Post Processing

Revisiting Old Images

Unless I forget to remove the lens cap, I rarely delete and simply archive. I would like to believe that I’m a better photographer than I was 2 years ago. I see things differently and how I approach creating new images is forever changing.

With all that file clutter just taking up space, it’s an interesting exercise to look back and compare what I had originally thought was good and/or bad. It’s also interesting to see how opinions have changed.

It feels like forever and a day since I was in Iceland but when I saw an image of Dettifoss this week, I went back to my archived library to see what I had originally passed over as rejects. I remembered being there but I had also remembered coming back without anything interesting to print.

This is what I found. A relatively flat mid-day image of Europe’s most powerful waterfall. It surely doesn’t have the same impact as it did standing there inches from the rushing water.

Dettifoss, Iceland

50% of my visualization is through trial and error. Should it be cropped? Does it need more or less contrast? Would I prefer this or would I prefer that?

Once I identified what I did not like about this image, I removed the colour, darkened the sky and ended up with two different images. One was be the original 8×12 but the other a perfect square. Both with very different perspectives of the location.

So I asked the question on Facebook which image was preferred and I feel like I got an equal mix right down the middle. You can see everyone’s comments here, here, and here. Art doesn’t get more subjective than this and how one connects with an image varies wildly.

Some prefer the feeling of standing there looking over the edge into the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river while others much prefer 1:1 and removing the triangle shaped distractions.

There is no answer and I still do not know which one I prefer.

Dettifoss, Iceland

Dettifoss, Iceland

How Much Resolution Do You Need?

If you’re a photographer, the internet has been polluted with people eager to spend money on either the new D800 or 5D. Both are reasonable upgrades but for the most part, Nikon and Canon has a similar fan base to Apple in which everyone complains what’s missing, but they’ll still line up to buy it. But that’s beside the point.

The D800 comes with a resolution of 38 million pixels and while there are for sure people that can use and need every bit of that, those people are not the average user. I don’t even think Canon makes an slr under 18 MP now. Marketing tells us bigger is better.

I’ll go on record by saying that I want as much resolution as I can possibly get. You never know when an agency will call and in the stock world, pricing is determined by use and size. But regardless of what the market desires, how much is actually necessary for most use cases?

Star Trails over PEI National Park

Today’s Image – Covehead Lighthouse

Here is an image that I’ve shared before on my old blog as well as in my portfolio. It’s special for a couple reasons. For starters, it was made at 3:30am in the National Park during a meteor shower. It was a great all night marathon that I remember well. To top that off, Parks Canada eventually requested a license to use this image for their 100th anniversary campaign featuring a different National Park across Canada for each hour of the day. Shockingly, the 2am to 5am slot was hard to fill. :-)

The point about resolution is that this photo was created with the original Canon 5D. It has a total of 12 MP of resolution but I lost some of that due to cropping and horizon straightening. The final print still measured 5 feet wide and found it’s home in both Ottawa and Toronto with a very close viewing distance.

Here are a few photos from that exhibit.

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What Exactly is PPI or DPI?

Prince Edward Island

I’ve been creating digital content now for almost 15 years and it remains to be frustrating how confused people are about the meaning of pixels (or dots) per inch. Either it be working for a web client, a magazine editor or with another photographer, the reference to the resolution of an image file in terms of pixels per inch continues to surface. What exactly does 72 pixels per inch mean? Nothing at all on it’s own because without a physical print size, that could literally mean anything.

DPI (or PPI) is the value that tells the printer how many drops of ink to place on a page for every inch of paper but it has very little to do with the actual files resolution. From a computers perspective, the only values that matter are the total number of pixels and a 4×6 inch print at 300dpi is the exact same file resolution as a 16.5×25 inch print at 72dpi. Note that I’m talking about the file resolution and not the print resolution. In both cases, the file itself has 1800×1200 pixels.

300 pixels per inch * 6 inches of paper = 1800 total pixels.
72 pixels per inch * 25 inches of paper = 1800 total pixels.

