Kölner Dom and some thoughts about Lightroom Mobile

I was always a bit skeptical about using Lightroom Mobile. I couldn’t quite fathom how a mobile application could deliver results that could stand up to what I can achieve with a full blown desktop application on my computer. Until recently I hadn’t even touched Lightroom Mobile although it’s included in my subscription. I just couldn’t be bothered.

But since I got my Leica SL that changed. Because with the SL comes a very nifty mobile application “Leica SL” which (among many other useful things) lets you sync your images via WiFi to your tablet or mobile phone. When you are on the road this is an incredible advantage that I had ocassionally missed on my DSLRs but also on the M Monochrom. Sometimes you just want to immediately share what you encounter during your travel. For Instagram, that’s a huge plus – it’s called “Insta” for a reason :).

Once you have the image on your tablet, it’s easy to load it into Lightroom Mobile and start editing it. And – at least to me skeptic – it was quite an eye opener how powerful that small mobile app is. You can use the vast majority of the functions that you are used to on the full-blown desktop application. With one incredible advantage – the touch screen lets you very easily zoom, apply and change radial filters and adjust curves. On a desktop you would need a graphic tablet to accomplish the same.

Of course the smaller screen is a drawback, and you can only work on the JPEGs, not the raw files (at least I haven’t figured out yet how to do that). But I can certainly live with that, since the primary purpose is to quickly edit an image for sharing on social media channels rather than the big screen or even a print. Another plus is that the edits you make are transferred into the desktop version of Lightroom once you are at your computer and load the images into Lightroom. So you can continue to adjust where you left it off and even go back in your editing and undo adjustments you had made on your tablet.

So here you go. The picture below of the altar at the Kölner Dom was taken with the SL and then edited during my waiting time at the Cologne/Bonn airport so I could share it on Instagram. No further editing in the desktop Lightroom version was done. Enjoy and let me know what you think. Oh and of course, feel free to follow me on Instagram :) (https://www.instagram.com/monokuro2k/)

Leica SL (TYP 601) | Leica Summilux-M 1.4/50mm ASPH. | f/1.4 | 1/50s | ISO 2500 | Edited in Mobile Lightroom

Leica SL (TYP 601) | Leica Summilux-M 1.4/50mm ASPH. | f/1.4 | 1/50s | ISO 2500 | Edited in Mobile Lightroom

Back in Time: Old-School Photography Meets Modern Photo Editing

It was more by accident that yesterday I stumbled upon an old photograph of a condemned building that used to be a service point for trains, cars and other rail vehicles. I took it at a time when I was really into photographing old, abandoned, condemned houses. That was in 1997, in other words 18 years ago…

This series I shot in Black and White film, a Fuji Neopan 400 Professional. Looking at these old photographs and toying around with them a bit in Lightroom 6 I quickly became fascinated again by the character of the old film images and the latitude the scanned negatives still provided when using modern photo editing tools.

So I decided to re-scan and re-touch some of them using my Nikon Scanner LS 40 ED (aka Coolscan IV ED), Silverfast 8 and Lightroom 6.

And so here you go. Enjoy watching them as much as I enjoyed taking, excavating and bringing them back to “light” again :).

Quick Video on Adobe’s All New Lightroom 6

When Adobe released its new version of Lightroom – Lightroom 6 and Lightroom CC – I was a bit underwhelmed by the new feature set that came with it. The only interesting bits that I could make out were the new filter brush and an enhanced performance when you use a discrete graphics card and have a 4k hi-res monitor.

Of course I couldn’t hold back long in trying the new version myself and really find out for myself whether the upgrade is worth it or not. Luckily Adobe provides a trial version which I swiftly downloaded. After a bit of playing around I decided to let you know the results of my very initial test including a quick demo of the filter brush tool. And here you go:

Adobe releases Lightroom 6 – is it worth the upgrade?

box_lightroom6_150x150Today Adobe announced Lightroom 6 – the next major upgrade to its photo editing software.

Besides new features there is an even more important change: Adobe moves Lightroom into its Creative Cloud (CC). Fortunately Lightroom 6 is still available as a separate purchase option if you are not fond of Adobe’s subscription model (me included). The CC version which also includes Photoshop CC sets you back 9.99 USD (plus tax) in the US or 11.89 Euro in Germany (incl. VAT) per month. The standalone version (no subscription) is 149 USD (plus tax) and 129.71 Euro (incl. VAT) respectively.

The question it begs: Is it worth the upgrade? Continue reading →

New Lightroom 5 Tutorial: Useful Keyboard Shortcuts

One way of speeding up your workflow in Lightroom and making it more efficient is to use keyboard shortcuts instead of moving around with your mouse.

In this tutorial I go through the most commonly used shortcuts and explain how and in which context they work best.

Enjoy watching and please let me know if it’s helpful and more importantly where I have made mistakes and what I can further improve.

New Lightroom 5 Tutorial: How to use radial filters and the adjustment brush to highlight focus areas

When you take a photograph light is not always falling in the right direction to highlight your subject in the most accentuated way. Back in the days of analogue film photography you had basically two tools to change the light-fall in your picture during print: dodge and burn. In the digital Lightroom (5) you have various methods of changing light-fall, two of them are the radial-filter and the adjustment brush.

