Category Archives: Software

New website design – Photoshelter out, Photodeck in.

After a great deal of consideration and hours spent on the internet I have finally decided to use the Covid down time to make some fundamental changes to my website and archive system. So, it’s Photoshelter out and Photodeck in.

Photoshelter v Photodeck

First, there is nothing actually wrong with Photoshelter and I have used their services for a very long time to both present my photo galleries and provide a searchable database of my images. But, that first sentence contains an important snippet, ‘a very long time’. And that is precisely the time period where really little has changed in the Photoshelter presentation.

Photoshelter have made some steps forward, particularly with regard to SEO performance but, my site is visited mainly to view my images, purchase prints, and by editors looking for illustrative images for books, magazines, newspapers etc. Therefore of prime importance to me is how are my images presented on the site front page, in the galleries and in search results.

This is where Photoshelter has fallen behind. The gallery presentations are now very tired looking, every gallery is exactly the same, just a block of identical thimbnails, with nothing very dynamic looking. I was therefore very excited when Photoshelter announced back in October 2019 that, as the result of a client survey, they had a roadmap forward with exciting new designs, a better shopping cart, and an ‘overhaul client galleries with a modern, user-friendly interface’ among other things.

Well we are going to see new web templates in August 2020. Then in June we heard things were slipping behind, Ok, no problem development takes time and hits some problems, but we did get a new Photoshelter logo! So an announcement in October heralds progress? Nope, another update that it’s more difficult than first anticipated. November, another announcement just tells us these exciting things are coming!

Now we begin 2021 and to cut a long story short as we enter February we still have no new website designs. I fully understand that Covid-19 must have had a profound effect on the ability to deliver but I finally began looking for an alternative and came across Photodeck.

For me the biggest advantage of Photodeck is the modern presentation of the overall websites and galleries, super speed for search results and the amount of customization available in website designs. Last but not least is the ability, once you have finalized your site design, to output a WordPress theme which makes the blog mimic the same look as the main site for a seamless experience.

Admittedly there is a bit of a learning curve in moving to a new platform, but after a couple of days I started to get the hang of it and was quickly able to get a new site up and running.

You will find many new images in the galleries that have not been presented before and every day more images are being added to the stock availability which you can find using the search function.

Most images are available as prints in a range of sizes and media, professionally printed and delivered directly to you, and as licensed downloads for a variety of uses.

Prices for Photodeck and Photoshelter are almost identical for most people who are likely to use the Standard subscription model at $25 per month with 100GB storage (thats around high resolution 20,000 jpeg images) Ecomerce is also completely free of any additional charges with Photodeck compared to 10% transaction fees on Photoshelter.

You can give Photodeck a try with a fully functional 14 day trial period at www.photodeck.com Furthermore, if you decide Photodeck fits your need anter the code YG@UESDHW at checkout with your first subscription and receive 50% off your first month.

Capture One 21

Capture One 21 was launched a week ago as the latest iteration of my favourite RAW processing software.

So, lets get one thing out of the way immediately – are the new features worth upgrading from version 20? In reality, even though this remains my post processing software, I don’t think so. When a software gets an upgraded name I expect there will be many new features, and version 21 is a bit of a disappointment.

I understand why the need to produce a version 21, after all we are nearly at the end of 2020 ad it would look a little strange to continue with the 20 numbering as we enter the new year. However, that is a marketing situation, and the new features are, in my opinion, really version 20.1, not version 21.

So, that being said, what have we actually got for our money.

New features

Speed editing

Speed editing allows you to use modifier keys and drag left or right and up and down to make adjustments. For example, to change the exposure value, hold down the Q key on your keyboard and an exposure tab will open under the image. You can adjust the exposure by mouse dragging left ad right.

OK, this does allow me to keep my eye on the image I am editing and not have to go looking for the adjustment sliders, and may be marginally quicker. Is it a huge new feature? Probably not for me, but may be for some users.

