Friday, July 24, 2009

The Digital Reflector – the solution to dark faces on bright backgrounds

It happens to us all – we are out with friends or family and we simply want to take a memento shot to remember the occasion. As a result, we end up taking lots of shots during the harsh mid-day sun and usually with the sun at the back of our subject. The net result is that we either properly expose our subject and have a blown out overexposed background, or we more typically end up with a properly exposed background with a dark face as is the case in the photo below:

Sure, you can see the subjects face (if you are lucky – sometimes they end up being unintentional silhouettes), but it sure is a lot darker than you hoped.

The Easy Fix

The correct fix for this would have been to carry a reflector and have it set up so that light bounces up on the face of the subject (or use a fill flash if you are close enough). A reflector sometimes requires an assistant and it isn’t always practical on a situation like this where I was having a fun hike with my in-laws at Mt. Rainier. The good news is that there is a super easy fix using Nik Software’s Color Efex 3.0 Complete either in Lightroom or Photoshop (it works with both products).

The fix is the Reflector effect which when combined with the awesome U-Point technology results in a brilliant fix in less than a minute. Here’s a corrected version:

Notice the improvement? You can easily control how much of the foreground is enhanced (i.e., just the face, the face and the shirt, the log, etc….) using the simple to use U-Point controls and you don’t need to spend a lot of time doing complex masking tricks. The best part is that the results are very good, and you have complete control over the direction of the light, the color of the light, the intensity of the light, the opacity of the effect, etc… I LOVE this effect and find myself using it all of the time!

The Video

I don’t usually do videos, but this is one case where I felt I had to because it is so important to demonstrate just how easy this effect is to replicate. Here’s a sample before picture:

It isn’t bad, but a little darker than I’d like. Here’s the corrected version (exaggerated a bit to make sure you can see the difference):

and here’s a quick video that brings it home (be sure to view in full screen):

In this video (no audio), I demonstrate how the Reflector effect works in Nik Software's Color Efex 3.0. While the video is shown using Adobe Lightroom 2.4, a near identical user-interface exists in Photoshop so the same concepts apply.

Here's what I do in the video:

  1. Export the image for editing (with current Lightroom edits) to the Nik Software Color Efex 3.0 for Adobe Lightroom plug-in. This creates a TIF file (other options available) for modification. Alternatively, I could have chosen the filter in Photoshop and had the effect simply added as a new layer in my PSD file.
  2. I select the reflector filter and then I click around to show the effects of the options available.
  3. I show how putting a negative control point removes the effect (which is what I don't want), I show how to delete a control point, and then I show how to add a control point to limit the scope of my change JUST to the man's face. This is powerful because I do this quickly and easily without using complex or time consuming masking techniques.
  4. After getting the results I like, I saved the changes and they are automatically updated in Lightroom.

As you can see from the video, it takes only a minute and the results are very close to what you'd get if you had a real gold, silver or silver/gold mix reflector with you.

Conclusion

I hope you see just how easy this feature is to use (anyone can do it). The ability to save shots like these and not haul more gear on my hikes makes Color Efex a no brainer purchase for me. You can try it out on their web site for free and see if you agree. If you do, you can purchase it at a 15% discount (including the Complete Collection which contains all of their products) just by using the Discount Coupon Code on my blog.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dane Creek Fine Art Prints - Printing with a personal touch

If you are a long-time reader of my blog, then you know from my article entitled “Canvas on Demand versus Brian Morgan” that I’m not opposed to giving the little guy a shot against the big boys. So when a member of my photography club at work, Neil Enns, asked if I could do a review of his work I was happy to oblige.

The Images

This is a picture I took recently of my in-laws in my kitchen. I post-processed the shot taken with a Canon 5D Mark II (24-105mm lens) in Photoshop CS4 using Scott Kelby’s 7 Point System techniques and Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro. The printed result was 6.6x10" on 8.5x11 Ilford Galerie Gold Fibre Silk. The printed image was a little more orange than i expected, but perhaps that was my fault in the post-processing.

This is a picture I took on a Chicago river boat cruise in 2008 with my 1D Mark III using my 16-35mm lens. The printed result was 7.5x8.7" on 8.5x11 Ilford Galerie Gold Fibre Silk. The results of this print were fantastic. The buildings were super sharp and the colors just popped! I really enjoyed it WAY more than the results I obtained from WHCC and Nations Photo Lab. In fact this one is so good, I’m seriously considering ordering a huge poster of it. In many ways it is a boring shot of a building useful only for a brochure, but I love the detail, colors and pop – especially the way Dane Creek printed it!

This is a shot I took at the Bailey Lighthouse in Howth, Ireland with my 1D Mark III and 16-35mm lens. Although the picture above is mostly unprocessed, the one I sent Neil was heavily processed. Unfortunately I made the mistake of processing it as a 16-bit ProPhoto RGB image in Photoshop CS4 and saving it as a 8-bit sRGB JPEG in Photoshop so the colors crushed and the results were horrible. Lots of detail was lost with the blacks, and there was a nasty magenta cast over the image – it looked dreadful! However, I sent it to Neil to see what he would do (and didn’t say a word about the fact that it was a known flubbed image). A normal printing company would just print what I sent them and I’d get back terrible results! However, that’s the difference with using a small service like this with a personal touch because Neil immediately recognized this image would print badly so he contacted me and asked (good) if he could modify the image to get it closer to what he believed it was supposed to look like. I didn’t send him a new image, and let him fight with the JPEG image I had sent him (even though I had the raw and PSD versions). The final image printed at 6x10" on 8.5x11" Hahnemuhle FineArt Baryta paper. The results of this print were good, probably better than the on-screen version, but a little more of a purple cast than what I see on a variety of displays.

Of course, I had to try out a black and white and I owe my Mom a shot of my newborn son so I chose this image that I captured with my 1D Mark III and 100mm lens. It printed 15x19.4" on 17x22 Ilford Galerie Gold Fibre Silk. I recently printed this same shot using MPix.com’s True B&W paper (article), and the results here were far superior to what I got from them (especially their E-Surface paper). I thought this print turned out fantastic – gallery worthy for sure!

The Equipment

Neil prints his images on Canon imagePROGRAF iPF5100 printer using 12 LUCIA inks (including 4 different blacks) and top quality paper as mentioned above. This is what you’d see prints in a gallery from a Canon Explorer of Light, so this isn’t your typical Office Depot ink jet printer!

