Perspective Correction

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Converging verticals, uncorrected.
How often do you correct the perspective of your picture via post processing? All lenses, especially those wide angle one, will exhibit a certain amount of distortion. Besides that, when you are not careful when framing, it’s easy to have slanted horizon or vertical lines.

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Corrected verticals and levelled.
For landscape shots, I think generally with levelled horizon it is more pleasing and… natural to viewers’ eyes. For architectural shots, it really depends on the framing itself. Sometimes I will do a perspective correction to ensure buildings are leveled, sometimes I’ll go a step further to ensure even the vertical lines do not converged.

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Slightly slanted shot, before and after levelled.
For streets shots… Well, I think there should be more freedom for this type of shots. When Adobe first introduced the auto perspective correction in Lightroom, I tend to abused it by clicking on the auto adjust on every single image that I shot, even for street shots. Until one day, I realized that… hey, why everything seems to be so… formal and boring. There onwards, I started to put in more thoughts into my picture before clicking on the adjustment button.

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Slightly slanted shot, uncorrected.
Levelled street shots are okay, or I would say they are pretty “safe” in terms of overall composition. Some shots when slightly slanted just give you more energy into the picture, letting you to feel closer to the action. Well, it may not be something that’s to everyone’s liking, but that’s where the fun and creativity of photography takes its place. Take your imagination to fly, step out of the box, and enjoy shooting folks 🙂

To edit, or not to edit

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Straight out of camera Jpeg
Very often you will find people asking “why are you shooting jpeg” and then recommend that “you must shoot Raw to capture most data” and finally “you can do wonders in post processing on Raw files”. Well, I can’t deny that these statements are actually correct, but most of the time, most of them who recommend these may not know what they are saying. They simply follow some advise from some pros and then shoot Raw blindly.

I’m not expert in photography, I’m just amateur at most, and my editing skill sucks. I’m not against shooting Raw, in fact most of the time I’m shooting Raw + Jpeg (though most of the time I ended up using the Jpeg file straight). My take to Raw is: Shoot Raw only if you know what you are doing and why you need the Raw files for. Jpeg from camera nowadays are pretty usable, and for those who are not good in photo editing, perhaps no matter how hard you try, you still can’t beat the in camera JPEG processor.

For me, I will use the Raw files only under certain condition:

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Single Raw file, edited in Lightroom
1. HDR landscape
When the scene’s dynamic range exceeded camera sensor’s capability, take bracketed shots and merge them later on during post processing to expand the dynamic range.

2. When AWB fails
Shooting Raw allows you to adjust the white balance later, useful when shooting under mixed lighting condition where the camera simply can’t nail the correct white balance.

3. When I have a final image in my mind that can’t be captured as it is

Sometime looking at a scene, I know I will do post processing later for sure (e.g. Black and white landscape) then I’ll shoot in Raw to make sure I have most of the data with me to work with later on.

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Single Raw file, edited in Lightroom
For professionals, they shoot Raw most of the time because they simply need the quality, they need the files to edit later to their taste, they need to make fine print and so on, therefore there’s a reason for them to shoot Raw. For hobbyists and amateur like me, I rather spend more time in shooting than post processing my pictures at home 🙂

Well, it’s just my personal preference. At the end of the day, you just need to do what you think is right. Enjoy shooting!

Something I like about Fujifilm – Film Simulation

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Pro Negative High
From a long time Canon user, I jumped ship overnight to the Fujifilm camp. What’s the reason you may asked, well, the answer is: many. Today I’ll just talk about one of the reasons why I like to use Fujifilm camera: their superb film simulation software.

In the early days of my photography, I just shoot and share straight out of camera Jpeg. Later on, I started to play with simple (and free) editing software such as photoscape (I still use this software once in awhile) to do some simple editing such as add vignette and put in some filter simulation.
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Classic Chrome
When I got myself the Canon PowerShot G12, I started to shoot only Raw and edit the pictures with Canon supplied DPP software. There’re more adjustments can be made, but the software is pretty limiting in terms of altering the feel of the picture and adding filter presets (maybe I was too noob to fully utilize it back then).

This brings me to the next step of editing… Lightroom. I think this happened around the era when I’m using the Canon PowerShot G1X. So I continue to shoot Raw and edit in Lightroom. The basic presets in Lightroom is pretty… basic, so I ended up spending more time in searching for free presets online, but the result is not very consistent as not all presets are suitable for all situations and file types.

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Monochrome
Editing has slowly become more of a pain when I experimenting Photoshop during my DSLR era. I just cannot understand and making full use of the software, too complicated, haha. However, things get a little different when I started my journey with Fujifilm.

Fujifilm X series camera features a software function called “film simulation”. They are basically various types of “presets” that apply on your picture to replicate the colour and look of film print, namely Provia, Velvia, Astia, Pro Negative, Monochrome, Sepia and Classic Chrome. For people who don’t like to spend too much time in front of computer editing like me, this is like a savior.