Q – adjusts exposure
W- adjusts contrast
E – adjust brightness
R – adjust saturation

A – adjusts highlight
S – adjusts shadow
W- adjusts white
E – adjust black

Z – adjusts clarity
S – adjusts RGB shadow
W- adjusts RGB midtone
E – adjust RGB highlight

You should by now have realized these modifier keys are the first 4 keys on each line of the left end of a standard keyboard. As with almost everything else in Capture One, if you don’t like these modifiers you can change them to suit your own taste.

Dehaze

Adobe Lightroom has had a dehaze tool for a while. Capture One has now added this. Yes, it’s a useful edition, but it’s also true to say that you could always dehaze an image, and still can, with far greater control by using a mask on the layer to dehaze, and adjusting the  clarity, contrast, brightness and the shadow point.

Pro standard profile

Version 21 has introduced new camera profiles with more to be added soon. The new profiles should provide a sightly more true to life rendering of RAW images. I have looked at images from my D850 in both the Generic D850 and D850 Prostandard and there is a small difference in the colours that should give a better starting point for colour grading.

Learn

Capture one now boasts a built-in range of help screens and videos to assist photographers in using the various tools. Helpful no doubt for a short while while learning the program but of limited use to seasoned users.

Faster asset management

Now we come to the feature that I have been most concerned about in previous versions, the speed of searches and browsing through catalogs. Search speed has for long been outstripped by Adobe Lightroom, and when you have huge catalogs as I do, that I regularly need to find a particular image within, it has often been a frustrating exercise. Well, this has been addressed in the latest version and searches zip along at about the same speed as in Lightroom. Score one for Capture One 21!

In addition importing new images has been much improved, now allowing import from multiple folders at the same time. High resolution previews are generated much quicker now allowing one to start work on images much sooner when ingesting a large folder of images as I often have to do – score two for Capture One 21!

Hopefully in the coming months there will be some additional features that will make me feel better about the upgrade price. However, as I have mentioned before, Capture One is still my RAW processing software choice and I believe will continue to be so.

If you have not tried Capture One then download a fully working 30 day trial coy here

 

Clean up your images with Topaz Denoise AI

Each new generation of digital camera has improved its control of digital noise in high ISO images. None the less I have always found it necessary to do a certain amount of noise control in post processing with most images shot at 1600 or above. For the last few years I have used NIK filters Dfine as an external noise reduction filter for high ISO images and been reasonably happy with the results. Recently there has been a big advertising push online from Topaz Labs plugins and a lot of positive reviews, particularly for Topaz Denoise AI, so I thought I would download the free trial and give it a go.

To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement! All noise reduction software that I had tried in the past had always led to some softening in detail areas and a slight reduction in apparent sharpness. This includes both external plugins and the noise reduction built into Lightroom and Capture One.

Topaz Denoise, does not cause a lack of sharpness, in fact it seems to somehow enhance sharpness. The AI stands for Artificial Intelligence, and it certainly hits the mark. However, you are not stuck with the AI version to remove noise from your image. You can manually adjust the settings should you wish to do so. I am not a great fan of automatic adjustments by software on an image but this is certainly the exception. I rarely have to use any manual changes, simply setting Auto and letting Toopaz do it’s thing.

Topaz Denoise before and after
Topas Denoise shows a before and after view before you commit to the changes. This Ring-billed gull was shot at ISO 1100, 1/2000th f6.3, Nikon D850 with Nikon 500mm f4 and TC14 converter, (effective focal length 700mm, handheld. Note how the background noise has been smoothed and feather detail and the eye enhanced

Workflow

It is important to note that Topaz Denoise AI does not work with RAW files. You must output a pixel based image before applying. You therefore need to apply all your adjustments in your RAW processor, before outputting a TIFF or PSD file for denoise work.

My workflow is now to cull, caption and keyword in Photomechanic, Process RAW file in Capture One 20, output a 16bit TIFF and open in Photoshop. Here I make any further adjustments necessary and finally apply Topaz Denoise. If I do not require any Photoshop adjustments I open the TIFF file directly from Capture One and apply Topaz.

