Lightroom Workflow

I've been thinking about starting up my own YouTube channel for some time now.

Ideally, I'd like to use it to help out others who are just starting out with cataloging, editing and sharing their photos via Lightroom and Photoshop. For anyone starting out with a DSLR, and is new to RAW image processing, it can be very daunting. I can remember when I was in that very same position, somewhere circa 2008. 

I had just gotten my first serious digital camera, specifically, one that could shoot RAW images (Ironically, it was not a DSLR). I couldn't figure out how to get the images in camera to look like the images I had in my head.

It was all very confusing and frustrating to me, so I turned, as one does, to Google to find out how to do this editing "stuff" with Adobe Lightroom. Fortunately, there were a lot of really good resources to help me get started, and, over time, (and 3 versions later), I am now completely comfortable working within Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. More importantly, I can now transfer the "artistic vision" I have in my mind from the camera to the computer screen.

So, I feel it's time to "pay it forward" with the knowledge I have gained over the last 6 years, and start giving back to the community that helped me to get going.

Canon EOS 7D Mk II

Today, 15 September 2014, Canon officially announced the successor to the now 5 year old Canon EOS 7D. Unsurprisingly, Canon have named it's new model the 7D Mark II.

Image Credit: Cameraegg.org

On paper it looks like a terrific camera:-

  • 20MP Dual-Pixel AF CMOS Sensor
  • 10 fps continuous shooting with autofocus
  • 65 all cross-type autofocus sensor
  • 150,000 RGB pixel metering sensor
  • Dual Digic 6 processors
  • Enhanced environmental sealing
  • Compact Flash (UDMA) and SD (UHS-I) slots
  • USB 3.0
  • Built-in GPS
  • Larger-capacity LP-E6N battery
  • Shutter speeds up to 1/8000th seconds
  • Shutter rated to 200,000 cycles (vs 150,000 on 7D)

DPreview have produced a very good first impressions review of it.

As an upgrade to the Canon EOS 7D, it's a very capable camera. The highlights for me would be the dual DIGIC 6 Image Processors, the customisable (intelligent) viewfinder, and the dual card slots. It's clearly aimed at enthusiast sports and wildlife photographers (who else shoots at 10 fps?), and thats OK. The GPS and intervalometer are very nice touches, but the lack of WIFI is a big omission in my opinion. 

Is it enough to convince me to drop my original 7D in favour of a 7D Mk II? Sadly, probably not. Whilst it's utterly jam packed with modern, useful features, it just doesn't have what I am looking for in my next camera. At the moment, the only affordable Canon camera with the feature set I require, is the Canon EOS 6D

 

 

Panoramic Sunrise

This may, or may not, be the last photo I post of this mountain, but this is actually my first attempt at a panoramic shot. Here's how I processed it.

Sunrise on Buachaille Etive Mor & Glen Etive | August | 2014

The final shot (above) is made up of three individual frames which have been stitched together in Adobe Photoshop. I took the three base exposures and processed them in Adobe Lightroom first, so that I could get some basic things (Namely - exposure, WB and lens correction) standardised across all three frames. In doing so, I knew that this would greatly improved the final, stitched panorama result. 

So, still within Adobe Lightroom, I selected all three of my standardised frames and exported them to Photoshop to be merged as a panorama using the "Photo, Edit It, Merge to Panorama in Photoshop" menu option. Once opened up within Photoshop, I selected the default (auto) option, and let Photoshop do it's thing.

Once the Merge to Panorama process was completed, I then applied the Adaptive Wide Angle filter. This dramatically fixed the distortion on the image, and gave me what you see above, after cropping the image down. After that, it was back in to Lightroom to do some further processing, ultimately giving me what you see at the top of this post. 

I'll cover the processing techniques that I use in future posts, but for now please enjoy the panoramic sunrise on Buachaille Etive Mor and Glen Etive.

Lightroom Tips - Backup Your Presets

Preset Folder.png

Out of the box, Adobe Lightroom has a very useful preset system.

However, that usefulness is promoted to ‘almost invaluable’ status when you create your own presets, or make use of the many 3rd party presets that are available.

If you do make use of your own, or any 3rd party presets, then it’s important that you know where they are stored within your computer, so that you can back them up. Any non-Adobe presets (i.e., your own and any 3rd party ones) aren’t backed up by default, so you should ensure that you have a way of recovering them, should disaster strike, or if you want to share them between multiple computers.