Conclusion

Just as the case was before with Brian Morgan, I found the result to be fantastic. In fact, I’d say they are the best prints I have to date! The total cost for the four images shown here is about $50 plus shipping and handling, so it’s quite a bit more expensive than larger shops like MPix.com. However, the results really feel like “fine art” stuff that you’d see in a gallery – not large printed photos. I was a bit disappointed that these weren’t borderless prints, but these images are easier to custom frame (a bit more tricky to frame on the cheap since the results are non-standard sizes). However, Neil explained that these inks are a bit more sensitive to touch so the border makes it easier to handle them without damaging them. Overall I am extremely pleased with the results and feel that for art exhibition caliber results you’ve gotta go with the Ilford Galerie Gold Fibre Silk! You won’t be disappointed!

Neil offers personal service and an attention to detail that you just can’t get from the large print services. If you have that special image that nobody else has been able print just right you might want to give him or Brian Morgan a shot! To learn more or to place an order, go to Dane Creek’s Custom Fine Art printing page. Dane Creek also makes very nice Folio Covers for you to present your custom printed images to clients.

Special Offer

Until the end of August 2009, Dane Creek will be offering a special 15% discount to readers of this blog when you mention the discount coupon code ronmart15 when placing your order.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How do I learn how to use my DSLR camera?

One of the most frequent questions I see in my photography club after someone gets their camera is “are there any classes I should take?”. What I interpret this to mean is really “hey, this DSLR isn’t as easy as my point and shoot, so how can I start getting killer images like I see others getting”. My stock recommendation for this is typically to read my article entitled Which Books Should I Read?, and that works great for some people.

The problem is that some people either don’t have time to read the books or just struggle with that format, but it is easy to identify them because they’ll typically follow up with “Are there any good videos or classes locally?”. To this I would generally suggest taking my Photography class or mention a few useful resources like lynda.com and Kelby Training. However, my favorite Photography book author, Bryan Peterson and I were exchanging emails the other day in preparation for his visit to Seattle when I ran across some great FREE video tutorials he’s done on his site. They are called Picture Perfect Tips, and they are mostly video representations of things you’ll find in his fantastic books. Bryan is super creative, but he also is an outstanding educator because he knows how to break things down into simple concepts or analogies that anyone can understand. This is why his books are so successful and why I feel they have been so helpful for me. I highly recommend you check these videos out as well as my Which Books Should I Read? article. In addition, if you like Bryan’s style and want more of that type of education, then check out my reviews on his books and figure out which one(s) are right for you:

Bryan’s books are a joy to read and have helped me tremendously. I know you’ll enjoy these videos and the best part is that they don’t cost you a penny!

Stay tuned to this blog this Late August/Early September for my interview with Bryan Peterson!

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

Monday, July 20, 2009

REVIEW: Topaz Labs DeNoise 3.0

In response to my Noise Reduction Software Roundup article, several readers commented that I should try out Topaz Labs DeNoise. I had never heard of Topaz Labs, so this was a new revelation for me. Initially, I did download Topaz DeNoise 2.x and was very unimpressed, so I didn’t bother to write an article. However, recently I had a chance to play around with DeNoise 3 and the results were much better. This article is a quick review of the product using some of the same images and methodologies, but not exactly the same format.

How does it work?

Of the products reviewed in the previous round-up I’d say this user-interface is probably closest to the winner – Noiseware, but not in a good way. The user-interface here is just just basic programming with only one real “feature” and that is its presets section with a visual preview (that isn’t dynamic). Here’s a quick look:

Topaz Denoise 3 - click for a larger image

I wasn’t very impressed with the user-interface, but then again that’s what I do for my day job so I might be a bit biased. However, what I did find was that there were a variety of UI quirks (like a menu button that displayed a context menu) and just flat out bugs (like sliders that begin to vanish due to z-order issues when you drag them all the way to the right).

However, if there’s one redeeming feature of the UI (albeit with a odd quirk – more on that later), is that several presets on how you can do noise reduction are featured on the left hand side which show you the results on your image. This was a nice touch that I felt that some of the other programs in the round-up might  benefit from adding to their user-interfaces. It does have a bug though in that the default position of this thumbnail is seemingly chosen at random and when you pan in the window it doesn’t update. However, if you hit the refresh button all is well again. Auto-refresh on mouse-up might be a good idea in the future.

The user-interface is limited to just a handful of sliders that control the impact of noise reduction on the image, and all but the super smooth preset seem to introduce a odd artifact that reminds me of looking a snowflake under a microscope. It’s really quite bizarre, and something that made me completely dismiss the 2.x version. However, the “super smooth” preset obliterates all noise to create a plastic-like appearance to the image which some will like and others will dismiss as too destructive to image detail.

Noise Reduction Roundup Images

Here’s the exact process I used:

  1. Open CR2 in Photoshop CS4 32-bit on Windows Vista 32-bit
  2. This launches ACR 5.2, go to the Detail tab and set Noise Reduction to 0 (XMP data from disk has cropping info – XMP was generated from Lightroom 2.3 where I catalog my files)
  3. Open object at Original Size
  4. Duplicate the layer and name it Denoise 3
  5. Save PSD
  6. Apply the Super Smooth preset the layer. I chose this preset as the others introduced the weird artifact mentioned earlier which I found to be an unacceptable modification of the existing noise.
  7. Save PSD
  8. File | Save As… JPEG and choose 12 when the dialog comes up.
    • For Chicago, I created a Text layer watermark and showed both the image and watermark layers.
  9. Open PSD’s of the cropped images from the previous article series and add a new layer for Denoise 3 add it to the composite image.
Canon G9 @ ISO 400

Here’s a shot I took with a Canon G9 at ISO 400 which was fairly noisy. Hover over the shot below to see the before and after (pay attention to the top of the image to see the bad noise in the original). This is straight out of camera with no post-processing, so it still needs a little work (especially sharpening). Clilck the image for a larger version:

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after

While it did a great job of removing noise, it also removed details like the flooring and Lego seams. However, the image is clean so at a quick glance it looks very good. I do notice a bit of a color shift as a result of the loss of detail (i.e., the blue streak in the right corner). Here’s a comparison to the other products from the roundup (click for a larger version):

Click for a larger version

There's no doubt this is the smoothest most noise free image, but some valuable details are definitely lost.

