dinsdag 1 november 2016

Blog 15: The Orton Effect

The Orton effect

One of the questions I get asked very often is; how come some of your photographs have such a dreamy look to them? Well, I am always searching for the magic that was so apparent when I was a little kid that sometimes I want my photographs to reflect that magic. To do this, I use something called the Orton effect. The Orton effect gives the illusion of soft focus while retaining most of the detail and sharpness of the photograph. Creating the Orton effect is very easy and it can be applied to either landscape- and portrait photographs. In landscape photography, it will create bloom lighting, make light softer and colors more intense. In portrait photography it will make the skin and the light softer. I will show you an example for each. 

Orton in landscape photography

Let’s create a dreamy landscape! For this example I have chosen a photograph that I took of a young boy that was running into the sea.
Begin by opening the photograph.

Make your adjustments in Camera Raw as you see fit. For this example, I have upped the light temperature to approximately 5600K.

 I want to create that dreamy effect in this photograph. Press CTRL+J to duplicate the background layer.

If  done right, you will see layer 1 appear, meaning you now have two of the same photographs on top of each other. The next step is applying a Gaussian blur to the top layer. To do this, make sure you have the top layer selected.

Go to Filter à Blur à Gaussian blur.

In  the popup window, select how strong you want the effect to be. You will have to try different settings until you reach the effect you want. In this example I have set the blur to 30 pixels (I have done this one before so I know what is best. It is kind of like cheating J).

You will now have a very blurry photograph! The next step is to set the screen mode to “soft light”.

The result varies on the blur you have added.

In  this case, I have just the right amount of contrast, colour and bloom lighting. If your photograph is too dark or too saturated, you can use the opacity slider to adjust the top layer.

Orton in portrait photography

Now we know how Orton effect works, we can apply it in different fields of photography. I use it a lot on portrait photographs as well. When you apply the Orton effect to a portrait, your will soften the skin and the lighting on the model. The process is the same, with the example that you might want to mask out the effect on the eyes and the hair.
As always, start by opening your photograph. 

Next, follow the instructions for creating the Orton effect. Press Ctrl+J to  duplicate the photograph.

With the top layer selected, go to FilteràBluràGaussian Blur

In  this example, the gaussian blur is set to 20 pixels.

Now change the screen mode to “soft light”.

Oh  my, what happened there? The photograph has way to much contrast and saturation.

To  adjust this, you can either go to “New Layer” and select “Vibrance”, or you can adjust the Opacity of the blurred layer (that is what I mostly do!).

In  this example, the opacity is set to 50%, making her skin and the light softer. Make some further adjustments as you see fit. In this case, I did lower the vibrancy a bit.

In summary:
-          Open the photograph
-          Duplicate the background by pressing ctrl+j
-          Select FilteràBlurà Gaussian Blur
-          Set desired amount of pixels
-          Press OK
-          Select screen mode “soft light”
-          Set opacity
-          Further adjustments

Well there you have one of the Photoshop tricks I use often. I hope you enjoy trying it for yourself! Until next time!

woensdag 26 oktober 2016

Blog 14: Get rid of the bags under your models eyes

Bags under your eyes might be one of the most unflattering things in portrait photography. Everybody has them, caused by stress sleeplessness or worrying. Fortunately for us, it is quite easy to get rid of them, without having to smear a thick layer of makeup on our models, using Photoshop! Let me tell you how.

As usual, we start by opening the photograph. To do this, click on File à Open and then select the photograph you want to process.

Use the RAW converter to make adjustments to your photograph the way you want to. Remember that processing done by Photoshop is non-destructive. If you feel like you made a mistake, just experiment with the settings until you have the photograph you want.

Press the “Open image” button. You can now use the photograph for further processing. Select the magnifying glass and zoom in to approximately 50%. Make sure you have a good view of your subjects eyes. In this example, magnification is set to 50%.

Duplicate this layer by pressing CTRL+J. On the right side of the screen, you can now see Background layer and Layer 1. We are going to do our processing on Layer 1. Make sure that you have selected Layer 1 and that your screen mode is set to “Normal”.

Now we have a clear view of our models face and a layer for processing, it is time to begin to get rid of the bags! Select the “Patch” tool”. This tool is hidden under the “spot healing brush”. Right-click on the spot healing brush and select the patch tool.

