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In Photoshop CS5: Landscape Photography, Ben Long outlines a full, shooting-to-output workflow geared specifically toward the needs of landscape photographers, with a special emphasis on composition, exposure enhancement, and retouching. This course also covers converting to black and white, using high-dynamic range (HDR) imaging techniques to capture an image that’s closer to what your eye sees, and preparing images for large-format printing. Learn to bring back the impact of the original scene with some simple post-processing in Photoshop. Exercise files are included with the course.
In the old days of landscape photography, photographers returned from a shoot, developed their film, and then made contact sheets, pages of simple thumbnail of their images. From these contact sheets, they selected the images that would then go through a whole postproduction process. Because enlarging a print takes time on expensive chemicals, it was important to winnow a shoot down to only the select shots before beginning serious postproduction work. Digital photography is no different. When you return from your shoot, you'll first transfer your images to your computer and then determine which images are the ones you want to take through the rest of your postproduction process.
These select images, what some people called picks or hero images, are the shots that you'll actually edit, correct, adjust, and ultimately output. If you already have a workflow that you like, you'll probably find that it's fine for landscape shooting, though there may be one or two things you want to consider adding. If you don't have a workflow, I have some suggestions. Photoshop comes bundled with an excellent organization workflow tool called Bridge. Bridge CS5 has some cool new features that make it an even better tool. One of the nicest things about Bridge is that it can manage that copying of your original images over to your computer.
It does that through something called the Adobe Photo Downloader. In Bridge, if you go up to the File menu and choose Get Photos from Camera, the Adobe Photo Downloader will launch. If you're launching it for the first time, it will ask you if you wanted to launch every time you plug in a card reader. That's just up to you. So I have a card reader plugged into the computer. What bridge does is just manage the process of doing the file copy. I could also do a file copy by hand using my operating system. But Photo Downloader has some nice options.
First, it ask me where the photos are going to come from. I tell it the media card. Next, it asks where they're going to go to. I hit the Choose button, and I can simply pick a location out there on my computer somewhere. I'm going to make a new folder called Landscape Photos, and say Choose. As far as how to organize the folder structure on your drive, that's just up to you. Some people make lots and lots of subfolders, with separate folders for every day and every shoot. I prefer to keep as little hierarchy as possible.
I have a folder for images and within that folder, I typically put one folder per event. If I take a trip to Alaska, all my Alaska photos will go in that one folder; the reason being that Bridge has lots of organizational tools of its own, so I don't need to be organizing files meticulously in my operating system. Create Subfolder(s) will look at the date and time that the image was shot, and automatically create subfolders, so that images fall into separate folders based on when they were shot. I'm going to turn that off. I'm also going to tell it to not Rename Files, because for the most part, I don't actually care what the file is named, because I'm going to be working with little thumbnails.
Also, I like having the original file name, because images come in in the order that they were shot. So I'm going to tell it not to rename files. If I do need to rename files later, that's okay, because Bridge has some very good renaming features. Most of these options here, you really just don't need to worry about. This Delete Original Files option, I would recommend that you keep that off, because it's better to format the card in your camera than it is to erase images using your computer. Then finally, there is this Save Copies to option, which can automatically make a backup of every image as it's imported to another location.
If I hit Get Photos right now, it will import everything, or I can hit this Advanced Dialog button, and I get the ability to simply check the images that I want to import. This can be handy if you forgot to erase your card before you went out. I get a couple of other options like the ability to automatically Apply a Metadata template. This can be defined elsewhere in Bridge or Photoshop. It allows me to automatically add a creator and copyright information if I want. So I'm just going to hit Get Photos.
After all the files have been copied, Bridge shows me the folder that they were copied into. As you can see, I've got all of these little thumbnails here. Let's take a quick tour of the Bridge window. Up here on the left, I have navigation tools. This lets me navigate around my computer's operating system. If I click on Desktop, it takes me out to the Desktop folder. Obviously, when I click on something over here, the contents are showed over here. Here, you can see I've got a couple of images. Then I have this Landscape Photos folder that we just made. I double-click on it, and I'm inside, looking at all of my images.
Up here is the trail of little breadcrumbs. I can click on any of these to go further up the directory hierarchy. Thumbnails can be changed, size-wise, by using the slider down here, which can be a nice way of getting a bigger view. But I can also change the size of view by altering the size of these panes up here. The configuration of these panes is defined as a workspace. Adobe has generously given you a bunch of different workspaces predefined. So here is one that gives me more of a Filmstrip workspace, where I can get the large preview with thumbnails down below.
