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 »


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 »


Split-Contrast Printing

Achieve richness and control using different filters for highlights and shadows
written by: Steve Mulligan

My preferred printing technique involves layering exposures, gradually building the print’s tonal range until a final, rich balance is achieved. Light is slowly applied onto the print through a series of exposures, gradually setting the tonal range, stretching it out, drawing the longest possible scale from any given paper. This technique involves the subtraction of light through dodging (reducing the exposure over selected areas), and through burning (adding light to small areas), which can make a huge difference in the final print. Gradual tonal layering such as this allows for an outstanding level of control, much more than any other Read more »

Beautiful Skin Tones

A Quick and Effective Method
written by: Mark Dubovoy

I believe that almost every photographer has been confronted by a photograph of one or more people, shot either under unknown lighting conditions or mixed lighting. Meaning that either a white-balance card (or other device) was not used, or that the lighting might be a combination of two or more of the following: daylight, flash, fluorescent, or incandescent light. The camera is usually set to Auto White Balance and the final result is an image that is not properly color balanced. I have a quick method for dealing with this situation. Everything that follows also applies to film shooters, where 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 »

Embellishing Skies with Photoshop

written by: Dick Dickerson & Silvia Zawadzki

This column was prompted by a query from a reader in Thessalonica seeking a good Photoshop technique for darkening weak skies, especially in black-and-white. After exploring a variety of tactics, we settled on the use of Selective Color adjustment layers. This is a hugely versatile command that receives rather short-shrift in most textbooks and Web discussions dealing with Photoshop. Given its versatility, it takes some time to understand its operation. Our approach was to explore its many options using a photograph of the familiar Macbeth ColorChecker Chart. Go to the Layers palette, choose Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer, and Read more »

Dealing with a Low-Contrast Negative

written by: Bruce Barnbaum

In 2001, I made a extensive tour of some of my favorite areas of the Southwest, from the slit canyons of northern Arizona, to Bryce and Zion National Parks in southern Utah, then to Death Valley and the Owens Valley (i.e., along the eastern escarpment of the Sierra Nevada Mountains) in California. I previously had been to each of the places numerous times, but the trip was a vivid reminder of the unmatched splendor of the scenery in that concentrated portion of our magical planet. The real purpose of the trip was to show an exchange student from the Republic Read more »

Optimizing Photoshop

The Best Software/Hardware Configurations Can Make a Huge Speed Difference
written by: Lloyd Chambers

Ad-hoc and generalized guidelines exist for optimizing Photoshop performance, but relating a particular workload size to memory and scratch volume requirements is usually left as an “exercise for the reader. I will present specific and actionable research into Photoshop CS4 performance on the Mac Pro and MacBook Pro (most of which applies to Windows PCs as well). Processing time can be cut by as much as 80% by appropriate choice of the amount of memory and the speed of the scratch volume, and by some key configuration parameters of Photoshop itself. Compare that to the modest 14% speed difference and Read more »


Photoshop’s Layer Stacks

Using th Wrong Tools for the Right Reasons
written by: Dan Burkholder

If you’ve ever mixed a can of paint with a screwdriver, you know there’s something innately satisfying about using the wrong tool for the job. Perhaps this illogical feeling of satisfaction harkens back to our days as primitive beings, when a thighbone could both kill our prey and stir the succeeding meal. This gratifying rebellion can be claimed in Photoshop too. I found that there were multiple tools we could misuse in our quest for image control and creative discovery. One of my more recent discoveries is that HDR processing can be used creatively. I’ll also cover using the Stacks Read more »


Characteristic Curves for Digital Cameras

Understand the Strengths and Limitations of Your Cameras– And When One May Be Better than Another for Recording a Given Brightness Range
written by: Dick Dickerson & Silvia Zawadzki

In the world of traditional silver photography, characteristic curves (also known as D-Log E or H&D curves) serve as the transform between actual scenes and the images we create of those scenes. They make it possible to meter an item in a scene and know the shade of gray it will lead to in a finished print. By using the elaborate calculations of four- quadrant tone-reproduction diagrams, that gray shade can be forecast in density units with a precision of two decimal points. Even a general knowledge of curve shapes and how they are influenced by development allows prediction of Read more »