Back in the early days of Photoshop, one of the easiest ways to paint on a selection was by using Quick Mask. Of course, now there are a million and one ways to do the same thing but even with all the innovations in making local selections, Samantha and I still find we go back to our tried and true method of using Quick Mask. If you want to learn more about how we do this see our eBook 7 Quick and Dirty Processing Shortcuts for Lazy Photographers and watch the free videos below:
Many times we’ve been requested to share our processing workflow. And we never formally did. It’s not that what we do is a top secret or anything. It has more to do with the fact that we weren’t sure if our workflow would actually be useful as an example to anyone. See, we have a secret…we’re lazy when it comes to processing our images. We don’t want to spend lots of time on the computer fiddling with sliders and moving pixels around. We prefer making as many creative choices in the field as we can without sacrificing image quality. As nature and landscape photographers, we really like spending time outside!
So what’s changed, you may be thinking. Well, after reading lots of books and watching how other photographers teach processing, we realized that one key message wasn’t really getting out: there is no right or wrong way to process your images. There is only right or wrong for you and your goals. Which means you must take what everyone says with a grain of salt. Just because someone else says you ‘ought’ to manage your images a certain way doesn’t mean that is useful advice for you! Like us, study what other photographers do. Read books. Try things out. Take what makes you happy and achieves your creative vision, and dump the rest. For example, some of our goals are:
- spend as much time as possible making creative decisions in-camera rather than on the computer (we like being outside, right?)
- easy and simple is better than long and complicated if both paths lead you to the same point
- in photography, creative vision begins in the field when an image is conceived and should inform your processing choices – we only move sliders to further this vision, not for ‘cool’ effects that really just amount to ornamentation
These goals inform our processing. When we took a step back and considered our processing, we realized that, in most cases, we followed seven steps with our images. Because there’s a dozen ways to get to your end goal in processing (but not many books written with the express purpose of shortening your time on the computer through unorthodox shortcuts), we thought we would share what we do with you. A warning though! These shortcuts are not safe, typical or even necessarily recommended: but they work for us, and might work for you.
So here it is, Sam and Darwin’s 7 Quick and Dirty Processing Shortcuts for Lazy Photographers.
This Book is For:
- photographers who shoot in raw format and use Photoshop
- shooters who want to minimize their time spent processing in their workflow
- skeptics who want to make up their own mind on what works for them
- photographers looking for a key shortcut or two to add to their processing repertoire
- anyone interested in the way we process our pictures (for better or worse)
This Book is Not For:
- commercial photographers with clients who may demand changes to a processed file at any time
- photographers who enjoy and spend a lot of time processing their work (if you love being creative on the computer, your goals are different from ours)
- photographers seeking a detailed, step-by-step guide to processing your images
- beginners (or anyone who shoots JPEG format only) wanting to understand the pros and cons of various editing programs
- photographers who want to learn processing in an ‘industry-approved’ and standardized workflow
- anyone happy with their digital darkroom workflow
- people who don’t have or intend to learn Adobe Photoshop (or for that matter, anyone who does most of their work in Lightroom)
So… if we’ve whet your appetite and you think there might be a sneaky processing shortcut or two that would work for you, check out our eBook now! We’re heading outside to make images…
Sam and I have been hard at work the last couple of weeks putting the final touches on a new eBook called Sam and Darwin’s 7 Quick and Dirty Processing Shortcuts for Lazy Photographers. Right now Stephen is putting spit and polish on the eBook design. So stay tuned for this eBook coming up soon!
We developed this eBook in response to numerous requests on how we process our photos. We’ve always been hesitant to share our methods… not because they are secret or innovative but because we do things all ‘wrong’. Wrong? Well, let’s just say that the Kelbys and Lyndas out there teaching image processing would be appalled by our unconventional workflow (and we would probably fail their courses)!
But (and here is the important point) our method works just fine for us, delivering results every time with little fuss. And we get our images processed fast. So we thought we would share what we do in the hopes that some of our shortcuts might help you shorten your time processing on the computer so that you can have more time for creative photography in the field.
In the meantime to help you save even more time be sure to check out our article: Image Storage and Retrieval: Are You a Cherry Picker or a Bean Counter?
Are you ready to be a lazy photographer?
This article first appeared in Outdoor Photography Canada in 2011 – if you don’t want to wait 2 years to see them here, then subscribe to this great magazine 😉
Time – A Photographer’s Best Friend
Photographers are their own worst editors. We are simply too emotionally invested in our images to be objective about them and, as a result, we keep a lot of images that really should have seen the deep end of the trash bin. A critical skill to develop is to remove our bias toward our work and look at our images with a healthy skepticism.
