Category Archives: Photo Processing

Masks in Lightroom and Capture One

For some time, Capture One has had very subtle and comprehensive masking and a style system that allows you to memorize various adjustments that can be compounded. To catch up, Adobe has rushed to update Lightroom with more masking options and the introduction of intersecting masks. Although accessing this feature is somewhat convoluted, the power of intersecting masks is a significant upgrade. The following collection of videos outlines how these work and why you might be using this feature on every photograph you process.

Nigel Danson illustrates how intersecting masks can solve processing issues that previously were very complex to achieve.

Preparing Images for Books

Preparing an image for a book is not quite the same as printing your image. With a book, the viewing distance is set to a standard; therefore, there is a more rigorous standard around resolution. If you are working with a book designer, you likely will be guided by their advice, and this article may only provide insight into why certain things are required.

Often, requests to prove an image for a publication will fail to specify the format and will ask for a specific size and resolution but not provide you with directions on how to create a file to that specification. If you are asked to provide images for a publication and are given these sorts of instructions, then the following may be of interest. Hopefully, they will help you put your best foot forward.

Using the Right File Format

A JPG or TIFF file will be best when you are not working with a designer. These can be created easily by exporting them from your photo processing programs. The export process will allow you to set not just the file format but also the resolution and size of the image. If you do not use photo processing programs, Mac has Preview, and Windows has Microsoft Photos.

Adjusting Resolution and then size in Apple’s free Preview programme

So, what is the difference between JPG and TIFF? JPG files are significantly smaller than TIFF files and much easier to send by email. However they, they use “lossy” compression, unlike TIFFs. This means every time you save a JPG file, its quality deteriorates. TIFF files, on the other hand, although larger, maintain their quality no matter how many times you save your file. The image below illustrates how JPG files degrade after multiple saves.

Image courtesy of Fstoppers, this link will take you to their article on JPG degradation.

Typically, most individuals will have a JPG file, which will work well provided that the resolution is correct, the camera has produced a good-quality image, and the files have not been saved multiple times.

If someone is laying out a book for you, a RAW file may be more desirable, so it is good to check. Keep in mind RAW here is being used as a generic term; each camera will have a different RAW format: ARW (Sony), NEF (Nikon), CRW (Canon), RAF (Fujifilm), ORF (Olympus), RAW (Leica), etc. RAW files have the advantage of containing significantly more information than a JPG file; this allows a book designer to correct camera errors and bring more uniformity to the publication.

If you export the image from a processing program, you may have the following options: JPG, TIFF, PNG, DNG and PSD.

File TypeCompressionProsConsUse for
JPEGLossyWidely supported small sizeLoss of quality after multiple saveshigh quality pictures, and web images
GIFLosslessSmall sizeLimited colour supportPrimarily used for web images
PNGLosslessSmall size larger file size, not widely supportedIcons, logos transparent images, web images
TIFFLosslessLarge File, high qualityCan quickly become a very large fileUsed widely in printing
PSDLosslessLarge fileLarge files may need to be converted for some usesUsed by graphic designers
Lossy Compression can be problematic if the file has been saved multiple times, as each time it is saved it degrades in quality.

Camera and Operator Errors

Camera errors can include mixed lighting problems, discolouring walls that should be white, objects that should be out of frame in a frame and angular distortions. Most of these are more easily corrected using a RAW file, and some of these are very difficult and sometimes impossible to correct using a JPG file. Focus issues due to the focus point not being set on the subject or setting your speed so slow the camera registers you hand movement, which both result in blurred image can not be fixed.

Resolution Coming from a Camera

The camera you use to create the image will determine the image resolution; for example, a 24mp camera will usually be 6000 X 4000 pixels, keeping in mind the file size, which may be 30MB or 48MB, does not tell you the resolution. The RAW image might be 30MB but converted to a TIFF; it could be 137MB or, as a JPG, 14MB, and all three could have the same resolution.

Two key elements that determine the resolution are DPI (dots per inch) or pixels per inch. In the image below, you can see a typical 24MP image from a camera. It produces a photo with a resolution of 240 pixels per inch and 25 inches on its longest side. Any resolution between 240dpi and 300dpi provides good print quality.