Now use the patch tool to select the bags of the model. The patch tool works just like the lasso tool. It will let you select shapes freely.

If you did it right, there will now be a dotted line around whatever you have selected. While keeping the left mouse button pressed, drag the selection to a part of the skin that is smooth. In most cases, this will be right underneath the eyebags.

If you release your left mouse button, Photoshop will give the bags the same smooth structure as the skin that you have selected while keeping lighting and colour intact. Don’t forget that people have two eyes! You have to do the other eye as well. 

We are almost done! It might be so that your model now looks like a plastic doll or the processing looks fake. This is because no person has a perfect smooth skin under her/his eyes.  

To remedy this, you can adjust the opacity of the layer we have just processed. Lower the opacity to return some of the bags and make the skin look a little more natural.


                                Before                                     After


-          - Open the photograph
-          - Make your adjustments in RAW converter
-          - Zoom in to about 50%
-          - Duplicate the background layer CTRL+J
-          - Select the patch tool
-          - Make a selection of the eyebags
-          - Drag the selection to smooth skin
-          - Do the same for the second eye
-          - Adjust opacity to make it a bit more real
-          - Further process the photograph to your liking.

dinsdag 19 januari 2016

Blog 13: The wonderful world of filter systems


As a (landscape)photographer you will encounter them sooner or later: filters. Get up early in the morning, put some water in the machine, add a filter and some coffee.. Sorry, wrong kind of filter. Of course, this blog is not about coffee filters, this blog is about the filters you can use to improve your photographs. Too often you will encounter a scene where the contrast between the sky and the ground is too great to get a nicely exposed photograph (think about a sunset for example), the colours and the blue sky are not what they are cracked up to be or there is too much light to create that beautiful soft cloudy sky by using a slower shutter speed. Luckily for us, there are people that came up with a solution to these, and other, problems. These people worked around these problems by adding a piece of glass in front of their lenses. These pieces of glass is what we call filters. These filters can be used to solve great differences in contrast (gradient filter), revive colours and blue skies (polarizing filters) or help you use those slower shutter speeds in broad daylight (ND filters). These filters exist in all different forms, shapes, sizes and price categories, but they can be divided into two subcategories: screw in filters and system filters.  
Figure 1: Screw in filter (UV)

A screw in filter can be, as the name suggest, screwed on the front of a lens. This is also the greatest advantage of this system. You do not need a special adapter and filter holder to use the filter. Simply take it out of your bag and screw it on your filter. A great disadvantage is that it is a set size. Some lenses are 77mm in diameter, others 63 mm for example. This means that, to use a UV filter on both lenses, you actually have to buy two. Some filters cost a small fortune (you get what you pay for), so buying two is expensive! Another disadvantage is that you are less versatile using these filters. As an example, look at figure number 2. This figure depicts a gradient filter that darkens the bright sky while leaving the ground untouched. If you were to use a screw in gradient filter, you horizon should always be in the middle of your photograph. A system filter (as in figure 2), can be adjusted so that the horizon of the gradient is on 1/3rd of the photograph, making it more versatile. Also, if you change to a lens with a different filter size, you only have to buy a new adapter ring.  
System filters (or filter systems) need special equipment to work. First you need an adapter ring, which is screwed onto the lens. Then you need a filter holder to keep everything in place, and last but not least, you need a filter (as the one seen in figure 2).
Figure 2: Haida filter system (gradient)

Total cost: 255 euros (for one filter). A screw in filter will cost about 90 euros. So why then, do professional photographers opt to use these expensive filters and not just use the screw in filters?
I have asked myself the same question. 

Now, thanks to www.cameraland.nl and www.photosbenelux.nl, I can experience first had what it is like using these filter systems, what possibilities they bring and if and why you should invest in them. Cameraland has asked me to test a new filter system made by Haida. Haida claims to have developed an affordable filter line up that delivers top of the line quality, while leaving the photo quality untouched. I am excited to test these filters!

Christmas came early this year.

In collaboration with Cameraland.nl, it was decided that I will be testing and reviewing some filters. Underneath the Christmas tree there was a special package with my name on it! Obviously I could not wait till Christmas day and decided to unwrap my present.

Figure 3: Unwrapping the present

This present contained the following filters from Haida: a 77mm adapter ring, a 100mm filter holder, a 3 stops ND filter, a 10 stops ND filter and a circular polarising filter.