For me, the ultimate test of a photo’s value is the test of time. Does it still excite you and have meaning a week, month, year and even ten years after you snapped the photo? If it does, then the image is a keeper. But in a practical sense we simply can’t let our images age like wine and come back ten years later for a taste test to pick out the keepers. What we need is a system that lets us be objective in the shorter term.
Many of us come back from a shoot and then edit immediately looking for the ‘killer shots’. Often we use a rating system and rank our favourites as 5-star images. These 5-star images get processed right away; we quickly share them on the web and show them to friends. The 4-star and lower rated images we store on hard-drives, forgotten about until maybe (a big maybe) we revisit them many months later and cherry-pick a couple of ‘over-looked’ images. The remaining images gather pixel dust languishing in a library of forgotten hard-drives. We vow to ‘deal’ with these languishing images but never will. Possibly we hope that like wine, the longer these images are ‘aged’, the better they will get. They don’t.
I find if I process images immediately after a shoot that I keep more images than I would if I returned to edit the images at a later date. As well, some of the 5-star images in my initial pick aren’t really that good after all! And surprisingly some images that I initially rank low actually end up being my favorite images. Time removes my emotional attachment and lets me edit more objectively.
So now I build time into my editing workflow. Immediately after a shoot I will do a preliminary edit. In this edit, I delete obvious errors: photos that have poor focus, bad exposure and flawed compositions are removed. All the rest of the photos I keep and back up on an external hard-drive. Then, and this is the critical key, I try to wait at least a month before I return to final editing of the photos. After a month all the excitement of the shoot is gone; I have moved on emotionally, and I can be objective and ruthless. I become a machine on the delete key!
In this final edit, the images I initially thought were killer have lost a lot of lustre and some overlooked gems emerge. I see the shoot with fresh eyes and I can quickly pull out images that have lasting impact and clarity of message. In the end, I keep ten percent or less of the images that I shot. The rest are permanently deleted. My system is lean and mean and my image library is filled with only my best work. Time is your best friend when it comes to objective photo editing: use it wisely.
What are your favourite apps?
I’m not sure how I ever lived without GPS. I have it in my car, I have it in my camera, and I have it on my phone. At any given time, I can open up a map and get an aerial view of my location and find my way around. It’s a very exciting time for geography related tools which has direct benefits for photographers.
There are an unlimited number of apps available for photographers but one of the lesser known options in the classic desktop app Google Earth, is light simulation. Sure, there are apps like The Photographer’s Ephemeris that can provide fantastic data for where and when the sun will rise and set – but what if you could actually see it? Google Earth can do that for many locations.
This is most useful for large landscapes and would have little use in the prairies.
Brando and I made a wee video on how to properly use your zoom lens to tell better stories in your photos. Are you using your zoom lens to its full potential?
Darwin and Sam keep encouraging me to write more but my resistance holds strong not knowing where to start. Some may be familiar with me because my name occasionally appears here and there but for the most part, I quietly work behind the scenes from PEI as oopoomoo’s ebook designer and website support.
I have been thinking about the recent post by Sam when she mentioned ruthless editing and just how poor I am at that. And then a couple days later, Darwin hit it home with another post about how he kept 20 images from a set of 500. It’s just too easy for me to keep everything and ignore the rest. This situation includes my large collection of images from Iceland – many of which have other photographers standing in the frame.
In the spring of 2012, the oopoomoo team along with several others headed off to Iceland with dreams, hopes and expectations for possibly the photographic adventure of the year. Traveling with groups introduces the challenges of framing an image around those that choose to stand in front of you. The same applies to many popular tourist destinations. So while I could be cursing under my breath and wanting to tell everyone to go back to the van, each of us had the added task of working around where others decided to stand. Some made it easy and took a nap.
This next image is a crop of the before image clearly showing a group of photographers standing in the way. Not a big deal and only takes a few seconds to clean up.
If you are using Photoshop CS5 or later, there is a technical term called the content aware fill tool. But in this case, we will refer to it as the people remover.
- With the Lasso tool, start by making a tight selection around what you wish to remove.
- From the top menu, your next step is Edit > Fill. The quick keyboard shortcut for this is Shift+Del.
- We must now tell Photoshop how to handle the contents within the selection. For this, we want to make sure Content Use is set to Content Aware.
- Click Ok and see the results. It’s not always perfect and will sometimes require additional clean up with the clone tool but it’s usually a great starting point.
The final image.
If you do not have content-aware available, this also could have been accomplished with the clone tool, the healing brush, or possibly even the spot removal tool in Lightroom. You will just need to be much more careful and take a few extra minutes to reach the same results.
For a much more complicated example, consider the next image I made of Buckingham Palace. You can be sure that at any point during the day, crowds are high. The approach above might work again here but it will surely be complicated, frustrating and time consuming. A task most would never attempt.