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Velvia
Other camera makers do have some sort of “profile” or “preset” built in, usually will be those like vivid, high contrast and so on. Well, they sort of get the job done, but not as elegant as what Fujifilm has achieved. My workflow has changed quite a bit after using Fujifilm camera. I’m shooting Raw+Jpeg now, and whenever I feel that the Jpeg is good enough, I’ll just use it and share it. If not, I’ll try adjusting using VSCO app on my iPhone with the Jpeg files. If I got something else on my mind, then I’ll work on the Raw files later on back home with Lightroom. Basically, my time spent on a computer editing the pictures has greatly reduced. And that simply means I got more time to actually go out and shoot!

I can also shoot in Raw, then do the conversion in camera to my desired film simulation. There’s also an option to shoot “film simulation bracketing”, which simply just took 3 shots of the same scene with 3 different film simulation. I’m looking forward to see what other film simulations will Fujifilm add in to their cameras in the future.

Working with Bracketed Shots in Lightroom & Photomatix

I’ve attended a Lightroom sharing session recently and one of the topic which I found interesting is with regards to working with bracketed shots in Lightroom. Lightroom itself is not really “user friendly” in terms of handling bracketed shots. Most photographer will resort to other software such as Photoshop or Photomatix to merge their bracketed shots and post process it. I don’t use Photoshop, most of the time I’ll use Photomatix for bracketed or HDR shots, but I don’t really like the interface of Photomatix, I would prefer to edit the picture more “naturally” than those dramatic effect provided by Photomatix. After a few tries I almost gave up in shooting bracketed shots as the post processing work is such a pain and I don’t really get what I wanted in the end. However, things changed after the sharing session. During the session, the speaker actually showed us how to make use of the collaboration between Lightroom and Photomatix to get the job done. It’s not really a complex process, and I’m sharing it here to help those who always having trouble doing it just like me.

Before this:

Make sure you have Lightroom and Photomatix installed in your PC.

Prepare 3 bracketed shots (at least, more are welcome) in Raw file format.

1. Get the bracketed shots ready.

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It’s simple to do it nowadays as camera has auto bracketing feature built in. Just select how many stops of light difference you wish to shot for the 3 shots (e.g. First picture at 0EV, second picture at +1EV, third picture at -1EV) and the camera will do the rest for you. Some cameras allow 5 shots to be taken, some allow more stops of light difference, or you can even do it manually by stoping down the light yourself and take the shots one by one. For this example, I shot 3 bracketed shots (with +- 1EV) with my Fujifilm X-T1. Once ready, load the 3 bracketed shots into Lightroom.

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For this example I’m using Raw files. Yes, it is advisable to use Raw files when you want to play around with bracketed shots as it just has more data of the scene for you to play/edit with. You can see from here, for each individual picture, the maximum allowable dynamic range (I guess this is what they called it?) is +-5EV. At times, such range can be limiting and therefore there’s a need to shoot bracketed shots… to expand the dynamic range.

2. Merging them in Photomatix

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Now, select the 3 shots and right click. You will get the option to “Export to Photomatix Pro”, hit it and another dialogue box will pop up.

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If your shots are taken on tripod, select “Taken on tripod”. If handheld, select “Hand-held” instead. If there’s ghosting in your picture (movement of object within the shots you have taken), select “Show option to remove ghost”. If you are not sure what is ghosting, you may refer to the picture below:

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Hit “Export” after done with your selection. If you have chosen to remove ghosting, you will be prompt with a new pop up window. Follow the on screen instruction to select the area where there is ghosting. Then hit “Preview deghosting”. Alternatively, you can let the program to do it automatically for you.

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Once done, hit “OK” and the 3 shots will be merged into one. You will then be greeted by the Photomatix editing interface. We are not using this now, so just close it.

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Then, you will see your merged bracketed shot displaying on screen… don’t worry about it being ugly, wash out, over exposed and etc., we’ll get that fixed later. Now head to File > Save As to save the file.

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When you want to save the file, select the file format as “Floating Point tiff”, select where you want to save the file, you will get a warning message that the file size will be huge, so just click OK. Remember to check the box “Open saved image with Lightroom” before hitting the “Save” button.

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Once saved, the tiff file will automatic be loaded into your Lightroom for the next step.

3. Edit in Lightroom like how you have been doing so

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Ok, we are almost there! Other than the merged picture looks a bit weird, you should now be able to realize the increase in dynamic range (from +-5EV to +-10EV!). Other than that, everything is pretty much the same as how you normally would edit a picture in Lightroom. So just head on to do the usual Highlight, shadow adjustment, gradient tool, dodge & burn, spot removal and etc. and that’s it!

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Picture after a few simple adjustment. Note that I forgot to remove the ghosting on this picture 😛

Remark:

Do note that Lightroom will no longer permit the film simulation to be adjust on the merged tiff file, so if you want to apply any film simulation, please do so on the 3 bracketed shots before merging them via Photomatix.

Alright, hope this quick and simple guide helps. Sorry if some of the terms or explanation are not accurate, but I hope at least I got my point across to you. Happy shooting!