Using Silver Efex Pro 2

Dunescape image

Late afternoon dunescape shot in the mesquite dunes of Death Valley

I now use Silver Efex Pro 2 for converting images to black and white. Silver Efex Pro 2 is part of the Google NIK collection a very reasonably priced and very well-functioning set of software. In the past I would convert channels to layers then use blending modes and masking to create black and white images. This took hours sometimes and worked very well and I will still use the method for some images but I now prefer using Silver Efex Pro 2. In this video I make a simple conversion to the image above and allow about a 10% coloration of the original image along with some selenium toning. I would love to hear how well this works for you. Do not forget to subscribe so you wont miss the next blog. Until next time “Keep on Shooting”.




Clarity slider adjustment can be found in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw. The sliders work most the time but not always. Clarity is mid range contrast and can really punch up an image but if it gets into some highlight or shadow areas where it is unwanted it becomes a pain to deal with. This short video shows how to make a clarity adjustment in Photoshop and how to control in the highlights and shadows. I have used this a lot over the last couple of years and find it very fast and controllable. When a simple slider in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw does not work for you give this a try. I would love to hear how well this works for you. Do not forget to subscribe so you wont miss the next blog. Until next time “Keep on Shooting”.

Neutral Color Temperature Correction Trick

Ghost Ridder Image adjusted using Neutral Color Temperature Correction Trick

Ghost Ridder Image adjusted using Neutral Color Temperature Correction Trick


This neutral color temperature correction trick is a simple visual way for achieving a quick neutral color balance. Caution neutral color balance  is not for every image but is a good starting point for most images.

If you have ever struggled with adjusting color temperature and tint in Lightroom or Adobe camera raw this is for you. If you are not looking for a neutral balanced image, such as a sunset image, this will help you tune the color balance of your image.

  • Step 1: Open your image in Lightroom Develop module or Adobe Camera Raw.
  • Step 2: Slide the Saturation all the way to max.
  • Step 3: Looking at your neutrals, whites and darks adjust the color temperature and tint sliders for a neutral or your desired color balance.
  • Step 4: Lower the Saturation to normal and make your other adjustments and finish with a saturation adjustment.

This method lets you easily see subtle color influences in your neutrals, whites and darks so secondary color correction is seldom needed. This is not the only way to make this adjustment for a color correct image but for visually orientated people it is fast and easy.

Photography and Sex

image of visual sex in death valley

Visual Sex Captured in the magic of the Death Valley Sunrise.

Photography and Sex is a vast area but to keep it simple let’s look at photography as visual sex. Have you ever been out photographing when before your eyes an image that excites you appears. When you find such an image what do you do? Do you shoot right away? Do you explore to make the visual effect more exciting? Most shoot right away but some explore to find a way to convey that visual sex to others. The image above is such an image. I set up in the sand dunes early before sunrise for what I thought would be the best shot then planed two other shots knowing the magic light lasts only 5 minutes or so. The shot shown above was the second shot and was directly behind the first shot. After my first shot I turned and was turned on but the color a form of the image above. I went to the place I had planned but that was not the best so I moved and found a better place for the image capture.

I just read this morning “The Taking of Artistic Photographs” was chosen as the 7th sexiest creative behavior. This does not surprise me as in my mind photography is visual sex. The act of making a creative photograph involves a relationship between the visual creative and the subject that is fully shown to the viewer. The photographers camera looks both directions, it sees what is in front as well as behind its lens. As a photographer you have to be part of your work or your work will not show feeling and emotion. If you are not an ingredient part of your work your image will just be a snapshot.

A good exercise is imagine you are on a stage think of an imaginary audience and you go backstage and remove all your clothes. Your clothes represent things about yourself you want to hide from the public (things that keep you from showing your true emotions). Now put back on the things you want to hide and go back on stage. Now think about what you are hiding and how that inhibits what you visually show in your images. Does it hurt your creative work? I would love to hear how well this works for you. Do not forget to subscribe so you wont miss the next blog. Until next time “Keep on Shooting”.

Making an Image

Image of sunset

The final processed image

One of the things we ask is when and why. It is ok to follow along a tutorial but you need to know why and when to apply the technique. Below you will find a video of the processing of this image. In the video I try to tell you why things are done not just how. See and learn how decisions are made by an expert image processor.


I hope this video was helpful. Please let me know what you think. That will help me make a decision to do more or not. Do not forget to subscribe so you wont miss the next blog. Until next time “Keep on Shooting”.