Typically, for book publishing, one would want to make sure the resolution was between 240 and 300 dpi and perhaps one or two inches more than the widest dimension of the book. This may not be technically necessary, but a little “fudge” room is always good. So, if the longest side of the book is ten by ten, I would not want the image to be less than 10 inches and not less than 240 dpi.

This shows a typical image in Pixels

This is the same image with the same pixels shown in inches.

Why Printing and Image for Wall Display is Different

Printing images for display on a wall involves taking into account the “circle of confusion,” which calculates the ability of an image to appear sharp, given the distance from which the viewer sees the image. I have left some links below if you want to read up on this, but I will not go into it in this article, only to say lower resolution images can appear sharp when enlarged and viewed from a distance. After all, the view distance of a work on a gallery wall often varies from that of a book. In today’s world of printing large images, individuals often step forward to look at the details of a print, so in these cases, the circle of confusion is misleading. I am not convinced that applying this theory to art photography is in the artist’s best interest. It likely works best when printing eight by ten images.

Resolution Coming from a Cell Phone

Typically, cell phones these days are 12MP. If you spend more money, the resolution can be much higher. The first image below is the size of a 12MP image from a typical smartphone. You will notice that although the image seems to be 14 inches on the longest side, the resolution is only 72 pixels per inch. This resolution is excellent for viewing on a computer screen but not for a book. If the resolution is changed to 300dpi, then the size of the image is only 3.4 inches on the longest edge. This is why a typical image from a cell phone does not translate well for most standard-size books, unless the image in the book is only 3 or 4 inches on its longest side.

Resizing and Cropping

Resizing and cropping both affect the quality of the image. Cropping reduces the size of an image, so if you have cropped your image to get rid of unwanted material, you have reduced the resolution. If this is the case or you are using a cell phone image, you might consider increasing the image size by resizing. This process basically uses an algorithm to produce more pixels based on pixels in the original image. Generally speaking, although the image’s resolution has been increased, the quality is not necessarily better. In many cases, it has just become fuzzier. Sometimes this method is necessary as a last resort, but an expert best does it to minimize the loss of quality. I have included references on the processing of resizing below.

Colour Space, Computer Screens and Paper

Colour space will often come up if you are working with a book designer; in this case, they will guide you through this issue. Printing uses CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black) colour space, but the internet and cameras use RGB (Red, Green and Blue), to create the colours in your image. I don’t recommend that those unfamiliar with this issue attempt to convert files for printing, and conversion is unnecessary for more informal image requests. The takeaway here is the conversion process could change, to some degree, the colour and tone of your image. Also, a backlit computer screen will display colours and tones very differently from a sheet of paper. So, colour and tone must be adjusted to fit the medium through which it is presented.


Using Masks in Lightroom

The following image was adjusted using Lightroom masking tools to isolate various areas of the image separately and then make adjustments specific to those layers.

Original RAW File

Isolating the sky using sky masking and then adjusting

Separating the sea and mountains by creating a mask using a colour selection, then Tone and Colour adjustments.

The previous mask is duplicated, then inverted and the sky is removed from the mask. Adjustments to Tone, Colour, Detail and Effects

Isolation of the rocks and bare trees using a colour mask selection. Adjustments were made to Tone, Colour, Effects and Detail.

A brushed layer was added to the show-capped volcano, and the Detail was adjusted. Then, two Liner lays were added diagonally to the upper portion of the sky. Adjustments were made to Tone.

Photographic Print Making

Bob Carnie

Bob Carnie, whose brick-and-mortar studio and gallery are located at the centre of the art district of Toronto, also mentors those interested produce prints. He provides expertise which includes photo printing, framing, and archiving negatives.

The attached gallery is a non-representational gallery that displays the work of artists he has enjoyed and supported. His particular interest is gum over palladium prints. These prints are hand coated onto artist-quality rag paper, and the image sits within the fibre of the paper, giving them an inner glow that is not obvious in other printing methods. Then a gum layer is added to the print, increasing contrast, depth and colour. He suggests it is a similar process to what Edward Steichen used when printing his photograph The Pond – Moonlight (1904).

