Maximising Your Cameras Dynamic Range

After the success of the article “Maximising Your Histogram” we follow that up with taking a look at how to maximise your dynamic range by looking at three popular techniques that will allow you to achieve this. We look at their Pros and Cons, and hopefully this will let you get the best from your digital camera.

Dynamic range is a much misunderstand concept in photography. For the most part, if you have metered correctly for the scene, and conditions are great (not too dark or too light and not much contrast in areas between the two), you can just make slight alterations to your raw image and being back the shadows or highlights and you’ll have s great final image.

In this article we will look at three ways popular with photographers to maximise dynamic range, and compare how effective they can be. We will look at the pros and the cons of each method, and your can make your own mind up at which technique you want to use.

Technique One: Adjusting shadows and highlights.

This is one of the easiest and most effective way of dealing with dynamic range, especially when there are not huge extremes in the highlights and the shadows. It’s the technique that most use, including professional photographers, as with technology now, it is easy to reduce or remove noise that might show because of pulling the shadows or highlights too far.

Many people say use the ETTR (Expose to the right) method when metering your exposure, however forget that nonsense and expose for the scene! That means expose to the left if needed, right if needed or just expose as needed. There’s no blanket metering mode that covers every scene type.

This technique will have you moving your shadows, mid-tone and highlight sliders in software, usually raising the shadows and dropping the highlights and using mid-tone adjustments to bring the whole scene together. It’s very effective, and the majority of photos you see will have used this method. You can also adjust selected areas of highlights and shadows with software filters, targeting areas specifically needed, this haa the same effect but can be more precise.

Pros: Simple and effective, when used correctly can look natural.

Cons: You can get noise in the shadows of they were too dark to start with.

Technique Two: Attached Filters (Graduated filters).

This method of controlling dynamic range is quickly losing favour with photographers in this day and age, as modern cameras and modern editing techniques mean using them is less necessary.

The idea is to put a filter on the end of your lens, usually a soft or hard graduated filter. Think of the filter as a pair of sunglasses, raining in the dynamic range of the sunny part of your image so that you can control the highlights.

Using a graduated filter though is a highly destructive process. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that unless your horizon is perfectly flat, the filter will affect parts of your image that your shouldn’t be touching.

Pros: Handy for controlling light of straight horizons.

Cons: Highly destructive, can be expensive and not needed for modern photography. Often leave a colour cast.

Technique Three: Exposure bracketing.

Of all the three techniques mentioned here, exposure bracketing is one that most people are scared of, because they associate it with HDR photography. But it’s for the high dynamic range than you should really be using this technique when you know you might struggle with dynamic range.

Exposure bracketing can be done both manually or via your cameras bracket mode. The easiest method is using the bracket mode, you set this up to take 3, 5, 7 or 9 exposures, press the button and the camera will fire off the shots one after another. I tend to use just a three bracket shot of EV -2/0/+2, although many people like to separate the exposure by +/-1 stops. It is whatever works for you.

Once you have your 3, 5, 7 or 9 raw files at different exposures, you can then work with them as you want, and there are a number of techniques you can use.

Exposure blend: In software you can create layers and blend in the different exposures that suit the images.
HDR software: Use HDR software to combine or choose from their many presets the best look that suits your image.
Use the best: From your bracketed exposures, there can sometimes be one that just works and you won’t have to do much editing.

Bracketing exposures gives you options, and for the most part it can be used with our without a tripod for everyday photography, as editing software will align the images if you are going to make a HDR image.

Pros: You’ll get the most dynamic range available, images will be clean from noise, simple to use in camera.

Cons: Needs more work in software than the other methods, you may need a tripod in very few situations.

Conclusion

There’s plenty of options for maximising your dynamic range, which starts from getting things right in camera to begin with. I’ve written an article on maximising your histogram here, which should be your next stop if you want to maximise your dynamic range.

