: The Digital Photography Book: Volume 2 By Scott Kelby

Written by T. Michael Testi


After the success of his first volume of The Digital Photography Book, published in September 2006, Scott Kelby is out with his latest version The Digital Photography Book: Volume 2. This is not an update of his best selling book; rather it is a second volume that continues in the tradition of the first.

The first book was based on the premise that if you and Scott Kelby were out on a photo shoot and you asked how to achieve some type of photographic technique, Kelby would not go into a lot of detail about how cameras work. Instead he would just show you how to accomplish what you want to do. That is the premise of volume two as well. The Digital Photography Book: Volume 2 is 222 pages in length and divided into nine chapters and is fully indexed.

Chapter 1, "Using Flash Like a Pro," examines the reason why pop-up flash makes images look so bad and why you have to get your flash off your camera. Here you will see how to work with flash off the camera, make it wireless, work with soft boxes, mounting flashes, and other techniques to work with flash. Chapter 2, "Building a Studio from Scratch," shows you how you can put together your own personal studio. The topics shown here are about soft boxes, strobes, backgrounds, reflectors, and other tools to make your studio dream come true.

Chapter 3, "Shooting Portraits Like a Pro," explains what it takes to get good portrait shots and why most people have a hard time getting the good ones. Here you will learn tips for shooting individuals, groups, and couples. You will also learn techniques for posing, using window light, which reflectors to use, and some tips on fixing facial challenges. Chapter 4, "Shooting Landscapes Like a Pro," will show you the best techniques for shooting sunsets, panoramas, shooting lighting, rainbows, and other landscape tricks.

Chapter 5, "Shooting Weddings Like a Pro," begins by setting up a shot list to make sure you get all of the shots you need. It follows up with other career saving tips like making sure you have back up equipment, how to aim your flash, working with backlighting, tips for posing the bride, and other things that will give you the leg up on shooting weddings. Chapter 6, "Shooting Travel Like a Pro," is all about bringing back photos that really make them wish they were there. These include cityscapes, landmarks, shooting where they don't allow flash, and how best to travel by air with photography equipment.

Chapter 7, "Shooting Macro Like a Pro," gets close into shooting close-up photos. These techniques include why you should turn off auto-focus, which f-stop works best, buying a macro lens, and even how to make your lens into a macro lens. Chapter 8, "Pro Tips for Getting Better Photos," covers techniques that don't fit in any of the preceding chapters. These include choosing the right ISO, how to use the histogram, labeling your memory cards, which mode to shoot in, and which format to shoot in. Chapter 9, "More Photo Recipes to Help You Get 'The Shot'," shows you 16 different techniques to get similar images to the ones shown in the book. Many of these images are ones that are seen on Scott Kelby's Blog.

The Digital Photography Book: Volume 2, like its predecessor, is another winner. At its heart is a simplistic book with a basic premise: it shows you how to accomplish things in photography. At that it is very, very good. Each page or two covers a single concept that shows you how to achieve that goal. It doesn't spend any time with jargon or technical terms; rather it just shows you how to do it.

While he is an avid (perhaps rabid) Photoshop proponent, one of the core concepts behind Kelby's philosophy is to get the shot right. The Digital Photography Book: Volume 2 continues the work of showing you how this can be accomplished before the image hits the computer. I wish there were more books like this and his last book Scott Kelby's 7-Point System for Adobe Photoshop CS3.That is what set this book apart from many of the others on the library shelf. I highly recommend The Digital Photography Book: Volume 2.




Monday, January 14, 2008

Software Review - Plug-In Image Doctor 2 From Alien Skin Software

Written by T. Michael Testi


Image Doctor 2 is a set of Photoshop filters that clean up visual defects in digital photos. It can be used to remove small things like pimples or moles, or it can be used to remove large things like the trash can that snuck into the photo. It can even make low quality JPEG images look better.

Image Doctor 2 is effectively five filters that reside in a sub menu off of Photoshop's Filter menu. The filters work on both 8 and 16 bit images which means that they will work on Raw images after they are loaded into Photoshop. They also will work in both Grayscale and RGB mode.

