Soft Proofing Black and White Images?

Looking for others' thoughts and experiences with soft proofing black and white images. I am well versed in soft proofing color images but I am struggling with preparing a number of black and white files for print. For the few B&W images I have proofed so far I have used the same ICC profile that I would use for color images (for the same lab's printers of course) assuming the rendering intent and black point compensation would still be relevant for the blacks and whites. And while color gamut isn't a concern with the B&W images I am just not thrilled with what I'm seeing when proofing these images.

I have reached out to the print lab asking if they have profiles geared specifically for B&W tuning or any guidance they may have otherwise. But I am hoping to hear other experiences with printing black and white particularly if you have taken steps to "prepare" the images for printing in any areas.

Thanks in advance!

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This concludes my extension tube testing ...

Yesterday I shared a few images from my first tests using an extension tube where I was primarily focusing on understanding the effect on reproduction ratio and the changes in exposure. This morning I began testing with my speedlights and found I could definitely overcome the exposure problems. The project I photographed today wasn't so much about high magnification but rather filling the entire frame.

The extension tube is a variable tube (55 - 71mm) from Savage and seems like a very well built piece of equipment. I used the tube at 55mm and noticed right away the extension tube dramatically increased the depth of field, and I do mean dramatically.The DoF was increased so much that I captured a focus stack with only 30 frames where I would typically need 120+ frames to cover the same linear distance. I was really beginning to think my life had just gotten a lot easier! But wait ...

When I imported the images into Lightroom I was shocked at what I saw ... 30 absolutely fuzzy images. I can't understand it but there isn't one sharp pixel in any of the 30 images. Thinking something might be wrong with the camera I removed the extension tube and re-shot the entire project using my 105mm f/2.8 at 1:1 and the results were perfectly normal.

Attached are two comparisons, all shot at f/16. The first comparison shows an image (on left) shot with the extension tube and an image (on right) shot with the macro lens alone. I looked through all 30 images shot with the extension tube and this is the sharpest image I can find of that area of my subject. What the hell?? I was so perplexed I set up again for one more test. For my macro projects I use a 24-inch HDMI monitor connected to the camera that allows me to analyze critical focus and it really works well. I chose an area of the subject around the mouth and bottom of an eye and shot two images - one with the extension tube at 71mm and the lens at 1:1 and another image without the extension tube and at 1:1. Same results!

This is absolutely nuts and I just don't get it. Can anyone help me understand what's going on here? As it stands I'm prepared to return the extension tube. This image quality is just unacceptable.
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Choosing a Lesser Evil : Heavy Vignetting or Crazy Exposure Times??

Hoping to hear others opinions on making this decision ...

Here's the problem: With my typical macro setup I experience heavy vignetting caused by stopping down the aperture on a reversed-lens arrangement. The vignetting is preventing me from utilizing the full-frame angle of view. Aside from the vignetting problem the arrangement gives me excellent results and has set my baseline expectations for reproduction ratio, image quality, and overall time required to complete a project.

A possible solution: I finally decided to try an extension tube as a possible solution (a variable tube from 55 - 71mm tube). The extension tube definitely improved the vignetting problem; the vignetting is gone except for a touch in the immediate corners. I also gained a huge amount of working distance to the subject which is always a good thing. But there a two problems:
1) Reproduction ratio is less than using my reversed lens arrangement. 2) The extension tube caused a HUGE reduction in light - up to 8 stops reduction!! I was shocked to learn that I had to expose for 30-seconds for a decent exposure and I know with a different (darker) subject I would have to run in bulb mode. And that problem only gets worse if I reduce another 2-stops by adding a circular polarizer.

So I have to make a decision to either live with the heavy vignetting from the reversed lens or to use the extension tube and run crazy-long exposures. And I'll tell ya, I see potential for a lot of problems with the latter. Frankly I'm not sure its manageable but I'd like to hear other opinions.

The following 5 images show comparisons with various setups of my 1:1 lens alone, using the reversed-lens arrangement, and using the extension tube. Each image explains the comparisons which is the same as the following text:

Image 1:
Setup: 105mm lens focused to 1:1 at f/16
Summary: This image represents the baseline for all my calculations. This is the simplest setup I would use, which is a standalone 105mm f/2.8 micro lens.

Image 2:
Setup: 105mm main lens focused to 1:1 at f/16 - 50mm reversed lens focused to infinity and aperture wide open.
Summary: This is not a practical setup. Creates a working distance of only 8mm. Must leave reversed lens focused to infinity (focusing closer moves focal point inside of lens). Light vignette visible even with reversed lens wide open.

