"DIGITAL DEVELOPMENT" SOFTWARE PROGRAMS

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"DIGITAL DEVELOPMENT" SOFTWARE PROGRAMS

Postby Andy » Sun Jun 17, 2012 11:13 am

After some general conversation about Lightroom, Photoshop, OneOne, Nik and other products, it seemed to me this might be a good permanent thread, so I have created this "sticky thread." In the "offseason" (pretty much defined here as from November 1 - August 30 :lol: ), we can spend some time learning how to make our images more "presentable."

I have recently taken a step outside my comfort zone in Photoshop and am thus, stimulated to talk a little bit about "Digital Development" (a/k/a "Post Processing").

Would love to have a discussion here about what tools you all use, and why and how. I know Al Utzig will have lots to offer in terms of tips and tricks, as he is very facile using PS layers, smart objects, etc., and also uses the Nik software suite. He has taught me a couple of really good techniques. So I'll hope he'll pitch in and be a resident "expert" when questions arise.

Lets have at it!
Andy

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NIK Viveza

Postby Andy » Sun Jun 17, 2012 11:39 am

After being suitably curmudgeonly about it for a number of years, I have now broken down and purchased Nik Viveza (and may follow suit soon with Nik Color Efex and Nik dFine noise reduction software). I have a long learning curve ahead of me, but have been very impressed with how easy and fast it is to make adjustments in essentially one step and on one layer (you can create as many different layers as you want), adjusting light and color with very intelligent selections. I am still not certain how much it will fit into my workflow, but I am hoping it will become the bulk of it with only occasional fine tuning on images that require it.

My first foray was interesting, but showed me how much I need to learn about DD workflow. After making adjustments, I posted a before and after set of images (I'll do that here) the "before" with my post processing and the "after" my (rather ignorant) Viveza adjustments. Immediately, James Moore (I asked for it :) ) posted a rather long list of items that needed "fixing" (and most importantly, why). I have made some new corrections and the "after" version here will have them. But its still a Kindegarten effort.

One of my pet peeves with modern software is that virtually none of it ships with any useful documentation (electronics and cameras, too, these days. I am sure it has a lot to do with the significant costs to write and publish it, but it still feels amazing to me that such a sophisticated program ships and "you are on your own."). There is a Book (available on Amazon for $24) called "Nik Software Captured" (one of the writers is actually a Nik employee, so hopefully, it will be informative), which I have purchased and will read carefully (Al has it and has also recommended it). It was published before the 2nd edition of a couple of the programs -- notably Viveza 2 which is the version I have. There is another which I have pre-ordered that will be out this fall, also on Amazon (cannot remember the name). Hopefully will have more to report later. In the meantime, you "seasoned" Nik users; I hope you'll jump in here and share with us!

Before:

Image

After:

Image
Andy

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deaner1971
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Re: "DIGITAL DEVELOPMENT" SOFTWARE PROGRAMS

Postby deaner1971 » Mon Jun 18, 2012 7:03 am

Andy,

How many steps or processes were between the two versions of the image that you showed?

I am pretty light on software. I use Elements 9 (I know I need to upgrade to PS but have not yet invested in all of the glass I want and the finance commitee [Mrs. Even Dean] has its limits), LR3 (upgrading to 4 this year) and Perfect Layers.
Last edited by deaner1971 on Tue Jun 19, 2012 7:01 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: "DIGITAL DEVELOPMENT" SOFTWARE PROGRAMS

Postby Andy » Mon Jun 18, 2012 7:52 am

Good Question, Dean:

My process (BV - before Viveza :mrgreen: ) is something like this:

1. Open raw image in ACR:
(a) Make Color Temp Adjustments as (seldom) necessary
(b) Adjust shadows/highlights per histogram and "look"
(c) Adjust the Clarity Vibrance Sliders
(d) Do "capture sharpening"
(c) Make Lens Adjustments per ACR database for lenses

