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Archive for the ‘Digital Photography Tutorials’ Category

Camera Scans

December 20th, 2007 No comments

The above image was shot twice. First in 1989 on Tri-X film, then again yesterday on a 21 Megapixel Canon. Amazingly the model hasn’t aged a bit. Click on it for a larger view.

Camera scans are an extremely fast and efficient way to convert film to digital. They aren’t really scans, they’re “Film Captures.” The concept is pretty simple: Use a digital camera with a macro lens to shoot pictures of film. There are many advantages to Camera Scans over traditional methods of scanning film. These scans are not 100mb drum scans like I would get from NancyScans, but they don’t need to be. The process was originally intended to be a simple way to have a digital contact sheet of my film archive. As it turns out, the Canon 1Ds Mark III with a Canon EF 180mm 3.5L Macro makes a really nice scan and is suitable for printing very large work.

I’ve been testing a piece of hardware that Peter Krogh is developing with Really Right Stuff (RRS). Here are Peter’s pictures of the prototype. I’ve made my own contraptions in the past, but the RRS prototype is real nice. It’s got all of the movements you need to line up the film and it’s all hooked together which eliminates most shake issues.

Camera Scans have SPEED and WORKFLOW advantages over traditional film scanning methods. I can do 1,000 images a day including color correction, applying basic metadata, and cataloging in Expression Media. Besides blazing speed, the real advantage of Camera Scans is that the technique produces a RAW file that can be converted to a DNG. This workflow is 100 times more efficient then the Tiff file workflow you get with a scanner. It’s also the same workflow and archiving methods I use for all my digital photography projects.

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HDR Camera Raw Settings

December 17th, 2007 1 comment

The image above is the pool house at Quarry Lake in Baltimore, MD. Click it for a better look. It was made by merging four bracketed images shot on a tripod at late dusk. I used Adobe’s system of merging HDR images which is a Bridge, ACR(Adobe Camera RAW), and Photoshop combination. The merging tips below are for photographers already somewhat familiar with shooting and merging HDR images. If you’re not familiar with HDR, Ben Wilmore has a really good HDR movie on XTrain; I also recommend The HDRI Handbook by Christian Block.

I use a number of different programs to merge image files into a single 32bit file. I choose which programs to use based on whether or not I need to batch process merges and whether or not I need to adjust the images before merging. Photoshop CS3 will not batch process merges and the file exposures needs to match the EXIF data. For batch merging and merging adjusted tiff files, I use Artizen HDR, FDR tools, or Photomatix. For example: I auto correct the RAW files using DXO Optics and output TIFF files, then I merge the corrected TIFFs in Photomatix.

Using the Adobe method is the most convenient way to get started. This is a script that Bridge runs, which invokes Photoshop’s Merge to HDR command. There are two settings inside Photoshop that affect the merge: (1) Align source images can be turned on or off. This is a real time saver if your images are already aligned and you don’t need a “perfect” merge. (2) Setting performance preferences to 0 history states in CS3 will also speed up merging.

Before merging images using Bridge I adjust my RAW files in ACR. Some ACR settings have no effect when merging. Most of the settings dealing with exposure make no difference. The merge to HDR function makes the image linear, which negates all exposure adjustments. Tone curve is the exception, as it does have an effect on saturation and color. Split toning has no effect. These are the settings in ACR that are important to the merge and should be adjusted:

  • White Balance
  • Clarity
  • Vibrance
  • Saturation
  • Sharpening
  • Noise Reduction
  • HSL
  • Chromatic Abberation
  • Defringe
  • Vignette
  • Camera Calibration

Exactly the same settings should be used on each image in the set. I’ve experimented with different settings in each image without much success. Photoshop crashes if the pixels don’t line up very well.

Once I have a 32bit image to work with, it’s time for some tone mapping, which is another blog in itself.

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Helicon Focus

December 7th, 2007 No comments

Click on the image for a larger view.
This is an example of Synthetic Depth of Field (SDOF). Three images with bracketed focus points are combined using Helicon Focus software. There are a number of ways to combine image for extended depth of field: Helicon Focus is the simplest. Most of the research and development in SDOF is in the micro photography field, where depth of field is very shallow.
I think more cameras should include including options for bracketing focus in the same way they bracket exposure. I’m working on my handheld SDOF technique, but it’s tough to hold steady and change focus, especially with a tight macro shot.
Workflow for dealing with groups of files that will be combined into a single image is a hassle. Adobe Bridge has a cool stacking feature that I use for files that will be merged in one way or another.
This car is a Hot Wheels 1970 AMC Javlin SST; a replica of the first car I ever owned. I bought my hot rod in 1984 when I was 15 years old. It was a sweet ride with mag wheels and a big V8.

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Digital Camera Sensor Size

November 18th, 2007 No comments

I wish camera manufactures would work on bigger sensors instead of more pixels. Old school photographers who swear by film cameras do have a point, but it’s not that film is better. The look and resolution of the film can be reproduced by digital techniques. Sensors are able to outperform film in almost every aspect. It’s the look of a medium format or large format film size and lens combination that can’t be reproduced. It’s all about the size relationship between the film and the lens. Longer focal length lenses are inherently sharper, and have shallower depth of field. They are also easier to precisely focus. When you combine these factors with the right of view, you have the big camera look. A wide angle lens on an 11X14 camera is a 210mm. A 210MM lens on a compact camera sized sensor will make the creators on the moon look like they are two feet from you. A wide angle lens on a compact camera is a 6MM. There’s nothing in digital that gives you the look of a “210mm wide angle lens.”

The diagram is sized down to fit on this blog, but the size relationships are still good.

The angle of view changes, but the other characteristics of the lenses stay the same. A 7mm lens has an incredible amount of depth of field at 2.8 mm. It also has a fair amount of distortion. It’s really tough to get shallow depth of field out of these small sensors. I often use Photoshop techniques produce shallow depth of field looks. The technique is simple.

  1. Duplicate the background
  2. Blur the new layer
  3. Add a black layer mask
  4. Paint the layer mask white where you want it sharp

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Editing Jpeg and Tiff Files in ACR and saving as DNG Files

November 18th, 2007 No comments

ACR 4.3 (Adobe Camera Raw) will open Jpeg and Tiff file and edit them as well. This is a nifty and useful addition to ACR. You can set ACR as your default preference for opening Jpeg and tiff files. Go to Edit/Preferences in Adobe bridge and set the thumbnail preferences to “prefer camera raw for Jpeg and tiff files.” There is also a setting in the Camera Raw preferences for “always open jpeg files with setting using CameraRaw.” When you open up a Jpeg or Tiff file in ACR 4.3 it saves your edits to a sidecar XMP file. Only by clicking the save image or opening the image in Photoshop and saving it do you apply your actual edits to the file.

You can also use ACR to save jpeg or tiff files as DNG files. This has some real possibilities. There are lots of reasons to shoot jpeg as an original file format: speed, card space, wireless transmission, etc. I don’t know of any good reason to shoot tiff as a camera file format. I do of course use tiff as derivative file format. The issue WAS that you had to edit the original file and save over it or you had to save a new file if you wanted to keep your original in tact. The DNG file format puts the original jpeg, the camera raw editing info, a derivative Jpeg preview file, and metadata all inside of the DNG bubble.

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