This represents the greatest reproduction I can achieve with my current gear (using a 1:1 macro lens + a reversed 50mm lens), but this is extremely difficult to light with only 8mm of working distance. I also get ~6mm extension from the lens adapter ring. An 8mm working distance also eliminates focus stacking for most insects I would photograph. In order to achieve a practical setup with the reversed lens I have no choice but to back off the focus on the main lens.

Image 3:
Setup: 105mm main lens focused to 1:2 at f/16 - 50mm reversed lens focused to infinity and aperture wide open.
Summary: Working distance is now ~ 16mm. Vignette is now a problem with focus set to 1:2. This is a setup that I have used a number of times with great results. Although the working distance is only 16mm I am usually able to light my subjects without too much trouble and this working distance also allows me more room for focus stacking.

Image 4:
Setup: 105mm main lens focused to 1:2 at f/3.5 - 50mm reversed lens focused to infinity and stopped down to ~f/8.
Summary: Working distance is still ~ 16mm. Essentially the same vignetting as previous setup. Lighting is now diffused.

The previous setup works well (reversed lens wide open and main lens at f/16) but I found that I can get sharper images by stopping down the reversed lens and open the main lens wide open. This image looks very similar to the last but two things are different: The main lens is now at f/3.5 and the reversed lens is stopped down to ~f/8. NOTE: By adding light diffusion this image represents typical exposure for projects using this setup with shutter speeds around 1.0 – 2.0 seconds. This is more or less my threshold for pain related to exposure time.

Image 5:
Setup: 105mm main lens focused to 1:1 at f/16 - 71mm extension tube installed.
Summary: Working distance is huge at 114mm. Vignetting only in immediate corners. Less reproduction ratio than previous setup. A tremendous loss of light requiring a 30-second exposure!

I was shocked at the loss of light using the extension tube. The working distance is excellent and I no longer see the large vignette. But I lose magnification and the exposure time is horrendous even using a shiny silver metallic subject. A dark-colored insect may require exposures in bulb mode. (?)
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Image Display Size (optimizing the viewers' experience)

Looking for ideas on the image size(s) that we upload to the web compared to "common" monitor/display sizes that people use. The only hard data I have, for whatever audience, are numbers from Google Analytics specific to visitors to my own website. The table below shows rolling 12-months of screen resolution data for visitors to my website.

My personal approach: I use a 24-inch monitor (1920 x 1080). Today I upload my images to the web at 1280 pixels on the long side for landscape-oriented images and 860 pixels on the long edge for portrait-oriented images. Why? For no other reason than I like the way those dimensions look on my display when viewed at full size (AND because I don't feel like I'm "giving away the farm" with those dimensions). The only time I uploaded larger images are for my macro work so that people can really get into the detail, which I figure is the whole point to macro images. I've looked at the numbers below a number of times over the last few years and 1366 x 768 has always been the most-used display size for whatever audience visits my website. Assuming that resolution comes from a ~15.6-inch laptop display, I feel confident those visitors are getting a decent viewing experience considering they can still "zoom in" to my images a bit. Now, I have seen a steady increase in visitors using 24-inch monitors. But again, I feel those viewers still get a decent viewing experience based on my own experience with a 24-inch display. Finally, I am also seeing a very slight increase in 27-inch monitors although the percentage of those visitors remain very low. I would like to give those viewers a slightly larger image but I'm not ready to make the change yet.

What is your approach?: So now I'm curious if or how you consider your viewers' viewing experience when choosing an image size for uploading to the web. I know a lot of people who upload rather large images and I know a lot of people that still limit their image uploads to rather small images. Ideas?

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UPDATED January 20, 2017: A comprehensive comparison between Lightroom (Lr) Photo Merge DNG versus 32-bit floating point TIFF

In July, 2015 I created a post showing comprehensive comparisons between Lr 6.1 Photo Merge HDR (DNG) versus 32-bit floating point TIFFs created in Photomatix. I have continued to use the Photo Merge feature regularly and always keeping Lr updated along the way. Today I am using Lr CC 2015.8 and I thought it was time to update my previous observations. The results may (still) surprise you ...

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Image Toning with Satin Layer Style

This post is to share a tip that I stumbled onto about a month ago when processing an image that seemed to be missing something in regard to color and tone. At the time I had two slightly different copies of an image opened as layers in Photoshop and began poking around in the layer blending options to see if I could discover a new way of blending the two layers together.