In my opinion, the dpi (or ppi) is simply the printed results of the true resolution. If someone asks for an 8×10 print at 260dpi, what they are really asking for is a resolution of 2080×2600 pixels. This same file would print 16×20 at 130dpi proving that without a width and height measurement, the dpi value by itself is simply a random number. And you can’t define a width and height using inches on digital displays.

Which brings us to the myth claiming the internet is 72ppi. It’s not true because no browser actually reads the ppi value and simply displays the image at 100% in relation to the grid of pixels known as your monitors resolution. That monitor resolution is a fixed value and unlike printing where you can control how many dots of ink (dpi) fall on the page per inch, you can not control the pixels per inch (ppi) of an image displayed on your monitor. If your destination is anything but print, talking dpi just complicates everything. Ignore it.

Unfortunately many popular sites are still teaching that 72 is required but today’s monitors are much more advanced than those original Apple 72ppi monitors. Take this chart for example. The monitor I’m currently typing on is set at 128 pixels per inch. If you are at all curious why 72dpi started in the first place, consider reading this article on text sizes.

Controlling Dynamic Range

I have a love hate relationship with the term hdr. While I like to use it when the scene demands it, I hate talking about it because it has built up such a negative reaction that’s mostly associated with the images, in my opinion only, are over processed and often silly looking. At the same time, the realistic hdr images go unnoticed as a regular photograph. This alone gives the term hdr an unfair review as all being cartoony.

I realize this topic has been abused to no end but for those not familiar, the original purpose of hdr (or high dynamic range) was to deal with the range of light that the eye can see but the camera can not. Our eyes can adjust for high contrast scenes from the very bright to the very dark. The technology in today’s cameras can’t do that yet forcing us to make a creative decision to either silhouette the shadows or over expose and blow out the highlights. In these high contrast scenes, the camera can not physically record what the eye sees.

Today’s Image – South Rim of the Grand Canyon

In late October, I went on a trip through the American Southwest to experience first hand the landscape that has become so famous among photographers. My first night at the Grand Canyon was a good example of the vast range of light. With bright white snow at my feet, a dark and deep canyon in the distance and a bright setting sun behind a bank of clouds, the scene was simply more then a camera could handle in a single exposure without compromises.

Before and After

The technical difficulties are apparent. As a photographer with today’s limitations, you are forced to make an exposure decision. Make one area too dark or one area too bright. To record as much details as I could, I made 3 images from this location with the intention of using the best from each.

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Subscribing to Software

The most important tool I have to do my job is Photoshop. Both in terms of photography but as well as illustrations, graphics and page layouts. Along with Lightroom and occasional use of Illustrator, InDesign, Bridge and Acrobat, Adobe plays a big role in my daily life.

With CS6 on the doorstep for a release in the very near future, Adobe has announced a pricing change starting Jan 1st 2013 that will drop the 3 version old upgrade rule to 1 qualifying only the most recent version to be upgraded. All other users would go to a subscription model (or pay full price again).

I currently subscribe to a licenses for InDesign and it works great. I pay for it when I need it. Photoshop on the other hand is daily. It’s a $200 upgrade every 18 months which averages out to roughly $12 a month. Pretty good considering my full salary is based on what I can do with it. However, this pricing model does not force you to upgrade. For the casual user, you may only want to pay the $200 upgrade every 3 versions (or approximately every 4.5 years).

While it’s kind of implied that subscription rates will drop for CS6 (it’s currently $50/month per app), it’s not for certain and while I’m currently more then willing to pay $10-$15 per app each month to always have the latest, once we commit to a subscription arrangement with Adobe, there is no going back. What happens in 2 or 3 years when the monthly rates triple? Skipping an upgrade will no longer be an option and we must upgrade regardless of what Adobe releases.

Imagine a world where all commercial software was subscription based similar to how many web services work.

It’s coming.

Waters Edge

Today’s Image – Waters Edge

It has been a week of desk work so today’s image comes from the 2010 archives. A 3.2 second exposure of the tide coming in and minutes away from disturbing a resting shell in the sand. The idea feels appropriate for the topic. We are on that edge where traditional desktop software is changing.