Quick photo sharpening tip

Just about every digital photo can use a little bit of sharpening. You should definitely experiment with the sharpening tool in your photo editor of choice (preferably, your editor has unsharp mask). But you don’t want to overdo it or you’ll see sharpening “halos” around objects in your photo: bright and dark lines near areas of high contrast. Here’s a quick and simple tip to reduce halos in photos that have a combination of low and high contrast areas:

  • When you are ready to sharpen your photo (sharpening should be your very last step), flatten all layers.
  • Duplicate the remaining layer.
  • Sharpen the top layer to get the best result possible.
  • Now grab the eraser and simply brush away any problem areas that have been over-sharpened. The bottom, unsharpened layer will show through in those spots. If your photo editor supports it, you can even erase those areas with partial opacity to customize the amount of sharpening.

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RAW vs. JPG: Correcting under/over-exposure

I was reading a discussion the other day about how shooting in RAW mode saved some under-exposed shots. Accepted wisdom seems to be that correcting under and over exposure is much easier/better with RAW than JPG. Without making any judgments, I decided to try it out and see if it was true.

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Adobe Lightroom Beta 4

So I’ve been using the Adobe Lightroom beta for a couple of weeks now and I really like it. It’s shaping up to be a very nice application and it’s clear that the designers have put a lot of thought into managing a workflow that involves a lot of photographs.

I was using Raw Shooter Premium (RSP) to process my RAW files but I’ve made the switch completely to Lightroom even though it is still in beta. For one, RSP isn’t being updated anymore. It was acquired by Adobe and they’ve promised RSP users a free upgrade to Lightroom 1.0 when it becomes available. Second, even now it provides a lot more fine-grained control over image adjustment than RSP does. The Develop panel looks like a 747 cockpit. But importantly, every one of those controls does something meaningful and there are no less than two basic adjustment panels you can use instead. Plus you can save as many presets as you like.

It’s certainly slower than RSP. You’ll need a semi-modern machine to run it properly. But if your computer has the horsepower, Lightroom is a lot of fun to use.

One of my favorite things about it though is that it consolidates my workflow for RAW and JPG files.

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Review: ProtectMyPhotos.com online photo backup service

I’ve been testing out an online photo backup service called ProtectMyPhotos.com. The idea is simple: upload your photos to their service and they’ll store them for you securely for as long as you like. Then if anything happens to your originals, you can use the service to retrieve the backups.

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Photo sharing and the future of photography

As Flickr has grown in both size and popularity, it is increasingly becoming a “go to” source for photographs and photographers. Photo editors, galleries, newspapers, magazines, authors, ad agencies, artists, and more are all browsing Flickr every day looking for interesting photos, photographers, and inspiration.

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Has anyone had a good experience with MyPublisher.com?

Back in December 2004, I wrote about my experience creating a coffee table photo book with MyPublisher.com and Shutterfly.com. I preferred Shutterfly because MyPublisher simply didn’t work:

At first it said it couldn’t connect to the server. I clicked retry several times with no change so I stopped and restarted the application. When the application restarted it asked if I wanted to continue uploading. I’d click yes and watch as nothing happened. So, I attempted to contact their technical support.

Here’s something I should have checked beforehand. There is no way to contact anyone in MyPublisher customer service by phone. There are no phone numbers on their site. All contact with support is via email. Shutterfly tries to do all of their support by email too but they at least publish a toll number if you prefer. So, I explained my problem in an email and waited.

Over 18 months later, the comments are still coming in about problems with MyPublisher’s ordering and book creation system and poor customer service. Has anyone had a good experience with MyPublisher? I still like Shutterfly’s service. Any other recommendations for creating photo books?

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Why is it called “unsharp mask” when it sharpens?

A brief history lesson about an image sharpening method called “unsharp mask.” Photoshop and other image manipulation software all have a feature with this name that will sharpen an image. So, why is it called unsharp mask?

The name comes from the original photographic procedure used to increase the apparent sharpness of a photograph on film. First the original negative was copied and turned into a positive (In a negative, black is white and white is black. In a positive, it’s the other way around.). During the copy, the positive was intentionally blurred. This is where “unsharp” comes from. Then the positive and negative were put in contact and exposed to light again. The blurry portion of the positive cancelled out (masked) the blurry portion of the negative.

Despite working with bits instead of film, digital unsharp mask works similarly by comparing the source image to a slightly blurred version and subtracting one from the other.

Source: Wikipedia

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Anatomy of a photo edit: Ready in 3 minutes

I really enjoy the process of editing a photo. Each one is different. And it can be a lot of fun playing with ideas, colors, highlighting this area, downplaying another. A single photo really does have a lot of possibilities depending on what you do with it. But I’ll often make a photograph knowing in advance the edits I’ll need to make to “develop” it. Ready in 3 minutes was such a photo.

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