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advice for beginner please

Discussion in 'Digital Image Editing & Printing' started by dazdmc, Mar 27, 2020.

  1. dazdmc

    dazdmc Well-Known Member

    I know virtually nothing about digital editing and manipulating and normally only crop, save for web etc. I very rarely tinker with anything else basically becauseI've been too lazy, until recently I blamed my lack of enthusiasm on the complexity of the software, lack of time, in fact the list of excuses are almost endless. I taught myself how to use a film camera, I taught myself how to develop and print in a darkroom and I've now taught myself how to use a digital camera. So how hard can it be to learn the basics of digital editing? I also now have the time due to not being allowed out until the government say otherwise.

    Please don't laugh but I have Photshop CS2, mainly because it was free. I also have the Nikon software that came with the camera which doesn't seem too bad, Faststone image viewer, and GIMP (which I find really clunky and complicated) If in the future I find my needs changing I won't mind paying for software that helps me get the job done.

    So, my question is, what would be the four or five most important tools/setting you would almost always use on any photo that you thought was worth working on?
  2. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    It depends (sorry).

    If you shoot JPG then the camera has already processed the image and given it exposure, colour and sharpness changes that it thinks were necessary. So for the most part, post-processing JPGs is more about cropping, straightening and some light changes to colour or exposure but you're limited to what you can recover.

    If you shoot RAW, then there are significantly more things you can do, but it depends on the editor you're using.

    Are you talking about RAW or JPGs?
  3. dazdmc

    dazdmc Well-Known Member

    I shoot both at same time. I shoot mainly black and white so it's handy having the B+W version showing on the LCD straight away for review, and I like having the raw as a backup.
  4. spinno

    spinno Well-Known Member

    Levels, and sharpening are two of the most used functions I guess.
    Lots of YouTube channels show how these can help improve/resolve your images
  5. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    Okay, so far RAW, the default result will always need some processing, Depending on the camera, that will include sharpening by a small amount, and then likely levels adjusting. The problem I found shooting RAW and JPG was that I felt no need to do much with the RAW because the JPGs were okay. So I stopped shooting JPG, which forced me to learn what the minimum processing was on the RAW files to get them to an acceptable standard. That's the only way I learned how to start post processing.
  6. MJB

    MJB Well-Known Member

    Which ever software you choose to use always make sharpening the last tool you use before saving.
    RogerMac and spinno like this.
  7. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    I only save raw files and edit mainly in Lightroom. I mostly crop and straighten and tinker with exposure. I sometimes adjust the colour palette using preconfigured profiles though I rarely use the profiles for mono conversion. I’ll quite often add a graduated filter to balance exposure across the image. I’ve become a fan of “clarity” which is a mid-tone contrast adjustment. I’ll trim either vibrance or saturation if I adjust exposure to try to keep colours consistent. I’ll fix dust spots if they are intrusive. I don’t use high ISO settings as a rule so I don’t much bother with noise reduction. I have standard sharpening settings but these days of high pixel counts and good lenses it isn’t as important as it was in the early days of digital.

    I have never got my head around layers so I don’t bother. Photoshop comes “free” with my LR subscription and I bought a how-to book, but it goes unused.

    Before I went from standalone to annual licence for Lightroom I bought the 2018 version of On1 Photoraw which is an amalgam of Photoshop and Lightroom. I use it for quick jpg edits mainly if I want to illustrate a comment in Appraisal. As an editor it is quite good but I favour Lightroom and its image catalogue system. We have since had On1 2019 and 2020 so it is no cheaper than LR if you keep up to date.

    Most raw editors do basically the same thing. You will quickly pick it up. You can have some fine control over mono conversions because most now let you selectively edit colours which gives you in effect “continuously adjustable filters. The preconfigured mono profiles usually give you a choice of a fixed Red, Yellow, Green and Blue filter.

    I started using raw because I wanted to see the effect of moving between standard, landscape, neutral, faithful, profiles on my Canon camera. I went from saving jpgs to saving both raw and jpg to saving raw only as jpgs can be created to suit the purpose in hand. Generally I only use them to post essentially large thumbnails on Flickr. I print directly at home so don’t get mixed up in preparing files for third party printing.
    EightBitTony likes this.
  8. Chester AP

    Chester AP Well-Known Member

    I purchased Photoshop Elements 7 in 2009 and still use it. I also purchased a copy of 'Photoshop Elements 7 for Dummies' after to get me started, but it only covers JPG processing - RAW processing has been a trial and error process, plus helpful articles in AP.

    If I have a perfectly exposed and framed JPG with the correct colour balance, then I can usually get a decent print from this with only cropping and minor corrections for image distortion or the levelling of horizons (sometimes a rotation of half a degree can make a lot of difference). Note the three conditions covered by 'if' at the start of this paragraph.

    Where RAW processing really helps me is the fine adjustment of colour temperature and exposure. I then work with the JPG created from the processed RAW file to process colour fringes (if found in high contrast areas) and the other adjustments listed above.

    Other members will offer contradictory advice about at what stage to save the RAW file to a JPG and then do further work on that file. I prefer to leave any sharpening to the very last stage before saving the file to be printed, so I will then be working with the JPG from my processed RAW file, even though sharpening is possible on the RAW file (I always turn off any sharpening on the RAW file).