2. Open image in PS (I am using PS6 now)
(a) Make any "global adjustments" necessary (color casts, etc.)
(c) crop for preferred "aspect ratio" (most of the time)
(c) Make selections for specific areas (almost always for the sky; often for water, white water, and foreground elements that will be sharpened, or need other adjustments) and save selections in their own channels. This is sometimes really picky work and very time consuming. If there are, for example, trees and foliage jutting up into a blue sky area, I can spend literally hours on a selection (usually will only do this if I know I may print an image - so the image here was pretty much a "quick and dirty" magic wand selection and then some "cleanup").
(d) When necessary, do shadow/highlights adjustments (sometimes, this involves layering more than one image and using a Third Party program like Photomatix HDR software, to get the look I want, or painting layers from differently adjusted versions of the same image. All time-consuming and "fiddly."
(e)convert to lab color space and do a straight curves adjustment for both of the color channels (a/b) - often I do these on different selections. Note that if you use layers alot, this workflow is a bear, because the trip over and back to and from lab color space requires you to flatten them (making the whole idea of layers less useful).
(f) convert back to RGB color; re-size for intended output (lately most of that has been for web) and sharpen based on final output. For sharpening, up until very recently, I have been using unsharp mask (tried the so-called "smart sharpen" and went back to USM). Sometimes I will use a sharpening mask process developed by the late Bruce Frazer (see, "Real World Sharpening" by Frazer and Schewe), but mostly for printing.

AFTER VIVEZA ("AV")"

With Viveza and another software I purchased called Photokit PK Sharpener (this is a "Pixel Genius" Software product and the "brainchildren" of Pixel Genius was a group of "geeks" including Bruce Frazer and Jeff Schewe, who are generally considered the guru's of sharpening and re-sizing. They were also responsible for a software known as Genuine Fractals (now owned by OneOne I think and called something else, but the same engine) the workflow changes a bit:

1. Same basic changes in ACR, except I no longer do any capture sharpening (ACR slider now set to 0). I never do any global contrast adjustment in ACR (I have read that you need to be very careful about the sharpening, contrast, etc., at early stages, because it effects noise (and therefore NR).

2. Open in PS (here is where the process is a "quantum" change):
(a) Crop (note that PS6 now has a "non-destructive" crop tool, much like the tool in ACR and LR (some people crop, straighten, etc. in ACR - I don't - mainly as a matter of comfort level and familiarity) for preferred aspect ratio (I print many of my own images at 13 x 19 so I'll often use that or a 5 x 7 ratio) - but am starting to think outside the box more on that these days.
(b) I use Photokit's algorithm for "capture" sharpening (some people call it "pre-sharpening"; some skip it all together. Jury is still out for me on this step). I may also change when in the workflow I do my sharpening steps, as a result of learning more about Nik and Photokit softwares.
(c) Now there is a choice between making global adjustments here or in Viveza. As I learn more about Viveza, I start to see where it will probably be the FIRST place I go now, after opening and cropping. This is the place where there is both a time saving, and I am becoming more and more convinced, a quality increase. With Nik products, you no longer have to make manual selections. The U-point Technology does that for you, for the most part. The learning curve here, is learning where to set the "control points" and why; and how the technology works when you do that and make some very simple slider adjustments. Behind the scenes, U-point is creating sophisticated masks. No more hours of fiddly selecting; no more halos; no more trying to decide which tool will best select; or which channel to work in. And, within Viveza, there are all the controls I normally use in PS proper: Levels, Curves, the eyedropper tool, even a color replacement function. This creates a much more effective way of making adjustments to the dark areas in photos, bringing up the shadows and/or brightness - just in the pixels you want it for -- and lowering brightness, increasing or decreasing saturation, adjusting RGB colors, etc. Its all pretty easy using sliders.
(d) It will be rare now for me to use the lab process anymore.
(e) After applying Viveza adustments, I will again re-size for intended output and use the Photokit Sharpener's "output" sharpening algorithm. Have a long way on the learning curve for that software, as I am currently trying to master the benefits of the Viveza software.
Andy

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Re: "DIGITAL DEVELOPMENT" SOFTWARE PROGRAMS

Postby Andy » Mon Jun 18, 2012 7:56 am

BTW, Dean, it is my understanding that the Nik software (I haven't tried the very similar products offered by OneOne - my mentor, James Moore says he has and he prefers Nik. I know several folks [Al, Carol, friend Rich] who also have it and sing its praises. Since I will be working with Jim to learn better "Digital Development" I went with the products he recommended. You can download a fully functional copy of any of them for a limited time period and try them out) will work with a number of different "host" programs, including Elements, Lightroom, Aperture, and Photoshop (it is also supposed to work "stand-alone" but I hear it is really clunky). It is essentially designed to be a plugin. The advantage to using it in PS or in newer versions of Elements is you can use layers.
Andy

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deaner1971
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Re: "DIGITAL DEVELOPMENT" SOFTWARE PROGRAMS

Postby deaner1971 » Tue Jun 19, 2012 7:06 am

Yeah, I really need to work on my software skills as I understood only about half of what you wrote. :x

There are some classes offered by one of the local camera shops and some offered by Columbus' art school and I clearly need to attend some. I know I am grossly under-utilizing my software and, even more so, not understanding why I should be availing myself of the stuff that is out there.

