CMS (Color Management System) Tips & Tricks
The above screen grabs are from a very powerful tool I bought while researching color management. Chromix ColorThink plots icc profiles as well as image colors in 2D and 3D. The “squiggly” orange area in the 2D chart (top left) represents all the colors in my friend’s photo (right) which appear to be fully contained within the printer gamut (multicolored outline) but when converted to a 3D graph, it’s easy to see that many colors are actually out of gamut meaning the printer can’t reproduce them. The second row shows a 2D graph of all the colors in the PDI test chart (right) versus a 3D graph (center) showing some colors are out of gamut. The main difference is that the colors in the PDI chart can be brought back into gamut without visibly affecting the print but the colors in my friend’s image are so far out that major compromises will be required.
Anyone who prints photos knows it can be tough getting just the right colors from either their own printers or from a service provider. If you’re just pumping out a few prints for Grandma & Grandpa, spot on color probably isn’t a big deal but if you’re printing an 8×10 to frame, getting the right color can be a pretty finicky process. If you’re producing a print for competition, spot on color can be the difference between winning and also ran.
Six months ago, the Sedona Camera Club invited me to present a program on CMS. Specifically, they wanted a program to help members who don’t own their own printers and aren’t interested in spending lots of money to implement a “proper” CMS. Of course, I said, “Sure, no problem” before thinking through what I was getting myself into.
In a flash of inspiration, I decided to break down the presentation into two distinct parts. First, I’ll explain how and why proper CMS is such a huge, complex and expensive endeavor. I’ll explain the science behind color from human eyesight to camera capture to editing and, finally, to print. This will be a 30,000 foot overview, so to speak.
The second half of the program will concentrate on an “old school” technique borrowed from the darkroom, test strips. I’ll demonstrate how to quickly and easily create digital test strips in both Photoshop/Elements as well as Lightroom to avoid multiple, costly bad prints. This isn’t a particularly innovative idea. I used to do this all the time in the old chemical darkroom days. I first read about the digital version in Rob Sheppard’s book, Epson Complete Guide to Digital Printing (Lark, 2005, out of print.) In fact, I posted an article about this technique back in 2011. The post was specific to Photoshop Elements and contains a minor difference from what I now recommend but produces nearly the same results.
It’s doubtful most people will spend $150 for a copy of ColorThink plus another $1000 to $3000 for a printer, suitable monitor and colorimeter. However, using test strips, you can get very close. Over the next few weeks, I’ll post step-by-step procedures for making test prints using Photoshop CS4, Lightroom 6 and Photoshop Elements 9 & 13. Stay tuned.
1500 Miles Later
Since my last post, we’ve traveled from Kaibab Lake National Forest Service Campground (NFS CG) outside Williams, AZ to the Badlands of South Dakota. We’re now on our way back after surviving loud, obnoxious motorcycles on their way to Sturgis and 45+ mph wind gusts & headwinds through Wyoming. A motorhome has all the aerodynamics of a brick. Our brick is 31 feet long, 13 feet tall and 8.5 feet wide so driving in strong winds is tiring and stressful.
We’re now safely ensconced at a small RV park in tiny Fillmore, UT, doing laundry, cleaning the cat’s litter box, vacuuming the RV and all the same housekeeping things we do at home except, in an RV, it’s more of a hassle.
I haven’t been able to get into the groove this trip so most of my photographs have been touristy sorts of snapshots. Here are the best of the bunch. My favorites are the LDS kids on a “handcart trek,” a recreation of Mormon pioneer journeys. These photos were made at Independence Rock, WY where the kids re-enact a 10 mile segment at Martin’s Cove, WY, an important LDS historical site. The first thing I noticed were the modern fluorescent sneakers worn by many of the young girls. They were more than happy to show off their sneakers and period clothing.
The Mormon kids I’ve met in Utah are among the most polite, upbeat and intelligent kids I’ve ever met. The last on in the green skirt was a real ham. Notice the snazzy nail polish on few of the girls.
This next batch is from Williams, AZ including shots from their 4th of July parade and lady bugs atop Bill Williams Mountain Lookout. The antennae are just one tower of about 15 towers at the summit.
These last five are from Red Fleet State CG near Vernal, UT, Bryce Canyon NP in UT and Devil’s Tower National Monument in South Dakota. The rabbits at Red Fleet were so tame it was funny. They were driving our cat, T, crazy by feeding within 2-3 feet of him as he sat caged in his “catio.” At Devil’s Tower NM, mulies were everywhere. I only had my 24-105 with me so this is a small crop but mulies didn’t seem worth unlimbering the “big guns.”
As you can see, when talent takes a vacation, I resort to HDR and other post-processing techniques to make the photos appear interesting. I hope to get out of this “foto funk” when I get home the end of August.
All of the above photos were made with a Canon 5D Mk II and Canon 24-105/4L and processed in Lightroom 6. For HDR, I used Photomatix from HDRsoft. I tried Merge to HDR in LR6 but didn’t like the results.
From here, we’re headed back to Kaibab Lake NFS CG via Las Vegas, not because we’re enamored of LV but because we want to avoid US Highway 89 from Bitter Springs to Flagstaff. We’ll spend two weeks in the AZ high country where, hopefully, the temperate weather will hold throughout August. After that, we plan to stop in Flagstaff for a day or two to get work done on our RV and then head home where it should be a cool 100F.
It’s Cool in Williams
It’s only 132 miles from Wickenburg to Williams but our convoluted route has been 500 miles total. By now, we had planned to be well into northern Utah but health and planning issues have us hunkered down at Kaibab Lake Campground in the Kaibab National Forest surrounding Williams.