Canon Rebel XTi @ ISO 800

Here’s the Tokyo shot used for the round-up that is quite forgiving of aggressive noise reduction. Pay attention to the grid lines on the building in the back of the scene on the bottom left side of the image when you hover in and out below. Click the image for a larger version:

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after

Again, this is a noise free image after the modification but there’s a loss of some color and detail, but this image seems to live without them fairly well. Here’s a close up that compares Denoise 3 to other round-up products:

Click for a larger version

Canon 5D Mark II @ IS0 2500

Pay attention to the little girl’s hair when you hover in and out below (click for a larger version):

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after

The hair detailed and fabrics are destroyed, but otherwise this image is fine with the loss of some detail. Of all the images here, I think this one is least suited for Denoise 3’s super smooth preset as most will find the detail loss in the hair to be unacceptable.

In the blow up below you definitely see that there’s no need for skin softening techniques as the skin is stripped of detail: 

Click for a larger version

Canon 1D Mark III @ ISO 3200

Pay attention to the building on the left side of the image when you hover in and out below (click for a larger image):

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after

There’s a big loss in the gold color in the image after noise reduction above, so again I found this image to be less suited for Denoise 3.

In the blow up below the loss of detail in the carvings on the tower is pretty intense, but the sky cleans up very nicely. Click for a larger version:

Click for a larger version

Conclusion

As I mention in the noise reduction roundup, noise reduction is a very subjective thing. Some will consider the results that Denoise 3’s super smooth preset to be the superior choice because it does indeed remove the most amount of noise. Others may find the artifacts in the other presets acceptable, and chose to use those settings. However, I believe many will question the loss of detail or artifacts and will prefer the winners of the roundup Noiseware (1st) and Dfine (2nd) because of their ability to save critical details while maximizing the amount of noise removed. Still others will continue to prefer Noise Ninja as printing is more forgiving with noise than big displays, and it offers the widest range of noise reduction options on the market.

Like all noise reduction products you can tweak the controls to suit your needs, but I found the user-interface of Denoise 3 to be the least enjoyable user-interface to use. It’s functional, but obviously designed by a developer for geeks without typical consumer level usability testing. My recommendations for Topaz Labs moving forward would be to:

  1. Try to settle on something a little less aggressive than Super Smooth and get to the bottom of the artifacts appearing in the other presets. Since you offer downloadable presets, this is something that would be easy to retrofit into the existing product (well done).
  2. Invest in a good user-interface expert to give the UI a major overhaul so that it is consistent with standard user-interface paradigms (menu’s belong up top, not behind menu buttons, and the whole use / layout of buttons is poor throughout the UI).
  3. Work on the performance after you apply a filter (and ideally have an option to apply the effect on a new composite (think opt/ctrl+alt+shift+e) layer.
  4. Consider a Lightroom add-in version.
  5. Keep doing what you are doing very well – the presets with thumbnails is an excellent idea.

Special Offer

Purchase your copy of Topaz Labs Adjust at 15% off the normal rate when you use the discount found on my discount coupon code page.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Top Photographers Interview: Tim Wallace

Tim Wallace

There are 20 photographers listed in my Top Photographers list, and Tim Wallace is number one on that list. The reason is simple - nobody I know of in the industry today produces the volume of high quality images that meet my definition of photographic perfection than he does. His client list speaks for itself, and his work demonstrates his tremendous talent both at capture time and well as his post processing. When I first saw his work on Scott Kelby's Blog (also his favorite photography web site) my jaw dropped! He immediately went from an unknown to #1 on my list. The funny thing is that nobody I know of right now is challenging him for that spot either!

I hope you enjoy learning more about this modern-day legend and are inspired to push yourself in a new direction after seeing some of his great work. He’s a great down to Earth guy who says “I’m not a great photographer, but I’m getting to where I want to be”. To that I can only say – keep following his work because if he ever thinks he’s great then I’m sure that work will be astonishing! However, given his humble nature, I doubt we’ll ever see the day when that happens.

Automotive images with a soul

The thing that turned me on to Tim Wallace first was his AMAZING car photography. Picking shots for this article was like picking a favorite child! - I’m serious!

I struggled so hard to find which ones best represented his work and to not just put 30 images of Aston Martins! Each of his shots are very unique and offer something special with their gorgeous blacks, brilliant shiny metals, and the captivating use of a limited number of strong colors. Even those that you might look at his work and say “yeah, I see how he did that” - I challenge you to execute your own image to the flawless perfection he achieves in these shots. They are simply breath taking as in the case of the picture below: (NOTE: MAXIMIZE your browser window now or images will be clipped)

5 Motion

The coolest thing about Tim Wallace’s automotive photography is that he’s not taking pictures of average family sedans – he’s taking pictures of automotive art. These are the cars that any car guy with a pulse lusts after.The beauty of the cars, and killer brands like Aston Martin, Ferrari, Porsche, Mercedes, etc… leave you with a feeling of needing to go buy lottery tickets right away so that you can own one of these glorious creations!

Maserati Storm

This is of course is what these famous automotive brands want you to think of their vehicles, so it is no wonder that Tim is a favorite photographer of theirs. He takes their fantastic products and does the impossible – he makes them look even better than they are in real life! Anyone can take a sharp picture of a Ferrari engine or a Aston Martin and most people would want to hang that picture on the wall, but these shots are on a higher level that make you pause and say WOW!

Weather be damned because there are “no rules in Photography”...

One of the most fascinating things about Tim’s work is that he doesn’t need clear skies or the golden hour to shoot. Instead, he wants to be one with the environment and use nature as a lighting source. Clouds are just a big softbox, and the sun is “just another one of [his] lights”.

He’s also not afraid to do whatever it takes to get the shot, like riding in the back of a Land Rover at 80mph with his own custom camera rig trying to get amazing shots like the one below. Of course, he’d love it if someone could invent a tripod on a gyroscope that help stabilize his body so he could pull off a shot at 1/8 of a second, but until then he’s got a few tricks up his sleeve on how to get killer moving car shots like the one below using concepts that Clint Clemens originally made famous.

Click to view full size

When I talked to Tim about his favorite shots, the first shot that came to mind was his the shot below of an Aston Martin draped in a sheet. The funny thing about this shot was that he was at the end of the shoot when the weather started to turn nasty, and everyone was wanting to quickly pack up. However, Tim got a vision and asked for someone to go run and grab a big sheet as he felt this was the perfect time to shoot! He grabbed this as his last shot of the day, and it clearly is a unique shot that demonstrates his comfort with the elements.

