Bringing Low-Contrast Photos to Life Digitally

written by: Uwe & Bettina Steinmueller

This Master Printing Class is about managing photos with low contrast. It’s an important topic because creating the right amount of contrast is an image is always a key task. The two factors to consider are contrast and perceived detail smoothness. Why do I mention contrast and detail together? Have a look at Figures 1 and 2. Some will say that Figure 1 has less detail than Figure 2. Actually, they have the same level of detail (Figure 2 is just a lower-contrast version of the first image), but in Figure 1 less detail is perceived by a human observer. Read more »


Speed Matters: Handheld High Dynamic Range Images

Invigorate your digital photos by getting HDR images without using a tripod
written by: Uwe & Bettina Steinmueller

Improving the dynamic range that my digital cameras can capture is, for me, more important than getting higher resolution or more megapixels. A well-known technique for capturing more dynamic range is taking multiple captures of the same image using different exposures (i.e., bracketing). From these multiple exposures you then can create HDR (high dynamic range) images. I won’t explain HDR itself in more detail because it was covered recently (see “High Dynamic Range Photography,” by Dan Burkholder, PT, September/October 2007). Unfortunately, the enemy of this technique is any sort of movement—whether of subject matter or camera. That is why exposure Read more »


Non-Destructive Split-Toning

written by: Uwe & Bettina Steinmueller

In April 2007, Photoshop C3 introduced the new, powerful Black-and-White tool. It can be used as an adjustment layer and features toning (or “tinting”). At the time, I was surprised that Photoshop did not implement the more powerful and useful split-toning of Lightroom. Toning is, after all, a popular treatment for photographs; many photographers tone shadows differently than highlights, and sometimes give the midtones yet another tone. You could say that Photoshop features the ultimate toning tools: duotones and quadtones. This is true, but this method has its price. Once you use duo-/quadtones, Photoshop switches to a different color model, Read more »


Fiber-Based Inkjet Papers

Good news for photographers who want to make inkjet prints on high-quality papers
written by: Uwe & Bettina Steinmueller

The future is looking great for inkjet printing—and the present is quite strong too—as new fiber-based inkjet papers continue to appear regularly. It wasn’t always this way. Until about 2005, inkjet printers had two main categories of photographic fine-art papers to choose from: satin, luster, or semigloss resin-coated (RC) papers; and matte cotton or wood- fiber-based fine-art papers. Both had advantages and disadvantages. RC papers RC papers (I’m excluding the ultra- glossy papers here because they are rarely used for fine-art prints) have a good densest black (Dmax) of 2.2 or higher on current pigment-based print- ers by Canon, Epson, and Read more »


A Mirrorless Future?

The Panasonic G1 leads a potential trend to digital cameras with larger sensors, interchangeable lenses, and no mirror
written by: Uwe & Bettina Steinmueller

In late 2008, Panasonic launched the Lumix G1, the first of a new breed: cameras with larger- sized sensors (compared to compact cameras), interchangeable lenses—and no mirror. You may say that the classic rangefinder is such a camera. True, but the usefulness of rangefinder cameras stops in the low telephoto range because the viewfinder crop gets too small; also, because you’re not looking through the lens, parallax can be a problem. Even at wider angles you often need extra viewfinders to cover the angle of view. (Single lens reflex cameras [SLRs] don’t share this problem because they offer a view Read more »


Backup for Photographers

Your precious image captures are only as safe as the data that describes them. Here’s how to come up with a plan for ensuring their longevity.
written by: Mark Rochkind, Uwe & Bettina Steinmueller

There is an irony about digital photos: they can last forever without degrading (even get better through improved imaging software) and yet they are very volatile, many bits on storage media that can easily get lost or damaged. A backup is a copy of data that is sufficiently independent of the original so that destructive events can’t affect both at the same time. A backup doesn’t prevent destruction of data; it only allows you to recover the data once the destruction has occurred. A simple example of backup is copying files from a laptop to a CD (the act of Read more »


Corner Sharpening

written by: Uwe & Bettina Steinmueller

Lenses are not ideal. Most of us have ended up with images in which the corners of the frame look too soft. This is not important for all pictures, but matters when the main subject covers the full frame and focus falloff is obvious. In such cases, post-capture fixes present an opportunity to save the picture. Of course using more appropriate lenses in the first place is the best solution, but it’s too late once you have taken the photo and cannot go back. I’ll show my technique for improving a photo with lens falloff in the context of a full Read more »


A Fine-Artist’s Perspective

Photographic Workflow and Tool Improvements
written by: Uwe & Bettina Steinmueller

About every 18 months Adobe releases a new version of Photoshop—now it’s Photoshop CS4’s turn. This article covers what I find most interesting for photographers in this new version. In mid-2007, I gave a talk at Google called “Non-Destructive, Selective, and Non-modal Editing of Photographs.” At that time Photoshop supported a way to edit photos non-destructively (meaning the settings can be changed later) and selectively by using masks in combination with adjustment layers. Unfortunately, all the adjustment-layer dialogs were modal, meaning that you had to close the current dialog to access different adjustment-layer tools (or anything else). I found that Read more »


The Art of Texture Blending

Photography Beyond Realism
written by: Uwe & Bettina Steinmueller

Adding textures to paintings and photographs is as old as these art forms. This article focuses on artistic aspects of Texture Blending, starting with a brief overview. Texture Blending Overview With film, photographers created texture blended images by exposing multiple times with different textures and the main images. It could also be done by creating sandwiches of different negatives or blending in camera. Today the process is much easier to control by using Photoshop. The idea is to blend a picture with one or more textures and let the result become more than the sum of the photos used. For Read more »


Light in the Dark

written by: Uwe & Bettina Steinmueller

The above photo was one of the first pictures we took at Fort Point in 2004. The interesting part is that we did not get any usable version until about two years later. While the image looks like it was made in a reasonably lit space, it is not. Why did it take two years to get this version? If you take just a single image, it is quite challenging (at least in 2004 and even today) to master the dynamic range from the bright windows to the darker shadows. This is why we took three exposures then, hoping to Read more »