In this video tutorial I demonstrate how you can use those two tools to draw attention to specific areas of interest or focus in your image.

Enjoy watching and please let me know if it’s helpful and more importantly where I have made mistakes and what I can further improve.

Sunday Blurb: Why pictures you don’t see are more important than those you do.

Going through some of the Flickr streams this morning, I was on one side glad to see again so many good images that were well shot and inspiring to my photographic work, but on the other side so many that were not really compelling. That alone is probably ok, because not every picture can win an Oskar Barnack award. But what really struck me was the poor selection in some photographers’ photo streams. Uploading ALL images of a street shoot series is not only hiding the potentially good ones among a dozen mediocre ones but worse puts a very negative light on all your work.

I would think that it is a beginner’s mistake that we all have made (and probably still make) in that we are way too hesitant to dismiss images. And it’s understandable. We like to show off what we have done. But what we tend to forget is that others who view our work don’t feel emotionally attached to it, they are very rationally rating our images. And in a world of a myriad of excellent pictures being uploaded to Flickr, Facebook, 500px and others it is impossible to stand out with mediocre ones. If you then hide the one good shot among lots of bad ones no one is going to find your potentially good photo ever.

And worse: even if they had found your one good photograph, the average images in that same series are dragging the quality of your work as a whole down. And the viewer will simply move on to the next photo stream.

So my advice: be far more restrictive and only show the very best of your work. How restrictive you need to be really depends on the way you make photos. For me – I’m very selective in what I actually consider a worthwhile subject before I even raise the camera to my eye, and working with a fully manual Leica there is no trigger-happy photo shooting anyway. So I would normally come back with 15-20 shots from a street shoot of maybe one hour. Out of those images I usually only select one (if any) to be even considered worthwhile editing. That doesn’t mean I would publish it. That rate would go down by half again I’d say. So only one in 30-50 shots would get published, but that is at a very low rate of shooting which is probably not the average photographer. I would reckon that the average street photographer would take 100 or more photos during a one-hour street shoot. Applying the same metric as in my case it would mean only 1 out of 100 images should ever get published.

© 2015 Jan Gütter

Another good advice is probably that once you have selected your one shot and you still have doubt whether it is the one – ditch it. Sometimes you come back from a photo shoot and indeed there is not one single image you would feel comfortable enough to show off. And that’s ok – for you and more importantly for your reputation as a photographer. The image to the right is an example that I dismissed half way through editing it. It has nice lighting but it just really doesn’t cut it in my opinion. On top it’s slightly out of focus which then made the final decision.

Let me know how selective you are. Are you applying even more restriction or are you a bit more lax?

How much is too much? Or: How (not) to destroy a photograph

One of the hardest things in life is to find the right balance and not to over-do things. The Yin and Yang if you will. Work-life-balance would be one example, cooking a good meal that is not over-spiced and would thus loose its broad palette of rich flavors, another.

The same is true for art but with a special notion. Art needs to be unconventional, needs to set itself apart from other artists. To accomplish that you need to do the exact opposite of being balanced. Balance in art is plain boring. And here is the challenge: the temptation is to over-do the act of being unbalanced by sheer exaggeration instead of working to increase the content of the artwork.

In photography this is particularly relevant with the advent of digital photo editing tools being ubiquitously used by everyone. Now everybody can become an “artist” by making a picture look “artsy” by (over-)using every possible filter and photo effect. And even seasoned photographers (me included) fall into this trap from time to time.

One good example of how heated a discussion even among very experienced photographers can get about that topic I encountered last week on Facebook where Mitsutaka Tajiri had posted the fantastic street shot below which I believe has the exact right balance of post-processing. However, one commentator suggested that in his opinion the image was over-processed. In its wake a quite agitated exchange of viewpoints emerged.

© 2015 Mitsutaka Tajiri

Like everywhere in art there is no right or wrong amount of using effects and digital post processing to “enhance” the impact of a photograph. At the end it’s really down to personal taste or preference. However, what sets apart good photo editing from less suitable photo editing is moderation.

But how can I for myself judge if I’m using moderate “enhancements” or if I’m completely over-doing it? My personal advice to anyone using photo editing tools are three things:

First: If you are in doubt whether your selected photo is worth being shown off or edited it’s probably NOT worth it and you should ditch it right away and not waste any time editing it by most likely over-using digital effects to make it look “artsy”.

Second: Always second guess your image while you are editing and again after you think you are done, and then ask yourself “Would less be more?”. The following effects are particularly prone to being over-done: sharpness, clarity and contrast. Always use these with great caution. On that note – an out of focus picture is not going to get any sharper by using the sharpness slider :).

Third: Ask a trusted friend (doesn’t even need to be a photographer). He or she will tell you if what you have done sucks (only then it’s a good friend) or looks “OK” (which is all I usually get from my friends).

With that I hope you will not over-spice your images any more and serve a dish rich of colors, tonal range and content.

Please let me know in the comments how you feel about “over-doing” photo editing and how you handle it in your work.