As you can see on his website, he uses several other printing methods, including jet ink pigment prints and silver gelatin.

Bill Schwab, North Light Photographic Workshops

Bill Schwab, runs North Light Photographic Workshops in northern Michigan. He has posted many YouTube instructional videos on creating digital negatives, palladium prints, and wet plate collodion. He also runs on-site workshops and conducts photo tours.

Ken G. Miner

Ken Miner, whose studio is located in Victoria, BC, works with handmade wet collodion photographs and Tintypes & Ambrotypes. He does conduct individual workshops in the wet plate process, and film developing & printing on request and frequently does group wet plate workshops.

Christina Z. Anderson

Christina Z Anderson is another experimental photographer who has produced gum, salt, cyanotype, and other alternative photographic processes. She is a professor at Montana State University and does workshops all over the United States and Europe.

Photopolymer Photogravure – Silvi Glattauer

Silvi uses a photopolymer to create a photographic print from a plate or a photo intaglio print. The photopolymer plate is created using an Epson jet ink printer, bypassing the need for etching acids and complex resists on a metal plate. It goes directly from the printer to a UV lamp, and it is then developed in water before being inked and run through a press.

Kris Bochenek on Salt Prints

Ian Worth Platinum Palladium Prints


Experimental Photography

I have been working on ideas for merging experimental digital images into more experimental photographic processes. To that end, I have looked at Chemigrams, image transfers, and cyanotypes. What follows is the experimental exploration process. All images were exposed outside on the grass or on a table.

Cyanotype, Hanemüble Platinum Rag Paper

In this process, I used dried cyanotype on Hahnemüle Platinum, where I placed botanicals, spices, and other items and then placed the paper on wet grass. Additional moisture was introduced into the composition by running water from a hose under the paper and into the grass. The paper was left out on a bright sunny day for six hours before being taken in a processed

Due to the amount of water introduced in the image, an unexpected print occurred on the opposite side of the paper.

Wet Cyanotype on Rag Paper

The following experiment was to understand what might occur with similar materials on rag paper using a cyanotype medium painted on just before a composition was placed on it. Then this is placed onto wet grass as well. However, in this process, no water, other than the moisture present in the grass, was introduced into the paper.

Once the image was dried and pressed, flat watercolours were introduced into the paper.

Chemigram on RC Photo Paper

I started with RC paper and worked between fix, developer and water to create a chemigram. Then I put some of these images through a wet cyanotype process. The resulting image was then toned with washing soda.

Chemigram, Photopaper, Wet Cyanotype, and Double Exposure

The following is the experimentation with Chemigrams on warm-tone fibre photography paper, using an internegative to create an image. Then the same paper is processed using a wet cyanotype process. The wet cyanotype on the glossy surface of the photo paper had difficulty spreading on the paper and created an exciting result. I found this spreading issue could be partially controlled but tended to obscure the underlying image. I then digitized the image and used another image to create a double expose.

In addition, I tried some more chemigrams on the fibre paper to experiment with controlling the process on this surface. I then placed it through a dry cyanotype process with an internegative. Then toned and washed the paper after it had been dried.

Image Transfer

Thinking I might want to consider placing an image transfer on either of these experiments, I began experimenting with image transfers. Initially, I started with a high-quality pigment ink print on rag paper, but this process proved difficult, and the transfer did not occur. I then ran several experiments on different paper types, from a high-quality and cheap pigment ink print for a household multi printer. In the end, very cheap paper and the household printer did allow for an exciting image transfer. The image transfer was done by loading the paper with water and then using a rubber brayer to press the image onto the new surface.

Zen Exercise

“The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust

The Flash of Perception, then the Framing Dance

Photography is a performance art. You are dancing with your viewfinder within a scene to find a composition.  Unlike painters, writers and poets, a photographer seeks to find the compositional elements within the viewfinder,  you are an editor of the world that surrounds you. As you practice your walking practice you will find Zen-like and abstract images presenting themselves in your camera’s frame. This exercise is about focusing on those images.

