April 12th, 2012 § § permalink
I’m working from home today, and I have some sensitive graphics work for my Microsoft job, so I have to make sure color is dead on. I pulled out my trusty Spyder2 to calibrate my monitors on my Mac Pro as I haven’t done that since I got new monitors and hit an immediate fail. The Spyder2Express software is PPC only, no Lion! What to do?
Well, with a little bit of research, I found out that DataColor was nice enough to allow us Spider2 users to download Spyder3Express for Intel and I am happy to say that it worked flawlessly. I still had to do my dual monitor hack to do both monitors, but it worked flawlessly. If you have the Spyder2 and OS X Lion, head over to DataColor and download the new software.
December 3rd, 2010 § § permalink
Photography can be quite a fun hobby. I used to spend countless hours in Photoshop tweaking photos until I discovered Adobe Lightroom. Now that I have this great seamless workflow, I find I rarely go into Photoshop anymore. Now that I don’t have those pixel pushing color warping capabilities quite so readily available, it’s nice to be able to find ways to get them right at my fingertips in Lightroom.
Topaz makes an incredible suite of plugins available both individually and in bundle form. I won’t talk in detail about the ones I haven’t used personally, but the Topaz suite includes Adjust for HDR effects on single exposure photos, Simplify for making artistic versions of your photos, Clean 2 for smothing and edge styling, DeJPEG for removing JPEG artifacts, DeNoise for removing noise obviously, Detail for sharpening, ReMask for making selection masks and InFocus for sharpening and deblur.
Personally I have used the trial for Simplify and I have purchased InFocus and Adjust.
I’ll include the promo shot from the site, and then a photo of my own that shows real world results with the plugin.
For the uninitiated, HDR or High Dynamic Range photography is usually accomplished by taking a series of photos with different exposure settings, and comp’ing them back together into a single image with a much expanded dynamic range. Adjust is a tool that is able to achieve similar results from a single photo, look at the example below.
This is a fantastic example of tasteful HDR. A lot of times people go absolutely crazy with it and the image looks like a cartoon. In this you can notice how much the reflections have been pulled out of the finish of the car, the clouds are much more dramatic, the detail in the road is exaggerated and the field absolutely pops with texture. These kinds of details and color saturation are the hallmark of HDR and I have achieved amazing results with this particular plugin. Of the 3 I have used this is the one that I think is an absolute must buy.
This was taken about a year ago in the Bahamas. I don’t think I need to tell you that the scene was not this dramatic out of camera.
With Topaz simplify, the opposite is the intent. The plugin reduces detail, but in a very attractive way. Simulating several styles of manual art like pencil or painting, Simplify creates artwork that is worthy of hanging from your photos, look at the example below.
Aside from the stunningly beautiful dog, look how the plugin has managed to capture the detail of the image, and the color, but in a completely believable paint-stroke look. There is even one preset I used that does this in an impressionist fashion with stunning results:
This photo is of my son and our dog playing in the creek near our house. I couldn’t love this photo more.
This is the newest one I have purchased from the bunch. InFocus is a sharpening and de-blurring tool. I have yet to achieve results as dramatic as the ones in the promo shot below, but I have definitely seen some very nice detail added to my photos.
My personal opinion would be that this is the least intuitive of the bunch to use, but keep in mind that I have only owned it for about two days. I have become used to having presets to help me learn how to tweak the sliders. I will continue to work with it until I hopefully understand it better.
I think the photo below did benefit from the additional sharpness.
I might have went ahead and bought the bundle as I have now spent close to that with just 3 of the plugins. It’s something to consider if you like what you see here. Given the astronomical prices of most good Photoshop plugins, I think these are definitely a bargain.
I can’t say that I love the way you have to leave Lightroom to use them, and it seems VERY slow to sync the changes back into Lightroom, and Adobe problem I am sure.
That being said, these relatively inexpensive plugins could significantly increase the quality of your photographs in a very simple and repeatable way.
June 6th, 2010 § § permalink
Back in the day being into photography, graphic design or video was easy, you just did the best you can when it comes to color. As soon as computers got good at handling color, a new crop of monitor calibrators came out.
Now in a world with one monitor, calibrating your monitor is pretty easy. In a world where we have two, three or more, it becomes less clear. Another wrinkle is that consumer calibrators, like mine, only support a single monitor. That makes calibrating multiple monitors nearly impossible.
Fear not dear readers, I am going to show you a hack to get past that pesky single monitor limitation, as well as a physical hack to keep yourself square and re-square if you have to disconnect and reconnect your setup.
Tip #1: Know Who You Are Deal With
I mean monitors! I use the Pac-Man Principle. The way I keep my monitors and profiles straight is by naming my monitors something other than Samsung 204b, and physically naming my color profiles to match. I have three monitors, and left to right I have named them Clyde, Inky and Blinky. On each monitor I have affixed a label (I am a label Nazi) that says “L Clyde,” “M Inky,” and “R Blinky.” When I set up my desk, it’s never a question of which monitor goes where.
The next thing is making sure that the monitors are always plugged in the right place. In addition to wrapping all three monitors together with zip ties, I have labeled the monitor end in L, M and R for Left Middle and Right obviously, and I have labeled the other end to make sure they always make it into the same ports like pictured.
This way again, if I have to move my setup, I am never concerned about what gets plugged where. As you will find, there are two significant factors that effect the color on the display, the monitor itself, and the video card you are connecting to it. I have two cards, so it’s super important that they are labeled appropriately. I believe in zero room for error!