_AMB0831

The taboo of shooting in the mid-day sun, as was the case in the shot below, is laughed at as a challenge by Tim. This man seems to laugh at the challenge of what people say isn’t possible, and he turns it into perfection. He didn’t do this shoot at this time of day because he had to, he did it because he wanted the challenge to see how it could be done.

Photography Tips

Being a car guy, I had to ask if he had any good tips for me. While I didn’t get enough time to have him expand on the subject, a I did manage to capture the following points:

  • Light in the same direction as the sun – our tendency is to use the sun on one side and our light on the opposite, but that’s all wrong in his mind.
  • Switch one light on at a time to determine if you really need any more – A common mistake is that we think we know what lights we need so we set them all up and fire them all at once. However, if you add one at a time and understand what each one does, then you are more likely to know where the additional lights (if any) should go.
  • Don’t forget the sun is one of your lights – Tim isn’t a big fan of studios, so most of his work is done outdoors. As a result, he reminded me to take note that the first light you need to understand is the sun. He said that for most of his shoots he uses three light sources – two Ranger strobes, and the sun.
  • Your image shouldn’t look lit – This sounded funny at first, but if you study his images you notice that they are well lit but there isn’t an obvious way to tell what the light sources were or where they were placed. This is the key to Tim’s work is that you shouldn’t be able to look at the shot and immediately see how the scene was lit.

The other thing I discovered when talking to Tim about how he works is that he hates color. I really laughed at this one because in my mind, there’s nobody on the planet right now (except for maybe Scott Kelby) who does color any better! However, when i talked to him more about this I found out that Tim is really a Black and White photographer at heart who thinks the world of Photography is too oversaturated. This is why he desaturates his images by at least 20% because it removes the unnecessary colors, but it also makes the ones that are there pop. It’s this signature look that makes just about anyone who knows his work look at an image and immediately recognize if it was a Tim Wallace original.

Moving forward he is going to play around a lot more with a shallow depth of field which “gives a lot of space without losing focus. It helps you to direct the viewer to what you want him or her to look at.” Using this technique he hopes to start doing more shots like the image below:

 

The Rolodex of Photography

Perhaps the greatest thing Tim emphasized in our interview is how we as photographers need to build a “rolodex” of our successes and failures so that we can dip into those experiences in our future work. This involves frequent experimentation, so more data can be added to this collection.

This information, combined with a passion for photography will allow you to “go into any situation and get a good picture. You need to get to the stage where you don’t think about the camera (like changing gears in a car), so you need to do a lot of shooting.”  Tim actually suggested that newcomers practice street photography because it will “teach you how to shoot manually and quick. It also teaches you how to capture the moment.”

Building a huge internal rolodex of information is one of the things that separates the top pros from the rest. As Tim said “No matter how confident you are, you must be passionate. You should start to feel twitchy if you don’t pick up the camera for three days”.

Photography is a Business

The first words out of Tim’s mouth during our interview were “Photography is a business, and its more than just creating great pictures”. If you are being paid by a client you must remember “you aren’t doing this for you – that’s a hobby – you shoot the way your clients want things to be shot so it can be successful commercially”. However, a big mistake that less successful photographers make is that they don’t listen to their clients and they try to photograph the way they think is best. It isn’t until you’ve really established a unique style that you are famous for, like Tim has, that you get the luxury to do that – AT THEIR REQUEST!

Of course the other part of this business is that you want your clients to like you, so you must have a “Joe McNally or Scott Kelby – down to Earth – personality” that people feel is approachable. Tim thinks of himself as “a tradesman, like a plumber, who has a skill” so the real product he is trying to sell is HIM! They want “a normal guy who is easy to get along with”, so don’t let your successes get to your head.

Tim Wallace’s Gear Bag

Click to view full size

Another piece of advice? - “Never get into debt with your business.” While he may shoot with a Hasselblad H3DII (most frequently with the CF-39 Digital Back even though he owns and loves the 50), he acknowledges the fact that a top end medium format camera like that is only necessary if you are doing work that requires huge prints (i.e., billboards).

If he is doing more sane size prints (i.e., magazine ads), then he is fine with using one of his Nikon D3’s for their superior high ISO performance with pair of Nikon SB-900’s remotely triggered by Elinchrom skyports (instead of pocket wizards). Some other things you will find packed in his beloved Pelican cases (“specifically the 1510 because it is the maximum legal size to carry on a plane”) are:

One interesting thing is that Tim scoff’s when he hears a big-name pro say something like you should only shoot with one lens. Instead, he believes you should have an collection of good lenses that you use for the right occasion. In fact, he went so far to say that if you find yourself just favoring one lens too much then you should “lock it away for a month” to force yourself to use something else!

He also advised that you shouldn’t limit yourself to just modern lenses as there are some fantastic older lenses and some modern ones that aren’t as sharp as their older counter-part, so don’t judge a lens by its age but rather by its performance. His 85mm f/1.4 is an example of an older lens that is manual focus only, but he loves it even though the modern day AF version is very good too!

Watch and learn from the master of product photography…

There are people in this world who collect watches and lust to own the greatest and most expensive designs. Personally, I am not one of those people as a watch is simply an instrument you wear on your wrist to tell time. However, when I see the fantastic images Tim creates of watches in his product portfolio, I start to see the attraction to these miniature works of art. Just as he does with cars, Tim takes a great looking watch and turns it into an amazing photograph that makes you say “I want one of those”. This is why Tim isn’t only highly sought after for his automotive photography, but his product photography as well.

Seiko Kinetic

See the final shot before you pick up the camera

The cool thing about Tim is that he approaches a shoot far differently from many people that I’ve spoken to. Since his early days were spent printing and developing, he still shoots in multiples of twelve and uses Adobe Photoshop CS3 (not CS4) on his Sony VAIO (running Windows Vista) laptop as a digital enlarger.

He primarily shoots in manual mode and even focuses manually with little concern for the electronic wizardry on his camera. However, he is a big fan of the histogram as he can quickly look at it and determine if he has hit his target of being underexposed by one and a half stops (one and a quarter for his Hasselblad). In fact, he said he has little use for the rear LCD and rarely references it because he shoots by feel.

This history has taught him to look and see the final print before he picks up the camera. He’ll study the scene and figure out what he’ll want to do in that final image, and then pick up the camera.

