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Daily Grind, Workflow & Luminosity Masking


Dallas
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It’s Saturday morning as I sit here typing this run-down of the past week or so in my world of photography. I’ve taken a break from shooting some product here in the studio, which is a nice change from all the real estate I have done this month. So far this month I have photographed 27 homes and I have a small queue of about 5 that I still have to do before the billing cycle ends. More will probably come in next week. I’m not complaining! This work is ideal for me as it gets me out of the house and I get to interact with other living, breathing humans, which is a real pleasure that you can’t explain to people who don’t experience the kind of loneliness that comes with working at home on your own. 

 

The properties I have done this month range from dilapidated and neglected to spectacular and aspirational. Yesterday I had two homes on polar opposites of that spectrum. One was so bad I almost walked off site. The stink from the bathroom nearly had me retching. The other was an 80’s architecturally designed space that was immaculate and had me longing for a similar space to live and work in. The basement would have made the perfect home office and studio for me. Alas…

 

Depending on the size of the property it takes me between 20-60 minutes to shoot a listing. The editing takes a similar amount of time and if I could only find a way of automating the Lightroom HDR process I’d probably not have to break much of a sweat when it comes to editing. I did try using the Olympus in-camera HDR features which produce a JPG and .ORF file from about 4 or 5 exposures but they’re not a match for the way Lightroom does it. They tend to come out very flat and look weird. 3 frames taken stop apart and then blended in Lightroom seems to work just fine, but unfortunately I have to tell the program which 3 it has to blend together, so that forms the bulk of my “editing” time. I also apply a few presets, such as correcting verticals and distortion of the Olympus 9-18mm lens. It’s weird that the built in profile doesn’t seem to be able to do this. 

 

So my typical morning involves photographing up to 3 properties in the same general area, then coming home, having something to eat and commencing the digital output of between 15-40 shots per listing. The rest of the day is spent contacting home-owners and making appointments to do the shoots. Kind of like herding cats. 

 

During the course of the week I was pointed in the direction of Lumenzia which is a Photoshop panel developed by a photographer named Greg Benz and is offered by him for free. Basically it’s a thing Photoshop experts call “luminosity masking” which sounds frightfully intimidating, but after watching a few of his introductory videos I might just give this a go should I find the time and inspiration to enhance some of the landscape (and property) work I have done in the past. 

 

The trouble with editing in Photoshop, for me at least, is that I don’t find the interface very intuitive at all and there are so many concepts and hidden shortcuts that are quite daunting. For instance, if you hold down ALT when you click on certain tools or masks, an entirely different set of editing parameters can be activated. Remembering what all this stuff does is difficult for me, but I suppose it will come with practice. But that in itself is another discussion. Do I want to be spending an inordinate amount of time and energy on editing in Photoshop, or do I want to be out and about with my cameras? I think that if I am shooting for myself then yes, I can certainly see the rewards in spending the time and effort learning Photoshop properly, but for cheaply commissioned jobs like real estate and some pack shot work like I am doing today, working with Lightroom is perfectly adequate. 

 

I like the simplicity of Lightroom. If I could make an analogy between working with the two pieces of software, it would be to say that Lightroom is the smooth highway and Photoshop is the 4x4 track that lead to the same destination. Yes, you can do much more with Photoshop, but getting to your end result requires a lot more technical expertise than that of Lightroom. Just like tackling a 4x4 route.

 

P5190121.jpg

Regular readers will be quite familiar with this space. This is what it looks like when I am shooting pack shots. I don't do too much of that these days - it seems that most online entrepreneurs are quite content to do it themselves even if they don't get quite the result they really want. It does have me thinking that I might very well develop a short course for this group of people showing them how to get a better than cellphone pack shot. Typically I am using my two Olympus FL-600R flashes, one fired into the ceiling at full power (it's the one attached to the orange clamp on the backdrop stand) and the other through an umbrella (which you can see just beyond my camera closest to the desk). In the past I had the huge a/c strobes set up but in this space it's just too much to trip over. This shot is taken with the Samyang 7.5mm fisheye and then straightened with one click in Lightroom using a lens profile I downloaded from somewhere. If I get more pack shot work I am probably going to invest in a long active USB cable so that I can shoot this tethered, which will make it a lot easier to do. 

 

EM1B9224-Edit.jpg

This is the outcome of that setup above, deep etched in the dreaded Photoshop. It's not a finished shot yet.



