Blend Modes – Learning to Love Them

No matter what editing software you use today, it will likely include layers, masking and blend modes (also known as blending modes).  Everybody’s doing it now – Photoshop and Lightroom, of course, but also ON1, Luminar, Topaz, etc.

orange-translate-buttonAnd the more software that includes blend modes, the more frustrated I get at their lack of ability to explain in plain English exactly what they are.  I’ve read countless blogs, gone to workshops partly to understand them, watched countless YouTube videos looking to make sense of them, and more often than not, the recommendation of the instructor is simply to try them and see what happens.  My brain needs more.  I want to be able to explain them.  This post will try to do that.

Before you run screaming from the room, I’m not going to give you the item by item breakdown of all of the blend modes available in any software.  My intent is to help you understand what a blend mode does generally and how to make a choice among the ones you have available in your software. Continue reading “Blend Modes – Learning to Love Them”

The Changing Face of Photo Editing

A bit late with this post.  It is summer, after all, here in Canada.

A couple of new announcements in July caught my attention because I use both products but also because they are clear examples of the changing face of photo editing.

Attention - Hot NewsSkylum announced the upcoming release of Luminar 4, scheduled for sometime in the fall.  Originally released in 2017, the company and the product have gone through some interesting evolutions.

Topaz Labs released the next version of its Studio software, completely redesigning the interface, and redefining its associated pricing model.

Both products are standalone photo editors.  Both products also provide plugin options for Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.  But that’s not what makes them interesting. Continue reading “The Changing Face of Photo Editing”

Live and Learn

There’s a reason this post is late.  I usually try to post twice a month – 1st and 15th.  Fully intended to do that this time.  Then plans changed…

I’m told I should be applauded for trying new things.  I guess that’s a consolation.  But trying new things also means being ready for things to go wrong.  I wasn’t quite ready.

Here’s what happened… Continue reading “Live and Learn”

Looking at Lookup Tables (LUTs)

A while ago, I began hearing a term that I wasn’t familar with:  lookup tables (LUTs).  Curious, I “looked up” the definition, and was mildly puzzled to see it defined as a series of values in table format that helps you interpret or translate another set of values.

Image DataWhat does that have to do with photography?  As it turns out, every part of a digital image is a set of values – for size, dimensions, camera settings, colour space, etc.  We’ve long had the ability to manipulate any one value to our liking through the sliders we see in modern editing software.  Now it seems we also have the ability to redefine broad swaths of data at once.  Find out how. Continue reading “Looking at Lookup Tables (LUTs)”

The Meaning of Life (ok, not quite)

One of the most confusing parts of photo editing for me is finding simple definitions for some of the concepts inherent in photo editing software.  Things like layers, blend modes and opacity, which are concepts many people ask about.  But also the difference between pixel layers, raster layers, adjustment layers, and fill layers.

Featured ImageWhat are filters and why are they separate from adjustments?  And what the heck is rasterizing anyway? Or the difference between “rasters” and “vectors”?  And what is “rendering”?  And of course, the single most important concept – non-destructive vs. destructive editing.

Despite shooting for many years, I stumble my way through explaining these concepts.  So I finally went looking for the real answers.  It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.   But I persevered.  Here’s what I found. Continue reading “The Meaning of Life (ok, not quite)”

Photography as Art

ScotiabankApril and May are the traditional kickoff months for photography festivals in this area.  Many photographers, themes and collections are on display.  So many, in fact, that viewing all of their work is impossible, and isolating favourities can be challenging.

In a recent excursion, I participated in a discussion of photography as art.  The premise was that in order to be noticed, you can’t just be a photographer – you need to be an artist.  You need to give your photographs a distinctive look, a distinctive emotional connection to the viewer.  This means going beyond just documenting a subject – it means creating a work of art.  And this isn’t new – all successful photographers have realized and operated on this basis since the days of pinhole cameras.

Featured-ImageThis leaves me wondering.  If photography must be art to be successful, is there a point where a photograph is no longer a photograph?  And where is that line?  The answer isn’t obvious.  Here’s why…

Continue reading “Photography as Art”

Shedding Light on Adobe Lightroom

The most important tool in my kit is Adobe’s Lightroom CC.  It is the lifeline to my photographs, providing import, organization, editing and delivery for the thousands of images I’ve captured.

Lightroom is billed as a companion product to Adobe Photoshop.  It’s packaged with Photoshop in the Adobe Photography subscription plan.  Lightroom was designed from the ground up to be a standalone workhorse and many people use it as such.  But it is equally a great companion to Photoshop, allowing for many basic workflow tasks to be performed quickly in Lightroom before launching Photoshop for more complex edits.

Despite these positive features, I’ve spoken to people who describe Lightroom as frustrating and overly complex.  It seems this is because of 3 design decisions that Adobe made in terms of how Lightroom operates. Continue reading “Shedding Light on Adobe Lightroom”