In this situation, where the sun is not quickly setting and crowds are always moving, you can setup to capture multiple photos, while taking notice on where people are moving to and from. Eventually, you’ll have a clean frame for each section of the image. In a perfect world, you’ll do this on a tripod but you could be unprepared like I was and handhold the sequence of shots.
In Photoshop, you will want to load all the frames into layers. If you have Photoshop CS3 Extended or later, you can simply use image stacks and automate the process but for the rest of us, we can easily do this manually.
- Start by selecting Edit > Auto Align Layers. If you’re on a tripod, this step could be skipped, but if not, this process can be magical at times.
- With all the images as individual layers, we want to add a layer mask for each. One way to add the mask is Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All.
- A layer mask is used to hide or show content without actually deleting with the eraser tool. The key concept to understanding how masks work is to remember, black hides and white reveals. If you’re still not familiar with how this works, watch this brief video from Chris Orwig.
- So knowing how that works, we want to paint black in the layer masks over each person to hide them. Once completed for each layer, you will have hidden all the people that walked into your frame over the dozen shots.
- Add some final touches and clean up with the cloning tool and we’re done.
So putting the moral debate of image manipulation aside for a different day, these are two possibilities for removing unwanted content from your images. It is however, very important to know your audience, and know how the image will be used. Not everyone will tolerate this type of editing. Something Harry Fisch found out the hard way.
I can hear you all saying, “Another post from Catherine so soon?!” Well, there are several reasons for this post.
First, Sam and Darwin are trying to take some time off this month. As you read in Kennel Boy’s post, he was crazy busy while at Gone Wild Kennels. Sam slaved over the computer most of the time except one day when we both toodled off to Canmore. We spent some time strolling down the main street, stopping for a nice creamy latte and then heading to the deli to purchase a turducken for the festive season.
Keep your eye on the oopoomoo posts because I can see a story here!!! One day last week, Sam and Darwin went out into the forest just to have FUN. No further explanation was given. I don’t believe cameras were involved, so I guess we will leave the definition of ‘fun’ to our imaginations! They deserve some time off so I’ll help them out by doing this post.
Reason two for this post is that I had one more assignment to complete for my Instructor at SAIT (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology). He told us that he was so impressed with our creativity that the doors are wide open for our last assignment. The one restriction is that we cannot do any post production. While working on my assignment I came across a ‘discovery’ that I thought I would share with all of you.
The third reason is that I am not running around buying chocolate, marshmallows, candied fruit, dates and all the other goodies needed for the Christmas sweets. I am not out in the woods looking for a six foot tree which, by the time it gets into the house, is ten feet!!!! (it looked so much smaller in the forest!) AND…I am not fighting off crowds of people, listening to crying babies who are all bundled up in strollers like wee cocoons, or standing in line for one hour only to find out that the 2012 Christmas gift fad is all sold out!! Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE Christmas!!! We celebrated ‘Christmas in July’ because it’s so difficult to get all family members home in December. Yep, this year we had our Christmas Polar Bear on our front lawn, some strands of lights in the trees, our Christmas tree dressed in its best, presents waiting to have their outer skin ripped off, stockings hanging and the wonderful, delicious smell of ……………barbequed hamburgers. Hey! It’s too hot in the middle of July to have the oven on for five hours while the bird cooks!!! We enjoyed our meal on the back deck with family and friends and some even enjoyed a soak in the hot tub! Our neighbours thought perhaps Ed and I had really lost it when we were decorating the front yard with Christmas decorations on July 10th . They were convinced we belong in the loonie bin on July 14th when we were on the deck unwrapping Christmas gifts !!!
Soooooooooooooo, I have some time on my hands. What better way to spend some of that time than writing an oopoomoo post?
Now, to my AH HA moment. The pressure is on. Twenty Continuing Education Students need to be photographically creative. We are a competitive group, in a friendly way, and this is our last chance to ‘show our stuff’. However, I don’t know if I can top the RED BRA in a snow covered tree image shown last week in class. NOOOO, I did not submit that photo.
I should work on my Portrait Challenge Sam and Darwin have given me and kill two birds with one stone. The challenge is to be finished by the end of the year and the portraits are to be of strangers. I need to develop a rapport with them prior to ‘shooting’ them. But, I’ll tell you a secret if you promise not to mention it to Sam or Darwin…….They neglected to tell me how many portraits I am required to hand in. Ha ha ha! I know I can grab one image of a person before New Years Eve so I’m not in a big panic.
For my SAIT assignment I decided to do some water droplets on glass photos. I have never done this before so I knew there would be some trial and error happening.
The first step was to find a small piece of glass. Downstairs I went. After rummaging through some boxes I saw just what I needed – an 8×10 piece of glass from a broken photo frame.
