Kodak Portra Color Negative Films

written by: Ctein

“Reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated,” Mark Twain famously said. But silver halide photographic film could just as easily say that today. As we all know, the film market is declining rapidly as more and more photographers take up digital photography. Declining, though, is not the same as deceased. Film is not dead. Maybe it will be dead in 10 years or 20 years. But right now? No sirree, Bob! The best evidence for this is that we’re still seeing new films introduced. Not in large numbers, and not by many manufacturers. But if the film business were really Read more »


Eliminate Harsh Tones and Improve Your Photos

How the Shadow/Highlight tool, History brush, and Dodge tool can enhance portraits
written by: Ctein

There are many kinds of f laws that make a photo scream “amateur,” but poor tone and contrast characteristics are among the most common. Amateur photographs often have a lot of midrange contrast, with tones in the highlights and the shadows pushed far towards the pure black and white. Faces suffer especially. They acquire hard lines and sunken eyes, aging a person 10 years, and excessive contrast can make a placid expression seem glowering. Fortunately, problems like these can be easily fixed in the computer (unlike, say, awful focus or composition). The Shadow/Highlight adjustment Difficulties arise when you want to Read more »


Vertus Fluid Mask

This powerful tool speeds up mask creation– but has a few downsides
written by: Ctein

Many folks don’t understand how valuable selections and masking are for working on their digital photos. It’s true that compositing is an important use of masking, but that isn’t the only or even the primary use of selections and masks. I’m entirely a fine- art photographer these days, and I frequently use masks to improve my photographs. Masks are way of exercising local control over a photograph. They let you control what parts of an image get affected by your manipulations. A mask is nothing more than a grayscale image that has the same dimensions as the photograph you’re working Read more »


The Right Way to Scan

Maximize information for a great restoration or print copies
written by: Ctein

A proper scan is the first and most important step toward a good photo restoration (or copy of a print for which the negative is lost). A scan that faithfully reproduces a faded photograph is rarely useful.The upper photo in Figure 1 is a “normal” 8-bit scan from a faded black-and-white print.This is not a good basis for a restoration.The upper histogram in Figure 2 shows why. Only half the total range of values available is actually being used in this scan. A good photograph almost always has a full range of tones from black to white (or nearly so). Read more »


How to Ship Photographs Faster, Cheaper and Better

written by: Ctein

A positive consequence of the digital printing revolution is that more photographers than ever are makin their own fine prints in both color and black-and-white. Furthermore, more photographers are making some effort to sell their prints, usually at modest prices and with some modest degree of success. Keeping the price low, however, means keeping all the expenses (including your time) low. Otherwise it’s a losing proposition—or at least one that doesn’t bring in a living wage. As a professional photographer, custom printer, writer and editor, and photo restorer, I’ve been shipping and receiving photographs for more than 30 years. My Read more »


X-Rite ColorMunki Photo Color-Management System

Get the Best Digital Photos You Can by Calibrating Your System
written by: Ctein

Color management is a serious— if not downright painful— business. Without good color management, the hues you see on your computer screen won’t be anything like the ones you thought were in the photograph, and what winds up on your print will look even worse. If you’re sharing files with someone else, they won’t see the photo you do. X-Rite’s long been a serious player in the photographic control business, from traditional densitometers and sensitometers through computerized control. They now own Pantone, long a source of “off icial” colors. The fruit of their joint labors is ColorMunki Photo (Figure 1). Read more »


Run Photoshop Faster

How to get the most out of your computer by tweaking it for better Photoshop performance
written by: Ctein

Undeniably, Photoshop is the 800-pound gorilla of image-processing programs. And like any large beast, Photoshop can move ponderously slow. Fortunately, the right hardware and software decisions on your part can perk it up considerably. Unlike real-world performance enhancement, this won’t involve the use of steroids or risk congressional investigation. It’s not even very expensive.To speed up the beast, it helps to understand why Photoshop seems to plod when you need it to sprint. Photoshop uses RAM for storing the image you’re working on, for intermediate results, undo and history states, and as a workspace for plug-ins and filters to do Read more »


Turn Down that Noise

Comparing Three Noise-Reduction Programs– Which is Right for You?
written by: Ctein

I regularly use several general purpose noise-reduction programs to reduce the noise in my digital camera photographs, my film scans, and in the print scans I do as part of my restoration business. Noise reduction in all its varied forms is a staple of my work. I ’ve tested many and settled on three: Neat Image Pro+, Noise Ninja Pro, and NoiseWare Professional. (I did not test or investigate noise-reduction programs that use camera- specific profiles, of which there are many.) All are available as Photoshop plug-ins and stand-alone apps. I use all three often enough to say they all have their Read more »


Great Scans

Discover What Helps and What Doesn't
written by: Ctein

Scanning is serious business. Think of your scanner as a combination enlarger and enlarging lens, the intermediary between your original film (or photographic print) and your finished photographs. For many photographers, a good enlarger and lens were the single most expensive and important purchases they made in their career, and they would pore over the details and published tests to determine which ones would really serve their needs. Learning how to make high-quality enlargements was not an overnight task. Cleanliness, sharpness, freedom from stray light and contrast-robbing flare, all were concerns of the darkroom printer. Just as with darkroom work, making Read more »


Photoshop Plug-Ins That Tune Up and Tone Up Your Photos

written by: Ctein

The four Photoshop plug-ins I’m reviewing here don’t perform cursory image rubdowns, for the most part; they’re more like full body massages with a sauna afterward. Yet despite their sophisticated algorithms, they need human guidance. They don’t block human creativity and judgment; instead, they let you execute that judgment faster and better. All four of these plug-ins are compatible with Photoshop CS4 and the latest versions of Photoshop Elements and are available for both Mac and PC. I tested them in CS4 running under Mac OSX 10.4.11. Most will run on Photoshop CS2, Elements 4, and other programs that are Photoshop plug-in Read more »