What do the Numbers Mean in Post Processing


Tree in rocks image

know the numbers and you will know your image

Ever ask yourself what do the numbers mean when post Processing in, Adobe Camera Raw, Photoshop or Lightroom? If you haven’t you should as they are very helpful at letting you know how your final image will reproduce or look to the viewer. There are a few important things the numbers tell us among them are the white and black points where detail is lost and how neutral or color balanced your image is. Just to complicate things a little Lightroom uses a scale of 0 to 100 while the RGB space in Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop use 0 to 255. If you are going to print the numbers in the CYMK color space uses 0 to 255 but do to the print inks not being equal the color balance, white and black points are totally different than any other space. I will write at a later date more complete information on color balance in the CYMK space.

I have done post processing under some terribly poor conditions doing prepress work. Bad lighting, bad monitor and no way to proof my work but all was fine in the end because the numbers never lied. One time I had a dark, and I mean dark green chair that printed neutral black. Well it turned out the printer thought that I let the yellow go a little two high so he color corrected the image. Yellow might get you confused if you don’t know the CYMK color space but when yellow a very strong color goes up the blacks go green.

The endpoints of an image are the points where detail is lost in the blacks and the whites. Most indicators in our programs show the limits of the color space which is way past where detail is lost.

Below is a chart showing the 95%, 50%, 10% and 5% points and a 100% and 0% reference bar. The 95% point is where detail is lost in any higher value. The 50% point is for your reference and the 5% point is the point of last detail any darker you will have no detail. Next the 10% point will look lighter on a screen as it is backlit and in real life if the image is printed this is a better selection as your black point. The misunderstanding of this fact is one of the reasons prints seem to be darker than on your screen. Your printer works from the numbers and the numbers don’t lie. If your print is too dark increase the contrast in the dark area and raise the values.

What the numbers mean

What the numbers mean

This chart was put together in Photoshop using the Pro Photo profile and converted to sRGB for screen display. The numbers in the sRGB file are slightly different as Pro Photo profile is much larger and so things a squeezed a little to fit into the smaller sRGB space. How this chance occurs is controlled by the rendering intent of your color setup. I use relative colorimetric which is best for prepress and works very good in other situations. The Perceptual rendering intent is also workable and I do softproof using both but most the time choose Relative Colorimetric. The numbers in lightroom will differ and the numbering scale is not linear. So after completing the above file I measured the Lightroom numbers to be the same as the file converted to sRGB even though my Lightroom is set up for Pro Photo.

Lightroom is very visual in the way it works and it seems to display things as they will appear on a screen in sRGB so it is important to know the numbers. The end point for White is 96.2 and 5% Black is 5.9 with printable detail 10% black is13%. Middle grey is 57.4 percent. These numbers are the same for sRGB files and should be the numbers used in Lightroom even though you work in another color space inside lightroom. This is not bad because most screens are built to cover the sRGB space so you are working with the numbers that work for a vast amount of people.

I am hoping this blog works well for you and welcome any feedback or questions. Do not forget to subscribe so you wont miss the next blog. Until next time “Keep on Shooting”.

Danger of Step by Step

star image

The starry sky with a joshua tree

Step by step instructions are a good method to complete a task but in a creative field it can be a trap. The Danger of step by step is three fold.

  • It takes away the experimentation
  • complacency
  • It keeps you from understanding the full process

Experimentation is an important part of photographic creative activity as it leads to new discoveries and better understanding of the complete process. Experimentation leads to mistakes which lead to new ideas in the creative mind. This does not mean it will change the project but may lead to new projects or be incorporated into the current project. In photography complacency can be a problem. Sometimes photographers a content with what an action does and only consider the result. If the photographer actually performed the steps and modified them to fit his image the results could be more tailored to his own creative intent. The complacent photographer will end up with images that look like others and will not standout when it comes to creativity. Following step by step instructions is a knowledge trap. It keeps you from understanding the full process. Just blindly following steps you do not develop any new knowledge but with a little experimentation knowledge will be gained. By example back in the film days there was step by step for developing film but every photographer willing to experiment would learn that great results could be had by over or under development when coupled with over and underexposure. Today we have HDR. You can go to the web of buy a book and follow each step by step but the results usually lead to images that have certain look that is very recognizable as HDR. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range or in other words an image that exceeds the capabilities of the camera. In the film days if the dynamic range exceeded our film we would overexpose and underdeveloped and the image would look normal. Today if we want to digitally create a normal looking image we need to look to different techniques involving multiple exposures or processes. HDR works also and with a lot of experimentation you may be able to create a natural looking image that does not have the HDR look.