There are many YouTube videos online explaining each of the methods I have mentioned, and until I manage to get tutorials up on each method, I advise you to search each one. Through decades of experience, I understand that some people prefer different ways over others. It’s a choice you have to make, from using graduated filters in a destructive way, to find tuning using software.

If you’ve found this article useful, a like and comment would be much appreciated. Also, if you don’t already, please subscribe to my blog.

Video Editing With DaVinci Resolve And Rico Richardson

These days a lot of photographers don’t just photograph still images, but take a lot of video footage. Unlike photographs, the medium of video means software packages are more complicated and can do very different things to photo editing software, making them ideal for creating videos for promotion, YouTube and even movies.

DaVinci Resolve by BlackMagicDesign is a fantastic free video suite that allows you to create the best best in video for your every need. It offers “Professional Editing, Color, Effects and Audio Post!”

There are far too many features to mention, but to highlight a few, it has HDR, LUT support, visual effects, text, next generation colour grading, mesh based warping, wide colour gamut, fast editing with keyboard and mouse, real time audio mixing, live view, cutting, pasting and so much more!!!

Our friend Rico Richardson on YouTube has a fantastic playlist of tutorials on using DaVinci Resolve. We highly recommend that you check out and subscribe to his channel, in fact both YouTube channels as they are a fantastic resource and very educational.

Check out DaVinci Resolve with Rico RichardsonThe number one resource for Davinci Resove tutorials on YouTube. Subscribe and enjoy!

Check out Gear Island with Rico RichardsonWant to see some amazing gear reviews? Why not subscribe and check out this new YouTube channel!

Check out DaVinci ResolveThe number one free video editor suite.

If you’ve found this useful, and would like more video orientated articles, then please let us know in the comments. As usual, if you like what you see, please like, comment and subscribe!

— This is not a paid promotion and I am in no way affiliated with either party, and I do not make money from this website, although donations are always welcome via PayPal to mgadams1970@gmail.com

Photoscape X Pro – The Editing Software You (Probably) Didn’t Know You Need

There are swathes of editing packages to edit your photographs, some of them really simple to use like Luminar 4 and Lightroom and some of them more complicated like ON1 Photo Raw and Photoshop. But there’s one piece of software that I constantly go back for for various reasons, and this affordable piece of software is a great addition for the times you need something that is just that little bit different.

Many years ago when I was discovering software packages, I came across Photoscape X Pro. I was blown away by its simplicity, and used it a lot to do quick edits such as crop and rotate and quick exposure fixes. But because it doesn’t offer non-destructive editing, and it’s raw editing isn’t as good as others, sometimes it’s just left aside while I tackle more advanced programs.

But every time I need a quick edit of a jpeg, de-fisheye a fisheye shot (more on this later) or need to make up a poster or do something creative, I keep coming back to Photoscape X Pro. Now with update version 4.1, the software is even better, and so I thought I’d review the good and the bad points of the software.

Photoscape X Pro: The Good

Being used to editing routinely in Darktable, Photoshop and Gimp lately, it’s really easy to pick up Photoscape X Pro again and discover what it has going for it… And there are many.

The Viewer mode is an excellent mode akin to the Lighttable and cataloguing views of other software, where you can have all your images on screen at once, view them, tank them, choose multiple images for batch editing and so much more. It’s something I must have in my most used packages, and means you can have full control of what you’re editing by comparing directly on-screen after and during each edit.

The Viewer Mode

Editing in Photoscape X Pro gives you all the tools you’ll need, and jpegs are handled amazingly. You’ll have full control like in any other software of your image, and there are masks you can use to target specific areas. There are also dozens of extra things you can do which are all at the touch of a button. There’s full colour control to make monochrome images, full perspective controls, colour filters, effects filters, film simulations, sun flares and endless controls over adding text and extra images to your photo.

The Default Edit Mode (You can close down left and right panels)
The Color module where you can do your main work

Batch edit is simple to use for resizing images, changing the look of images, renaming images, change image formats and so much more. It’s fast, it’s effective, and there’s a lot you can do with it.

