My Adobe DNG chat with Eric Chan

For the past several years I’ve used Adobe’s DNG file format to store the raw image data captured by my digital cameras. I convert my Canon CR2 raw files to DNG early in my workflow and don’t keep the original raw captures. I’ve had great success with a DNG workflow and since DNG files contains the original raw image data, I’ve seen no need to retain the native files.

In every class and workshop I teach, the subject of DNG inevitably comes up. There’s a lot of confusion and uncertainty about DNG. So when researching subject matter for my next book, I thought I’d polish up my knowledge of this essential image file format.

In doing so, I reached out to one of today’s leading imaging software developers, Eric Chan, Senior Computer Scientist at Adobe. Following is a [very minimally edited] transcript of our email conversation. (more…)

Mark Johnson releases Photoshop Workbench Volume Two

Photoshop Workbench Volume Two features episodes 201 – 250 of Mark Johnson’s world-renowned Photoshop Workbench series.  Representing more than 11 hours of inspiring and enlightening Photoshop CS4 and CS5 education, this DVD is an extraordinary value at only $24.95.

Mark’s friendly and conversational approach to teaching invites the viewer to explore a non-destructive editing style that encourages joyful and imaginative use of Photoshop. Topics span the gamut from creative to practical, including Spirographic Splendor, Photoshop CS5’s Pixel Bender Plug-In, and Fixing the Hairline Between a Replaced Sky and the Horizon.

Each Workbench is presented in its original quality and size (1024 x 768 pixels) and the Table of Contents is keyword searchable. To view the complete Table of Contents and to order, visit

Lightroom and Photoshop Noise Reduction Plug-Ins

Recently, a reader of my Lightroom 2 book wrote to ask me about how to integrate Topaz DeNoise into an automated Lightroom workflow.

DeNoise is a Photoshop plug-in that requires its processing to be done within Photoshop (not Lightroom).

This case study illustrates one very pwerful method of integrating Lightroom’s capabilities with processing files inside Photoshop. Here’s my reply to the reader:

Re: integrating DeNoise in your workflow: since DeNoise is a Photoshop plug-in, you would automate the batch process using a combination of Lightroom Export and Photoshop Actions. (In my book, there is some info in the Export chapter about this; I’m adding more to it for my next version on Lightroom 3.)

You’d set up the Photoshop action first. With a file open, create a new action and give it a meaningful name. Then, while recording the action, launch DeNoise and apply auto settings for noise reduction. (You can set up another action that will allow you to manually adjust, too… I’ll explain this in a bit.) Click OK to apply the DeNoise adjustment. Then, with the action still recording, save and close the file. Then stop recording.

If you want to be able to selectively apply manual adjustments during the batch process, all you need to do is activate the Menu option at the DeNoise part of the script. The window will stay open for you to make your manual adjustments, then when you click OK, the Action will resume.

Next, create a droplet from the action. Depending on your version of Photoshop, it will be somewhere under the File menu; probably under Scripts or Automate. With the Create Droplet dialog box open, select your new action, and save the droplet to your desktop. You can move it somewhere else if you want, but put it somewhere it can remain.

Back in Lightroom, in the Export dialog box, select a sample file and click Export to set up all the criteria for your exported files. I’d recommend you keep them in the same folder as the Originals, enable Add to This Catalog and use TIF as the file format. You can use whatever bit depth and color space you prefer.

Next, select the droplet as a Post Processing action in the bottom section of the Export window. (If you move the droplet later, this link will need to be re-established.)

Finally, make sure to save your new settings as an Export Preset.

To process a batch, select all the files you want to run through DeNoise, and export them using that preset. Lightroom will render the files to disk, then one by one open them in Photoshop, run DeNoise, save and close the files.

(The Droplet containing your action will open and process all the photos for you; you won’t need to do it yourself. All you will see are the windows quickly opening and then closing. That’s the “batch process” in operation in Photoshop.)

A key point here is that Photoshop can only apply settings to one image at a time. And each image has to be open in a Photoshop document window for it to be processed by Photoshop or DeNoise. That’s what we use actions and droplets for.

After Photoshop is done processing and saving your photos, they will be automatically added back into your catalog.

I recognize that this is a somewhat compressed explanation; I hope it presents a clear solution. This method is useful for anything you want to automate between Lightroom and Photoshop, especially plug-ins.

Photoshop is turning 20

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the first release of the now-ubiquitous Photoshop.

Robert Scoble recently did an interesting video interview with John Knoll, co-creator of Photoshop

Moab Photo Symposium

I’m teaching two printing classes (with Lightroom and Photoshop) at the Moab Photo Symposium. Space is very limited so sign up soon! Click the image for details and registration.