Figure 4: Christmas came early this year

The first thing I noticed is how much well these filters are packed using special casings for all of them. All filters come with a special protective casing. There was even a special casing that allows you to carry the adapter ring, filter holder and one of the ND filters!

Figure 5: filters and their casings

After opening everything, I faced my first challenge. How do I use these filters? I am used to using screw in filters, but here I was, sitting in my studio with an adapter ring, filter holder and some filters. So I set back and took some time to think!

 Before long, I had the system figured out (go me, it was very easy) and a filter on my lens. During the coming weeks I will test the different filters and tell you what I think. You can follow my journey through the wonderful world of filter systems on www.facebook.com/photojitsu.nl or www.photojitsu.nl/haida.html!  

dinsdag 5 mei 2015

Blog 12: RAW vs JPEG

Blog 12: RAW vs JPEG

RAW and JPEG. Every photographer will have to deal with these file types at some point. But what do they mean, and how do they differ? In this blog, I want to tell you about JPEG and RAW and which one to use when.

The very moment a digital camera takes a photograph, all kinds of processes are activated inside the camera. Every digital camera has a processor (much like those found in computers) that processes your photograph before putting it out on your screen. JPEG files get a lot of processing done by the camera, while RAW files do not. Figure 1 depicts this.  

Figure 1: Sensordata to JPEG or RAW
As can be seen in figure 1, there are quite a few processes between sensor data and the JPEG image file output. The more serious photographers and enthusiastics alike want to manually control these processes in the post process workflow. The problem with JPEG is that you can’t. Settings like saturation, contrast, white balance, noise reduction etc. are all stored and locked inside the JPEG image file. To make matter worse, the image quality of JPEG files is reduced by compression, to minimize file size. The camera uses the build in photo editing software to do this. This software can be tweaked in the camera menu, as shown in figure 2 and 3.  
Figure 2: In-camera settings for JPEG files

Figure 3

 The settings used for JPEG compression are often stored in so called picture styles (figure 3). These picture styles have preprogrammed settings that can be used for several situations. For example, the portrait style will focus on sharpness, the landscape style even more so. These settings can of course be changed to suit your preferences. The monochrome style will make all you JPEG files black and white. As said before, these settings cannot be changed afterwards. A black and white JPEG will always remain black and white.

The RAW file is the complete opposite of the JPEG file format. As can be seen in figure 1, RAW files do not receive any processing in-camera whatsoever. The picture styles have no influence on the RAW file whatsoever. The RAW file only contains raw sensor data. Because the file does not get any processing done, it might look less good then the JPEG when viewed on a computer screen. Why then, would we want to use RAW instead of JPEG? Because a RAW file, containing loads more information than the JPEG, allows us to post process the images in specialized software such as Adobe Photoshop. 

With a RAW file, it is possible to alter white balance, saturation, contrast, noise reduction and many more settings after the photograph has been taken. To illustrate this, I want to use an example of a wedding I shot a few weeks ago. Figure 4 depicts what happens when you open a JPEG file in a program like Photoshop.

Figure 4: JPEG opened in Photoshop CC

As can be seen in figure 4, Photoshop will give me no options whatsoever to alter the settings of my photograph before turning it into an image file. When I made this photograph, I had my camera set to the monochrome picture style, because the bride to be asked me to shoot the make-up and hair session in black and white. Luckily for me, I had my camera set to RAW+JPEG (makes the camera record both).
Figure 5: Same photograph, RAW file

Figure 5 depicts the same photograph, but this time I have opened the RAW file instead of the JPEG.
As can be seen in figure 5, all settings (including black and white), that were locked inside the JPEG, are available for post processing before the data is made into an image file. The sliders on the right side of the photograph visualize settings like white balance, saturation etc. Because of this, I can manually alter these settings, giving me more control over what happens to my photograph!

File size and workflow
The fact that a RAW file contains more data than a JPEG, can also be seen when comparing file size. A JPEG from a 20 MP camera will approximately be 10 MB. A RAW file of the same camera will amount to about 25MB. This means that your memory card will be able to contain less photographs when shooting in RAW. This doubles if you set your camera to RAW+JPEG.

