digital workflow

finding interesting available light & white balance options

It’s always a feel-good moment to discover interesting available light while out on a photo shoot. Something unusual to add a new flavor to a different sequence of images.

While photographing a model with Tilo Gockel and Mike Silberreis (both from Germany on a visit to NYC), we started off with off-camera flash to help with the strong sunlight. (You might remember Tilo from a recent guest article on product photography on a budget.)

Then, while positioning Olena, I saw part of her dress had a patch of bright light on it. Turning around to see where this came from – I expected sun flare from nearby building window – I saw that it was actually the sun reflecting off a traffic sign right next to us. The light that was reflecting off this traffic sign was pretty hard, but had an interesting specularity, yet appeared flattering. So we shot an entire long sequence here, ditching the off-camera flash.

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post-processing workflow: solving a color banding problem in photos

Photographing people in the studio against a darker background, I’ve been plagued with banding problems. Some of it had to do with the limitation of working in an 8-bit environment in Photoshop. As described in this article – how to deal with color banding – a work-around was to editing images as TIFF, and thereby skipping a few steps where I would previously just have edited the JPG. The additional info in the TIFF file minimized color banding.

But then with darker backgrounds which have a bit of color in them, the problem still cropped up, as shown in the left-hand image. Then I stumbled on the cause of the problem – the camera profile in ACR / Lightroom.

At some point I had changed the camera profile away from the default – Adobe Standard – to Camera Standard. I liked the added contrast and saturation (as can be seen in the comparison above.) But this unknowingly, come at a cost – increased color banding in smooth transitions in darker tones. This isn’t something you’d notice in the background if it consisted of a landscape or an urban scene. But the moment you have smooth gradients of darker tones, this problem rears its ugly head.

It’s as simple a solution as that – keep the camera profile in ACR / Lightroom to Adobe Standard. Or, if you use a different flavor via one of the profiles you purchase, just be aware that this could be a problem.

I wanted to share this, since I spent an entire morning on Photoshop tutorials on dealing with color banding – none of which worked in this example. All it took was going back to the root – the camera profile used in editing the RAW files. If you see color banding in your photos, then perhaps, perhaps the solution is as simple as this.

Edited to add: The images were shot with the Nikon D810.

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Backblaze – online backup system for your data

Backblaze is part of my back-up system which I use to ensure that data loss just isn’t going to happen. For me, it isn’t the only thing I rely on sure my data is safe.  There are a number of things I have in place for my overall workflow to make sure I don’t sadly cry when a hard drive dies on me.

I’ve posted a few times now about back-up plans for disaster …

… and Backblaze is an important part of this. And if you don’t have Backblaze, you should most definitely have something similar in place. The monthly cost is so low that it’s just plain willful stupidity to not have an online back-up system in place, and risk data loss.

Now, while I am a fan of Backblaze, there is a definite measure of self-interest in mentioning all this again now. They currently have a refer-a-friend promotion in place. If you click on this link – Backblaze – and sign up, you get a month free, and I get a month free too. I’d like that. And I am quite sure you’d also like the peace of mind knowing that your data is safer than it has ever been. Check it out … and make us both happy.

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my hard drive has died – what should I do?

“What do I do right now!? I don’t know what to do!”

These were the sounds the angry woman next to me at the Apple Store counter made, while crying about her hard disc that had died.

“But it was fine this morning!” *sob sob sniff*

My sympathy was with the blue-shirted geniuses who had to take her anger with a calmness that I would’ve have been able to muster. My sympathy for her? Well, I just thought to myself, “now there is someone who doesn’t understand the concept of single point of failure.”

Back your data up, all the time. Constantly. Back it up to different devices and the cloud. A hard drive crashing should be no more than a minor annoyance. So if you’re running this risk of not having your data backed up, DO IT NOW. And get a system into place. Now. I mean, NOW!

If you don’t know how, ask someone. The tools and software aren’t expensive or difficult to implement. But if you need help, ask. In other words, if you lose data on your hard drive, you have no excuse.

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post-processing workflow: how to deal with color banding / posterization

If you’ve ever noticed banding or  posterization in your photos, where you’d expect solid colors, then there’s a relatively easy fix for it. This posterization effect appears as bands of colors, where the transitions between similar tones aren’t smooth, but have jagged edges instead.

It is caused by the 8-bit JPG not having enough data to give you a smooth gradient when large blocks of color slowly change. You’ll often see it in the blue sky in landscapes, or as in this case, with large areas of color in the background. Actually, the image above doesn’t show this – I fixed it. Here’s how.