    Be very careful when creating a new JPG from the processed RAW file - do not accidentally replace the camera's own JPG file, but save to a new name. I use 'XXXXXX from RAW' for my new JPG files, and when comparing mine with the one from the camera sometimes realise that the camera's version looks better...

    You will find that the files needed to produce large commercial prints of decent quality will probably need far more care to prepare than files that are only used for displaying on websites.

    There is one warning needed here if you plan to process RAW files: most camera manufacturers have their own format for RAW files, so sometimes old software will not process RAW files for a new camera (although there may be RAW 'converters' available). This is where having a camera that can produce RAW files in Adobe's 'universal' DNG RAW format: my Pentax DSLR offers this, which is why I can still use my 11 yer old software to process its RAW files.

    Have fun experimenting with the software you already have, or you decide to buy in future. And try to get as much right 'in camera', which minimises the work needed later on your PC (for me this means manual exposure and spending a little time taking the shot,
    but again everybody will have their own approach to this). Even after 11 years, there are still some features in my software that I have never used.
  9. dazdmc

    dazdmc Well-Known Member

    Thanks for all the replies.
    Most of the jpegs I have taken so far are ok to be honest, most of what I have done so far is playing with highlights and shadows and straightening. I haven't even touched sharpening, layers,curves or anything else. I use Nikon picure control "in camera" and most of the settings I have got from Ken Rockwells site but I have also downloaded some from the nikon picture control editor to mimic certain films, kodak T-max 400 being one of my favourites. When I do shoot colour I tend to shoot in jpeg so I can shoot higher frame rates for longer (rugby matches) I like quite a saturated look and this is set in camera too. Maybe I'm just trying to complicate things that don't need complicated?
  10. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    The main thing is to enjoy your photography. In camera jpegs are generally very good. Doing your own D&P as it were on the raw file is a matter of choice rather than necessity. There is no need to feel pressured into doing it. I find it is a useful option and suits me. I also take very few pictures so the processing overhead is small. If you regularly use the camera in burst mode then post processing (unless you apply the same settings to every shot) rapidly becomes tedious.
    MJB and EightBitTony like this.
  11. steveandthedogs

    steveandthedogs Well-Known Member

    I tend to used Layers for making adjustments to Levels or Curves. Great advantage is that you can put as many Layers up as you like, then if say the first layer does not work, you can delete it and leave the rest in place without needing to go back to square one.

    And it is actually quite easy to do:

    Layer; New adjustment layer; Levels; OK; Auto [if you want, or just play with the points yourself]; Move the grey point marker to adjust brightness; OK

    Job done.

    You will see a little box appear marked Layer with the original [Background] layer. Above it will be the layer you just added. Not sure you like the new effect? Click on the little eye in the layer, you will now see just the original with no effects. Click on the eye again and the effect reappears by magic. Or drag done to the bin at the bottom of the box. By clicking on the little symbol in the layer [black/white circle] the Levels box reappears and you can change the adjustments you made earlier.

    If you need a different adjustment, make sure Background is highlighted, then Later; New adjustment..... and so on eg Black and White.

    To finish, Layer; Merge down or Flatten Image.

    Save as usual.

    dazdmc likes this.
  12. dazdmc

    dazdmc Well-Known Member

    That's great Steve, exactly the type of thing I was after, thanks.
  13. steveandthedogs

    steveandthedogs Well-Known Member

    Forgot to add:

    Once you have your layer adjustment up, have a look at the box on the side. You should see a little box marked "normal". Click on the down arrow to open up a menu, this will give you a load of different effects, most of which you need to be on acid to appreciate. However, Overlay will increase saturation and contrast, useful for a quick change. To the right of this box is one marked Opacity, this does an overall toning down of which ever effect you use.

    Then you can go to the bottom of the large box to see several icons, look at the dark rectangle with a white circle, this will add a mask to the layer. By using a paintbrush and black [or white], you can remove [or replace] the effect from chosen areas.

    You can selectively use the above to sharpen parts or the whole of the image by: Layers; Duplicate; [click on overlay effect]; then go to Filter; Other; High Pass. Then go to Radius in the High Pass box, I tend to stay below 5. More long-winded than Unsharp Mask, but easier to control and gives less edge fringing.

  14. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    It is at the layer mask stage that I totally lose the plot with PS, GIMP, On1 or whatever.
  15. steveandthedogs

    steveandthedogs Well-Known Member

    Don't use 'em! Just use the layers.

  16. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    I use layer masks all the time. Really really useful if you only wanted to apply the effect to one area of an image - you just 'rub out' the bits you don't want. Marvellous!
    steveandthedogs likes this.
  17. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    That’s effectively what you get in Lightroom. Only difference is that you can’t swap the history steps around, not that important really as all the individual adjustments remain available.
  18. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    I just can’t get my head around them. I can figure most things out but not this. Lightroom (to which I came from DPP) is intuitive. It has had masks of a sort for some while when it comes to local adjustments but you just apply the change you want directly to the image.
  19. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    I understand masks, and understand Photoshop masks, except, I get very quickly confused about how to create them (too many ways) and how to edit them instead of the image. I think the issue is there are so many ways of doing it, and I use them rarely so I never get in to a habit or routine of doing them in one way.

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