The second step was to get my tail over to the local ‘tires and everything else store’ to buy some Rain X which causes water beads to form when water contacts the glass.
After washing, drying, Rain-x-ing and dropping little droplets of water on the glass it was now time to set things up. Camera was attached to the tripod. Small items to put under the glass included a lizard figurine, red and green confetti, a red and white card shaped like a mitten and one of Ed’s treasured collectors matchbox cars (this is another secret, okay?)
I held the glass between the mitten shaped Christmas card and the lens and played around with distance from the card. I focused the camera on the droplets. Not bad…… good depth of field and you could see part of the card in some of the droplets. Snap. Ummm, what are those funny lines all over my image??? Okay. I need to keep the glass absolutely still. Out come four small boxes. With the glass carefully placed on top of the boxes I snapped away again. Still wiggly lines! Wash, dry and a super polish this time. Snap. Nope! What the heck!?!? Must be poor quality glass!
I downloaded the images on to my laptop to have a better look at the wiggly lines. Ummmm, these lines remind me of something I’ve seen before…..??? Relaxed and stretched out in my recliner (I do my best thinking in this position) I was in heavy thought and staring up at the ceiling. That’s when I had my AH HA moment! WIGGLY LINES!!! ON THE CEILING!!! The textured ceiling was reflecting on the glass and because of the lighting I was getting a perfect reflection!
I replaced the red mitten card on the table, focused on the wiggly lines and SNAP. Here is what I got.
I put the lizard under the glass and focused on the lizard through the glass. Here is an image of the set up.
Then I focused on the wiggley lines.
The images I shot today were not what I was hoping for but they are kinda neat. I won`t submit any of them for my SAIT assignment but I may come back to this technique at a later date and see what else could be done with glass and ceiling. Perhaps when I succeed with my water droplets on glass project, I will share them with you.
What do you think it takes to get your photos published in magazines? When we ask this question of photographers they almost always say: “It takes a killer photo to get into a magazine!”
Well… a killer photo certainly won’t hurt your chances, but magazine editors look for so much more than a pretty photo! As a photographer friend used to say, “‘your job as a photographer is to get the magazine editor to coffee faster!” The easier you make it for the editor, the more likely they will use your photo. Is the photo a match for their editorial content either stylistically or based on a seasonal need? Does it portray a story that will stand on its own or supplement an article? Is the image prepared to the exact specifications the magazine needs for publishing? Is your pricing in line with the budget of the magazine? We will cover these questions and more on Saturday November 17th from 2 – 4 PM when we bring in professional photographer and former magazine editor Patrick Kane to Cochrane, Alberta to give an oopoomoo Talk: Get Published! Insider Secrets to Shooting for and Working with Magazines. Get the scoop from a pro working both sides of the industry!
And speaking of magazines and being published, a little bragging is in order…to date Samantha and I have over 100 published magazine articles between us – yippee! The next issue of Outdoor Photography Canada which will hit the newstands in a month or so will have Samantha featured as the profiled photographer. Samantha and I will also have a feature article entitled: The Successful Photographer’s Two-Step: Getting Over Five Fatal Mis-Steps in Your Images and, finally, I will have my regular Advanced Shooter column this time with the topic Chasing the Icon: a Checklist for Failure?
If you head to newsstands or subscribe to Outdoor Photographer, you will see my image below from Goat Pond in Kananaskis gracing the December 2012 cover! If memory serves, I think this is my fifth cover for this magazine. Sam took a photo of Goat Pond with the same rock in the foreground but in a different direction and had the cover on the December 2008 issue of Pop Photo along with a 4-page spread in the same issue (see below)!
So…I didn’t mention these articles just to brag (honest). Another point that I wanted to bring up is that marketing your images and work these days is all about networking. If an editor has met you or spoken with you, that little bit of ‘real’ contact goes a long way. I bet — all other things being equal — when it comes to picking the next piece to publish, the editor will pick you over some ‘stranger’ (unless you really mess up your little meeting!). But don’t believe us! Your first chance to meet someone in the biz in person, is Pat Kane’s talk this Saturday in Cochrane. So if you’re AT ALL interested in getting your work published, remember that these kinds of chances don’t come by very often. And for those of you not in the area, watch for ways that you can meet key people in your region such as at writer’s lunches, trade shows, or speaking engagements.
To show you examples of a few of our articles that made it to publication, just click on the titles below.
Samantha and I have compiled a webpage listing most of the free articles that we have published on-line (but we are sure we still missed a few). The list of articles is huge and will continue to grow as we add more free content to benefit all who drop by the oopoomoo site. Feel free to share this page with any photo buddy you think might benefit from our ramblings. And thanks for supporting us over the past year!