Now where global image adjustments are concerned, I typically ignore the layer style blending options altogether (i.e., Bevel/Emboss, Drop Shadows, Inner/Outer Glow, etc.) but that day I saw a blending option named '*Satin*' that I had never noticed before. Even to this day I don't understand the intended use of the Satin blending option but Adobe describes the feature as "_Applies interior shading that creates a satiny finish"_. I can't say that I ever saw a 'satiny finish' as I played around with various settings but I did begin to see a lot of flexibility as having an alternative method for very subtle image toning and color shifts.

The attached images demonstrate how I have used the Satin blending option so far. In this example I want to add a hint of warmth to the image but I don't want to alter the white balance or or mess around with adjustment layers to make the change. The Satin blending option worked perfectly for my personal taste! The following images describe the settings I have settled on so far:

Image # 1 : When you open an image in Photoshop, one of the default settings is to lock the 'background layer' from unintended changes. Step 1 is to click on the layer's padlock to unlock the layer. When unlocked, the layer name should change to "Layer 0".

Image # 2 : Access the Layer Style dialogue by double-clicking on the layer or by right-clicking on the layer and selecting 'Blending Options'.

Image # 3 :
1) Make sure 'Blending Options' is selected (should be the default)
2) Check the 'Satin' blending option
3) Set the Satin blending mode to 'Soft Light'. The Soft Light blend mode is something I've used many times for global contrast and saturation adjustments. It was my familiarity with the feature that made me choose this blending mode for test.
4) Set opacity to 30% just for starters. You will adjust the opacity later to fine tune the appearance but 30% is a good starting place just to get a feel for the global changes that occur.

Image # 4 :
1) Verify the layer style Preview is checked
2) Set 'Angle' to zero
3) Set 'Distance' to 1 px
4) Set size to 200 px
5) Click on the color swatch to open the Color Picker dialogue.
Here you will select the color for your global toning / color shift. And this is where you should experiment by selecting different colors and adjusting the layer opacity to see how different colors/opacity effect the image. Based on my experience so far, I recommend using the Color Picker eyedropper to select colors that already exist in your image to compliment what you already have. Set your eyedropper to a low radius (something like 3x3 or 5x5 for this). Image # 4 shows where I picked my color from a patch of grass. And although the color appears as a dark and ruddy brown, the Satin blending option gives me a really nice global warmth to the image. If I had wanted to make the image cooler, I would have simply chosen some shade of blue from the sky.

Image # 5 : Shows the before and after images with the Satin opacity still set to 30%. This example is quite a bit stronger of an effect than I would prefer but I've left the sample set to 30% so that you can clearly see the before and after comparison for color temperature. Also notice there is quite a bit more contrast in the new image. That contrast is one of the effects of the Soft Light blend mode in the layer style.

If you choose to use this tool in the future, I would be interested in seeing how your images come along.

#postprocessing   #photography   #photoshop  
Satin Blend Option
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Mastering Photography Creativity with Multi-Directional Lighting

Are you ready to try something new in your studio work? If so, give this a try! This is a technique that I have been developing over the past year where I use multi-directional lighting to selectively illuminate the background, primary subject and foreground (individually) to create a composite image that offers tremendous flexibility for creativity that you just can’t (and shouldn’t) get from a single exposure. And with each installment of the project I become more and more impressed with what can be achieved when blending all of the exposures together. The basic idea is to use a small light source to illuminate your subject in small areas at multiple angles. With this approach you can get light into small crevices, light behind objects, light under objects, light on top of objects, light beside of objects, and so on and so on. But the real magic of this technique lies in the blending process where you can be very selective of what light (or shadow) you use considering that each component of the scene is lit from multiple angles. The images below walk through several scenarios of how you can make this technique work for yourself.

Image #1: This is a simple set-up where I captured two exposures – one exposure with the subject illuminated from the left, and one exposure with the subject illuminated from the right. You can clearly see where light spills onto the foreground in both images, but for this example also notice there is light spilling onto the wall in the background as well. It is important to evaluate all of your exposures to discover wherever light penetrates the scene so that you can maximize your selectivity in the masking process.

Image #2: This screenshot shows both exposures from above opened as a layer stack in Photoshop and illustrates how the two exposures blend together ‘naturally’ by simply setting the layer blend mode to Lighten on both layers. To get started with the masking I recommend selecting all layers in the stack so that all layers are set to Lighten blend mode at once. Now you will see all of the light from both exposures in a single display. It is helpful to toggle the visibility of each layer a few times to get a better look at how each exposure contributes to a single image.