I always buy a good "how-to" book when I get software but reading and then trying to do on screen is a bad way to learn. I need to do an in-person step-by-step type learning experience.

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Re: "DIGITAL DEVELOPMENT" SOFTWARE PROGRAMS

Postby autzig » Tue Jun 19, 2012 11:15 am

Here's a quick rundown on my workflow. I try to do all of my "prep" work in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw). By that I mean I do as much as I can there before opening the image in Photoshop. I shoot only in RAW so I have to start there anyway.

I usually start by clicking the auto button to see what it does. It often does a good job of correcting the exposure and brightness. Auto has a tendency to overexpose the shot, so I usually have to take exposure or brightness down a bit. I'll adjust the color temperature if there if there is a color cast. I'll select the specific lens I was using at the time I made the shot. I'll use the spot remover tool to get rid of any dust spots or small imperfections. I use tone curve as I would use a curves layer in PS. I select the detail tab to ad a little sharpening but mostly to remove noise if there is any. Lastly, I adjust the clarity, vibrance and saturation. Unlike some people here (Andy) I don't add a lot of saturation.

When I've done all of that, I open the photo in PS. I make a copy of the background image and convert it to a smart object which will allow me to add filters which I can edit later if I want. If you don't use filters with a smart object, and later want to make a revision, you have to throw away the layer with the filter adjustments, create a new layer and apply the filter again.

The first filter I apply these days is Nik's Color Efex Pro. This is a suite of filters with presets, but they are fully adjustable. I usually start with the Detail Extractor. I love this filter. It brings out the details in photo in a way I have been unable to do using any other method. Usually I just use the default setting. The only negative thing (sort of) about it is that it brings out the details in any dust specks on the sensor. I usually have to go back to my original image and using the Content-Aware filter, get rid of those spots. Then I create a new copy of that layer, make it a smart object and drag the filter settings from the original smart object layer to the new one and delete the old. It is a bit of a pain, but I do get rid of every little speck.

I also usually apply the Pro Contrast filter using the Dynamic Contrast preset. Don Smith, who is a professional photographer in California and wrote the Photographer's Guide to Big Sur, says that the Pro Contrast filter is the primary filter he uses in this workflow.

I use some of the other Color Efex Pro filters on occasion. One that I really like on some photos is the Darken/Lighten Center filter. I use it to create a vignette around an area that i want highlighted. You can control the size and location of the center. I lighten the area around the subject. It is very subtle but it really makes a difference. Another filter I use once in awhile is the sunlight filter. It adds a sun tone to the photo. I is different than a warming filter and on certain images can add a lot.

You can apply the filter effect to all or just a portion of the photo, using the U-point technology built into the software. For example, the detail extractor tends to put noise in the sky, so I just click on the (-) control point to remove the effect from it. You can also create custom recipes that include multiple filters. Save it once and you can apply it to any photo with just a click.

When I've applied the Color Efex Pro filters, I save the changes and my workflow is almost always complete.

I have used Nik's Dfine to remove noise from photos, but the noise removal capabilities in ACR are really good so I don't use it much. I have Viveza but don't use it a lot. It does allow you to control things like brightness and saturation in specific areas and it is a powerful and easy to use filter.

I only apply additional sharpening when I print an image, and then I use Topaz Detail, and apply changes to the small details only.

Before Color Efex Pro, I would use a lot of layers and layer masks. It has made my workflow so much easier and I think the results of my post processing are much better than I got using Photoshop without those filters.

I hope this doesn't sound like an ad for Color Efex Pro, but I really love it. It is well worth the cost.

The only problem I have had with it is that some of the filters don't seem to work well when I'm using PS 64 bit version, so I usually use the 32 bit version if I am going to use Nik filters.

Al

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Re: "DIGITAL DEVELOPMENT" SOFTWARE PROGRAMS

Postby Andy » Tue Jun 19, 2012 6:40 pm

Interesting. I have kind of held off on ColorEfex, but have become really enamored of ( by?) Viveza :D

In spite of Al's (mean) jab at me, :mrgreen: I want to clarify that I do not add any saturation in ACR. I do add midtone contrast using the Vibrance slider in ACR (there is also a vibrance adjustment in the layer panels os PS5 and 6). My "saturation" comes from my curves adjustment in the lab color space.