Tip #2: Tell Your Computer What’s What
Since we have gone through the trouble to identify each monitor clearly and label them, it’s great practice to carry that through. When you calibrate your monitor, especially with one that has a single monitor limitation, you are going to come up with some ugly profiles. I solve that by using a handy little Mac utility called ColorSync Utility, it’s built into the OS and will allow you to both rename the files AND the friendly name that shows up in the OS Color Profile selector.
Tip #3: Trick The Limit
This last one is easy. Profilers like my Spider 2 Express, always calibrate the main monitor. Simply go into your display settings and change the main monitor before you calibrate.
The process is simple, set your main monitor, calibrate it, use the ColorSync utility to rename the profile to match your friendly monitor name, rinse and repeat.
So those are some simple tips. Another thing to keep in mind, if you are lazy you can only calibrate the monitor you use to edit color.
That’s it, calibrate and enjoy!
October 14th, 2009 § § permalink
Are you going to the SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas next week? Do you dig photography (or just walking around Las Vegas with some cool fellow SharePoint folks)? Since both of those things apply (in my case), in conjunction with @philoking I’m organizing SharePhoto – the unofficial SharePoint Conference Photowalk.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a photowalk (also known as a photostroll), it’s just what the name applies. As a group, we’ll be walking around the Vegas Strip, cameras in hand, taking pictures of things that strike our fancy. And along the way, we’ll have a great time and maybe share some photo tips with each other.
The Gory Details
The photowalk will kick off at 8:30 PM on Wednesday, October 21, 2009. We’ll meet at the lobby of the MGM Grand hotel (so that folks who are participating in #ShareSushi can join us). Follow me on Twitter (@mattstratton) for updates as we progress along the walk, in case you can’t meet us at the kickoff.
I’m still working out the exact route and stops along the way (so keep an eye on this page for updates), but we’ll try to hit some of the more interesting photo opportunities as we make our way north along the Strip. If the mood strikes us, maybe we’ll jump in some cabs and head downtown to Fremont Street, which is a great place for some awesome shots.
We’ll probably finish up around 11:30 PM or so, but it will depend on how everyone is feeling – so it’s not a “hard stop”. The important things to make sure you bring with you are comfortable walking shoes and clothing (don’t forget, it gets a little chilly at night in Vegas), and, of course, your camera. Heck, even if you don’t have a camera, you can feel free to join is, as it should be fun regardless. I also highly recommend bringing a tripod (if you have one), since night photography usually means longer shutter speeds, which means hand-holding is not a good idea.
If you’d like to join us, please head over to the RSVP page here – http://twtvite.com/8lok8y. If you don’t have a Twitter account, you can always RSVP by leaving a comment on this blog post, and I’ll add you to the list. If you have any questions or ideas for SharePhoto, please leave a comment here as well. Looking forward to seeing you all at SPC09!
This photowalk and blog post were inspired by John P, who is organizing a similar photowalk for BlogWorld Expo. If you’re going to the Expo (which is the weekend prior to SPC09), please check out his post about the photowalk occurring there.
Matt Stratton – www.mattstratton.com
June 9th, 2009 § § permalink
I haven’t done a photography post in awhile. I have been doing a little nerd bashing (not that I think I am not a nerd, more segmented nerd bashing) and I thought I would take a break for some positive and uplifting thoughts on photography.
If you don’t look at flickr regularly, you should. Their blog RSS feed is usually a highlight of my feed reading when it updates. I am an amateur photographer, although not nearly as motivated as I once was. These days I live my photography vicariously through my friends Scott, John and Steve. They all three use flickr as well as other communities to share their photographs, but that’s not what I want to talk about today. I do suggest you follow their links and check them out after you finish reading this…
Of course when I look at a photo, the first thing I am impacted by is the image, which I will talk about next. After I get an initial impression, I start to notice more subtle things like quality of focus, depth of field, color balance, the quality of the exposure, and the composition itself. All of these are ingredients that make up a fantastic photo. Of course there are no hard rules, if a soft focus is part of your idea, then hopefully it works. I know a lot of times I will intentionally under or over-expose a photograph for a specific effect. That being said, each of these ingredients should be considered and you should spend some time, if you are a newbie, getting familiar with the fine arts of exposure, focus, depth of field and last but not least truly understanding the mechanical and technical aspects of your camera.
Impact is what you feel when you first look at a photo. It could be something suggested from the photo or even an emotion or memory it stirs within you for some esoterically connected thought. It really doesn’t matter. The odds are that if the image in question stirs emotions in you, it will with some segment of the people who view it also.
That’s the beauty of photography. It’s really not something you can quantify either. A picture of a coffee cup, smashed on the ground near a gutter might be ugly to you. To someone else it could stir an emotion because they lost their job at a coffee house during the recession. The connections aren’t always obvious or even known to the photographer when the work is published. When you are out looking for that perfect image, leave the formal thoughts we discussed on a shelf at first, look at the world thought your view finder. When you see something that moves you, then carefully consider the options that you have, and construct a photograph.
The other advice I would give is do not only construct one. There are infinite angles, many choices that you can make technically that will eventually set the tone for the image. Capture all of those that you can. Don’t ever think, “I can just do that in Photoshop later.” If you want a shallow depth of field, shoot it that way. If you are dying for a solar flare, get one.
Art, Inspiration and Heart
That’s what it comes down to really. To make something truly artistic, it requires some thought and some diligence to explore all of the options that you have. I am terribly guilty of getting only a few shots of something, and I can tell you when I get home, and start looking through the images I captured that day, I am eventually disappointed that I didn’t change that one little thing.
Fern photo by Steve Handy, Bird photo by John M. Setzler