Image #3: I have added layer masks to both layers to begin the masking process. For this example I have only masked one area of the top layer – you can see the black paint on the layer mask which conceals (or masks out) that area of the top layer, and voilà! – that area of light has been removed from the working image. You can toggle between image #2 and image #3 to see that I only masked the light on the left side of the subject and the foreground but I did not mask the light spilling onto the background. I do not believe there is a right or wrong way to mask your layers, rather only adding or subtracting light to find the look that matches your vision and your personal liking.

Image #4: This image shows a much more complex composition but the technique is the same as in the simple example above. For this arrangement I shot 36 exposures illuminating only a small area of the scene in each exposure using a snooted 320-lumen LED torch. Of course I had continuous light from the candle all the while but I managed those tones with a 9-exposure HDR background layer, but that’s an entirely different discussion. Here are the important takeaways from this screenshot: A) Look at the layers masks and you’ll see that some masks are filled with white and some are filled with black. You’ll make the decision to hide or reveal the entire layer based on how each exposure contributes to the scene overall. In some cases you will fill the layer mask with black (hiding the layer entirely) and only reveal small areas selectively with white paint. And in other cases you will fill the layer mask with white (revealing the layer entirely) and only mask out small areas selectively with black paint. Again, this is where it helps to toggle each layer visibility on and off a few times to see where light comes from in each layer. B) Notice that I have disabled the visibility of one of the layers. We’ll compare that layer’s contribution in the next example to see how much one layer can do for the image overall …

Image #5: Here I have enabled the visibility of the hidden layer and you can see how much of a difference it makes overall. Toggle between image #4 and image #5 to get a feel for the full effect. This is powerful stuff! I should point out the layer that is being enabled and disabled is a merged composite of many other layers that came before it – probably around 28 exposures or so – but I was committed to keeping those areas of light so I simply merged the desired layers as I went along.

Image #6: This is the final image of this project. And again, whatever light you see was carefully selected based on my personal preference and not because I thought any of it was particularly right or wrong.

Image #7: This was my first (and probably my favorite) project using this technique. There are only 11 exposures used for this image. Take a close look and you’ll get an idea of the direction of light used from each exposure.

Image #8: This technique is not performed without potential pitfalls! As you capture your exposures you will be illuminating the subject from many different angles which means light will be entering the lens from many different angles. I’m not sure what this phenomenon is called in technical terms but the result is something I refer to as ‘light shift’ that may create the appearance of the subject having moved between the exposures. Indeed I thought I had bumped my composition the first time I saw this. My projects are not rife with these issues but I have experienced this problem in several small areas of each project. For me this problem emphasizes the need to inspect your image carefully after setting all layer blend modes to Lighten. Once you discover any areas where the light shift has occurred, simply isolate the offending layer and mask out the area in concern.

I would be happy to answer any questions you have on this subject. But in the meantime, happy shooting!

Multi-Directional Lighting
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Mastering Photography Creativity with DIY Lighting

This is a subject that I have touched on in the past with individual posts, but I am creating this post to bring all those factors together. Back in September I began working on a concept for lighting that has progressed much farther than I had originally conceived and I wanted to share the initial concept and the progress I've made in hopes that it may help others in their own work. The attached images are in the order in which they are discussed below.

This all started with me using a Savage dual-arm macro light to photograph mushrooms in the field. In doing so I began noticing some of the mushrooms had a translucent quality and I began wondering how I might transmit some amount of light through those translucent areas to illuminate the mushrooms in a completely different way. But I quickly realized that all of my lighting equipment was simply too large to target such small areas of the mushrooms and that was the first problem to be solved. The smallest portable light source that I could think of was an individual LED powered by a rechargeable battery pack.

Image #1 below shows the construction phase for the concept lighting and shows what material I used such as LEDs, wire, resistors, soldering tools, etc. Image #2 is a completed concept assembly which worked well but had much room for improvement. Image #3 shows my final ‘production lighting’ which includes an upgrade to a switchable power supply (a 15,600 mAh rechargeable battery pack), improved cable connections to the power supply, and elimination of the inline cable switches. With image # 3 you see what I now carry into the field where very small lighting solutions are required.

