Relax

relax

This self portrait is my second try, both in self portraits and in stitching multiple photo’s of myself in one photograph. The first attempt was to blurry and there was more overlap of myself which made it difficult to post process.

Making such a photo is not that difficult. Make several photo’s of yourself  in different positions and put them together in software like Gimp or Photoshop.

Here are some things you should consider when shooting the photo’s:

  • First you need a tripod or a stable surface for the camera so the camera will not move between making the photo’s.
  • Second you need to make sure the exposure of all photo’s is exactly the same. Even the white balance should be the same (or you can change it in post)
  • Third you shouldn’t move objects between different photographs, it will make it extremely difficult to align the photo’s correctly.

When editing the photo’s you add each photo to a different layer and apply a layer mask to show the part of the photo you want to show. The most difficult part is to make overlapping areas convincing. Although there are different ways of creating a layer mask, I just use the mouse and a paintbrush tool. Doing this using a mouse is quite difficult and I think a pen tablet like the Wacom Bamboo will be very helpful here.

Over the next few weeks I will try out my Wacom Bamboo to see if it is really easier to use than the mouse.

Some photography tips – monkey workshop

A couple of weeks ago I went to a workshop which focused on monkey photography, this workshop was given by Jan Vermeer in the Apenheul. This was the first photography workshop I ever attended and so I can’t compare with other workshops, so I will focus on what I enjoyed and what I learned.

It is great to be able to spend a whole day inside the zoo and photograph the monkeys. We didn’t go through the whole park, but focused on just a few monkeys. This way we could spend an hour or more with each type of monkey so that we could photograph a lot and had the time to study their behaviour, try different techniques and ask questions. Jan constantly gave us tips, some I already knew, others I didn’t know, but it is great to be reminded of these tips. So here is a list of tips for photographing monkeys, portraiture, and basically any other type of photography.

  • Keep the eyes in the shot and in focus. When making a portraiture, it can be awkward to not have eyes in the photo, or only out of focus eyes. So try to always keep the eyes in focus, not the nose, not the eyebrows, but the eyes.
  • Watch the background and the edges. A photo can be ruined by someone with a red jacket in the background, or reflected in a window. Also someone or something on the edge of the frame that should be there can be very disturbing.
  • Watch your exposure settings, especially the ISO. As you should know, the ISO is the sensitivity of the sensor and a higher ISO number makes it easier to take a photograph in low light conditions. Of course I knew this, but I always forgot that I could change the ISO. During the workshop I learned to watch the ISO a lot and now I am used to look at it more often.
  • Shoot in the shadows and not in direct sunlight. Direct sunlight is a very harsh light and it is difficult to take good photographs with it. It is easier to shoot in the shadows, the light is more defused and photos will look better.
  • Go out and make photograph as much as you can. The more you go out, the easier it gets to take good photographs.

That is it for today. See you next time…

Looking at Bibble

Bibble is a commercial project for a complete digital workflow. Bibble Pro is one of the fastest programs I have tested. It comes in two versions, a Lite version and a Pro version. Both versions have the same functionality, but the Lite versions has more restrictions, but these are hardly noticeable when you only use it for basic manipulation of photos. When you want to work with multiple catalogues and import photos, it could be useful to look at the Pro version. but at this moment I can’t find any reasons to justify buying the Pro version.

When I look to the needed and wanted features I come to the following  conclusion:

  • Raw support: Bibble not only  supports Raw, it also supports JPEG and TIFF. On the website there is a list of supported cameras.
  • White balance and colour correction: Both are available, for white balance there are several presets and it is possible to select a white colour. Colour correction is mainly sliders, and you can choose the colour you want to correct, but I didn’t really use this option.
  • Lens correction: Bibble has excellent support for lens correction. If the used lens is known to Bibble, it is possible that distortion can be automatically corrected, if the lens is not calibrated the corrections can be made manually. It is also possible to correct Chromatic Aberation (unwanted colours around edges) and vignette (dark parts in the corners of the photo)
  • Tools for straightening, cropping and perspective corrections: Straightening and cropping can easily be done using the mouse. Perspective correction is not available by default, but there is at least one plugin that could be used for this.
  • Export options: Bibble has several export possibilities. By default there are 6 profiles for exporting and you can change and add profiles if you want. In a profile you can tell Bibble to what format it should export, which size the output file should have and which meta data should be included in the output file.
  • Non destructive editing: All changes are Non destructive in Bibble.
  • Easy and clean interface: I really like the interface of Bibble. There are two sidebars. The one on the left shows libraries and the file system where you can select what photos you want to see. All the adjustment tools are located on the right side. There is a menu bar which contains a lot of options for editing the photo and changing the user interface. There are also several toolbars where tools can be selected for photo editing. After you learn to know the interface it is really easy to work with, learning it is a bit more challenging.
    When using sliders for colour correction or white balance, you can also use the keyboard to give a number you want to use, which could be very useful for setting the value back to the original value.
  • Photo browsing: Bibble lets you browse photos on the file system as well as photos in catalogues, when the photos are in a catalogue you can also browse photos based on metadata, like keywords, or shooting information.
  • Simple ranking system: Bibble has 3 ranking systems: Ratings where you can give each photo 1 to 5 stars, Labels where you can give each photo one or more colours and the easiest one Tagging where you can Pick or Reject a photo.
  • Multiple versions of a photo: Bibble lets you create multiple versions of a photo so that you can experiment, it doesn’t create a physical copy, this is all handled inside Bibble.
  • Adding copyright notice: There is the possibility to add a copyright notice in the metadata of the photo, but there is no build in functionality of a watermark like copyright notice. There is however a plugin which you can use for this purpose. I don’t know if it is possible to add a watermark when exporting the photo…