Finding where your presets are stored

As far as I am aware, there are two locations where you can store your non-Adobe presets:-

  • With your Lightroom catalog
  • In a folder of your choosing

Personally, I use the second option - in a folder of my own choice. I do this for two reasons:-

  1. I prefer to know exactly where my presets are stored, so that I can easily find them, copy them and store them in a safe location.
  2. I create multiple catalogs within Lightroom. By choosing where I store my Lightroom user and 3rd party presets, I can use them within multiple catalogs without having to re-import them.

To find where your presets are stored, go to Lightroom, then Preferences (cmd+, in OS X), or Edit, then Preferences (Ctrl+, on Windows). Click on the presets tab

Once there, click on the "Show Lightroom Presets Folder" button. This will open up a window with the location of where your presets are stored. Once you have this location, it's just a simple matter of making a copy of this folder, and any subfolders contained within it, and then storing them in a shared location. It's that easy :-)

Developing a unique style

Musicians have their own unique way of interpreting a lick, a phrase, or a passage of music. In doing so, they define who they are stylistically. Photographers evolve the same way.

Sunrise | Glen Etive | August 2014

I'm still very much in the process of trying to define my photographic style. I won't lie to you, the cinema is a huge influence on me. The application of cinematic colour grading and 16:9 crop ratios is where I seem to be headed at the moment, as you can tell from the above photograph.

Personally, I don't see this as being negative. During the course of learning about photography, a photographer is exposed to many, and often diverse, influences. This is a very good thing!

I studied the works of many famous, and not so famous, photographers whilst learning how to develop my own photographic skills. Also, being a huge movie fan, I studied the work of many famous Directors in order to get my head around certain lighting and colour grading techniques. I read books, magazines, newspapers, blogs, you name it! During all of this time I was constantly ingesting as much as I could about photography, composition, lighting, etc.

Studying the work of others really helps to build your technique, but, more importantly, it helps you to develop your own style. However, copying another photographer's work verbatim won't help you develop your own style. Borrowing elements from their work, (Lighting, camera angles, composition, etc.), will influence your work in a very subtle way, and will steer you towards the creation of your own unique style.

So, where am I going with this pun laden post?

I guess my point here is that you can't create a unique style of photography overnight. It takes time, effort and the influence of others. Namely, those you admire, and those who you aspire to be like. Once you have figured this out, borrow, don't copy, and just let your own style emerge.

Bad Light?

For me, natural light comes in two flavours: good and bad.

Trotternish | Isle of Skye | May 2013

Whilst it may seem a tad simplistic an approach, separating light in to good and bad works well for me when photographing subjects, both indoors and out. For the purposes of discussion, within this article I'm referring to good and bad natural light, and not light from an artificial source such as a strobe or flash. That's a whole other discussion!

So let me break down my take on good and bad natural light:-

Good light is usually found at the extremes of the day - either first thing in the morning, or last thing in the evening. What makes this light so good, is the warmth, tonality and depth that it brings to your images. It often brings out the best in your subject, whatever it may be, when you are photographing in good light. 

Bad light, on the other hand, can be quite a challenge to work with when photographing your chosen subject. Bad, or contrasty™ light, is usually found in the middle of the day, when the sun is directly overhead. It's the type of light that exhibits none of the qualities of good light, and gives you stark contrasts between light and shade.

If you are photographing a person in bad light, then you can over power it with a fill source. Strobes, hot shoe flashes, and reflectors are excellent fill sources and light shaping tools that can help you over power bad light, and create a much more pleasant look.

But what about landscapes? You can't over power bad light with a flash or reflector when you are photographing a mountain ridge or seascape? When faced with bad light, I would normally try and work out my options for shooting in the best location, and then come back later in the day, or early the following morning to get some good light. 

However, that isn't always practical, and sometimes you just have to run with what you have, especially if you are only in that location for that precise moment in time. So, do you look at the view and go "Nah, the light is shit, I'm not going to waste my time" or do you go "I'm here anyway, let's see what happens?" 

I think you can figure out what choice I would make when faced with bad light :-)

Kirstie

This is my dear friend Kirstie.

Kirstie is a former Commonwealth (UK) athlete who competed as a weightlifter. She doesn't compete any more, but she still keeps in great shape.

Recently, I managed to convince her to pose for me, so that she could have a record of just how amazing she looks!

I'll post one or two more of her photoshoot very soon.

