Post work needed?

For most photography, I recommend keeping post work to a minimum. Quick crop, perhaps a small exposure adjustment: done. For some types of photography, like press photography, adjustments of any other type are forbidden.

But for some, they’re necessary. Even an iPhone product shot like this, of my Glycine watch, needed some TLC:

That’s one of my watches. Click on it to see the full version. And notice how perfect it looks. No dust at all, no smears or scratches, great contrast, and so on. All watches always look hyper-perfect in all ads.

And that’s because they’re hyper-edited. Things like focus stacking, and expensive editing.

In mine, above, I removed every speck of dust using the healing tool in Lightroom. Then I increased local clarity and decreased exposure on the watch face. I added a tad of sharpening and then noise reduction. And although small, the effects of these edits are important.

The good news: most of these edits are easily doable in Lightroom. For a commercial advert, you need Photoshop, but for everything else, Lightroom is fine.

 

Why manual?

Especially when shooting with flash, your camera (though not necessarily your flash) needs to be in manual mode. I’ll show you why.

This is Aurele Monfils in Timmins today, in auto mode:

And here is Aurele in manual mode:

In manual mode, I made a few adjustments. Namely:

  • Shorter shutter speed
  • Higher ISO
  • Flash TTL minus one stop (FEC, Flash Exposure Compensation).

After these, as you can see the dashboard is no longer unnatural looking, and you can actually see what little late afternoon sky blue there was.

 

Subscriptions are not the way

Apple, Adobe, but also makers of smaller apps like 1Password and many others are trying to go to a model where you pay monthly instead of a “buy a license once” model. Well, this “Software as a Service” (SaaS) model is not the way to go, and I’ll give you seven reasons why not.

First, and foremost: it is financially disadvantageous to the user. Under the SaaS model, you will pay much more than if you bought individual licenses, even if you pay for updates when needed. That $10-$20 a month for the rest of your natural life really adds up when you do the math.

Second: under the SaaS model you become a hostage to the software company. You basically have no choice but to keep paying or else. You pay even for months where you are not using the app at all (yes, that happens!)

Third: the companies no longer need to innovate. When you have captive users (see above point) who pay you on an ongoing basis anyway, why bother to write great software updates?

Fourth: licensing becomes complicated. See the article I wrote two days ago about Adobe Lightroom: with SaaS for all your apps, it becomes even more ominous. Shudder the thought.

Fifth: the software company thinks they are the app. In reality, they are one of maybe 25 apps you will have on your laptop or tablet. So now we’re talking about 25 times $20 per month – that’s enough to lease another car. Which you’ll need to do anyway, in order to get to your second job so you can pay said licensing fees.

Sixth: many people want to simply “own” what they buy, instead of “rent”. This is true in apps just like it is in music. It’s an emotional things and I completely understand.

Seventh: the licensing assumes a good Internet connection, and a stable location. That’s not always given. Travel can stop Internet connectivity cold. And recently, Netflix refused to reconnect me because, they said, “you live in Jamaica”. Huh? And when they make a mistake like that, you, the client, end up clenching your fists while listening to voice response systems that tell you to “listen closely as our options have changed”, and waiting forever due to “unusually high call volumes”.

Seeing trends can be disheartening. I see the societal trend to populism, antisemitism, xenophobia, and fascism. I see the trend to less autonomous car travel. And I see the trend to more SaaS. But like the others, this latter trend can be stopped too, if we all just say “no”.

 


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AdNObe?

I just bought a new MacBook Air, to replace my older, and failing, MacBook Pro. That in itself was a mixed blessing: Apple is doing everything to make life for its users miserable. No more connectors: no Thunderbolt, no Lightning, no HDMI, no SD card slot, no USB, even… a dongle is now needed for, well, everything. I cannot even use the new laptop to connect to a second screen or to a projector—which is what I do for a living!

So I have had to order two dongles. Which I will lose an hour after they arrive, I know myself. Also, no more magnetic power connector. New and different passwords required for, well, everything. And a lot more inconveniences. Apple is dead, l as far as I am concerned: this will probably be my last Apple product. SMH.