Speed

Topaz Denoise is not the speediest of processors. If I am applying to a full size D850 image it can take around 30 seconds to complete it’s task. However, I think this is a small price to pay for a super clean output. In any case I only apply this process to my best images as part of outputting them for final use.

Texas Rangers Delino DeShields narrowly misses getting hit by a ball. Nikon D4s with 500mm f4, 1/1250 @f4 ISO 4000

Click on the images to view a full size file that more clearly shows the noise reduction.

Downloaded Topaz Denoise as a fully working 30 day trial and purchsed for $79.99 at https://topazlabs.com

Capture One 20

Capture One version 20 was released early in December 2019 and is touted as a major upgrade over Capture One 12. Now, you may well ask what happened to versions 13 through 19 and the short answer is they never existed. Version 20 is to bring the vesion number in line with the year, of course it now being 2020.

Whats New

  • Greatly improved noise reduction algorithm
  • New basic colour editor
  • Improved High Dynamic Range Tool
  • Improved Crop Tool
  • ‘Switch to next’ speeds up image selection
  • Select tools to have scrolling turned on and pin your favourites to non-scrolling mode (Very useful when working on smaller screens)
  • Copy layers and masks between images

I have been using Capture One 20 since it’s release date (In fact before that as I was part of the Beta program). Below are the new and improved aspects.

Noise Reduction

The new noise reduction algorithm is a huge improvement over version 12. Much smoother reduction, less artifacts, improved colour accuracy and improved recognition of patterns and edges all contribute to a better image. The amount slider has a much stronger effect than previously and overall noise reduction is increased for higher ISO images. This improvement is so good that I have stopped using NIK Dfine completely, which previously was my go-to tool.

New Basic Colour Editor

Basic color editor

To term this new tool ‘basic’ is to greatly undersell its potential. It is simplicity itself to grade a particular colour. Select the tool, move the cursor to the colour on the image you wish to work with, click and hold and simply move the cursor left and right or up and down. Horizontal movements control hue (add the ALT key] to control lightness), vertical movements control saturation.

Alternatively you can also use the dropper tool to select a colour and adjust with the sliders. All the old clour balance tools are still intact should you wish to use them instead.

High Dynamic Range

High dynamic range tool

High dynamic range adjustments should not be confused with the creation of HDR imges, i.e. the blending of several image with different exposures to create one new HDR (and often garish!) image.

For my purposes, and the purposes of Capture One, HDR adjustments are designed to extract the full dynamic range possible from a raw capture. In previous versions the HDR tool was used to recover shadows and/or highlights. With version 20 the tool has been reworked to allow both recovery, or, to increase the shadows and highlights and now to also adjust the blacks and whites.

What this means is that, for example, in the highlights slider, move left to recover detail and right to increase highlight brightness.Shadows works the converse way. In effect you can now, for the first time brighten highlights and recover shadows.

This tool now sports two additional controls, White and Black. These sliders affect only the blacks and whites in the image, in a similar way to setting the black point and white point in Lightroom. 

This tool now gives ultimate control over the full dynamic range of the image whilst retaining a completely natural look.

Crop Tool

I could never understand why, when using previous versions of Capture One, I had to select another tool after making a crop for the crop to actually be applied to the image. Then, if I needed to tweak the crop, I had to go back and reselect the crop tool again. This was one of my biggest frustrations of the program. Finally this has been addressed in version 20, Make a crop and hit enter – hooray – immediately the crop is applied to the image. In addition the corner crop handles have been enlarged to make grabbing them with the cursor much easier.

In addition holding the shift key while making a crop retains the current aspect ratio and ALT will crop from the middle outwards

Scrollable tools

Scrollable tools

In previous versions if all the tools did not fit on your screen space you had to collapse some to make room for others. Now you can select some tools to permanently display i.e. ‘pinned’ and move others that, for example, you use only intermittently, to a new scrollable area. This is particularly valuable if working on a small screen or laptop.