The main point Al is making is that the new TP software is doing a better job of layers, selections and adjutments thhan we have been able to painstakingly do by hand in the past. It is definitely worth the look!
Andy

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deaner1971
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Re: "DIGITAL DEVELOPMENT" SOFTWARE PROGRAMS

Postby deaner1971 » Wed Jun 20, 2012 7:16 am

The finance commitee is really going to start hating you guys... :D

Looks like Color Efex Pro 3.0 Complete costs $232 at Amazon but I can get Nik Software Complete Collection for Lightroom and Aperture for $220 (Define 2.0, Viveza, Silver Efex Pro, Sharpener 3.0 and Color Efex Pro 3.0).

Also, both of you work on your RAW files in ACR but I am doing many of those things in LR3 (also using RAW files as I only shoot RAW). Is there a reason I should be using ACR over LR or just preference?

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Re: "DIGITAL DEVELOPMENT" SOFTWARE PROGRAMS

Postby autzig » Wed Jun 20, 2012 8:35 am

deaner1971 wrote:The finance commitee is really going to start hating you guys... :D

Looks like Color Efex Pro 3.0 Complete costs $232 at Amazon but I can get Nik Software Complete Collection for Lightroom and Aperture for $220 (Define 2.0, Viveza, Silver Efex Pro, Sharpener 3.0 and Color Efex Pro 3.0).

Also, both of you work on your RAW files in ACR but I am doing many of those things in LR3 (also using RAW files as I only shoot RAW). Is there a reason I should be using ACR over LR or just preference?


Dean, I have PS and LR but I use PS. I'm sure LR will do everything you need as a photographer. I tried LR but decided I didn't want to have to learn another program since I know PS so well. I'm sure that Nik's filters for LR will work fine for you. (Color Efex Pro is now version 4.0).

I'm a member of the National Association of Photoshop Users and members get a discount of 15% on NIK products. You might want to consider becoming a member. http://www.photoshopuser.com/ Besides some good discounts, you also get Photoshop User magazine, which includes a section on Lightroom. It is put out by Scott Kelby. You also get access to all of their on-line tutorials. I think it costs $99 a year or something like that. I think it is well worth the investment. I don't know how much credibility the finance committee will give to my opinion but the discount on the NIK software will make NAPP even more reasonable.

Al

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Re: "DIGITAL DEVELOPMENT" SOFTWARE PROGRAMS

Postby Andy » Wed Jun 20, 2012 5:42 pm

Dean: Color Efex Pro - on their website, by itself is $199 for the full version and $99 for the "executive" version (problem is that the executive version doesn't appear to have some of the most popular "filters" - "Detail Extractor" for example, which everyone who praises this software says they use all the time). Keep in mind that the Nik software is designed as a "plugin" and will install into Elements, PS, LR or Apple Aperture. They all have their "pros and cons."

Like Al, I became a Photoshop User early on (before there even was a LR). The original LR was a pretty scaled-down photo-editing tool (although Adobe made its intentions clear from the beginning that it was destined as a Photographer's tool - designed to compete with Aperture). I had slid through about 4 different image management database softwares (like ThumbsPlus) trying to find something I could work with for my own management (referred to in the field these days as "Digital Asset Management" or "DAM"). When LR came along, I saw it primarily as a good, compatible (with other Adobe products) DAM software and that has been primarily what I have used it for. I still had the original LR version until just a couple months back when I took a big "Jump" to LR3 in order to save some $ on LR4 when it became available. I had problems migrating my libraries, and ultimately spent a full weekend completely rebuilding the database -- partly a good thing. Like Al, I have tried using it as an image processing software, but keep going back to PS, largely because of a comfort level. Interestingly, the "team" at Adobe that is in charge of Lightroom Development is also in charge of ACR (which is a Photoshop/Bridge plugin - not a LR plugin). But what I have seen is that the two (ACR and LR have slowly morphed together so that the LR4 and PS6 interfaces are virtually identical. So someone familiar with LR is going to be pretty familiar with ACR (PS6) and vice-versa.

LR jump-started the "non-destructive" interface in a big way (PS had begun using "smart objects", but I have found them slightly clunky for a lot of the workflow I have - particularly the lab colorspace workflow I referenced earlier. Your mileage will vary, as I know Al uses smart objects a lot and very successfully). But in LR, working from ACR, the adjustments are made non-destructively (that is, they are not permanent and are saved in a "side" file as instructions to apply to the original image. When you save your work in LR, it always saves a copy (default as a Tiff). I haven't decided how I feel about that, because most of my images in LR are the original raw files (like a negative file) and the other files fill up my catalog in a way I am not sure I like yet (I actually save the raw files offline on 2 different external HD's). But you are seeing more and more of that showing up cross-platform (e.g., the new "crop tool" in PS6 is non-destructive, similar to the crop tool in ACR and LR).