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Luminosity masks are powerful and worth the effort to learn to use them, much much quicker than trying to mask with the brush and also significantly better quality

A quick search in youtube will find a number of tutorials

The amount of "secret" keyboard combinations in PS is daunting 

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Dallas - Sounds as though the real estate photography is doing well. Hope you are able to find both enjoyment and a dependable addition to your income stream. As for Photoshop, I could not agree more. While the evolution of Lightroom has been very good and enabled less use of Photoshop, that same less use makes it more difficult to use when you must resort to it! Photoshop is definitely one of those skills that atrophies rapidly if not used frequently. Regards, Frank

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Hi Dallas, thanks for the article. I was interested to see you used the Samyang 7.5 then straightened it in LR. The results look OK on the low res shot you posted. Are you happy with the result as a high-res image? 

The reason I ask is I've been thinking of getting an ultra-wide angle, but the idea of a fisheye intrigues. The cost of rectilinear UW is high (eg, even the Laowa manual lens is pricy, given that it's not a widely recognised brand).

I'm curious to hear what you think of your Samyang, especially used in this way.

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Robert, it's not something I would use in a high res environment. The edges get pretty soft and stretched, so you do have to be very careful about how you compose. I think that there is another, perhaps better way of straightening it with different software - @Alan7140 will be able to impart more knowledge on that as I believe he has done it with his fisheye using the Fuji system. 

 

However, that said, this little Samyang fisheye lens is probably the best money I have spent on a lens for micro four thirds. I think when I bought it I paid about $300 for it new and I have loved using it, even unstraightened. It's a lot of fun, really sharp and when used on a mirrorless camera like the OM-D's in A mode it somehow still manages to get exposure correct. 

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Imadio's Fisheye Hemi is perhaps the best "de-fish" software available, designed principally for landscape orientated photos as it just straightens the verticals and pulls back the centre barrel distortion a bit - the horizontal lines are left as curves, just as happens when producing a stitched panorama with a rectilinear lens.

 

The benefit of this is that there is minimal image loss (mainly in the corners - the full width of the image is retained), and works particularly well when photographing groups by not making the people at the sides of the group look fat, as happens with a rectilinear wide angle.

 

One I took recently that fully demonstrates the effect, 8mm Samyang on Fuji X-T2, before & after (and shows that if photographing architecture you have to be very mindful of those horizontals):

 

QIuvPJh.jpg

 

7asHFLc.jpg

 

 

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On 5/19/2018 at 10:36, armando_m said:

Luminosity masks are powerful and worth the effort to learn to use them, much much quicker than trying to mask with the brush and also significantly better quality

A quick search in youtube will find a number of tutorials

The amount of "secret" keyboard combinations in PS is daunting 

 

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The PSCC luminosity is time consuming and fills the photoshop buffer.

For the past years I have relied on the heavy usage of luminosity masks

for all my digital processing. Luminosity masks allows you the MOST

control and and success. If you serious about photography it is one of

the best processing tools. I researched to find the best of the luminosity

software and after trying the three major platforms  I chose "Lumenzia"

by Greg Benz. Lumenzia is well priced and very user friendly as

well as many tutorials by Greg Benz. What ever software you select

the use of luminosity masks is the most productive digital processing tool.

FL Doyle

 

P-ANP-Coast-06CFS.jpg

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On 6/7/2018 at 09:09, fldoyle said:

Lumenzia

thanks for the info

I have to take a look the fact that it keeps the file to a decent size is what interests me the most, when the files get over 1GB things start slowing down awfully on my system

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      Sadly, as with most infrastructural systems that had been put in place by the previous regime, it fell into disrepair after the transition to democracy and only the southernmost central beaches were having their sand replenished a few times a year, while the more central and northern beaches were literally disappearing from the coastal scour that affects them. This year it reached crisis point and finally lit a fire under the new city management’s collective behinds to take emergency action. 
       

      The structure you see being eroded was actually once a pump house for the original reclamation scheme. Ironic that it is now becoming a casualty of the thing it was designed to protect us from. 
       
      On my walk this morning I see that they are doing it slightly differently this time around. Instead of pumping it from the harbor mouth and spraying it towards the ocean, the sand appears to be getting pumped from a point about 300m from the shore directly onto the beach into huge mounds which are then being bulldozed flat. Honestly, I don’t think this is going to work very well and it certainly doesn’t make much sense from an economic point of view to have these big diggers and dozers running all day, taking sand from where it is being deposited and manually moving it across the beach when all they have to do is point the outlet towards the sea, pump the sand in that direction and just leave it there. That’s how they did it in the 80’s and it worked perfectly for a long time. 
       

       

       

      Bulldozers in action.
       

      Not a great pic, but this is the floating connection point for where the dredger drops off the sand to be pumped onto the main beach. 
       

       

       

       

       
      These are all iPhone pics of the current operation, taken using the Lightroom CC app. 
       
