I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to increase your Post Processing skills is to have a specific task in mind before you even load the software. Take using a Word Processor for instance, how many people can say that they know all there is to know about using such a programme? The answer in most cases is VERY FEW, you generally only know what you need to know in order to get the job done, right?
How does that equate to Post Processing (PP) of photographic images?, I’ll tell you, 100%. While we may have more enthusiasm to learn how to get a result with PP, very often it can become too complicated very quickly. I only use Affinity Photo (AF) now mainly because I refuse to pay for Adobe PS anyway you need a ‘PHD in everything’ to master Photoshop. Imagine sitting down to learn all that’s on offer in PS, well I wish you luck on that.
For my proposed FRPS panel I’d decided to use all the glorious flowers grown by my gardening guru wife because of the variety offered and the fact that I have them in my garden throughout the year. My existing experience of sharpening, balancing colour and adding layers had progressed to the point of being confident in showing a beginner how to achieve such results but I was aware that I needed to increase my knowledge; enter probably the most useful source of info, good old YouTube.
I set myself three main aims for the images in the panel:
1) How can I increase the level of sharpening available in the ‘unsharp mask’ filter?
2) How can I achieve more control over the colours?
3) How can I reduce death of field to just the front part of a petal?
4) What software will give the most options to add overlays and or gradient layers.
Aim 1: Using a flat-bed scanner: I’m sure that many of us have over time found the best camera and lens for our needs and we’ve all spent vast amounts of money and wondered if it was worth it. I wanted to increase the DPI resolution in my images and decrease the death of field to almost pin point accuracy. Having only f2.0 max on my lenses to play with I was not in the market for spending another bucket full of money for a f1.2 or something like that. I know, why not learn how to use a flat-bed scanner? I thought. But again not wanting to spend another bucket full I dipped into eBay and found a (I think it works) add for an old Epsom professional scanner for the silly price of £20, yes £20. Even if it didn’t work I could at least gamble that amount. My iMac complained at first saying “you need this and that driver”. After telling it to “just get on with it”, (very loudly as you do), it woke up and began to show me an image, bingo. After trying various dpi settings I found that 600 dpi gave the most usable results, 1200 and above resulted in dealing with too much noise. Tip here , set the output to TIFF format, it helps if you are used to working with raw files and save to TIFF until you are 100% sure you have a finished images. Using flowers as subjects took experimentation to find the ‘best sides’ of each subject. I had in the past tried ‘focus stacking’ and then removing / blending parts of the image in AF later but again, a lot of extra work. You will need to clean the scanner glass a lot and, if items are wet, maybe place another sheet of something on top of the scanner first. If you need a black background, place a deep box over the object and leave the scanner lid open. Best to take a lot of different views of things like flowers because you can only use one side for an image. Give it a try, I’m sure you’ll be in for a treat.
Aim 2/3: Using the LAB colour profile: Working on aims 1&2 meant taking the plunge and moving away from the ‘standard’ colour profile which most of us take for granted; i.e. RGB and or SRGB. The revaluation came after discovering the LAB colour profile and oh my goodness, did I see a huge change in sharpening. When entering the LAB profile you are faced with only three options to adjust all of which can be used with the traditional ‘curves’ adjustment or the ‘unsharp mask’ filter. In using the traditional ‘curves’ adjustment the colour range will take you to a much higher level of control with more colours to play with. While it’s difficult to master at first, it’s well worth the effort, (need to know again!). Just remember that before exporting your final master piece, to change the colour profile back to SRGB. Also I thinks you’ll find that NIK and Topaz will not work with a LAB file. (Why not?)
Aim 4: Overlays, gradients and such like: At this level I have to assume that adding and removing layers in PP has become second nature if not, that will be your first task. The other main programme I use is Topaz Studio. For a long time I enjoyed and welcomed the free version of the NIK package form Goggle but again someone had to change all that and make it around £140. There are too many options to count in this Topaz software to go into detail. Even when you apply a filter you then have a wide range of adjustments to play with. And remember that you can work on a file and save it using a filter and then reload it and place extras on top; bit like an ice cream sundae. Be sure to make a backup copy of your image before going into the software to allow for working on individual sections of the image as layers back in PS or AF; by this I mean only applying the filter to certain parts of the image. Sadly AF doesn’t let you link directly to Topaz as it can’t see it as a plug-in but if you use NIK software, you have an advantage. I found that different effects can be had if you add one overlay in AF before using Topaz and then try again with two layers added before transfer, each will give different results; you have to be prepared to experiment but the results can be amazing.
So points to remember:
* If you use LAB in AF you will need to change back to SRGB before transfer because Topaz only likes
* Use only small adjustments to the A and B components in LAB as the colour changes very quickly.
* Use the curves adjustment in LAB and with practice you can complete all that you require.
* View your TIFF image at least 200% because the scanner picks up all imperfections.
So that’s the process I’ve used so far for this project. I’m sure you’ll agree; your work flow can be different for each project you undertake which is great; you can always mix-n-match.
Have fun and thanks for reading.
Terence Jones ARPS
A photography enthusiast with a long and varied interest in taking pictures.
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