This is my dear friend Kirstie. Kirstie is a former Commonwealth (UK) weightlifter. She doesn't compete any more, but she still keeps in great shape. Recently, I managed to convince her to pose for me, so that she could have a record of just how amazing she looks!

Life with the MacBook Pro

I love my 13" MacBook Pro. There, I said it :-)

Seriously, this is possibly the best laptop I have ever owned/used. It ticks many boxes for me: It's very light, extremely portable, excellent battery life, and a gorgeous retina display. 

The MacBook will be pretty much exclusively used for photography work, so that means Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop CC and some 3rd party plugins will be the main apps that I use. With that in mind, I went for the 2.6Ghz Core i5 CPU, 16Gb of RAM, and a 256Gb SSD. Whilst it's not as powerful as my Windows based desktop PC, (Core i5-4670K & 32Gb of DDR3 RAM), it's no slouch! 

Processing RAW files in LR & PS is a breeze with no noticeable lag when editing. It multi tasks very well, as you would expect, running several apps (Spotify, Chrome, Evernote, are loaded ALL of the time) in the background. It pretty much zips along nicely with anything and everything I throw at it.

OS X is pretty much living up to my expectations too. It's very slick, responsive, and, for the most part, intuitive. I'm struggling with some of the keyboard shortcuts in OS X, as I keep looking to use the Windows key, but I'm sure I'll get used to them soon enough. 

More later ...

The Hackintosh Project - Update 15/02/14

Further to my previous post about this project, events have taken an interesting turn.

After discussing my intentions to create a Hackintosh PC with friends who already own Macs, I was informed that it would be an arduous, thankless task, and not one for the feint of heart. I was also advised to "just go get a Mac and be done with it" from several friends too, in order to save myself the pain of attempting the Hackintosh build.

Well, being the stubborn bugger that I am, this made me even more determined to try a Hackintosh build. In fact, I am working of getting OS X 10.6.3 (Snow Leopard) installed and running within a VirtualBox VM on a Windows 7 host as I type this blog post. Once I get a stable, virtualised installation of OS X completed, I'll post about how I did it later on.

Surprisingly, all of the advice from friends did make me go back to the Apple store to see if I could afford to get myself a Mac device. After all, I have been looking for a new laptop for photography usage for some time now. Revisiting the Apple UK online store turned out to be one of my better ideas, albeit a slightly expensive one!

You see, Apple's online store is doing a promotion in the UK at the moment, based around their financing. The bottom line is that they are offering 0% APR over 10 months on "qualifying" purchases, which just happened to include the 13" retina Macbook Pro (rMBP) range of laptops.

So, to cut a long story short, my new 13" rMBP arrives next week, and I am giddy with excitement.

However, until it arrives, I will push forward on my adventures within Hackintosh land, and continue to work on the virtualisation of OS X within VirtualBox. 

The Hackintosh Project

Mac_Logo_Begins_by_Chico47.jpg

As a professional IT geek of some 26 years, (and counting), it may come as a surprise, to some, that in all that time I have never once laid hands on a Mac OS PC!

The bulk of my professional IT career has been spent in the company of DOS, OS/2, Windows, Unix, and briefly, Linux. In that order. Professionally, Mac OS devices have crossed my path on occasion, but those occasions have been extremely rare. 

And as for home computing, well Windows has always ruled the roost.

However, that may be about to change ...

History

I've always been a fan of building my own PC kit for home use. I've been building PC systems since the heady days of the 80486 CPU. 

As processor technology progressed in to the Pentium era and beyond, the one thing that remained consistent throughout all of my home brew PC builds was the operating system (OS). Specifically, the OS was always a variant of Microsoft Windows. That trend remains through to the present day. The OS of choice for my current collection of home PC systems is Windows 7 x64. 

My home PCs are used for a variety of things, but primarily, I use them for my photography workflow. I use several Adobe products to help me with this, along with some other 3rd party tools. I also use my PCs for gaming, but only when I'm not working on photographs :-)

Now, to be fair to Microsoft, and, in my humble opinion, Windows 7 is the most stable Windows OS I have ever used. I can honestly say that I've never experienced any serious issues with it, nor have I ever had to fight with it in order for it to function for me. It just works.

So why am I considering a change of OS away from Windows?

Irreparable Damage?

The next logical progression, in terms of Windows operating systems, would be to migrate to Windows 8, or more specifically, Windows 8.1.

Sadly, to date my experiences with Windows 8 haven't been very positive. Most of my gripes are centred around the hideous, (Sorry, I do think it's pretty awful), Metro UI.