But this post is about a subject for photographers: Adobe. Lightroom, in particular. Lightroom licensing, even more specifically.

Lightroom version names are a mess. See my previous posts about this—just the search field. Confusing, and they change mid-stream.

But anyway, onward and upward.

I use the perpetual Lightroom 6 license. Because I do not want to give Adobe the power to shut down my business any time they desire; and I do not want to pay Adobe $10, $20, or whatever it is or will be, every single month for the rest of my life. So I use the perpetual license, not the “Creative Cloud” version for which you must pay every month.

This perpetual (“stand alone”) license is still available, but it is very, very difficult to find. Precisely because Adobe wants me to pay them money every single month for the rest of my life (as said, the “creative cloud” version), and if I don’t, they will shut down my business, because that is what shutting down Lightroom would do.

So anyway—I need to install LR 6. Fortunately, I kept an install file (a “DMG”). So I install that. Next step, I need to enter my serial number. But there is no way you can read that from an existing installation. So I contact Adobe support, and they send me the serial number.

Then the install fails because “no qualifying product is found”. It turns out I also need the serial number I was provided for a previous version of Lightroom—and I need to remember what v version that was. 5? 4? 3? 2?1? How the hell would I remember that? I have used (and paid for) every version since 1.0.

In the end, I figure this out with the support department. So now I enter two serial numbers and two version numbers. But then the install fails, for unknown reasons. So I reboot and re-install, once again entering both serial numbers. This time it works. Then I need to update the freshly installed version.

Finally, I am done. Whew. That took over an hour, for something that should have taken one minute. This is why I cannot wholeheartedly recommend Adobe products to my students. Life is too short to spend it Kowtowing to Adobe’s need to make infinite money.

Ny all means use Lightroom, it is excellent—but be careful, you will end up either spending too many hours, or spending too many dollars. And in the process, you will lose too much control.

Incidentally, talking about control: a new laptop, and so I have had to enter various passwords (mainly Apple passwords) over 90 times so far. All without being allowed to see what I type, so I get them, wrong half the time than I even remember them, which its rare.

When I was young, IT was about making life easier and about empowering end users. Now, it seems that all too often, it is the complete opposite. Oh, how the pendulum swings.

Phone tip

A phone tip today. Because iPhone.

So you want to take a clear picture of something, to post. Super clear, like this:

Then I have a few tips for you!

  1. Ensure you have plenty of light; preferably reflected light. Like at a window, but not in direct sunlight.
  2. Take the picture from some distance away rather than from very close up. Then crop. This results in an overall clearer image, because very close up images suffer from lack of depth of field, and are hard to focus accurately.
  3. Sharpen the image. I use ProCamera, a camera/edit app that costs a few dollars, but is worth every penny.

If you follow those three steps, your phone images will be better than ever!

 

Adobe again

I am helping a client re-install Lightroom 6 on a new laptop. NOT EASY! In fact Adobe is doing everything to make it well nigh impossible to not go to Lightroom Creative Cloud version.

Try to find LR 6 on the web site. And try to find a download file so you do not need to buy a new license when you buy a new laptop. I have been trying for a day. In vain, so far. In the past, you would download a trial version. Today, there no longer seems to be a trial version of Adobe 6.

And Lightroom perpetual license 6, as they call it, is not going to be updated, and it is slowly dying anyway. Look what Adobe’s web site says today, for example:

  • Due to an API behavior change introduced by Facebook, the Facebook publish service will no longer work in Lightroom 6 with a perpetual liscense [sic]. See this tech note for more details.

Also, the updater (from 6.13 to 6.14) shows this:

This sort of thing is what gives corporations a bad name. Awful corporate behaviour! Adobe, your commitment to killing LR6 an updating us al to a version where we pay every single month for the rest of our lives is noted. Your stock price reflects it; but there is such a thing as karma. As soon as there is an alternative, I expect a lot of people will go to it.