For an average shoot he’ll spend about 6 hours, yet only take roughly 24 frames. What’s more, before he goes to bed that evening he’ll triage the shots in Lightroom and process the best ones, being careful not to spend more than 3 to 4 minutes per RAW file (10 minutes max for difficult situations), before sending the best results to Photoshop. His philosophy is that “the next day is a new day”, so he doesn’t let his work carry over to the next day.

He freely admits that he doesn’t have the Photoshop talent to merge two different images together. What’s even more funny is that some have suggested that he uses CGI effects, but he hasn’t a clue how he’d even do that! Instead, he has a simple (proprietary) workflow on how he makes the great images that he does, and it all begins with a vision that occurs before he begins capturing images.

This ain’t no one trick pony…

It’s clear after talking to Tim for a couple hours that this is a guy who is motivated by a challenge. The picture below is a perfect example, because before that image was taken he was challenged by a friend to take a landscape image and place in the top 5 in the Photography Monthly contest. Tim accepted the challenge and went a step further by predicting he’d come up with a winning landscape shot that didn’t even have any land in it! The result - he not only won the contest but also was named 2008 Photographer of the Year!

Northern Tide

Some photographers are really great at one or maybe two things, but they typically struggle when you get them out of their primary element. Some have one way of processing photos for a specific look and they can’t really branch out and handle different subjects. Tim however seems to love shattering stereotypes and laughs at challenges.

Tim Wallace isn’t known for his portrait work, yet the image below is incredibly refreshing and different than anything I’ve seen in quite some time. The portrait itself is just an excellent shot of a beautiful girl just that is processed to perfection, but so what – others can do that. However, the fact that this image is framed in an interesting environment with a phenomenal use of subtle colors (like the neat green on the whiles and the wood textured floor) make me mesmerized by this shot. I can look at it for hours!

Click to view full size

“It doesn’t matter if it is a hamburger or a car…”

When I asked Tim about his favorite subject to shoot he quickly said there is none because “it doesn’t matter if it is a hamburger or a car” because he’s so passionate about his work. He does admit that when he goes out to a shoot that he likes to work alone (that’s right, no assistants) and to put on his 120GB iPod with his favorite music that “suits the work” to just get into the zone. He still says that each job is exciting and conjures up that “feeling of being on a first date”. He feels that if you don’t get that feeling then you are simply in the wrong business!

Tim’s Inspiration

Like many greats I’ve spoken with, they all try to avoid spending much time looking at others work to avoid being influenced by it. What sets them apart from the rest of us is their unique ability to do something different. However, when I asked Tim if there were any current photographers who he admires he mentioned Annie Leibovitz more recent work and his favorite photographer – Marco Grob. This of course explains why when Tim gets his first chance in 3 years to shoot for fun, he hopes to do some very fascinating portrait work. I won’t spoil it for you, but from what he told me it should be quite good and definitely something you haven’t seen from him before.  He’ll be pushing himself out of his comfort zone which in most cases means something magical is going to happen.

During this discussion he said something i thought was very inspirational:

“Sometimes you need to photograph something, just to see what it looks like photographed - for no other reason”

He feels strongly that still photography will never die, despite all of the buzz about high-def video. His dream is that he can retire by age 55 in Italy and just continue to fill that rolodex of information in his brain. When laying on his death bed he’d rather have that rolodex full rather than just a few pages, and from what I’m seeing I’d say he’s already accomplished that goal!

Conclusion

I hope you now understand why Tim Wallace is #1 on my top photographers list, but also why I think he’ll stay there for quite some time. Personally, I’d give my left nut to spend a day learning from this master of photography, but alas I’m in the U.S. with limited funds so that isn’t likely. However, if you are lucky enough to be one of my UK readers, then you can attend one of his seminars (including the occasional free seminar sponsored by Land Rover).

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article as much as I have and I thank Tim for taking time out of his busy schedule to allow me to interview him. I know Tim will be reading this article, so please feel free to share your thoughts in the form of comments to this article so he can hear from you.

Below is a montage of some of his amazing images, and see the information at the end of this article for details on how you may order ordering prints of his work.

Click for a larger view and to learn about Tim's seminars

Want Prints?

If you are as thrilled with the art you see here as I am, you might lust for a print of your own. Well I have some good news for you!

Prints of about 90% of the automotive images you see on Abient Life typically aren’t offered for sale, but in an exclusive offer unique to this site they are offering ronmart.blogspot.com readers an autographed A2 sized (16.5 x 23.4 in) version for only £250 (USD conversion here – he normally sells unsigned prints of this size for £400, so this is a great deal!!!!). Shipping & handling charges apply, so contact Ambient Life for more details. To order prints (not just automotive), send mail to inspired@ambientlife.co.uk and mention the discount coupon code of RM3II for this exclusive offer.

A word about the images in this article

All of the images used in this article were linked by special permission of Tim Wallace. Please click the images to view the licensing terms by which you may contract with Ambient Life to license rights to use these images. Please click here for more details. You may not copy, print, save, link to or any other way use the images in this article without a contract from Ambient Life.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro for Lightroom & MPix.com’s True B&W paper – A GREAT Combo!

+

Mpix

When I first wrote about Nik Software’s Silver Efex, I admitted I wasn’t much of a black and white fan. However, a funny thing happened after I wrote that review – I fell in love with black and whites! I realized that the reason why I didn’t like black and whites was because most are drab looking (more like blobs in a various shades of gray). I like black’s that are deep and dark and whites that pop, and Silver Efex has allowed me to get the look that I love in a great black and white. As a result, I now find myself doing b&w’s all of the time! This of course means being able to do this from Lightroom would be ideal, so when I heard that Nik Software had released a Lightroom Plug-in for Silver Efex I was thrilled!

Here’s a quick look at the user-interface when you choose Photo | Edit In | Silver Efex Pro from Lightroom where I exported my color original:

Click to view a larger sizeLike ALL Lightroom plug-ins, a new exported file must be created with your current Lightroom adjustments to use with the plug-in. Here I chose to create a sRGB TIFF version of the file which would automatically open for editing in the stand-alone (no Photoshop required like some other plug-ins) version of Silver Efex Pro:

Click to view a larger size

If you’ve used Silver Efex Pro already then you should be happy to know it is the same great interface with a Save button replacing the Ok button. I made some of my favorite adjustments and voila - I got a great black and white image in no time without Photoshop! Okay, so now what?