I can get a view that lets me see just metadata upfront. I've got this special pane for outputting files. You'll probably spend the most of your time switching back and forth between Essentials and Filmstrip. Here, in Essentials view, when I click on an image, I get this kind of large preview over here. More importantly, I get all of this great metadata information. Metadata is simply data that is stored with the image. I can see all of the exposure settings that I used when I was shooting, as well as a whole lot of other data. That can be very handy when editing. Over here, I have a Filter pane.
This lets me choose criteria by which my view of the current folder will be filtered. So I can view by date, by orientation: landscape or portrait. I can view by the focal length of the lens I was using, which camera I was using. I can define keywords and sort by those. Filters are a very powerful tool for finding particular images. I can define collections, which are basically like digital photo albums, which is another nice way of keeping my images organized. There is a lot of depth to Bridge.
It's worth digging around in some, and getting to know it better, if you're looking for workflow tool. It's my tool of choice, for a number of reasons. Unlike Lightroom and Aperture, there is not a whole lot of overhead by managing where my files are on my own in the operating system, and just using Bridge as a window onto that. Because I tend to edit a lot in Photoshop, I like not having that extra structure in the way. Bridge is a very quick way into Photoshop. I find that very nice for my work. Our next step, after importing our images, is to go through and find the ones that we like, the ones that are our select images.
That's a very subjective process. But here are some things that you want to look for. Aesthetically, obviously, you want to look for the good images. You want to look for the ones that are composed well, that have a well-defined subject, a well-defined background. In landscape images, what you're looking for, aesthetically, often depends on why you were shooting. Were you shooting something purely for documentary reasons, or were you shooting something for more of an emotional space? Are you finding the elements in the image that you need to deliver that emotion and that message? We're going to be talking a lot more about the strengths and weaknesses of particular images as we go through editing.
You also want to look for technical problems when you are making your selects, because you want to weed out images that just aren't going to work very well, because they are technically flawed. For example, this image, which came in sideways - I'm going to rotate it up here - this image is plainly overexposed. Nice feature in Bridge is I can hit the Spacebar at any time to go this nice full-screen view. Plainly, this image has big technical problems. It's overexposed. The clouds have lost all their detail. The sand dune has lost a lot of detail. So exposure is a basic technical concern that you're going to have, but you're also going to be looking for vignetting, that is a darkening in the corners, maybe a white balance problem.
This image is a little cool. The white balance was little off when I was shooting. That's something I'd want to fix. I'm looking for reasons to disqualify images, technical or aesthetic. When I find an image that I like, one that I know I'm going to pass on to the rest of my workflow, I want to tag it somehow. The easiest way to do that is by giving it a Rating. If I go up to the Label menu, I can assign one to five stars. Obviously, there are keyboard shortcuts for those, also. So I'm going to give this image three stars. I'm just going to keep working my way through my images, looking for the ones that I like.
For example, I'm going to take this as a keeper image, even though it is technically flawed. It's low contrast. I've got some detail problems in here, but I remember looking at it, what it was that struck me when I was shooting. That is the symmetry and the repetition of these lines here formed from the erosion of this mountain, and these same types of streaky lines up here formed by the clouds. It was kind of a mirror image thing going on. It doesn't show up particularly well with the image like this, but I'm thinking it's something I can bring out with some adjustments - a little lens flare problem there that I need to take out.
There is nothing so wrong with this image that I will disqualify it, but it's one that I think I can work with, so I'm going to give it three stars. I did that by hitting Command+3, Ctrl+3 on Windows. So that's the rest of my process is just go and do finding the images that I like. We're going to be speaking later about shooting panoramas and shooting something called high dynamic range images. Both of those processes involved shooting a series of images. For example, here is a high dynamic range set. As you can see, it's a series of the same shot, shot with different exposures.
So these images all go together. In Bridge, I can select all these images. I click on the first image, hold down the Shift key, and click on this image over here, and I get a contiguous selection of all of these. Now, if I go up to Stacks and choose Group as Stack, you can see that the images are all collapsed down into this little Stack thing. So I can open and close it by clicking on the number right here. So this is a great way of keeping panoramic images and HDR images grouped together within a folder. It doesn't change the location in the folder.
You only see Stacks in Bridge, but it allows me to fit more images onto my screen at one time, and generally unclutters my view. So no matter which workflow tool you use, these are the step you're going to go through. Import your images, go through them to find the select images that you like, and you're choosing select based on your aesthetic and technical concerns, with the idea of weeding out images that are flawed, and not going to be worth sending to the rest of your workflow. From here, you're ready to move on to actual editing.
That's what we'll be beginning next.
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