      On the subject of this Lr app, I am now a bit perplexed to have discovered that all the photos I took were seriously underexposed (by around 3 stops) when I opened up the Lightroom CC app on my iMac. I don’t use the app a lot but obviously the last time I did I must have reduced the exposure quite a lot and then not bothered to reset it to normal. The problem with using the Lr phone app in bright daylight is that the phone will adjust its screen brightness automatically to compensate for the ambient light, in this case boosting itself significantly, so unless you have got a really good memory on where you last left the exposure compensation, you’re likely to make the same mistake. That’s a bit of a design flaw in the Adobe app if you ask me (something they seem to be getting very good at doing lately). That said, I am quite impressed that the files were rescuable by lifting the exposure and shadows by a couple of stops and then applying a 50% noise reduction to them.

      View full article
    • By Dallas
      Last week I was pretty busy with photographing Real Estate listings. I think I ended up doing 8 for the week. Some were great, some were just awful, so I am thinking of changing my official title from “Property Photographer” to “Turd Polisher”, because that is a very appropriate description of what I am doing when editing some of my work. 
       
      Anyway, today I didn’t have anything on, so to get out of the house for a little while I took a drive down to the beachfront. For those of you who don’t know, May is the very best time of the year to visit Durban. The weather is quite stunning nearly every day. The sky is blue, there is never any wind and the ambient temperature averages about 23-25˚C. Usually this time of year we see lots of people heading to the beaches to enjoy the warm Indian Ocean water and this magnificent weather. However, this year there is a problem. Some of the main central beaches are closed while the city tries valiantly to replenish the fast eroding sand. 
       
      Due to it’s position at the mouth of several rivers, large portions of the city are essentially reclaimed land and in the current age of global warming we are seeing some unusually high spring tides on a more frequent basis than has been the case historically. These events wreak havoc on the promenade as the ocean tries to reclaim its dominance over the shoreline. 
       

      Google Earth 3D view of the city, looking south west. The harbour mouth was once an estuary and the entire point area is actually a giant sandbar. On the horizon you can see the Drakensberg mountains. 
       
      Since I’ve been alive and living here (50 years now), it’s been an ongoing battle. Sometime in the early 1980’s the city engaged the services of an overseas company who came up with the brilliant idea of taking the sand normally dredged from the harbor mouth and pumping it onto the beaches with water via massive 2m diameter pipes. As kids we watched this operation unfold with fascination and were astonished to see the beach grow from it’s usual width of (roughly) 50-100m to more than triple that in places. It was a huge success and the city then built its own, somewhat smaller, but permanent sand pumping system to maintain the shoreline. 
       
      Sadly, as with most infrastructural systems that had been put in place by the previous regime, it fell into disrepair after the transition to democracy and only the southernmost central beaches were having their sand replenished a few times a year, while the more central and northern beaches were literally disappearing from the coastal scour that affects them. This year it reached crisis point and finally lit a fire under the new city management’s collective behinds to take emergency action. 
       

      The structure you see being eroded was actually once a pump house for the original reclamation scheme. Ironic that it is now becoming a casualty of the thing it was designed to protect us from. 
       
      On my walk this morning I see that they are doing it slightly differently this time around. Instead of pumping it from the harbor mouth and spraying it towards the ocean, the sand appears to be getting pumped from a point about 300m from the shore directly onto the beach into huge mounds which are then being bulldozed flat. Honestly, I don’t think this is going to work very well and it certainly doesn’t make much sense from an economic point of view to have these big diggers and dozers running all day, taking sand from where it is being deposited and manually moving it across the beach when all they have to do is point the outlet towards the sea, pump the sand in that direction and just leave it there. That’s how they did it in the 80’s and it worked perfectly for a long time. 
       

       

       

      Bulldozers in action.
       

      Not a great pic, but this is the floating connection point for where the dredger drops off the sand to be pumped onto the main beach. 
       

       

       

       

       
      These are all iPhone pics of the current operation, taken using the Lightroom CC app. 
       
      On the subject of this Lr app, I am now a bit perplexed to have discovered that all the photos I took were seriously underexposed (by around 3 stops) when I opened up the Lightroom CC app on my iMac. I don’t use the app a lot but obviously the last time I did I must have reduced the exposure quite a lot and then not bothered to reset it to normal. The problem with using the Lr phone app in bright daylight is that the phone will adjust its screen brightness automatically to compensate for the ambient light, in this case boosting itself significantly, so unless you have got a really good memory on where you last left the exposure compensation, you’re likely to make the same mistake. That’s a bit of a design flaw in the Adobe app if you ask me (something they seem to be getting very good at doing lately). That said, I am quite impressed that the files were rescuable by lifting the exposure and shadows by a couple of stops and then applying a 50% noise reduction to them.
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