Make that perfect B&W print perfect with MPix.com's True Black & White Prints

If you’ve done any work with black and whites you know that getting a great black and white on the screen is one thing, but getting it to print out nicely is a whole different challenge. It’s so easy to have your once great looking black and white look horrible again after you’ve printed it out.  This is where Mpix.com comes in!

Head to Head Comparison: Regular Prints versus True Black & White

My wife and mother-in-law loved the results I got from Silver Efex, so they asked if I could order them a framed enlargement of this image. Since I’ve had great luck with framed images from Mpix.com, I uploaded a 8-bit sRGB JPEG exported from Lightroom and placed an order with them the same night I took the picture. My mother-in-law isn’t going to be the type that pixel peeps, so I decided to order her print (on the right side in the image below) as a E-Surface (regular print) and my print (on the left below) on True Black & White paper. Click to view a larger size of the image to see a better comparison of the two (and this image doesn’t do it justice compared to real life!):

Click to view a larger size

While the E-Surface print looks nice, it didn’t have quite the deep blacks and white pop that I had accomplished on screen, but the True Black & White paper did! It was fantastic! I hope you can tell the difference in the images in this article, but let me tell you that I couldn’t be more pleased with the results! I’ll never print black and white’s on regular paper again!

So how much does it cost?

Well the good news here is that it only cost me an extra dollar at the time this article was written for me to upgrade my 8.5x11 E-Surface print to a True Black & White as you can see below from my order details:

8.5x11 on True Black & White

$3.99
Black Rounded Frame $20.00
White Mat $9.00
Clear Glass $6.00
Lustre Coating $1.49

8.5x11 on E-Surface

$2.99
Black Rounded Frame $20.00
White Mat $9.00
Clear Glass $6.00
Lustre Coating $1.49

Conclusion

This was an awesome experience because I literally went from idea, to capture, to post processing, to having a framed print in my house in just 3 days! My wife and mother-in-law are thrilled, and I’m getting a great dinner tonight from them both as a sign of their appreciation! I loved the results I got from Silver Efex, but even more I loved the fact that I could print out get a killer black and white image. The frame was fantastic do, and the price is pretty hard to beat! I highly recommend both Nik & MPix for great black and white results from start to finish.

**** SEE MY NEW Silver Efex Pro 2.0 and Epson Advanced Black & White Reviews ***

Special Offers

Nik Software is offering a 15% discount off all their products when you use my discount coupon code rmartinsen. Free trial versions are also available of all of their products. Click here to learn more about Silver Efex Pro on Nik’s web site.

EXPIRED: Mpix.com is offering a 15% discount off all of their products when you use the coupon code ronmart3 from now until July 31st.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

REVIEW: 50 Lighting Setups for Portrait Photographers

50 Lighting Setups for Portrait Photographers: Easy-to-Follow Lighting Designs and Diagramsby Steven H. Begleiter is a very unique book from others that I have read in that it offers 50 case studies that all follow an identical template for shoots that Steven has done in the past. I loved the concept and format of the book because each case study presents itself with the following sections all on one page opposite the final image:

  • Gear – Camera, Lens, Film (more on that later), Exposure and Lighting used to accomplish the shot
  • Assignment – What Steven was asked to accomplish for the shot
  • Visual Objective – Steven’s artistic intent
  • Posing – Details about how the model was posed
  • The Story – Details about the story the image is trying to tell
  • Tips – Additional notes about how to capture this particular type of shot
  • Setup Diagram – This is the most helpful part of this book, and something I would have loved to have seen Joe McNally do in his books. Here Steven shows you exactly where the gear and model was placed in an overhead diagram that makes it easy to understand how you too might capture this type of shot yourself.

Before diving in to the case studies this book as a brief intro and very trivial “Lighting Basics” section that offers some info about studio and off-camera flash systems. Overall I felt this section was sorely lacking and not up to same caliber I’ve seen from other Amherst Media Books.I highly recommend readers of this blog take the time to read Light, Science and Magic cover to cover as it is the best resource I’ve found to date to truly understand how light works and how you can master it to your advantage for any subject material.

Conclusion

As I mention up front, the format of this book is fantastic. However, the problem is that the author is stuck in the past and nearly all the images feature shots taken with his Hasselblad 503c film camera. As a result, the images look bland and washed out by today’s standards. While I’m confident that if you applied the techniques Steven describes in the book with modern day cameras and equipment, that you’d get fantastic results, I think many readers are going to be turned off by the dated film-based images portrayed in the book. With that quibble aside, the fact still remains that the properties of light haven’t changed and the diagrams are indeed helpful and applicable to modern day equipment. If you were to scan the case studies and find a shot that is similar to what you are trying to shoot, you’ll be thrilled to see the setup diagram and read the notes on how the shot was accomplished. You may want to ignore some of the camera settings used as digital cameras face different challenges (i.e., diffraction) and advantages (RAW images that support +/- 2 stop exposure adjustments after the fact & of course Photoshop) not found in film cameras. I applaud Steven and Amherst for releasing this type of book – it is sorely needed – but I’d love to see future efforts ditch the film camera work and focus strictly on using the latest gear (the latest Canon or Nikon cameras and flash systems as well as the latest studio lighting from Elinchrom, Profoto, etc… and their modifiers). In short, I’d like to see gear that people can go out and buy rather than stuff that you can’t even find on eBay anymore. I’d also like to see a little more variety in the shots presented (ala Joe McNally’s fantastic variety of shots in Hot Shoe Diaries and The Moment it Clicks).

Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Value: Excellent (because of the light setups included)
Recommendation: If you are the type of person who can be given a little information and extrapolate the goodness from it, then I recommend this book to you as the lighting setup diagrams are invaluable. However, if you are someone who is looking for a recipe book where you apply the concepts presented and get the results shown, then this book isn’t for you. You’ll have much better luck at strobist.com for stuff like that.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Professional Photography Web Hosting Roundup: Search Engine Optimizations Follow-up

As promised in my Professional Photography Web Hosting Roundup- Conclusion (6 of 6) article back on May 16th, I promised I would follow up with longer-term search engine optimization results.