Comfort zone is a happy place but getting outside of that zone has the result of expanding the zone. We all benefit by pushing our boundaries and expanding our comfort zone. I issue challenges to myself all the time. The image at the top of this blog was a experiment where I was testing very high ISO noise reduction and long exposure photography combined with some light painting. There are multiple failures in this image from which I have acquired a lot of knowledge. I will not go through all of the failures but the biggest takeaway is that I need to take 2 images one of the light painting and one of the stars in register with the light painted image. I am not satisfied with the ISO and exposure time but because I did this image I know where to go for the next.

Next time you want to go beyond your boundaries experiment before you go to the book or the web  and you will be rewarded with a better understanding of what you are trying to do. Creativity is defined a bringing something truly unique into being. Following a step by step robs you by taking away part of the creative process. Concentrate on why and how the process works and you will be far better off. I sometimes blog about a process and even give you a step by step but I hope you will experiment and make the process your own. Don’t forget to subscribe so you wont miss the next blog. Until next time “Keep on Shooting”

Direction Property of Light

Textures are brought out by the direction of light

Textures brought out by the direction of light

The Direction property of light is as important as any of the other properties of light. I choose to discuss it last as it interacts with all the other properties. Light direction can enhance or subdue texture, form and space. The results of light direction become the visual impact of a photo much more than any of the other properties of light.

Diffuse light sources tend to hide the direction of light while specular light brings out the direction. Light direction also affects surface quality. Think of a rough surface like a patch of dirt and shine a specular light on the surface at an angle so it bounces right back at your eye. The diffuse surface now becomes specular and the color is desaturated all from the direction of the light source. If a light is off to the side and skims across a surface it will appear less bright than if the light struck the surface more directly. With the skimming light texture of the surface will become prominent which is why the light will appear to be less bright. When a light comes from behind it skips off the edges the color of the edges are desaturated and light appears to be much brighter than if it came from the front or side.

There are myths associated with the direction of light. Keep the sun over your shoulder is safe but boring. This type of light lacks texture shape and form. On camera flash is the same unless it is used for fill. Another myth is the you can’t get a good picture at noontime. Nobody told this to Edward Weston and he did a noontime shoot on a beach with the models lying in the sand. I got to hold and closely examine a set of these images and I must say they were some of the finest I have ever seen. The skin was alive with shape and texture as Edward had taken advantage of the direction of light.

There is one rule when it comes to the direction of light. The angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection. If a light hits a surface at 30 degrees it bounces off at 30 degrees. In the studio when light placement become difficult this rule can be applied. Replace the camera with a light then walk around the product to find locations for you lights to yield the best results. What you see is what you will get. I used this on chrome shooting often and on automotive shoots when needed. It made for fast and accurate light placement.

Control of the direction of light is easy in the studio just move the light. Outdoors it is hard to move the sun so we must move the subject or our camera angle. Sometimes you may need to return at a particular time of day. Luckily today we have apps that will tell us where the sun will be at any time of the day and the moon at night. When I am walking and hunting for an image to capture I alway look in all directions as the light changes when I change direction. Once I find a subject I explore that subject looking at different angles for light and composition.

Well that does it for the direction of light and the four properties of light. What’s next I don’t know but I do have a lot of ideas so I hope you subscribe and continue to enjoy. Until next time “Keep on Shooting”


Contrast vs. Saturation Color Adjustment

Title image

Original RGB and LAB images

Ever Take an Image that looks like this?

Flat image out of camera

Right out of camera with no adjustments.

I have lots of times. Your eyes will deceive you when looking at a very flat image like the one above. Your eyes pump up the contrast and separate the fine shades of color which appear more vivid than what the camera is going to see. I have talked to several people that think the camera failed but indeed it just recorded what was there and not what their eyes had seen. What can you do about it is the real topic of todays blog. The image below has been adjusted in Lightroom but the same adjustments could have been made in Adobe Camera Raw.

Image basic Lightroom adjustments

Basic Adjustment in Lightroom sans Color Adjustment

The following adjustments were made:

  • Contrast +100
  • Highlights +100
  • Shadows -100
  • Whites +31
  • Blacks -40

No adjustment to color saturation but indeed there is a lot of improvement over the original image. When working in RGB or CYMK color spaces any adjustment made to the luminosity affects the color of the image. As areas are made darker they become more saturated and as they get lighter saturation is lost. Color saturation was added next at 100%. Vibrance made large parts of the image turn blue so it was not used. See the results below not bad but not the best.