Image #4 shows the result of my first project using a single bright white LED on a mushroom which was shot in complete darkness. There is no light being exposed directly to the top of the mushroom. The mushroom was lit entirely by pointing the LED upward directly under the cap. The mushroom stem and the leaves on the ground are exposed mostly by light reflecting from beneath the mushroom's cap but are also picking up a little light spill from the LED. I later solved the light spill problem by snooting the LED with a drinking straw. Obviously my hand, the LED, and the cable leads do not appear in the image. That was achieved by taking two exposures – one exposure with the LED under the left side of the cap and one exposure with the LED under the right side of the cap. With those two layers in Photoshop I simply masked out my hand, the LED and the cables to allow those same areas of the opposing images to fill the frame. The background is a natural background – an Emerald Green Arborvitae about four feet behind the mushroom and is lit with my Savage dual-arm macro light. There are four images total in the layer stack with the top three layers set to Lighten blend mode. The final image was processed with selective dodging and burning along with a couple selective color shifts.

Image #5 and image #6 respectively show my next two mushroom projects. The mushroom(s) in image # 5 were also shot in complete darkness and were quite a bit more difficult to illuminate than the first. With these mushrooms being upturned I had to illuminate them from the top to get the glowing effect. But the mushrooms were too dense to allow light to spill onto the ground so I did a little light painting to illuminate the creek bank, otherwise there was just an incomprehensible spot of light in the darkness. Finally, illuminating the caps in image #6 was also rather difficult. The mass of these mushrooms is terribly dense and I finally had to insert the LED up into the cap as far as I could to get any light at all to penetrate the mass. (Please note: No mushrooms were harmed in any way for this image!) With the LED in position, a 2-second exposure would only create a small hot spot of light on the cap. I had to resort to many more exposures than I had anticipated to spread the light around. In all, there are ten 2-seconds exposures used here. Each hot spot on the caps shows where the LED was inserted for each exposure and I find the colors of those hot spots to be pretty fascinating. Those hot spots were visible to the naked eye when capturing the images and I still can't image what's going on inside of a white mushroom that creates that orange/pink glow. Post processing for images 5 and 6 consisted of the same masking techniques as used in image 4.

My photography also involves a fair amount of studio macro work which presents a host of lighting challenges. The primary problem is that to achieve maximum magnification with the equipment I have, I only have 3/4-inch working distance between the lens and the subject and it can be very difficult to get light into a crevice that small! I needed something very small of course so I built two more LED leads utilizing the same power supply as described above and permanently mounted them to my macro table. Image #7 and image #8 shows how that lighting is configured and also show the LED snooted with the drinking straw I mention earlier. The drinking straw is wrapped with gaffers tape to control as much light spill as possible.

I realize this post reads like a novel but there’s a lot that can be discussed from here!

Happy shooting!
DIY LED Lighting
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Macro Lighting Solution

I'm sharing this in case it might help others solve similar lighting problems. One of my primary challenges in my macro work is the extremely close working distances I encounter when attempting my maximum magnification by using my 50mm lens reversed onto my 85mm micro lens. Depending on the subject, that working distance can be as little as 3/4-inch. I suppose a ring light would work, but I've had problems in the past with a lighting apparatus traveling with the camera/lens when adjusting for focus stacking, which of course changes the direction of the light throughout the process. Given that, I believe that completely stationary lighting works best for my setup.

Several weeks ago I started tinkering with building single-lead LED's for mobile field lighting. Those experiments sparked a couple ideas so I applied what I've learned to help with my studio macro lighting. The attached photos show pretty clearly what I've done to modify my macro table for the new LED's: 1) Added two brackets to hold the LED support arms. The support 'arms' are solid 12-ga. copper wire that can be bent to relatively infinite angles. 2) Built two LED harnesses using 5mm bright white LEDs which are powered by a 5V, 15,600mAh rechargeable USB power supply. 3) I snooted the LEDs with a drinking straw wrapped in gaffers tape. The snoots help a great deal to control light spill and allows me pretty precise control with directional lighting.

#macro   #macrophotography   #ledlighting  
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Daisy on Bokeh

Question: What do you do when you can't compose a wildflower in the field with the background you want?

Answer: You simply pick the wildflower and hold it against the background you're looking for.

Or at least that's what I did for creating this photo. Across the road - about 40-feet away - from where this wildflower was growing was a spot where gorgeous light was dancing on tree leaves. I had already used the specular reflections from the leaves to create bokeh for a previous photo so I took that same opportunity when I came across this daisy. A nearby fence post provided the support I needed to steady myself while holding the flower for composition. Click! Done!

#flower   #flowerphotography   #bokeh   #nature   #naturephotography   #closeup  
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