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off-site data storage & back-up options – File Transporter

If you lose a hard drive or computer, would you be able to bounce back with your data and images intact? If not, then we need to have a quiet conversation here. An urgent conversation. Having a solid workflow and disaster plan in place, is an essential, non-negotiable part of being a photographer.

A single point of failure – if you’re a photographer, than that’s the one thing you really, really, really need to avoid in your digital workflow. Actually, this is true for anyone who works with computers and data. Regardless of whether you just have snapshots of your kids, or whether you’re shooting as a professional photographer. If you have your images on only one device or computer, then you arere bound to be in tears some day.

A single point of failure – it’s most often your hard drive. Hard drives will crash … eventually. They will become corrupted … eventually. So if you’re working on just the one hard drive, and don’t have a system in place where you have at least one back-up, you are tendering for trouble. Costly trouble. Judging by the number of photographers desperately asking for advice on the forums and on Faceboook, it is an easy guess that most photographers do not have a consistent robust digital workflow that will allow them to neatly side-step catastrophic failure.

But a single point of failure can exist anywhere in the chain of your digital workflow. If you have your data and photos on multiple hard drives, but they are all stored in your house, then you still have a single point of failure. Theft, floods, fire, tornadoes – any of these can destroy everything in your house with surprising suddenness. This is something you need to prepare for. No excuses.

A robust digital workflow need not be complicated or difficult to set up. There are easy options that you can set up yourself without having to be qualified as a network systems engineer. Anyone can do this. The tools are there and are easy to use.

And this is why I want to discuss options for off-site back-up and storage – and this handy idea behind the Connected Data – File Transporter. The File Transporter is effectively your own private 2Tb cloud where you keep your data off-site. More details about the File Transporter on their official site.

So now you may well be wondering why I am harping on about this topic again. Here’s the background story …

Learn more inside…

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wedding photography: 3 tips to speed up your editing workflow

One of the questions that came up during the Q&A at yesterday’s presentation at B&H, was how long does it take me to edit a wedding. Well, the ideal is that it takes me less than a day. During the peak wedding season around September and October, it is easy to slip behind, but that still remains my goal – to edit a wedding during the week right after the wedding took place.

There are several things motivating this idea:

  • I am more likely to get print orders from the guests at a wedding if the event is still fresh in their memory.
  • In terms of your workflow as a photographer, it is imperative that you don’t fall behind. If you don’t edit a wedding *this* week, then you’re behind because you’re shooting further events.

The best idea then is to edit the wedding in the day or two directly after. Cull, edit, upload, and then you’re done with the immediate workflow. Keep things rolling.

Here are my 3 best tips for a faster workflow. Of course, this doesn’t just relate to weddings, but also to any event where a high volume of images need to be dealt with.

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a band-aid for memory leak problems with Adobe Bridge (Mac)

While I do have Lightroom and Aperture, I have a preference still for using Adobe Bridge to view (and edit) individual images or groups of images. What makes Bridge easy, is that the edits (via the .xmp files), are read by both Lightroom and Bridge.

There has been one problem that has been driving me crazy on my Mac when I use Bridge … the apparent memory leak with Bridge that eventually eats up all the Free Memory on my system. I used a program called iFreeMem to regularly free up memory on both my Macs, but the program worked less well with Mountain Lion. And when I upgraded my iMac to 16Gb of RAM, iFreeMem just didn’t work properly at all.

Then some sleuthing via Google showed me a very simple way of doing this. This is something so simple that any competent software engineer will smirk (and the Linux gurus will fall over laughing) … but I wanted to put this out there as info for photographers who use Mac and Adobe Bridge, and who have been as frustrated with this problem that Adobe refuses to fix. (Or could it be a Mac problem?)

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photographers – back-up plans for disaster

A photographer’s studio in New York state, showing the damage that was caused by unexpected flooding during Hurricane Sandy. For all the damage to photo equipment and computers, no data was ultimately lost!  (Photo used with permission.)

My own family was very fortunate in that we weren’t hurt or sustained damage to our property. The worst we had to endure were the four days without power. There are so many heart-rending stories of lives lost and lives disrupted with the storm, that it just highlights how lucky most of us in the North-Eastern USA were during all this.

With the news so vividly fresh in everyone’s mind, I would like to use this moment to speak urgently to photographers … and anyone who has data that is important, whether personally or for your small business.

Learn more inside…

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Get it right in camera? … sure, but on occasion some post-processing helps

This photograph of the outdoor wedding venue gives a great sense of what it looked like there at the time. But the original image looked a lot more dull. There just isn’t a way to capture the deep shaded areas and the bright sky with a single capture, in camera .. without some post-processing work.

Learn more inside…

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