Abstraction is about focusing on ideas rather than events, and in the world of art, it is about being free from the representational qualities of art. There is a subtle difference between representational images and things that are purely abstract. I would suggest that these sorts of images could be considered abstractions but I am inclined to call them zen-like images. The Sanskrit root meaning of zen is “thought,” “absorption,” or “meditation” images verging on being abstract have a Zen-like quality. These sorts of images, which have a minimal or simple representational quality, increase the intensity of the form they capture and have a meditative quality. So this exercise is about focusing on Zen-like images or abstract images, or both.

So it is about the relationship between form and space using space to increase the intensity of the form. Do not use the sky as the space by isolating telephone poles, planes or chimneys against the sky; instead, use things like walls or other colour fields to increase the intensity of the form. Think of how a Japanese garden often places objects against simple backgrounds. Use the techniques from the colour and pattern exercise and walking practice to get in touch with your intuition and flashes of perception.

Examples of Zen-like Images

Floor Lights
Just a Minute I have to Throw the Stick
Sheltered Pause

Examples of More Abstract Images

Historically Aaron-Siskind images might be of use to use as examples. Also the site provides some more modern examples.

Aerial Cities
In Deep Thought
Deep Confusion II
Looking Ashore


Is Digital-Based Image making Photography?

In print a digital image there are a lot of processes that can be used and unlike the wet darkroom days. In my practice, I am using a number of printing methods, however, I would to focus on is pigment ink printers for the purposes of this discussion. When printing 17 by 22 I use an Epson 3880 printer, and print on hot press bright cotton paper (fine art paper). What I find interesting about pigment ink printers is the similarity it has to other forms of planographic and intaglio printmaking process where pigment inks and cotton papers are used. Unlike chromogenic prints or C-prints processes, the materiality of a pigment in print is quite different. There are two advantages to pigment ink printers, first, the surface is whiter than C-prints which tend to have a dull less sharp look, and second, the gamut or range of colours is greater.

The Painters World

The traditional triad-based colour wheel painters for mixing pigments is quite different from the pigment used in digital printing. Painters have a wide variety of paints to choose from which are created using a large variety of pigments. Orginally most pigments were ground-up organic materials, but over time synthetic pigment colours have been introduced. Two of these, cyan and magenta now form the fundamental basis of the digital printing process. The problem from a painter’s perspective is magenta is not technically red and when mixed according to the wheel with yellow it tends to acquire a brown hue, and of course, cyan is not blue and has similar issues.

From UX Planet

Chromogenic Print Making

In the colour dark rooms of the 70s colour was done with up to three filters, as the light passed through the enlarger head your prints tended towards blue if it was a Fuji film or red if it was a Kodak. So your choice of paper had to be calibrated toward the filter colouring choices. This meant the gamut one could achieve in the darkroom was more limited than what digitally we can achieve today and much further away from what a painter could achieve.

From Reframing Photography
Once you have printed a full-size trial photograph at the correct density, evaluate the print’s colour. Assess the print under the same type of light source in which you will ultimately present it. If the presentation venue is not known, use daylight. Look for colour casts that you can identify as red, green, blue, cyan, magenta and/or yellow. For example, the cast may be greenish, which indicates the presence of too much green. Or the cast may be purplish, which would indicate the presence of excess magenta and blue. Usually, areas of the print that should be neutral gray are easiest to evaluate.
Instead of trying to identify a cast from six possible colours, you can halve the possibilities by determining whether the cast is warm or cool. On our colour wheel, the warm colours are at the right of the vertical axis (magenta, red and yellow) and the cool colours are at the left of the axis (green, cyan and blue).

You can see by comparing the two colour wheels that there is a difference in the colour one is working with. In the colour, darkroom blue is closer to purple and the red has an orange hue. So the colours that can be created this way are different and one has to be careful during the mixing process not to acquire too green a hue or too purple a hue. You are also working with cyan and Magenta.