I suspect that if you are running Windows 8 on a touch screen enabled device, then the Metro UI experience is a whole lot better. Unfortunately, any time I have experienced the Metro UI, it has been on a regular PC with no touch screen interface, which has made navigation around the OS a bit of a nightmare quite frankly. The only way I have found to bypass the Metro UI, and to restore the Start button interface, has been to install a 3rd party utility. 

Now, I know that a lot of the issues that I have experienced with the Metro UI are addressed in Windows 8.1. Certainly, adding the start button back in as an option is a major step in the right direction. However, for me the damage has already been done. The initial impressions formed from the previous interactions with the Metro UI, I feel, cannot be undone. 

Which way next?

So, what to do?

I had looked at perhaps going down the Linux route. However, given that I am somewhat dependant upon Adobe products to assist me with my photography workflow, I had to discount Linux as an option. (Yes, I know GIMP is a great alternative to Photoshop, but 80% of my workflow is based around Lightroom.)

OSX seemed to be the next logical alternative. Everything I use within my photography workflow is available within OSX. However, when looking at alternative PC solutions to facilitate my access to OSX, I soon discovered that my budget would be hit very hard, given the cost of the hardware I had chosen to replace my hand cranked, Windows PC. You have to run OSX on Apple hardware, as you can't buy a copy of OSX and install it on your PC.

Or so I thought.

Enter the Hackintosh

After searching for alternative ways to get access to OSX, I discovered Hackintosh. This interesting concept of hacking your existing PC hardware in order to run Mac OSX intrigued me greatly.

Initially, I was somewhat sceptical about doing this to one of my own PCs, as there is a very small risk of damaging your PC hardware. However, the more I researched and read about hacking OSX to run on "regular" PC hardware, the more I seemed to understand the processes involved, which, in turn, made me love the idea of trying it.

Now that I have a good grasp of what's involved, and that I already have pretty decent hardware to build upon, I will be starting on the journey towards creating my own Hackintosh PC.

This makes my inner geek sqee with delight at the prospect!

The Road Ahead

I should point out that I actually, and genuinely, do not have any objection to purchasing a Mac/Macbook. From what I understand, Apple's hardware is very well manufactured, and offers great value for money/return on initial investment. I suspect that at some point in my future, I will take the plunge and purchase a retina Macbook Pro to give me some scope for mobility within my photography workflow. 

However, I still want to try a Hackintosh build. With that in mind, I will endeavour to keep this blog updated with my progress, and, undoubtedly, my failures. It will be an interesting challenge!

Portrait - Rob Worrincy

Workshop portrait of Rob Worrincy.

This is a portrait shot of Halifax RFC winger Rob Worrincy. Rob very kindly modelled at a workshop run by the Über talented Glyn Dewis, way back in September 2013.

The workshop was 2 days of fun learning about lighting, how to pose models, and, most importantly, how to post process the RAW images in Adobe Lightroom & Photoshop. 

Glyn is a superb teacher, and on the 2nd day of our workshop our class processed an image similar to the one you see above. I hadn't looked at the RAW image I had shot of Rob for months, and recently I figured that it was time to see if I could remember what I learned from Glyn that day. 

I may not be in the same league as Glyn, but I am pretty pleased with the results you see above. If anything, it's a testament to how brilliant a teacher Glyn is! All processing was done in Lightroom & Photoshop, with a sprinkle of NIK Silver Efex Pro 2.


Talking of Epicness ...

Following on from Friday afternoon's epicness post, I started thinking about where & when I discovered that I loved music of the "Epic" genre. 

I suspect that it started "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away ..." , (Roughly when I was about 10 years old!), and has been with me ever since. 1977, it seems, was a hugely influential year in my life!

Admittedly,  throughout my adolescence I was a blues/rock/metal head, which drove me to learn the ways of the guitar, but the love of the OST and orchestral compositions always stayed with me.

Fast forward to the present day, and I now find myself very immersed within the "Epic" genre of music. There is an abundance of excellence to be found within this musical space, championed, I feel, by the magnificent creation from Thomas Bergersen & Nick Phoenix, known as Two Steps from Hell

Compositions from these chaps, and other sublime composers, are always on extreme heavy rotation. I have taken the liberty of sharing one of my favourite Spotify playlists, which includes some of the best (IMHO) epic music to be had at the moment.

Click on the play icon of any track on the left, and enjoy!