One of the many great features is the collage maker. This is really well put together, gives you loads of options and an extremely useful tool. For a lot of people, it’s one of the main reasons they use Photoscape X Pro, and once you’ve used it once, you’ll understand why they use it. The same thought has been put into the combine option, and again gives you a lot of options to combine images in various rows etc.

Borders are carried for well, and there are very many to choose from, in a variety of styles and different implementations. No fussing or faffing, just choose what you want and apply the border, adjust any parameters and you’ll have beautiful borders in no time.

In the area where you can change perspective and do other similar tweaks, you can also add a fisheye effect, but the main bonus of this feature is that if you edit a rectilinear or fisheye photo and use the fisheye setting in negative values, it will perfectly de-fisheye the image. An absolutely amazing feature that is a must for people who use fisheye lenses.

You can also create GIF’s with the GIF module, Print from the print module and much more besides. The software really is remarkable.

Photoscape X Pro: The Not So Good

There’s nothing hugely wrong with Photoscape X Pro, but there are a few things which other programs can do better.

Raw images don’t have as much latitude when you edit them in the editor as they do in other raw editors. You won’t be able to recover the highlights or shadows as much as you can in something like Capture One for example. That’s not too say it’s bad, and it’s more than adequate for most edits.

The masking has great feathering and control, but lacks the intelligence of some programs, so you’ll need a steady hand for precise work should you need to be incredibly accurate.

It’s destructive software, so if you’ve made a mistake, you have to undo step by step until you get to the point you made the mistake. It has limited layer support for certain functions, and they are in no way as functional as on major software releases.

That’s really about it as far as negatives go for this software. It’s around £30 to buy in the Windows and Apple stores, and there’s a couple of updates every year, plus it is on sale every now and again.

Conclusion

Think of Photoscape X Pro as a Swiss army knife. It’s an incredibly useful tool with some amazingly powerful tools. For jpeg shooters, or those who don’t want ultra complicated raw editors, it’s a great piece of software. There are far more positives than there are negatives and it’s a perfect introduction into the world of editing photos.

Don’t be fooled into thinking the software is not capable, it’s more than capable and in some ways it’s far easier to dip into Photoscape X Pro than it is too get the same tasks done in other software.

As I’ve said, I’ve left this software a couple of times, but I always go back to it if I struggle to do something on Photoshop or whatever the program I’m using.

I find if I’ve edited a photograph in another program, sometimes it’s great to put the jpeg in Photoscape X Pro and you can perform some extra tweaks, including looking through the great film filters in real time, which can sometimes make a big difference.

It’s not perfect, but it’s fast and gets the job done. There are some killer features that make it super handy for everyday use. There’s a free version and a paid for version, and you can get most things done with the free version if you want to give that a try.

— The current version of Photoscape X Pro, and the one discussed here is version 4.1, found at their website http://x.photoscape.org/

Who is Artificial Intelligence editing software aimed at?

More and more software proclaims to use artificial intelligence to help users edit their images these days, with the likes of Photoshop, Luminar and ON1 Photo Raw 2021 offering modules that give the power of advanced editing to the computer, so that your free time is extended and you can go and take photos instead of spending hours in front of your monitor.

What does AI editing software do?

With the advent of artificial intelligence in software, it’s allowed a variety of tasks to be completed with the touch of a single button or sliders. There are a number of instances where this makes the job of editing much more pleasurable and less frustrating.

One of the most common uses of artificial intelligence is in helping the portrait photographer. The first thing the AI does is mask the face area perfectly, find the eyes, nose and mouth and then allow you to tweak the skin texture, tones and imperfections with the aid of simple controls. Thanks to years of development and learning through never ending comparisons of facial images, the software knows what to touch and what to leave alone when you’re fine tuning the controls. It’ll also allow you to enlarge the eyes, shrink the nose, make rosy lips and even thin or fatten out the face, among many other things.