As of July 5th, 2009 at 11:29 PM PST, the search results for the sites created in this article with the big three search engines were as follows:

Google.com

Bing.com

Yahoo.com

  1. Smugmug (Page 1 - #4)
  2. SiteWelder (Page 1 - #6)
  3. liveBooks (Page 2 - #12)
  4. FolioSnap – not found
  1. Smugmug (Page 1 - #2)
  2. SiteWelder - not found
  3. liveBooks - not found
  4. FolioSnap - not found
  1. Smugmug (Page 1 - #1)
  2. SiteWelder (Page 1 - #3)
  3. liveBooks (Page 1 - #4)
  4. FolioSnap – not found

Foliosnap wasn’t found on any of the sites because my trial membership expired and the site was deleted. The other sites remain live, so if the results change in the future I may post another follow up.

One interesting note is that for liveBooks and SiteWelder my home page wasn’t the page referenced, but rather a link to my People portfolio (liveBooks liveBooks link & SiteWelder link). Apparently I did something special to that photo/category to cause it to perform better than the others.

UPDATE (July 6, 09 @ 11:16 AM PST)

It has been reported to me by SiteWelder that they are now #1 on Bing.com, so I ran a query and confirmed they are first, liveBooks was third, and Smugmug was fourth. This is totally different than my results from last night, so I’m going to ask that people click on the links above for Google.com, Bing.com and Yahoo.com and note the search results that they get (feel free to report your results as a comment to this blog). Here’s a map of which domain name belongs to which company:

Smugmug http://ronmartinsen.com
liveBooks http://ronmartphotography.com
SiteWelder http://ronmartphoto.com

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

REVIEW: HDRSoft Photomatix 3.1 Pro Plus

The latest rage these days is High Dynamic Range (HDR) image processing, and the product that all the real experts in this field recommend is HDRSoft Photomatix Pro Plus for Windows (or Mac). In this review I’ll compare it to some alternatives to see if it really helps or if it is just another way to get into the wallets of photographers.

The User Interface

Here’s a quick look at the stand-alone Windows user interface:

image image

Basically the way this product works is you choose Generate HDR image and select one (yes, multiple images are not required) or more images to convert into a high dynamic range (HDR) image. Next, you choose Tone Mapping to convert that image into something that isn’t hideous looking because your display can’t display all of the colors found in a HDR image. Some users may wish to skip the whole HDR/Tone Mapping phase and simply blend multiple exposures into one properly exposed image so you just need to use Exposure Blending to accomplish that objective.

You’ll spend most of your time in the Tone Mapping section when you use this product, so the image on the right shows what it looks like. Scott Kelby offers a decent explanation of Tone Mapping with Photomatix in his book The Adobe Photoshop CS4 Book for Digital Photographers, and there’s a great tutorial included in the product, so I’ll not dive to deep into Tone Mapping in this review.

Lightroom 2.4

The cool thing about this product is that they also make a Lightroom add-in which works very well from my experience. Here’s a shot of what you get when you generate a HDR image from within the stand-alone user-interface on the left, and from Lightroom 2.4 on the right:

Photomatix Pro Stand Alone Photomatix Pro Lightroom Plug-in

Stand-Alone

Lightroom Plug-in

As you can see the Lightroom version also includes the Blend Exposures option built right in and has a cool option to re-import the newly created output file back into Lightroom. The only awkward thing I noticed is that you have to go File | Export with Preset and choose Photomatix Pro from the menu (or directly in the export dialog) to get to this option. This is a bit different than other add-ins I’ve used in Lightroom.

Side-by-Side Comparisons

To determine just how Photomatix compares to my normal processing methods, I processed this photo in 6 different ways to and compare them below. Here’s  quick summary of what was done with each version:

Original This is the photo as it came out of the camera with default camera settings in Av mode on a Canon 1D-Mark III at f/9.0, 1/200 sec, ISO 200 and 0 exposure compensation using a EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens zoomed to 19mm (24.7mm effective). It was processed with Adobe Camera Raw 5.3.021 with no modifications and the sharpening amount was set to 0.

Lightroom 2.4 In this version I made a virtual copy of the original and then processed it the way I’d typically process a photo. I made exposure, recovery, fill light, and blacks adjustments, applied the Punch preset, adjusted the clarity a little more and then chose the Sharpen Landscape preset.

Photoshop CS4 Extended Processing of Original - In this version I opened the original in Adobe Camera Raw and then imported it into Photoshop. I did a noise reduction using the Landscape setting with Imagenomic Noiseware Pro, applied curves adjustment using the eyedropper on the black, gray and white points, did a LAB Color Apply Image adjustment to give the colors more punch, and finally did a LAB lightness channel sharpening using the Unsharp Mask Filter.

Photoshop CS4 Extended HDR Processing of 3 CR2 OriginalsIn this version I took the 3 CR2 originals and let Photoshop merge them in as a 32-bit image using its HDR Merge feature. I then did a Local Adaptation conversion to a 8-bit sRGB image and then went through the same processing as above (except no noise reduction was necessary).

Photomatix Pro Plus Processing of 3 CR2 OriginalsUsing the stand-alone (built-in Lightroom 2.4 add-in produced identical results) I took my best stab at tone mapping based on what I learned from the tutorial and Scott Kelby’s book. The results aren’t as good as I would have liked, but they are very good for my first attempt. I played with the controls enough to see that I need to understand a little better how they impact each other, but that some very cool effects are possible.

Photomatix Pro Plus Processing further enhanced in Photoshop CS4 ExtendedI opened the TIF created from above in Adobe Camera Raw, made some modifications. Next I did a noise reduction using the Landscape setting with Imagenomic Noiseware Pro, applied curves adjustment using the eyedropper on the black, gray and white points, did a LAB Color Apply Image adjustment to give the colors more punch, and finally did a LAB lightness channel sharpening using the Unsharp Mask Filter.