Bibble is a very solid and fast program. Al loading and preview generation is done in the background and you can easily work on a photo while other photos are loading. A great addition is that Bibble makes it possible to make simple edits to the photo. You can easily heal and clone parts of the photo, and you can create regions to make some selective changes, so you can blur part of the image, but leaving the rest of the image sharp, or make part of the image black and white. Of course these changes can also be done using Gimp, but than you need an extra editor and it take a little bit more time to do it.

Looking at Rawtherapee

Rawtherapee is yet another project that reads and manipulates Raw files. The first versions of Rawtherapee  were freeware, but since January 2010 the source code was released and it is now an opensource project, but there hasn’t been a stable release since then although a lot of work has been done.

Rawtherapee has a lot of the same concepts as Rawstudio, but it has a lot more options. The tested version is an alpha version from November 29th 2010.

  • Raw support: Since Rawtherapee is  build on dcraw it has support for most raw formats, but a nice addition is that it also supports other file formats like JPEG.
  • White balance and colour correction: For changing the white balance you can use two methods, using a colour picker, and several controls. For colour corrections there are also several options, you can use a colour mixer and you can shift colours.
  • Lens correction: Rawtherapee has support for lens correction, but this is not done automatically by looking at the lens information itself. It is possible to make the lens correction you need and save this as a profile which could be loaded at any time.
  • Tools for straightening, cropping and perspective corrections: Rawtherapee makes it very easy to use any of these tools. Straightening can be done by selecting a straight line or by using a slider in the user interface. Cropping is just as easy, use the mouse to select a region or use the controls in the tool on the right side of the screen. Perspective corrections can also be made, but this can only be done using two slider controls controlling the horizontal and the vertical correction.
  • Export options: Using Rawtherapee you can export photos one by one or by putting them in a queue. You can export the photos to JPEG, PNG and TIFF and you can send individual photos to Gimp or any other configured editor. It is not possible to resize the image.
  • Non destructive editing: All editing in Rawtherapee is done non destructive.
  • Easy and clean interface: The interface feels a bit strange. There is not menu bar (unless you count the Preferences and the Fullscreen buttons at the buttom of the screen as one) and there are a lot of tabs, but these are used for separate all the different options from each other. The only tooltips can be found when hovering your mouse over the toolbar items, but they only give you the name of the tool. I couldn’t find any other help functionality, which would be a great addition for such an extensive program.
  • Photo browsing: On the left side of the screen you can select the folder you want to browse. In the middle of the screen all the photos in the selected folder are shown including some extra information about the camera settings that where used for that photo.
  • Simple ranking system: There is a ranking system available in Rawtherapee. You can give each photo 1 through 5 stars, but this can only be done using the mouse.
  • Multiple versions of a photo: It is not possible to make multiple versions of a photo without physically copying the photo.
  • Adding copyright notice: Rawtherapee doesn’t give you the possibility to add a copyright notice when exporting or on any other moment.

The downside of Rawtherapee is that there is no current stable version. The latest stable version is from 2009. The unstable version is still a work in progress and people are working hard to get it stable.

What I really like about Rawtherapee is that there are so much possibilities, almost everything what I want to do is possible within Rawtherapee. The one thing that is missing is resizing the image on export so that you can save multiple photos for the web with just a few clicks.

I really hope that the new version will be coming soon, since I don’t like to use an unstable program for such important work.

Looking at Rawstudio

Rawstudio is another program that reads Raw files and is able to manipulate them, and it has a different set of features. Rawstudio also makes use of dcraw and  has support for file browsing and ranking.

But lets look at my list.