The Digital Pigment Ink Prints

Digital printmaking now has a wider range of colours than traditional darkroom colour prints but this varies depending on your printer. In the common home printers, four pigments are used black, cyan, magenta and yellow.

In the Epson 3880 pigment printer, the palette is much broader, however magentas and cyans still dominate. As you look at larger Epson printed more pigments are available such as orange, greens and violets.

Keep in mind the whites of the image come from the paper and papers can vary widely in terms of how they produce a white, the white substrate does have an impact on the luminosity of the print and presentation of the pigments. I use the whitest hot press bright fine art paper which is cotton paper because of its bright white surface.

Print Pigments Painterly Quality

Digital printmaking has advanced technology by using more traditional fine art materials, such as pigments and fine art paper. This means more colour range and better blacks and whites opening up more creative choices. In so doing colour accuracy, which is critically important in most professions, for the artist moves them closer to the world of the painter in which colour accuracy is less important. It is now possible to use digital technology to print images, that look more like paintings than traditional photographs.

When you tell someone the image is a photograph people’s expectations of this media can cloud their perceptions idea of photography. These expectations can vary depending on their experience. Individuals who have been exposed extensively to chromogenic images may see the richer colours, deep blacks and bright whites as some sort of enhancement; leading them to think or ask if the image has been photoshopped, even if technically the print is accurate. Those who have been exposed to a lot of digital media where extensive colour grading as they do in TV shows like CSI: Miami may have a very different reaction.

Documentary versus Fine Art Printing

I am wondering if we need to consider a new way of referring to this form of printmaking, after all, it is a two-dimensional illusion a facsimile, like other forms of two-dimensional art. The difficulty with the word photograph is photography has been used extensively to document or accurately record events, represent evidence in courts, and record historical events in the press. Photography has as result been an instrument of reform as it shines a light on the darkest corners of our society. Accuracy is paramount when using photography for this purpose and photojournalists are not allowed to manipulate or enhance an image (although the act of framing can change the meaning of a photograph dramatically). This aversion to manipulation often influences how people look at photographs. The sciences when recording and analyzing microscopic worlds and galaxies also have a rigorous need for accuracy.

It is a complex process and the following flow charts give you some idea of the detail involved in getting an image to reflect the colour that was present when the image was taken.

How to Describe the Difference

If the word photography has this kind of influence on how people look at things called photographs even if they are present in a fine art venue, perhaps we need to find a new way of delineating the difference between fine art and documentary photography. In the fine arts world, accuracy is less important, it’s more about expression and the ability to evoke an emotional or conceptual reaction. Like a painter the making of a digital fine art print may need to have different tones harmonized, the intensity of certain colours adjusted, and the hues may need to be tweaked. All these decisions are decisions more akin to what a painter might consider than a documentary photographer.

It has been suggested to me that “digital-based image making” or “photo-based image making” might be a more accurate way to refer to this sort of photographic process. I tend to think the first term is more inclusive and less problematic. It seems a more accurate way of describing fine art image-making while distancing it from the documentary form of photography, at least until a better term evolves.

Fourteen Takes to One

When you get the sense that there is an image you want to make take your time, do a 360 of your chosen subject, take photographs like an artist who might make multiple sketches of a scene. This is in the tradition of Andre Cartier Bresson, who would return to a place where he knew there was an image taking roll after roll of film. Then looking at the contract prints once the film was developed, he would finally circle the one, the image that captured what attracted his attention in the first place. The one that captured the emotional experience of the scene.

A few days ago in the forest, I saw something out of the corner of my eyes between the trees. I turned and headed for the spot and began taking images, you can see from the images on my contact sheet below that it took some time to work out how to create an image that capture what I had seen. I began with the roots which seemed so unusual but that did not work either compositionally or as an expression of what I had seen. Somewhere past the middle of making images I finally felt confident I got the image I wanted but I still kept moving around and composing new images. I kept going because I knew given the light and the setting if I returned it might not be the same, and I would not be sure about the image I had felt would work until I saw it full screen in Lightroom.