The big question that hunts photographers around the world is this: Do I use RAW or JPEG? Most photographers curse the use of JPEG, because of the loss of control (little control freaks, the lot of us). Still, it can be wise to use JPEG instead of RAW, mainly if you are, for example, in a hurry to post photographs online (think sport events). A great advantage of JPEG is that 99% of the devices we use in daily life (like laptops, smartphones and tablets), are able to open and show JPEG files. If you want to use RAW files, you need a fast computer and special software. Also, because of the file size, it is far easier to share JPEG files then it is to share RAW files. I think it is impossible to answer the question of whether you should use JPEG or RAW. The bottom line, in my opinion, is this:  are you going to edit your photographs using special software and do you not want to carry around extra memory cards? If the answer is no, or if you are in a hurry, use JPEG. If you want the extra control in post processing and want to get the maximum out of your photographs, use RAW.

Or do what I do! I set my camera to RAW+JPEG S, letting my camera record both the RAW file and a low quality JPEG (can be seen in figure 6) and just carry around a few extra memory cards.

Figure 6: RAW+JPEG (low quality)

This way, selecting photographs will be a lot easier and no data can ever be lost. I use the low quality JPEGs to search for editable photographs that I find worthy of putting some time in. It is faster to scroll through JPEG files of 2 MB than to open all the RAW files (25MB a piece). If I find a photograph that is good enough to edit, I open the RAW file and use Photoshop to post process my image.

That is all for this blog! I hope you have all learned something from this post. There are more blog posts on my website http://photojitsu.nl/blogpost.html.  To follow me and my work, you can “like” my Facebook page www.facebook.com/photojitsu or follow me on Twitter @photojitsu_nl .
Until next time!

vrijdag 27 februari 2015

Blog 11: What are megapixels and why should I care?

The past decade, all camera manufacturers have been waging what we photographers call a “megapixel war”. One week, a brand would release a 10 megapixel camera, the next week a competitor would release a camera with 15 megapixels. The term “megapixel”, also revered to as MP, has become somewhat of an sales pitch in itself. But what is a megapixel and why should you care? Is more megapixels always better? What are the pros and cons of having more megapixels? In this blog, I will try to answer these questions.

What are megapixels?

A pixel is a light sensitive cell that resides on a sensor (figure 1). The amount of MP is a term for the amount of pixels on a sensor. If a sensor contains one MP, it holds 1.000.000 pixels! That means that a sensor with 10 MP holds 10 million pixels. 

Figure 1: coloured pixels on a sensor

The amount of pixels on a digital sensor is comparable to the resolution of a computer screen. Nowadays, a resolution of 1280x1024  or higher is most common. This means that the computer screen has 1280 pixels aligned horizontally and 1024 pixels vertically. This amounts to approximately 1.3 megapixels. Digital sensors now have a much higher resolution than that. For instance, a 20 MP sensor has a resolution of 5184x3456. This means that it contains 5184 pixels horizontally and 3456 pixels vertically and a grand total of 20.000.000 pixels! But what are the advantages of having that many pixels on a sensor? Don’t “they” always say that the amount of MP on the sensor don’t matter? Let’s see if that is true.

Advantages of high MP camera’s

There are two major advantages when it comes to having a lot of MP. The first, and foremost, is the fact that a high amount of  megapixels means more data being collected. This results in more details in the photograph. Figure 2 depicts this. Keep in mind that every block is one megapixel, thus contains 1.000.000 pixels.

Figure 2: amount of pixels on a sensor. More pixels means more details captured.

This effect is most obvious when taking photographs of a scene with a lot of small details. For instance, grass in a landscape or cloth during a portrait shoot. When you look at figure 3, which is the same as figure 2 but with added grass, you will see what I mean by this. The 8 MP sensor has just 2 vertical MP to capture the entire height of the grass, while the 48 MP sensor has 6. This simply means that the 48 MP sensor will capture 3 times as much details in the vertical axis than the 8 MP. In photography, this is often called  “resolving power”. In other words: will you see very blade of grass as an individual object, or does it become a green blur?

Figuur 3: More datapoints (pixels) means more details

The second great advantage has to do with printing. More megapixels will allow you to print your work on bigger formats without the loss of quality. Of course, you don’t need 20 MP to print photographs of 10x15cm. However, if you want to print a poster of let’s say 160x240 cm, you will need all the pixels you can get. This all has to do with something we call PPI, or Pixels Per Inch. The higher the PPI, the sharper the prints will be.