Most "power users" have both LR and PS. A lot of photogs use LR "exclusively for their basic editing and only go into PS for a specific need. PS is a graphics/artist program as well as an image editor, which LR is really exclusively an image editor for photographers. This means PS is bloated - If I could go in and strip out the items I will never use in PS the program would probably be 20% of what it is. But there are some things PS can do that you cannot (yet) do in LR. There aren't any layers in LR. We use layers for blending and painting. The Nik software and some of the Third Party sharpening softwares use layers. We sometimes use layers to work a tool on a masked selection, and with layers, we can change the % of application (opacity), and can also change the blending method. I use the lab color space which I can only get to in PS (newest Elements has layers, but no lab space that I am aware of). There are things like luminousity masks, and content-aware patching and moving, and type layers and on and on.

For the majority of recreational to semi-serious photographers, I think LR4 will offer essentially everything you will need, particularly if you pay attention to your craft and properly expose the image in - camera. OTOH, if you already have PS, then there are some darn good reasons to use it, IMO.

At the end of the day, that pesky finance committee, and perhaps reality, will have a lot to do with how it all comes together.
Andy

If it sounds too good to be true, its probably . . . .

deaner1971
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Re: "DIGITAL DEVELOPMENT" SOFTWARE PROGRAMS

Postby deaner1971 » Thu Jun 21, 2012 11:26 am

Thank you both.

I am kind of drifting toward staying with LR (moving from 3 to 4) with PE10 as my go to for the items LR doesn't do well and adding specialists like Nik to fill out my needs.

I am sometimes embarrassed to be using PE as I feel like "serious" photographers move to PS but it is that "20% utilization" that makes it hard for me to make the leap. You guys are power users and still aren't using everything it offers so I feel like I would be using a tiny fraction of it.

I think I am going to go out and get the Nik Suite demo and really see what it can do. For $220, it seems like I get an awful lot of tools. Add $80 for my LR4 upgrade and another $80 for PE10 and I think I will have a good workgroup to use.

Honestly, my singular issue is that PE does not allow me to edit in raw. So, I do most of my work in LR and then have to create a JPEG and remove say a telephone pole. If, after loading, I decide I want to change my curves then I have to do that, save a new copy and re-remove the telephone pole. I think Capture NX2 might be an option for me. I believe it allows me to do that clean-up piece in RAW.

You know that after I get this new fun stuff from Nik, I will have a ton of new questions. Really excited to play with their B&W software too.

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Re: "DIGITAL DEVELOPMENT" SOFTWARE PROGRAMS

Postby Andy » Thu Jun 21, 2012 5:51 pm

Dean: No need to be embarrassed. After you buy everything you list, you are still at 1/2 price of PS (before you buy any plugins). LR4 is a pretty powerful photo editor. I bought PS years back through my business expense account, thinking I would be able to use it for Power Point Presentations for the frequent seminars and speaking engagements I had (I have an allowance and pretty much free reign on how I allocate it). If I had to go out and pay the $700 ish it cost today to buy it, I don't know if I would. I am very glad I did it (although each iteration of upgrade has cost me an additional $150 or so), but its a big chunk. There are educational discounts and I am eligible as an adjunct professor at Saginaw Valley State University, but I have avoided that because it says in the fine print that it is not for commercial use (and I have sold the occasional print or electronic image and hope to do more of that).

I am confused about your comment about Elements, though. Can't you edit a photoshop document (.psd) or a tiff file in Elements? I certainly wouldn't do all that work on a jpg file that I might be wanting to do additional work on, or even print at some point. Psd and tiff support layers and can be saved in a "lossless" manner. They are big files, but it seems an awful shame to go from a raw to a jpg to me.

I am on my work computer right now and don't have LR installed there anymore. You can't clone or remove anything in LR?

You are right about the "wasted" power of PS. 80% of $700 = $530. So, I would love to be able to buy the 20% I need and want for $170 :-(.
Andy

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Re: "DIGITAL DEVELOPMENT" SOFTWARE PROGRAMS

Postby autzig » Thu Jun 21, 2012 7:17 pm

You are right about the "wasted" power of PS. 80% of $700 = $530. So, I would love to be able to buy the 20% I need and want for $170


Andy, that's called an upgrade. :D

Al

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Re: "DIGITAL DEVELOPMENT" SOFTWARE PROGRAMS

Postby abby » Thu Jun 21, 2012 8:12 pm

Hi,
I am quite happy with the Nik Software that I am using. I have Viveza, and ColorEfex Pro 3.
Here are a few images I took last evening and I used the Graduated neutral Density filter in ColorEfex 3 to bring up the light in the foreground, and to deepen the sky.
Image

Image

Image

Carol



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