Williams is a cool little town that has reinvented and reinvigorated itself while still staying focused on it’s role as Gateway to Grand Canyon. Located off I-40, Williams is less than 60 miles south of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. During the past recession, Williams discovered it had to renew and refresh itself to stay competitive, a lesson many small towns fail to learn.
We found a great Forest Service CG (campground) at Kaibab Lake. Using our Senior Pass, we’re in an RV site that looks directly into the Kaibab Forest. We were told elk often wandered past our site but I didn’t expecting them to be knocking on the door of the motorhome, asking for handouts. Here are some quick grab shots from yesterday. I hope to have the tripod set up later this week as the herd grazes across the meadow.
I’m told only “the boys” grow antlers so these are all males with some serious racks. They all still have velvet indicating new growth antlers. In the fall, all that camaraderie goes to heck as the guys enter the “rut” or mating season. But, for the moment, all is “peace and harmony” as the gang makes its way past the camp site each morning and afternoon, noshing on plentiful grass.
These photos were made with a Canon 7D and Canon 300/2.8 + 2x TC for a total field of view (FoV) of 960mm. I didn’t have time to assemble my tripod and Wimberley gimbal head so handholding at that FoV is PDL (pure dumb luck.) Out of about 50 frames, I got these 5 which all required a lot of post-processing. Also, this was late afternoon and even with ISO 1600, I was stuck with ~1/50 sec shutter speed. I hope to have better photos later this week.
Learning Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
If you’re serious about learning Lightroom and stepping up your post-processing skills, this is the book for you. The full title is The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC/Lightroom 6 Book by Martin Evening. List price is US$59.99 but Mary ordered it from Barnes & Noble using various discounts for ~US$30 or about 4.1 cents per page.
I received it just before we left and I’ve been slogging through it for the past 9 days, a few pages at a time. It’s well written and has helped clarify many previously befuddling issues but, it’s not for the faint of heart.
I also ordered Jeff Schewe’s The Digital Negative (updated 2015.) This is a companion book to Jeff’s outstanding book The Digital Print. Jeff’s book won’t arrive until Sep or Oct but if you’re trying to unravel the mysteries of digital printing, get The Digital Print in the meantime and get ahead of the curve.
When a Re-Shoot Isn’t Feasible…
Which is most of the time, here’s a tip for cleaning up a dark, gray, unappetizing background that’s supposed to be pure white.
The photo on the left is before I cleaned it up. The photo on the right is after I cleaned up the b/g (background) to make it whiter. That was my original plan but, when you’re in a rush, stuff happens.
After I made all the usual corrections such as Crop, White Balance, Levels and Sharpen, I realized the b/g was still a dingy, off-white. For this photo, I wanted Alyssa to “pop” out of that b/g.
I originally did this in Lightroom 6 but thought it might be useful to show how to do it in Photoshop Elements 9. Besides, I haven’t used PSE9 is so long, I wanted to see if I could still get around inside it.
After opening the photo in PSE9, I selected the Dodge Tool (bottom of the Tool Bar assuming that’s where you keep your Tool Bar) and selected a Soft Round Brush. Next, I set Range to Highlights and Exposure to about 10-15%. For this image, I set my brush size to 150 pixels and just started brushing out the gray. As I got closer to Alyssa, especially her very fair skin, I had to be careful not to let the brush go too far into her skin. For more precision, I enlarge the photo to 300x-400x and reduced the size of my brush. This was particularly important for the area between her right arm and dress.
This isn’t something I’d want to do for lots of images and it’s not a fix for images that will be printed to anything over 4×6 but it’s fine for small web images. Of course, the best solution is to get it right in camera.
Lightroom Tip for Shaving 10 LBS
Dr. Oz and the TV infomercials have nothing on this quick & dirty tip for slimming down a person in a photo. This first tip is for Lightroom. In the next section, I’ll tell you how to do this in PSE and the differences between the two.
Here’s Tylor, a cute 17 year old, aspiring pin-up model in San Diego before she moved to New York. She’s not fat by any means but has the curves of a pin-up model.
In the second photo, I used Lightroom’s Lens Correction controls to elongate her and shaved off 10 pounds. In the process, I made her legs a bit longer in comparison to her torso while still keeping the “curves.” The third image is a screen capture of the controls I used in LR.
I first used the Vertical Perspective Correction to “lean” the top of the image back. That causes her to become slightly elongated. Next I used the Scale Correction to enlarge the image back to it’s original aspect ratio. Finally, using the Aspect Correction, I “squeezed” in the sides to shave off a few pounds that were added when I made her appear taller.
This next photo was edited in Photoshop Elements 9 (see below as to why I didn’t use PSE13.)
Here, I simply used the Free Transform tool to slightly squeeze in the sides and elongate the photo to shave off a few pounds. While this technique is quick, I don’t like it as much because she’s lost her curves. She appears just skinny as opposed to tall and full figured. You can do the same thing with the Distortion tool.
It seems that PSE13 needs/wants me to be logged into my Adobe Account to be launched. It may be my security features but, for some reason, PSE13 always throws a dialog box telling me, “Sign In Required.” None of my other Adobe products including Lightroom4 & 6, PS4 nor PSE 9 throws that dialog box. Until I can figure out a workaround, I refuse to use PSE13. I have a suspicion Adobe can’t add much more functionality to PSE without cannibalizing PS sales so they’re collecting user data to monetize to improve PSE margins.