For my main 27″ screen (a BenQ SW2700) on which I do most of my work, I have built a set of custom tools (Capture One has almost infinite ways of customizing just about everything to suit your own workflow) that suit my own particular way of working. Working from the top down I have in the pinned area:

  • Layers
  • Exposure
  • White balance
  • High dynamic range
  • Clarity
  • Levels

Below that in a scrollable area I have

  • Color Editor
  • Noise reduction
  • Sharpening
  • Spot removal
  • Base Characteristics (this is only there to allow me to upgrade the processing engine from previous versions of  Capture One to version 20 if needed for images that were previously imported. of course all new imports will automatically use the Capture One 20 engine)

To move tool to or from the scrollable area click on the three small dots which open the tool preferences fly-out and select move to or remove from the scrollable area

Copy and apply layers

With the powerful layers built in to Capture One I find I am making less and less round trips to Photoshop. Often we find ourselves working on several very similar images and previously you could only copy the whole layer set from one image to another. This has now been improved so that you can select which layers to copy and additionally the layers will self adjust if the images are different dimensions. Copied layers will now add themselves to the new images existing layers instead of replacing them.

Version 20 also has a number of minor tweaks.

Preview quality is somewhat improved, support for DNG files is better (I never use them so can’t comment), and you can use switch to next when viewing previews i.e. add a star rating to an image and you will automatically proceed to the next thumbnail. Personally I leave this turned off.

Conclusion

So, this is a fairly big release. For my particular image workflow the improved dynamic range tool and noise reduction algorithm, particularly on high ISo images, along with the easier cropping would be worth the price of the upgrade.

Likes

  • Improved crop tool
  • High dynamic range tools beats every other program I have tried
  • Better Noise reduction tool now means I don’t have to round trip to another software
  • New basic color editor makes colour grading easy.

Dislikes

  • Cataloging still needs improvement. Search function is still slow, especially if you have a large catalog which, of course I do.
  • Importing is still a bit too slow and often the previews take an inordinately long time to generate which is frustrating if you import a large shoot are in a hurry to start work on the images.
  • Price of upgrade from previous versions a little on the high side

A new license Capture One Pro 20 costs $299, with an upgrade $159. Sony and Fujifilm versions can be licensed for $129.

A monthly, subscription is $15 a month. The Sony and Fujifilm subscriptions are $8 per month.

If you want to give it a try there is a 30-day fully-featured free trial 

Photo Mechanic 6

The long awaited Photo Mechanic 6 has now been released and I have been using it extensively for the past week. As many will know, Photo Mechanic is an essential part of my workflow for all my images, both sport and wildlife and is my program for culling outtakes and captioning every image that I shoot.

The new version is a big step forward, primarily in speed with a few added functions.

Incidentally all settings from Photo Mechanic 5 will be automatically ported across into the new version.

Get a free 30 day trial of the new version, click here

 

What’s new in Photo Mechanic 6

  • 64-bit, Photo Mechanic is now a 64-bit application, which allows more and better caching of images to keep you working at your fastest (no more annoying messsage that Photomechanic will no longer be compatible with future versions of Mac OS)
  • Faster viewing – image caching improvements increases thumbnail / preview generation speed by approximately 2-3x. Instantly start working on images even when a large card is still ingesting.
  • Copy only the images you need from your memory card to your hard drive
  • Fullscreen support on macOS and Windows for both the Contact Sheet and Preview windows (including both at same time on different monitors)
  • Better cropping – A new grid helps you crop to your best composition, then press ‘p’ to preview a crop quickly. (I never use the crop tool in Photomechanic)
  • Better slide shows: Now with multiple transitions including crossfade and add Tag, Color Class or Star Ratings during a Slide Show
  • Hot codes – I regularly use code replacements at major sports events to automatically insert the correct players just by inserting their player number – for a full explanation go here

Photo Mechanic Plus

Photo Mechanic Plus is due for beta release on April 22. This eagerly awaited add-on to the basic Photo Mechanic functions will provide catalog functionality for large numbers of images across multiple locations. If this is as speedy as I hope this maywell indicate a fundamental change in my workflow as I have always been less than happy with the cataloging ability of both Lightroom and Capture One.

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