With landscape photography, AI can selectivity apply contrast, sharpening, colour changes, dehazing and other necessary tweaks to the areas it deems is necessary. With sliders targeting various effects, it’s never been easier to go from a bland image to something to hang on your wall.

Never before has it become so easy to remove people and objects from photographs, or change the sky or the surroundings of your model. A lot of the time this can be done in one click, as the computer analyses your image looking for what stands out. You can simply roughly draw around objects and the computer so remove them, and intelligently fill in the space as if by magic of what may lay underneath.

Who is AI editing software aimed at?

Of course, you could do all the above manually, spending many hours tweaking a landscape or portrait until it looks as good as the AI image. But theres more to it than that, a lot of the time, the changing of settings in the AI menus get you to a starting point more quickly, saving you time and money.

Artificial Intelligence in software is not aimed at the hobbyist who wants to spend hours editing manually from scratch, or those who think (wrongly) that using AI is cheating, but it is aimed at two other completely different types of photographer.

Firstly, and most importantly AI software is aimed at the professional and semi-professional photographer who needs to get work done quickly and effectively. People who want perfect results, know how to use the software and can use it because they have the eye. It’s aimed at those who have large workflows or time sensitive business.

The second type of photographer Artificial Intelligence is aimed at is the opposite side of the spectrum with amateur photographers who either just want to have a bit of fun and get the job done, or who want to use it for things they would usually find tedious (masking out skies and people, working on complexion of a face etc). For these, the obstacle of editing has been removed, and the gift of creativity has been given to them.

And AI is the gift of creativity, as it also teaches you in a lot of circumstances how to do the job. You’ll see what sliders have been changed by software, you’ll visually see the before and after so you can see what has been affected by the AI. Most importantly, AI allows you to explore editing in a way you could have ever dreamed of.

Conclusion

It’s thanks to the development of artificial intelligence that photo editing has become popular. It’s the reason many have started taking photographs in raw instead of jpeg, the reason people want to do more with their photos, the reason people’s skills are getting better and the reason people want to improve themselves.

The great thing about AI is, it’s employed in some of the simplest tools such as inpainting brushes, healing tools and masking brushes. So it’s helping you from the simplest tool to the most complex solution.

And of course, if you don’t want to use it, you don’t have to… But it’s there for your benefit should you wish to improve your images.

— There are a number of programs I will be reviewing in the very near future that employ AI modules. Look out for Luminar AI, Portrait AI from ON1 and ON1 Photo Raw 2021 along with the upcoming sky replacement features in Photoshop.

Minimalistic Photography Shoots

Photography is an ever expanding journey into discovery. Standing still makes you become boring, so it’s nice to get out of your comfort zone and do things a little different on times. For these images I didn’t deliberately go out of my way to get something different, but due to circumstances and editing technique, the photos formed a series which I quite like, and may expand on in the future.

The photos were mostly take on my Fujifilm X-T20 using various film simulations for the most part, although there is one photograph from my Nikon camera and one from my Huawei Phone as well. The style for these is minimalistic and artistic, hopefully standing out a little different from my usual photographs.

The first seven photographs were edited in Snapseed during my downtime, while the eighth was edited in Photoshop 2020. I will use whichever editing software I have with me at the time, quite often using Snapseed to just try out ideas. Quite often though, as here, I will keep the final results without going into any other software. All images except the final image were edited from the camera jpeg.

Please view them full screen on your computer to see their beauty. All images come with EXIF data.

I believe variety is the spice of life, and that includes what I shoot, what I shoot it with and what I edit it in. A photographer can become to boring using one thing all the time, or staying to one type of editing style. You have to keep it interesting, you have to edit for your wall and you have to print out your photos to really understand where you are going with your photography.

— If you enjoyed this blog post, please check out my other blog entries. If you want to view only photographs, then go to my Photos Page, where you can view all the photos in blogs that I have put up for you to view. Please remember to like, share and comment if you liked what you seen! New blog entries at least twice a week, so subscribe too!