  • Raw support: Rawstudio supports the same raw formats as UFRaw since they are build on the same program, dcraw. Normal JPEG files are not opened.
  • White balance and colour correction: Both white balance and colour correction are present in the menu on the left. White balance can be changed using Warmth/tint. Besides the sliders, the white balance is also controlled by clicking in the image, but this can be very annoying since I often find the colours change when I don’t want to.
  • Lens correction: In the version that is installed by Ubuntu 10.04 there is no lens correction support, but in the development versions there should be support for lens correction.
  • Tools for straightening, cropping and perspective correction: Perspective corrections is not available, but straightening and cropping are. Cropping works as you expect by just making a selection using your mouse, there is no way to make a crop using your keyboard. Straightening works very nice when you have straight lines in your photo. When the straighten tool is selected you have to draw a line that is used to straighten to photo. In the photo that is active in the screen shot, I would draw a line across the horizon. When you don’t have a horizontal or vertical straight line in your image, it would be difficult to straighten a photo, since there is no other way of straightening. A nice feature is that you are able to uncrop and unstraighten.
  • Export options: Rawstudio makes it possible to export photos to different formats. You can export a single picture or you can do a batch process. When exporting you can give size constraints, so you can export an image with a specific size or scale. You can also export to Gimp to make more specific changes to the photo.
  • Non destructive editing: All changes made within Rawstudio are non destructive.
  • Easy and clean interface: The interface is pretty straight forward. Some options are difficult to find because they are not in the tool tab but in the main and context menus. Personally I wouldn’t have put the Open and Export tabs on the same side of the Tools tab, but I would have placed them somewhere else. (not sure where though.)
  • Photo browsing: Rawstudio has support for photo browsing, but when there are a lot of photos in a directory or when you look to photos recursively, Rawstudio will not respond that well. Looking at the blog, this should have been solved in the version that is coming in the future.
  • Simple ranking system: Rawstudio has a ranking system. When browsing the photos, you can give them a priority (1 to 3) or delete the photo by pressing Delete. The photo is not deleted directly but marked as deleted and you are able to view them. By selecting a different tab you can show the photos with the same priority.
  • Multiple versions of a photo: Rawstudio makes it possible to change the colours and other setting in three different versions. You can show these versions side by side. Straightening and cropping are done on all versions.
  • Adding copyright notice: It is not possible to add a copyright notice to photos.

I did work with Rawstudio for a few months until it stopped working. It did crash a lot of times and I started using a daily build. After some time it became clear that Rawstudio was just to slow to work with, opening a directory with 200 photos took just too much time without any sign of what was going on. Exporting a lot of pictures did not work reliably and Rawstudio crashed several times. At that point I decided to look for another solution. Hopefully the new version will be a lot better than the current one.

Looking at UFRaw

UFRaw is the first tool I will discuss in my search for a set of programs that will help with my post processing needs. UFRaw allows you to open a raw photo and apply different corrections to it. UFRaw tries to use other libraries where possible, and just provide an interface for a lot of functions.  For reading raw files it uses a modified version of dcraw, which is basically the leading open source project for reading the most raw formats (as far as I know at least…). And it uses Lensfun for lens corrections. After manipulation you have the possibility to export the image to different formats and to gimp or cinepaint.

Looking to the list in my previous post I come to the following result:

  • RAW Support: UFRaw is written espacially with raw support in mind and can’t open normal JPEG files.
  • White balance and colour correction: White balance can easily be changed using the sliders and by using presets. It is possible to do some colour correction, but for me it was harder to find.
  • Lens correction: There is lens correction in UFRaw. They use the library lensfun for this, but this is only available since version 0.17. The current versions of Ubuntu only deliver UFRaw version 0.16 and an older lensfun version which is not supported by UFRaw. So I can’t really tell how well lens correction is working.
  • Tools for Straightening, Cropping and Perspective correction: UFRaw has the tools for straigthening (rotating) and cropping image. Cropping you can do by using the controls in the tabs, or by (when the Crop and Rotate tab is active) use the mouse to drag the borders to other places. Rotating (or straightening) can only be done by the slider, and this is not very useful in my opinion.
    Perspective correction is not available, but there are plans to try and get support for that as well.
  • Export options: UFRaw can export to different formats, jpeg, tiff, png and ppm. It is not possible to resize on export.
  • Non destructive editing: All changes made in UFRaw are non destructive. You can save an ID file which contains all the changes so that you can open the file later again to make other changes as well.
  • Easy and clean interface: I don’t really like the interface of UFRaw. It is difficult to see what each tab is for and you have to use the tooltips to see what a button or slider is used for, but even then it is not always clear to me what it is for. Of course this has also partially to do with my lack of understanding Post Processing.
  • Photo browsing: There is no photo browsing option in UFRaw and as far as I understand, there will be non in the near future, unless someone provide an easy library for it.
  • Simple ranking system: UFRaw doesn’t have a ranking system.
  • Multiple versions of a photo: UFRaw doesn’t have support for multiple versions of a photo, you have to do it yourself.
  • Adding copyright notice: There is no such option in UFRaw.

I really like UFRaw and the concepts where it’s build upon, using existing libraries instead of reinventing the wheel. The integration with Gimp is very useful. The biggest drawback I have is that the user interface is not really easy to use. You really need to have some knowledge about post processing terminology to do some of the more advanced things that UFRaw provides, and which I don’t understand yet. Another drawback is, but it is not really the fault of UFRaw and it’s maintainers, that my distribution of choice still hasn’t updated to a newer version, so I still don’t have lens corrections.

Combined with other programs like gthumb and Gimp, it is possible to get a complete workflow toolkit, but using multiple programs isn’t making the post processing process a lot harder than is necessary.