You have heard it said a lot, and maybe said it yourself: “This picture doesn’t do the scene justice.” That is often true and for several reasons. One is that digital cameras do not capture reality. No matter how fancy or expensive, digital cameras simply do not capture what your eyes see. That is also true with film cameras. All color photographic films have different color characteristics. Some have better reds, others have better greens or blues. Some are more saturated and others less saturated. But none of them are totally color realistic. So why don’t digital cameras give you realistic images and what can you do about it?
Originally posted December 16, 2015. Revised, expanded, and re-posted May 4, 2018.
Setting a “Custom White Balance” at the beginning of a photo shoot will save you a lot of time. It will only take a minute or so and can save you a lot of work later on. Think how long it would take you to color correct 250 images.
Posted April 22, 2015. Revised and re-posted Jan. 5, 2018.
Most digital cameras give you a choice of several pre-set white balance settings (daylight, tungsten, cloudy, shade, and others), but they won’t give you the most accurate white balance in a mixed lighting situation. If you choose a pre-set, the colors in your images will be off.
The photo abilities of smart phones have improved dramatically in the last few years, especially in low light situations. Just point your camera phone at the lights and click the shutter. Exposure can be a bit iffy. If the photo looks too light or too dark and your phone will allow you to alter the exposure, take advantage of that feature.
Two essential and challenging Photoshop skills are Masking and Compositing. Fortunately for all of us out in Photoshop land, Katrin Eismann (along with Sean Duggan and James Porto) have written a masterful book on developing these skills, Photoshop Masking & Compositing (2nd edition).
Adobe Photoshop Restoration and Retouching (4th edition)
Katrin Eismann is a world class expert on photo retouching. She is one of the best of the best. In 2005 she was inducted into the Photoshop Hall of Fame. Anything she writes should be high on your reading list if you are serious about making the most of your Photoshop skills.
If you want to master color in Photoshop, Dan Margulis is the best of the best. He is one of the first three persons to be named as a member of the Photoshop Hall of Fame. And the book to get is Professional Photoshop 6: The Classic Guide to Color Correction. It is well worth finding on the used market (which you can do via my photography store). What Margulis teaches you to do with color is amazing. The before and after images will make your jaw drop.
If you shoot RAW camera files (and you should), this essential book should be at the top of your list. It is far and away the best of the best. You will be amazed at what you can get out of your RAW files. Your images will thank you.
A lot of the quality of your final image will be determined by what you do with your RAW files when you open them in Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) which comes with Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Photoshop Elements, and Adobe Lightroom.
This laptop burned in a house fire. DriveSavers recovered the data.
So your hard drive crashes or is damaged in some other way. Where should you send it? The choice is important. If you don’t send it to one of the first rate data-recovery services (expensive as they are), a cut rate company could mess up your drive and make it impossible for a first rate company to retrieve your data.
Compared to the human eye, digital cameras have a very limited dynamic range. Your digital camera simply can’t capture the range of tones from light to dark that your eyes can see. That is why HDR photography has become so popular with so many photographers, and absolutely essential for some commercial photographers.
Twilight at Otter Cliff from Thunder Hole. Acadia National Park.
Our eyes have a much wider dynamic range that our digital cameras so we can see scenes with our eyes that our cameras can’t capture with a single click of the shutter. But there is a rather simple solution. Capture a matched set of digital images and process them with Adobe Camera Raw (ACR).
From my point of view a woman looking forward to the birth of her child is one of the most beautiful things on the planet.
We created this image in my studio. The only light source is the diffused light coming through the translucent blind covering the window directly behind Sarah. It gives me a wrap around light that I love to work with.
My favorite depth of field app for the iPhone and iPad is the “Simple DoF Calculator” by Dennis van den Berg. It is fast, accurate, and simple to use. Best of all – you can set the Circle of Confusion (CoC) to the value of your choosing. In this screen capture of my iPhone the app is marked with a red square.
You can create an animated gif online without needing any special software on your computer. The site is GifCreator and it is free to use. Such a deal! I used it to create the above animated gif for an article I wrote a couple of days ago.
Wat Buddharatanaram, Buddhist Temple, Keller Texas
If you want to look at the metadata embedded in online photos, including GPS coordinates, this is an excellent online viewer. And it is simple. Just grab the URL for an online photo, drop it into the URL box on Jeffrey’s site, verify you aren’t a robot, and then check out the tons of metadata (check out the examples below). This is the most comprehensive metadata viewer I have found.
Thanks to atmospheric haze, aerial photos usually don’t look very good right out of the camera. The fastest, simplest, and best way to fix your aerial photos is with Adobe Camera Raw (ACR). If you don’t have ACR there are other good options in your favorite image editing software. They won’t be as fast but they will get the job done. This article shows you how.
Levels is a powerful tool and relatively simple to learn. Levels provides a quick, simple, and effective way to correct basic exposure problems. This tutorial will show you how to adjust the exposure of your images with levels.
Aerial Photo of the Southern Utah Desert: Before and After ACR
Photos from a commercial jet don’t look very good right out of the camera because you are seven miles off the ground. You are usually shooting through seven miles of atmospheric haze, even on a relatively clear day. If you are flying on a hazy day it is going to be even worse. Fortunately, you can save many of your aerial photos with a quick fix in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR).
Originally posted Feb. 12, 2017. Updated Feb. 17, 2017.
Temple Image with GPS coordinates. Click for a larger version.
The GPS system is increasingly important to photography. It will help you figure out where you took some of your more obscure photos and help you caption your photos. More and more photo editors want GPS information for the photos they publish. A GPS communicator could save your life. This series will help you learn the ins and outs of GPS, plus keep you and your family safe.
Originally posted Jan. 29, 2016. Updated and re-posted Feb. 11, 2017.
Colorado River, Lake Powell, and nearby mountains.
When I am taking pictures from an airplane I am curious where I am and what I am seeing down below. Sometimes it is obvious, like the Grand Canyon, and sometimes it isn’t. GPS on a plane should help a lot. At least that’s the theory.
Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Great Sand Dunes
Your friendly magazine photo editor wants to know if you have an aerial photo of Crestone Peak. Or maybe you are just curious about the stuff you photograph out an airplane window. Looking at a map, a topographic map, or a satellite image is the usual way to identify objects in an aerial photo, but sometimes that doesn’t work very well. That’s where Google Earth in 3D “flyover” mode comes in.
Originally posted Feb. 8, 2017. Updated Feb. 11, 2017.
El Capitan in the moonlight along with a camera and tripod. El Capitan Meadow, Yosemite National Park, California.
GPS Data is increasingly important to photographers. It is the link between photos and photographic locations. It can be very helpful to drop GPS coordinates into a program like Google Earth to be able to tell exactly where a photo was taken. How do you do that?
Originally Feb. 9, 2016. Updated and re-posted Feb. 5, 2017.