Meanwhile, I found an old .DMG I still had. I’ll use that. No thanks to Adobe.

 

 

iPhoning

Even when using an iPhone, you need to know stuff in order to take the best photos.

Like this one here (click to see it large):

Here’s Five Tips for this type of iPhone photo.

  1. Focus, if needed, by tapping the screen on the object you want to focus on.
  2. Adjust exposure as needed by dragging up or down on the screen at that point.
  3. For a macro shot like this, actually back off a little and crop the photo later. This is a key point.
  4. And most importantly, add plenty of light. This needs to be non-direct light. I prefer outside, but out of direct sunlight.
  5. Finally, adjust your crop and white balance, and anything else needed, afterward, by clicking on EDIT.

Enjoy!


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Flare.

Sometimes, you will experience lens flare, a lowering of contrast due to incoming bright light. Like here, from a recent event:

You can’t do much about this: it will happen especially with longer lenses and lenses prone to it.

What you can do is minimise it and its effects. Here’s how:

  1. Remove any protection filter that your lens has on it. These make flare worse.
  2. Ensure that the lens is totally clean.
  3. Use the lens hood your lens came with.
  4. In addition, shield your lens from incoming backlight with your hand if you can.
  5. Position yourself so as to minimise incoming backlight. As you can see in the photo, this is not always possible.
  6. Avoid overexposing.
  7. In Lightroom afterward, use “remove chromatic aberration” in the lens correction section of the Develop module.

If you follow those tips, you have done all you can!


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Coins and Uncle Bob

Photographing coins is notoriously tough. They are shiny and matte; the shiny bits can be dark or light depending on how you shoot them; they need to show coin detail without showing dust detail; and above all they are three-dimensional, not flat: to do it properly takes a lot of equipment and skill.

But you can do a lot with a little: an 80-20 rule says you can get 80% of perfect with 20% of the effort.

Let’s take a look. A macro lens and a ring flash gives me the following, for a 2015 proof quality coin.

First, the ring flash is held not quite right:

A better positioning gives me consistent results like this, for the obverse (front) side:

And here’s the reverse (“back”) side:

Not bad for five minutes work, no?

Remember that 80-20 rule. Often, you can do with “good enough”. Like when selling on eBay: perfection makes people suspect that you have simply copied a commercial picture, and hence the item pictured is not your item. So this is a good compromise: pretty good, little effort.

I used:

  1. Macro lens
  2. Ring flash (or in this case, Orbis ring flash adapter)
  3. Flash set to manual, 1/4 power
  4. White balance set to flash
  5. Camera set to 200 ISO, 1/125 sec, f/11

And Bob’s your uncle!

 

Thanks, Adobe.

My distaste of Adobe’s “CC” system continues unabated.

I now understand the confusion between me and some of my students.

  • What was “Lightroom CC” is now called “Lightroom Classic CC”.
  • “Lightroom CC” is now the name for the new dumbed down version with many essential missing functions (like HSL editing), a ‘simplified’ user interface, and an emphasis on cloud storage—intended for less sophisticated users who do not understand file storage.

So yes, if you ask “Are you sure you have Lightroom CC” the answer is pretty much meaningless, since a “yes” could mean you have the previous version of the full app, or the current version of the dummy app. Same name.

Thanks, Adobe. You have proven again why the CC system is dumb. The sooner we see Lightroom competitors, the better, and that is the good news: there will surely be serious competition soon.

Oh, one more thing: when you “upgrade” from stand-alone to Classic CC, you need to upgrade your catalog file. Which in my case looks like it’s going to take a number of hours. Yet another reason to dislike the whole CC thing.

Need another? Yes, recently Adobe sent out an update that ‘accidentally’ wiped out the old version of the app for perpetual license holders (I expect this has to do with re-using the name “Lightroom CC”, see above). Ouch.

Does Adobe realize this is business critical for many photographers? My feeling is that yes, alas, they do, which is why they can engage in this behaviour; behaviour that borders on the abusive.