Here’s the images of each of the 6 versions: (click for a larger view)

Original Lightroom 2.4
Original Lightroom 2.4
Photoshop CS4 Extended Standard Processing Photoshop CS4 Extended HDR Version
Photoshop CS4 Extended Standard Processing Photoshop CS4 Extended HDR Processed
Photomatix Output Photomatix AFTER Photoshop Processing
Photomatix Pro Plus Exported Version Photomatix after Photoshop CS4 Processing
Interpreting the Results

The way you interpret the results for something like this is rather subjective because there are so many variables that come into play when one decides which photo is better. In addition, I did a fairly quick processing of these photos, so with more knowledge of the product or processing them again on a different day might result in different output. Rather than focusing on things like the fact that the HDR versions are way oversaturated to the point of being garish (which is really my fault), I’ll focus on some of the facts I noticed about this process based on each method applied:

Original The original here isn’t too bad because it does a reasonable job of balancing the dark foreground with the bright background and not losing all of the detail from the clouds. It’s a bit blah, but not too bad. (Time spent: < 1 minute)

Lightroom 2.4 Just doing quick adjustments in Lightroom helps this photo a lot. I was able to remove the shadow, bring detail back to the clouds and bricks and it all sharpened up fairly nicely. The result is a photo that is very print-worthy and avoids losing little details like the bars in the windows of the tower (you must view at large size by clicking the image to see this detail). (Time spent: < 2 minutes)

Photoshop CS4 Extended Processing of OriginalPeople have different workflows in Photoshop so this is just my quick interpretation. I didn’t do any masking or apply Scott Kelby's 7 Point System, so naturally these results would improve with more effort.  (Time Spent: < 10 minutes)

Photoshop CS4 Extended HDR Processing of 3 CR2 OriginalsThis version retains much more detail (must view a large size to see) than the Lightroom and single-exposure versions, but it suffers from a darker overall appearance. This is clearly user error, but this is how I would have processed the photo had I not been doing this review, so this is the result I would have ended up with. The result confirms why I typically don’t bother with HDR and just process the best exposed RAW image in Lightroom and then modify it from there (if necessary) in Photoshop.(Time Spent: < 30 minutes)

Photomatix Pro Plus Processing of 3 CR2 OriginalsThis versions brings a whole new level of detail to the image – especially in the clouds – that really help you get a better sense of depth with the textures. While my processing isn’t the best because I oversaturated it a bit, the default processing isn’t too bad. In fact, some might say it is good enough that further Photoshop isn’t necessary. That is of course until you pay close attention to some of the details like the blown out area in the bottom left corner and above the doorway to the tower. These are best fixed directly in Photoshop with additional masking or in Lightroom using the Exposure adjustment brush. (Time Spent: < 30 minutes, but some of that was new product experimentation – experienced users will need less than 5 minutes)

Photomatix Pro Plus Processing further enhanced in Photoshop CS4 ExtendedThis version removes some of the noise introduced by Photomatix and takes advantage of curves to remove the muddy appearance of the exported version. Had I not oversaturated it and I spent a little time addressing the blown highlights, I believe this would have easily been my favorite shot of the bunch. The detail in the clouds is excellent and the brighter appearance of the doorway more closely represents what I saw in real life. (Time Spent: 30 minutes above plus another 10 minutes in Photoshop)

Photomatix definitely generates a lot of noise (think ISO 3200 levels), so you’ll do well to use some noise reduction software. However, it cleans up nicely and the detail added by this process means you don’t lose anything important after cleaning up the image. Merging is fairly quick and won’t bog down your system the way Photoshop does when it merges images. However, I’ve found that you must Align by matching features and Attempt to reduce ghosting artifacts options if you don’t shoot with a tripod or else your images will contain massive ghosting. For best results always use a tripod or stationary location (i.e., set your camera on a rock) rather than shooting hand-held as I did for this. The hand-held shooting did result in a minor misalignment on the railing shown below:

Photomatix Artifact

in the Photomatix version, but ironically it didn’t show up in the Photoshop version. I wonder if I had chosen different alignment options if I could have made this anomaly go away. However, this problem was so minor, and not seen on the other images I tested before selecting this one for the review that I wouldn’t lose sleep over it. In addition, it would be very easy to fix this with cloning.

Another Example

Here’s four exposures of a tough cathedral shot I took while in Ireland that seemed beyond saving because even my darkest exposure was a bit overblown for the stained glass, and my brightest exposure was still way too dark for the foreground. I screwed up big time from start to finish so this was pretty much in my dung heap of photos I’ll never bother with:

CathedralExposures

There’s clipping on both ends of the spectrum with this one so there’s a lot of work required to save it, but in 10 minutes using Photomatix I was able generate this version which has potential. The ceiling is toast and there’s obvious perspective distortion due to the 16mm lens I used being set to 16mm, but WOW what an improvement! Heck, I hadn’t even noticed the little green billboard on the lower left with the white cotton ball sheep on it when I was there in real life! This is WAY better than what I could see in this cathedral that is several hundred years old!

I’m still not happy with the stained glass, but I know that I could manually save that one with a little effort using masks and the original dark exposure image. However I now see detail I never saw in real life like the fact that the wall is actually a mosaic and not just painted!  This is very cool and makes me jazzed about the possibilities Photomatix offers for difficult situations like this!

Conclusion

I wish I had the time to do more samples and show some of the cool things I did when playing around with this product because I really enjoyed seeing what I could do. I have been very frustrated and disappointed with the results I would get from Photoshop (although CS4 is MUCH better than CS3), and no amount of tutorial reading has seemed to help. Now I actually enjoy doing the HDR work and see value in doing it rather than just going to the default of using my best image and processing it. Sure, it isn’t for every image, but for those difficult double exposure scenarios it might be quicker than masking out areas to double expose the shot to create a balanced image as I typically do using the 7 Point System.

I like this product and highly recommend it for what it does. I think the user-interface is a bit rough and the learning curve is a bit steep, but the online tutorials and examples really help to get you up to speed quickly. It’s also fast enough to encourage experimentation so go ahead and just slide those sliders all the way to the left and right (one at a time of course) and just see what happens!

DISCOUNT COUPON CODE: For the latest discount offered to readers of this blog for HDRSoft Photomatix, please visit the Discount Coupon Code page on this blog. As of the time of this writing it was 15%, but that figure is subject to change without notice. To see how to properly use the discount coupon code please check out the screen shot in this article.

Buy Now Links Trial Versions Product Information
Photomatix Plug-in for Aperture (download delivery) Trial Version More Info
Photomatix Light for Windows (download delivery)
Photomatix Light for Mac OS X (download delivery)
Photomatix Pro Plus for Mac OS X (download delivery) Trial Version More Info
Photomatix Pro Plus for Windows (download delivery) Trial Version More Info
Photomatix Pro for Mac OS X (Italian) Trial Version More Info
Photomatix Pro for Mac OS X (download delivery) Trial Version More Info
Photomatix Pro for Windows (Italian) Trial Version More Info
Photomatix Pro for Windows (download delivery) Trial Version More Info
Tone Mapping Plug-In for Mac OS X Trial Version More Info
Tone Mapping Plug-In for Windows Trial Version More Info

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.