To run Image Doctor 2 you will need Adobe Photoshop CS2 (9.0.2) or later, Adobe Elements; 4.0.1 on the Mac, or 5.0 on Windows, Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 or later, or Adobe Fireworks CS3. While it may work on other programs, these are the only ones that it has been tested to work with. You will need 1024 MB Ram, 1024x768 monitor resolution, XP or later on PC or Mac OS X 10.4.0.

There are five filters in Image Doctor 2 and each takes care of a different aspect of image repair. The one thing that you will need to know how to do is make selections. In all but the JPEG repair, you must select that which you want to repair.

The complexity of the selection is directly proportional to complexity of the fix you want to make. If you have a flag pole that extends from the blue sky, through green trees, over a red car, over green grass, brown dirt, and is embedded into black asphalt then you will have to do a selection for each of these areas. Don't let this scare you though; it is really pretty easy once you get the hang of it.


Dust and Scratch Remover is what you will use to remove texture imperfections and defects in homogeneous textures. It is used to eliminate linear defects such as tears or creases, remove small text such as time stamps, or dust or other such remnants. The Scratch Remover avoids repetitive patterns that can result from directly cloning source textures. As with all of these fixes you can control the selection size with the contract/expand selection slider, you can specify the texture sample size, and define the background complexity.

Smart Fill is used to remove larger objects from images, or images with complex backgrounds like the flagpole example I used above. Smart Fill intelligently samples patches around the area to be removed and the tries to smoothly recombine the patches to create a contiguous background texture where the original image appeared. In the image below it was used to remove the flap of purple halter and the lead line that hangs off the right. The lead line was a little more difficult because in covered the ground image as well as the pink on the girl's shirt and therefore multiple selections had to be created to get a more seamless look.

Blemish Concealer effectively removes obvious blemishes such as acne, freckles, and shadows from under eyes. It is also good at removing small water stains, mold spots, or other softly colored, low contrast defects from a relatively smooth background textures.

Skin Softener softens large areas of skin. It works to reduce wrinkles, small shadows, and oily skin glare. It tries to improve the look of skin without giving the face that plastic "Photo-shopped" look. It performs a blending with the background so you don't have to manually blend it by using a feathered selection. Before using this you should remove any skin defect that you wish to remove first. The softener was also used on the face of the girl in the image. It gives it a less harsh look.


JPEG Repair fixes those fuzzy halos around sharp edges, and those 8x8 pixel blocks that frequent low quality JPEG images. This can be really helpful to those designers that are forced to use suspect quality images by their clients. JPEG Repair cannot restore the detail that is lost in the compression process, but it can smooth things out, and make them more aesthetically pleasing.

So what is new in Image Doctor 2? First and foremost, is it's speed. I was really impressed with how fast it rendered the changes. Alien Skin has changed how it's rendering algorithms work and it really shows. Next the range of skin retouching has been expanded to the Skin Softener, and the Blemish Concealer; in version 1, it had the Spot Lifter. The new skin retouching filters offer many more possibilities. Finally the user interface has been upgraded and simplified, as well as the addition of an Automatic Mode to Smart Fill when source texture location is not important.

I have to say that Image Doctor 2 has really matured into a great product. Speed issues are virtually non existent, and the user interface is really easy to use. Sure you could perform many of these fixes your self via Photoshop, but why would you want to more than maybe the first time to say you did. Not to mention that it would take hours longer than with Image Doctor 2. If you need to do image repair on a regular basis, then this is a must have. To everyone else, it is highly recommended.

Image Doctor 2 is available at the Alien Skin online store for $199.00 new, or $99.00 for an upgrade.


Friday, January 04, 2008

Strobist: Our Photos, Ourselves

I found this article to be quite an interesting take from David Hobby's Strobist site. While this is not about lighting or Speedlites or any of the ususal stuff, it does make for some good Friday reading.

Source: Strobist

Written by David Hobby


About 25 years ago, upon admiring a photo shot by photojournalist Russell Price, a reporter said to him, "That's a great shot."

To which Price responded, "Yes, it is."

If the name Russell Price doesn't ring a bell, that may because he is in fact a fictional character from a movie. But the brief exchange marked a turning point in the way that I thought about my own pictures from very early in my career as a photojournalist.

It also neatly wraps up one of the biggest differences in mindset between amateurs and long-time pros. And understanding this mindset can help you become a better shooter.


Read it all...