Photoshop sticking points

I’m planning a Photoshop workshop with Bret Edge in 2010. We’re very interested to learn the major topics, techniques, tricks etc. that nature and landscape photographers are most interested in, confused about, etc. Please reply here with your thoughts. Thanks!

Converting photos to CMYK for publication

A recent question from a client:

“I have prepared a few images for my winter publication, exported out of LR and sent them on to my designer. They need CMYK. So, at what point do I make that conversion. Would I do an edit into Photoshop, make the conversion and then save it from there?”

My answer:

“Conversion to CMYK needs to be done in Photoshop. When you’re done working on your master file (either in Lightroom or Photoshop), make sure to save it, then convert to CMYK as part of your process of generating the derivative file. You can do this my choosing Image > Color Mode > CMYK. (Be sure to retain your original RGB master!)

When you do this, the CMYK color space that will be used by Photoshop is determined by what’s set in Color Settings. You should use a CMYK profile that is as close as possible to the color space of the printing press being used; for example, if printing on a web press, use US Web Coated etc.. Try to get a custom profile from the printer, made specifically for their press. If you can’t get one, ask them what CMYK profile to use.

In Photoshop, You can also convert to any profile on your computer (CMYK or otherwise) under Edit > Convert to to Profile > and then select the profile from the menu. Sometimes this provides a better method than simply changing the mode due to the available options for choosing different rendering intents and a live preview.”

When to print from Photoshop vs. Lightroom

Question from a client: When would you use PS for print with preview versus printing directly out of LR?

My answer: Re: printing from PS vs. LR – the Print with Preview in Photoshop is not the main attraction here. It’s the soft-proofing beforehand, and the ability to make adjustments specifically for that print.

If I want to make sure to get the absolute-best-possible print, I will still use Photoshop. I soft proof the file against a reference, make adjustments for the print conditions, and print directly from PS.

But this only is really beneficial for certain images, on certain papers. For example, if I am printing a photo with lots of rich, deep, saturated colors, and it’s going on matte paper, I’d want to soft-proof and make adjustments in order to retain as much quality as possible.

For most images, on photo papers with wide gamuts such as gloss or luster, the colors in the photo will fall within my printer/paper/ink’s gamut, and major adjustments aren’t necessary.

When printing from Lightroom, I might make minor adjustments based on the image, such as opening up the shadows a bit (try Fill Light and Brightness) and boosting the Saturation by +5 to +10.

As for the actual printing process itself, with the correct settings, there should be no difference in quality in PS vs. LR.

And you can also sort-proof your files and prep them as necessary, then print them from Lightroom. Lightroom’s layout capabilities make it the clear winner when you have many images to print.

CS4 now available

Adobe has announced it’s shipping Creative Suite 4, which includes a major upgrade to Photoshop.

There’s a page on Adobe’s site describing the benefits of Lightroom 2 and Photoshop CS4 together.

Read it here

Sharpening Refresher

I just re-read Bruce Fraser’s excellent explanation of current best practices for digital image sharpening and highly recommend it for anyone needing further explanation of sharpening.

Click for Article


After using PSD for many years as the file format for my Master Files (with layers, masks, channels, etc.) I have recently become convinced to switch to TIF for this…. Jeff Schewe and Andrew Rodney make a strong case for TIF in a thread on the Luminous Landscape forum.
Click here to read the thread

Adobe Bridge vs. Adobe Lightroom

Many people ask whether it’s better to use Bridge or Lightroom.

I use both, for different purposes.

If I need to quickly find an image and I know its location, or I need to quickly look into a folder full of images, I will use Bridge.

However, I use Lightroom for transfering raw captures to the computer, adding metadata, ranking, cropping, and processing (developing) the raw images. I go as far as possible within Lightroom before I take a file into Photoshop, usually only for sharpening, selective/localized editing such as dodging and burning, or soft-proofing prior to printing.

The key differences between Lightroom and Bridge:

1. Lightroom is a standalone product and must be purchased separately; Bridge comes included with full versions of Photoshop.

2. Lightroom uses a powerful database to perform non-destructive editing (with unlimited undos) and provides for very fast searching within large numbers of images. Bridge is a file browser, meaning it can show you the contents of a folder and will preview files, but doesn’t keep track of the status or settings for any of the images.

3. Lightroom has a raw processing engine built-in, Bridge uses the Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) plug-in. However, the raw processors in current versions of  Lightroom and Bridge/ACR are essentially identical.

