Category Archives: Photography Techniques

onOne Photo Editing: Masking Trees

(Originally posted on Mar 13, 2016 as /archives/10878)

onOne has a good video on how to make complex masks.

The video exclusively uses the onOne Photo 10 suite. Instead I copy the new mask from onOne into Photoshop and use it there. I find that easier to do than using Photoshop’s masking tools, and it’s more flexible than limiting myself to onOne’s suite.

I usually only post videos that I need to use in the future. That means that you won’t see the most common photography and post processing tasks here. Those are easy enough to find via Google.

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White Balance Does Not Work The Way That They Say, Maybe Not For You, Definitely Not For Me

(Original posting date: 2016-07-27)

Spiritia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
It’s quite common for photography writers to write something like, “The human eye… adjusts the colors you see,” whenever discussing white balance. I never encountered one of these articles that also referred to scientific research, and I am unsatisfied with the explanation.

For one thing: it’s not consistent with anything that I learned in physiological psychology or psychophysics regarding vision.

For another thing: it is extremely common for scientific-thinking people to disprove much of what photographers teach.

By Håkan Bergknut (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

For another: it’s not consistent with my personal experience, which is more like this:

I don’t believe that my “human eye… adjusts the colours [I] see.” I am very aware of color temperature. I suspect that most photographers develop this awareness, and some people have always had it.

When I am in an environment with soft white light, that’s what I see, but it’s everywhere. It’s even affecting the color of the photos on my wall. If those were white balanced, then the light from the too-warm bulbs is affecting the colors of those photos exactly the same way that it’s affecting everything else in the room, so it’s tolerably similar, but not changed by my eyes.

I left that as a comment on a Picture Correct article on white balance, and Wendy disagreed, but her rebuttal is not actually inconsistent with my comment above. She wrote:

Some say it’s the “eye” that adjusts, some say it’s in the “brain,” point is, you DO adjust to a “normal” WB. If you’ve been inside with a bunch of tungsten–especially low-light, like in a theater–and then suddenly go outside, the world will be blue-shifted for a few seconds while you adjust.

I make temari (embroidered thread balls), and I’ve got one that’s got a design in blue and three shades of purple. Thing is, in dim light, your eyes will try to convince you it’s red, yellow, green and blue–that you’re just seeing it in a different “white balance” than you really are.

She gives an example of an adjustment here, but I am not convinced it is. To me it looks like an example of becoming aware of the different colors of light, but I am always aware of them, and people that think about light will be too.

The “human eye adjusts” isn’t a scientific explanation, it’s an expectation. Photographers think about white balance this way, because that’s what they have been taught, but in reality, they do see three shades of purple as non-purple, because there’s no real adjusting going on.

That said: adjusting white balance in your image is important, because the colors in your photo are affected by the light that you are viewing it in, exactly as much as every other color that’s in that same light. Your photos won’t look “right”.

On the other hand, by all means: monkey with white balance in order to meet your artistic goals.

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“The Dress” (The Only 100% Accurate Explanation)

(Originally written in February of 2015 as /archives/date/2015/02)

tumblr_nkcjuq8Tdr1tnacy1o1_500
The original image.

Would black look gold without an optical illusion?

Some are saying that it’s a color constancy illusion. I will attempt to prove that’s not the case.

Bleached-blue could look white, and bleached-black could look golden-brown.

Each pixel may have a different color, but Photoshop’s color picker can do a 51 x 51 pixel average for us to get a more accurate estimate. In this version of the image, the golden section of the darker-colored stripes’ RGB values are:

  • Red: 121
  • Green: 106
  • Blue: 71

These values are like “shadow”, which is a golden brown. If our perception matches the actual technical colors, then we are not dealing with an optical illusion.

Why are the colors wrong?

Here is where the real problem lies:

Most people say that it’s white and gold.

tumblr_nkcjuq8Tdr1tnacy1o1_500
The original image.

On Buzzfeed 68% say “white and gold”, and 32% say “black and blue”.

Color Calibration?

Monitors are not color calibrated from the factory, so many people are not seeing accurate color.

Was the image white balanced?

We would hope to find white balance information in the image’s EXIF, but it’s not there. So how do we white balance this image? The dress in the background looks white and black. I loaded the image up in Lightroom, and used that assumption to white balance it. If you would like to try this out yourself, here’s how to do it. The black I used is in the lower left corner. We can all agree-that that’s supposed be black: correct? 🙂

With the white balance "fixed".
With the white balance “fixed”.

Is the image accurately toned?

Lightroom shows us that we might have blown out colors. How do we know that this is real clipping, instead of a false positive? The light has softened the edges of the dress so much that it looks foggy in there. So, yes, this a blown out image. If we were there, then we would have a well-exposed the image, but we weren’t, so we are going to adjust tone to even out the histogram.

With the tone "fixed".
With the tone “fixed”.

So what is our best guess for the color? Black and Blue

Each pixel may have a different color, but Photoshop’s color picker can do a 51 x 51 pixel average for us to get a more accurate estimate.

The lighter colored stripes have a lot of blue:

  • Red: 8
  • Green: 77
  • Blue: 206

In other words: blue.

The darker colored stripes RGB values are close to zero:

  • Red: 1
  • Green: 8
  • Blue: 49

In other words: black.

Conclusion

A skilled photographer would could set its white balance and its tone. Once we do that, it’s blue and black. Here’s the final word:

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World’s Craziest Photoshop Tutorial?

(Originally posted on 2015-02-16 as /archives/10105)

 

Photofocus claims that Fafa’s Photoshop Tutorial with Glove and Boots is the World’s Craziest Photoshop Tutorial. Maybe. You can see it here:

I say, “Nay. The You Suck at Photoshop series is the actual World’s Craziest Photoshop Tutorial.” Warning: it’s not as family friendly as Glove and Boots. It’s NSFW, and all-that that implies. Here’s the first video in the series:

As I get better at Photoshop, I always go back to the You Suck at Photoshop series, to get a better perspective on how I have improved.

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Multiple Shot Panoramas

(Originally posted on 2016-05-08)

We experience the world in ultra widescreen; that’s how our photos should look.

Can’t I use a wide angle lens, and crop the image to make a panorama?
You could, but you will loose a lot of
detail. Even a perfectly exposed and focused image will look grainy (or blurry), if you don’t have enough resolution.

I have a lot more to say about this, and I will mostly do so when I share my own panos. In the meantime, here’s Richard Harrington’s take, and some of my comments:
https://youtu.be/QMR6nnPoeZ4

Handheld Technique
Do this instead of bracing the camera against your chest:
1) Look through the viewfinder.
2) Use the grid lines in your viewfinder to align your images. Also use them to make sure that you have at least 33% overlap between images. This is easy to do with the 3 x 3 grid.

On Tripod Technique
The distortion created by hanging your camera off the side is very difficult to deal with. If you don’t have an L bracket, then, yes, keep your camera in landscape orientation, and use a wider angle lens.

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How to Easily Simulate A Painting

(Originally posted on Jul 13, 2015 as /archives/10491)

This thumbnail is a cropped version of the image that is automatically posted to Facebook when you click the Facebook icon at the link.
This thumbnail is a cropped version of the image that is automatically posted to Facebook when you click the Facebook-share icon on Anita Farmer’s post. It is not my image.

For an excellent tutorial on how to easily simulate a painting via Photoshop blend layers please see Anita Farmer’s Beginner’s guide to transforming your photo into a watercolour masterpiece.

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