Now, a rule of thumb, depending on who you ask, is that the minimum PPI must always be 150. Using this fact we can set up a formula to calculate the maximum enlargement of the digital photograph.

The formula reads:

This means, for a photograph with a 10 MP resolution (3648x2736 pixels), that the maximum enlargement is 3648/150 = 24,32 inch, approximately 60 cm in length. The maximum width then is 2736/150 = 18 inch, approximately 45cm. So the maximum magnification of a 10MP photograph is approximately 60x45cm. If you want to print larger than that, you will have to lower the PPI and thus get a less sharp image. It is kind of hard to find a digital camera with less than 18 megapixels nowadays so, if your are not planning on making prints bigger than 60x45 cm, you don’t really need to worry about high megapixel count. However, if you are planning on making billboards, wallpaper, life size posters of yourself (or a foxy model), you might want to consider getting a camera with more megapixels. For comparison, here is the same size photograph, the left one is 300 PPI, the right one 50 PPI.

Figure 4: PPI comparison

Disadvantages to high megapixel count

Of course, as with everything, there are some disadvantages when it comes to having a lot of megapixels on your sensor. Perhaps the biggest con is that of image noise. Image noise is created by pixels that start “leaking” light on the neighbouring pixels because they are full. This is comparable to an ice cube tray. If you have 8 (or 12 as in this example) slots in this tray, you can fit in a decent amount of water in them before the slots start leaking into others.

Figure 5: more pixels on the same surface means smaller pixels

However, change the amount of slots to 48, as in figure 2, but keep the sensor size the same, and the pixels will have to be much smaller. Smaller pixels leak light faster, thus creating more image noise. If you raise the ISO on you camera, the pixels will be more sensitive to light and thus be “full” quicker.

Figure 6: image noise at high ISO settings

Of course this is not a problem when shooting landscapes. That is, if you brought a tripod as all landscape photographers should, or if you shoot in a studio where you can cater the light to your needs. It will become a problem for a street- or wedding photographer that have to up their ISO values indoors or during dusk, to keep a fast shutter speed. So the amount of megapixels that are useful to you, depends on what you want to do. High megapixel cameras are more suited for landscape and studio photographers, while lower MP cameras (creating less noise) are more suited for street-, wildlife- and wedding photographers.

A second disadvantage of a high megapixel count is that lens flaws become more obvious. All lenses contain minor flaws that cause aberration( figure 7), deforming, vignetting etc.

Figure 7: lens flaw: chromatic aberration

Lenses that use fluorite glass have less problems with lens flaws but are more expensive. It is safe to say that all flaws in a lens subtract from overall image quality. Therefore, if you want to use a camera with a high megapixel count, you should also buy adequate lenses (read: the more expensive ones).
That being said, I sometimes see people buy a very expensive camera body. Because the body is so expensive, they don’t have enough money for proper glass, so they buy a cheap lens with it. This is a very common mistake. The cheap lens will not make the most out of the resolution your expensive body will offer. Instead, do the opposite. Buy a more expensive lens with a less expensive body and your photographs will contain more detail, more contrast and more colour! Of course, if you want the best, go for a high megapixel camera (if you shoot studio or landscape) AND get an expensive lens.

One last disadvantage of a high MP count is the file size. A RAW file made with a 20 MP camera is approximately 25 MB. If you have a 40 MP camera, it will quickly shoot up to about 50MB per photograph. This means you need bigger memory cards, a faster PC and more hard drive space. Also, because of the higher resolution, you have to spent more time processing the images because you will see every little flaw in that models skin, every crooked hair, every speck of dust..

So, In summary:
-         - The amount of megapixels that is USEFUL for you, depends on what you want to shoot
-         -  High MP count means more details In your photographs
-         - High MP count means bigger enlargement without loss of quality
-         - Less MP means less image noise at higher ISO values
-         - Less MP means less bothersome lens flaws
-         - More expensive lens on a cheaper body is better than the other way around

So much for his blog! I hope that you have once again learned something useful. Check out  http://photojitsu.nl/blogpost.html for more blogposts and useful stuff to read about photography. In addition, if you want to follow me and my work, or just want to drop in to say hello, check out my facebook page www.facebook.com/photojitsu or twitter @photojitsu_nl.

Until next time!

Blog 15: The Orton Effect

The Orton effect One of the questions I get asked very often is; how come some of your photographs have such a dreamy look to them? Well...