Improve Photography Roundtable (EP-162)

Available also in Video: Improve Photography Podcast Episode 162

Questions of the Week:

  • Are there any Linux/Ubuntu photographers out there? Any good resources/tutorials for Darktable (edit) or Rawtherapee?
  • Kathy Page – How do I know what settings to choose when using a manual flash?
  • Anthony Fuccella – Best audio options for recording an interview at a swim meet?

Jim: Is the DJI Phantom a suitable pro photography tool?

  • Jim hasn’t loved the image quality from the DJI phantom at all and is considering returning it and getting the DJI Inspire 1 instead.  

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Jeff: Hobbyist/beginner tip: Faking a studio

  • Recently heard feedback on the Improve Photography Facebook group that the listeners want to hear a lot more perspective from a hobbyist/beginner that doesn’t have all the fancy gear.
  • Recently had a shoot go south.  Girls hired me to shoot their sweethearts dance group.  Apparently the “in” thing to do now here in Utah.  Supposed to meet at a lake here an hour before sunset, girls weren’t ready until after sunset.  Really cold.  Had to improvise.
  • Gear needed (not pro gear, just enough)
    • Camera
    • 1,2, or 3 off camera flashes (depending on the size of the group).  YN560-III ($65) are great.  Get a little fancier, saves time so you don’t have to walk over to flashes, get the YN560-TX ($40)
    • silver umbrella ($10-$15 a piece)
    • light stands ($30 for 2)
    • flash & umbrella holder for top of light stand ($5 a piece)
    • white background – muslin ($40)
    • Can do more of course, but total cost: $345 (pays for itself after 1 or 2 shoots)
  • Put the two silver umbrellas with the flashes on both sides of the group, 1 flash in back of the group pointing at the white background.  I had all the flashes at full power.  Pose the people take the shot.
  • Import the photos in Lightroom and make all the adjustments you want to the people, don’t worry about the background
  • Command-E/Ctrl-E to take the photo over to Ps
    • Duplicate the background so you can get back to the original if needed
    • Do spot healing on skin
    • Use the quick selection to to select the person off of the background – very easy to do if the flash in the back of the group highlights the edges of the person
    • Use refine edge with the quick selection tool around the hair or anywhere an edge looks too sharp.  Needs to sort of melt into the background
    • Make a mask of the selection, the background will disappear
    • Bring in a digital background (found several for free online) as a new layer.  Size it to fill the background.  Add some Guassian blur to that layer if it is too detailed and distracting.
    • Touch up the masking by painting black or white on the mask where it doesn’t look good.
    • Save as photoshop file rather than just hitting the “x” in the corner of the tab so that you can make more adjustments using the layers you have created.  Close the tab and the .psd will show up in Lightroom and you can even do more edits.

Doodads of the Week!

7 thoughts on “Improve Photography Roundtable (EP-162)”

  1. Don’t be so hard on Darktable 🙂

    Guys, I love the show and always pick up get tips. On the last show, you mentioned Darktable and GIMP and you were less than enthusiastic about them. I use them both as my main tools in my workflow and I really like them. In case others want to give them a try and are willing to pay a little for some great tutorials I highly recommend that you check out [link automatically removed per comment policy]. The course has over 5 hours of videos and really gives a great explanation on how to use Darktable and when to use GIMP.

    Also I would love it if you could get Riley Brandt as a guest for one show!

    Thanks and keep up the great work.


  2. Hi,
    I was listening to your conversation about Linux and photography, and that made me think a bit. I use Linux Mint for all my photography, and I am quite happy with it. I don’t at all think that Darktable and Gimp are that bad or difficult. It’s just that when you are used to Lightroom and Photoshop it’s kind of difficult to turn around and get the best out of something else. Also, I didn’t grow up with PS like many have. I have barely tried it. But after learning the basics and getting a decent overview of Gimp I have actually learned tons of new stuff by watching Photoshop tutorials and trying to do the same thing in Gimp.