Lightroom edited image

Final edit in lightroom with 100% saturation

Another way to adjust this image is by adjusting the color contrast of the image. Now you may be asking “Where is the color contrast adjustment tool?” There is no contrast adjustment you need to adjust the curve. Wait if you just use a curve in RGB or CYMK you will adjust the luminosity of the image, so you need to convert to LAB color. In LAB color the luminosity is separated from the color so to increase contrast all you need to do is adjust the L channel for Luminosity contrast or the color channels, A and B for color contrast. First I will go back to the original file before any adjustments were made in lightroom and choose edit in Photoshop. I converted the image to LAB color then adjusted the L channel which is luminosity only with no color information therefore preserving the color in the high values. Next I adjusted the A and B channels which adjusts the color contrast. Next I returned to the L channel and made further contrast adjustments to the luminosity. I also sharpened the L Channel a large amount which is possible because it has no color information. See the image below with these adjustments.

lab Edited image

Edited in LAB using curves and lightness channel sharpened.

LAB color is super for sharpening as you can see and the color in the high values are much stronger than the Lightroom edited file. In addition if there is color noise in your image it is very easy to remove by a slight blur of the A and B channels which is also a subject for another time. The adjustment made was far short of what could be done without over saturating because the contrast was adjusted not the saturation. This contrast does have its limits but they can be well into the unreal. Don’t get me wrong, you can get close to this image with further Lightroom adjustment. The sharpen tool in Lightroom has masking which makes it a very good sharpening tool almost as good a using the L channel in LAB but if you are going to LAB for a color contrast adjustment you are best off sharpening the L channel. Below you will find a video of the process.


I hope you found this informative. I have used this for several years and on flat images it excels. Don’t forget to subscribe so you wont miss the next blog. Until next time “Keep on Shooting”



Quality Property of Light

Kissed by the sun

I have wrote about the Quantity and Color properties of light which we have tools to evaluate. The next two properties of light, Quality and Direction, we have to judge with our eyes. Luckily our eyes are a good judge even though our judgement will be done as a degree when it comes to the Quality of Light. Quality of light has two terms, Specular and Diffuse, which we use to describe how hard or soft the edges of the shadows are. As with color we need to include surfaces that the light is falling when we discuss Quality of light. A specular surface could be described as mirror like while a diffuse surface would scatter or disperse light falling on its surface. A specular light is a point source which creates hard edged shadows while a diffuse light is a large area of light radiating in many directions creating soft edged shadows. The Specular Diffuse relationship is a function of the size of the light source and the distance from the subject. A good example of this is the sun, it is very large but being 93 million miles away makes it a specular light source. On the other hand the sky is a very large and surrounds us so it would be considered a diffuse light source.

Surfaces can change when illuminated by different light sources. A Specular surface can become more diffuse when lit with a very diffuse light source such as a very large close softbox. Like wise a diffuse surface lit with a small spot light can take on a more specular type look. The important thing to remember is specular and diffuse are at far ends to each other and there is all degrees between these two extremes.

Here is an example if making the properties of light work for you. Take a crystal wine glass and put it on a white background Put a softbox close on one side of the wine glass and a white card close on the other side and observe what this lighting does. This is called white line lighting. If you look close the edges if the glass have a white line and you also have a pleasant highlight on the softbox side and if the card is close enough and secondary highlight. Movement of the light forwards and back will make a nice fine adjustment to the highlights. I should use this example in the blog under the direction property of light but I needed to use it here to show how diffuse light on a specular surface behaves. I will use this same example in my blog when I cover the direction property of light so keep this in mind.

The important thing to know about the Quality of light is that it is a function of size and distance in relation to the subject and can be judged by the edges of the shadows. Contrast is also related by the relationship if surface and quality. A diffuse surface illuminated by a specular light source will be more contrasty than if it was illuminated with a soft diffuse light source. We can not separate the size and distance factor. A face illuminated with a softbox or umbrella let’s say a 2 feet will be much softer than if the light source was at 5 feet. Placing a diffuser over a small on camera flash does not make for a diffuse light. Even adding a small softbox does not do much without moving closer to the subject. Bouncing your flash off a ceiling or a wall helps as the area you bounce from becomes a large light source.

Now that we have a better understanding of the quality of light property I will blog on the direction of light property. I hope you enjoyed this blog and will subscribe so you don’t miss the next one. Thanks for taking the time and reading.