Personally, for the majority of reviewing and editing my photos, I generally prefer Lightroom for its streamlined workflow and its database capabilities. But for people who don’t wish to spend the money or take the time to learn a new program, Bridge with ACR is a totally competent solution.

Lightroom Color Management and Soft-Proofing

Many people ask about soft-proofing in Lightroom. The simple answer: there isn’t any. At least not yet.

However, Lightroom is a color-managed application. So if your monitor is properly calibrated, you can trust what you see on screen – that is, until you need to preview the printed output for a specific printer/paper combination.

For this, you still need to go into Photoshop. My workflow:

1. Perfect the image as much as possible in Lightroom

2. Select the “Edit in photoshop CS3…” command from the Photo menu.

3. In Photoshop, perform sharpening, soft-proofing and make any necessary adjustments for print.

You can then either print the image from Photoshop or go back into Lightroom for printing.

Tip: when you’re done editing the file in Photoshop, make sure to use the Save… command and not Save As… This will update the linked file in the Lightroom database.

Lightroom/PS CS3 Sharpening Workflow

I’m getting a lot of inquiries regarding the optimum workflow for sharpening using Lightroom and Photoshop CS3. Here’s what I recommend:

1. When working an image in Lightroom Develop, set the sharpening controls to their default settings by double-clicking the word “Sharpening”. (In all the modules/panels, double clicking the name of the control – not the panel header – will reset them to default values). Note: to fix chromatic aberration, turn sharpening off first.

2. After processing the image for Tone and Color in Develop, TURN SHARPENING OFF IN LIGHTROOM by setting the Amount slider to 0. Then, take the image round-trip into Photoshop for sharpening (and if necessary, selective edits and soft-proofing etc.). To do this most efficiently, use the Edit in Photoshop… command under the Photo menu.

3. In Photoshop, use PhotoKit Sharpener from Pixel Genius to do up to three rounds of sharpening: 1) Capture Sharpen – very gentle, overcomes the loss of sharpness inherent in digitizing an image; 2) Creative Sharpen – can be either global or local; this is the heaviest round of sharpening and is image- and detail-specific; and 3) Output Sharpening – done after all other editing and after resizing image to final print size.

4. You can then take the image round-trip back to Lightroom for printing/presentation etc. or print from Photoshop.

Tip: when you’re done editing the file in Photoshop, make sure to use the Save… command and not Save As… This will update the file in the Lightroom database.

Photoshop Performance Tips

Is Photoshop running sluggishly on your computer? Regardless of your system, these twelve simple steps will help you get the best possible performance from Photoshop:


Introduction to Digital Photo Workflow

A digital photography workflow is the sequence of steps you take to capture, process and output your images. An effective workflow is one that you can follow repeatedly and that will save you time and provide the best possible results.

The right workflow for one person may not be appropriate for another due to a variety of factors such as personal preferences and skills, available software, shooting style/subject matter and time requirements. However, the best digital photo workflows share a common set of basic steps. (Each step may be comprised of a number of variables, the details of which are not covered here.)

To develop a workflow that suits you, consider your skill level, equipment (camera and computer), subject matter and your intentions for the final images. Your workflow will evolve as your situation changes over time.

Step 1. Capture
Using your digital camera, capture your photos in either RAW or JPG mode. RAW provides the highest quality but requires processing in the computer. JPG is lower quality but can be viewed and shared (such as in email attachments) right out of the camera. (more…)

Evaluating Photographs and Making Editing Decisions

Every photograph is unique and each image will require different enhancements to make the photograph look its best. However, there are common criteria to use when evaluating your image to determine what enhancements should be made.

Many of these decisions are subjective and the choices you make should reflect your creative vision of how the image should look. Some enhancements, such as noise reduction and sharpening, are less subjective as there are established standards of technical quality to be considered. For example: in most cases people would agree that digital noise is undesirable. Also, most people would agree that the main subject of the photo should have sharp, crisp edges. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule and the creative decisions you make should be guided by your personal preferences.

When evaluating your image and making creative decisions, start with the biggest changes first and work your way to the smaller “fine-tuning” adjustments. Global edits are changes made to the entire image; Local (or selective) edits are changes made only to specific areas of the image.

Think about the editing to be done and make a plan before starting work. Keep in mind that every step of the workflow affects–and is affected by–every other step. For example, sharpening the image may increase noise; adjusting color may affect apparent contrast, etc. So it may be necessary to go back and forth between steps to perfect the image. (more…)

Photoshop Blending Modes

From Photoshop CS2 Help

A layer or painting tool’s blending mode determines how its pixels blend with underlying pixels in the image. You can create a variety of special effects using blending modes. (more…)

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