    I have played a little with Lightroom, and I must say that I find it extremely easy to use. If you go to Darktable you have to somewhat turn your mindset upside down, and it some times requires some more work for the same result. But once you get used to it you start enjoying its strengths. One is that there are often many ways to do the same thing, often covering for different situations. There are four different methods of noise reduction for example. And as far as I know Lightroom doesn’t have parametric masking (select parts of the image based on color or lightness). There might also be more. I’m not sure about Lightroom’s ability to automatically sort images and create the right folders on import and export based on preset rules, but Darktable is very good at that. I hardly have to think about organizing my images at all once it is properly set up.

    I have tried Rawtherapee, and it is good at what it does, but in my opinion it lacks too much. For instance, there is no localized editing, which for me would mean too much going into Gimp.

    For the tutorial situation I totally agree. There are many Gimp tutorials out there, but too many bad ones and just a few good ones. There are not too many Darktable tutorials, but a guy called Robert Hutton has a YouTube channel that is not too bad for an overview of what DT can do. You can search his name on YouTube.

    And now to my plug: I have been planning a series of tutorials on the different software that I use for my photography on Linux, with an emphasis on Darktable. I have not launched it yet but hope to do so within a month or so, and I hope it will become one of the best channels so far about photography post processing in Linux. It will be announced on my blog whenever I’m ready.

  3. Linux Photo

    Thanks for the Linux mentions, as someone who has been using Linux as the backbone of my photography for years, I thought I’d add a little more content.

    I work in a color-calibrated ProPhotoRGB environment in RAW and TIFF (it’s supported in GIMP) and that is the colorspace I use to print on Canon Pro-100 and Epson P800. For some reason, there is an assumption that all Linux software is free opensource (FOSS), and low quality.

    For my workflow I rely on the following software:

    Primary RAW editor (includes HDR)
    AfterShotPro2 with the excellent Wavelet Sharpen 3 plugin

    Macro-photography Software:
    Zerene Stacker

    Panoramic Software
    AutoPano (Professional and full-featured)

    Hugin (FOSS, and quite capable)

    Rapid Photo Downloader

    TIFF Editor
    GIMP w/G’MIC

    PhotoMax HDR

    TurboPrint (print driver for Epson and Canon, I use the Studio pro version)

    Colorimeter (not really software, but it does include an ISO, or works with ArgyllCMS)

    Web Resources

    Patrick David








    And of course, there are Linux photogs on DPReview.com, et al.

  4. I started with Ubuntu then moved to Mint and used Aftershot 2, and GIMP for a couple of years for image editing and in fact would still recommend it to anyone with an older laptop that they want to use on the go for image editing.

    I have since changed over to Win 8 (now Win10), but I still prefer Aftershot to Lightroom.

    +1 Jack Dausman

  5. Jim – My $0.02 on the Phantom 3 vs. Inspire 1 …keep your audience in mind and how the image will be used. I have the Phantom 2 with a GoPro attached and I agree that the details in the image are very low compared to the Fuji XT1 I shoot with …BUT I am not selling large prints either. I use it for professional architectural shots and the clients are very happy with them. They are using them for marketing materials and posting on their websites and social media. They are never looked at full size on a screen. This would be very much the same in residential. They will be going onto the MLS website and people will look at them on their phone app or computer. They are not going to see these in full size and it gets the job done.

    If you are only going to use this for residential photography then the extra $3K for the Inspire seems like overkill. I can tell you are the ambitious type from listening to the podcast and most likely have other options

    I understand that desire to provide the client the best possible image with the best possible image quality, but I think in the case of getting paid $150 – $300 they are getting what they need to sell the home with the Phantom 3. It might be worth asking your clients if they have even noticed or care about that type of thing. Perhaps you could charge more for the higher image quality.

    Now …if you want it just because you want it and you have the cash then I would go for it!

    Here is one of my recent shots from my Phantom 2: http://www.douglasadamsphotography.com/Architecture/CityWay-YMCA/i-TDBJc4H/A

  6. DOH! I hit finish before I finished on my comment.

    I meant to say that Jim seems like the type to take the use of a drone much further than just residential photography. I think if that is the case it would be beneficial to offer clients the best image quality you can afford which may be the Inspire 1.

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