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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Reality Vs. Imagination

How to use masking software to make the task of compositing more efficient

This Article Features Photo Zoom

reality vs. imagination
1) Here’s the original sunset used for the composite’s background.
Each time I raise the camera to my eye, I’m confronted by the reality of what I see in the finder; when ready, I release the shutter. But sometimes, I have an image in my mind, one that I’ll construct in the computer using my imagination. In those instances, I’m searching for bits and pieces of the imagined image and planning on how I’ll assemble them into a composite image that fulfills my imaginative thirst. So I’m constantly searching for hardware and software that will help me realize my ideas and make pictures that are real and make pictures from my imagination.

I recently began using onOne Software’s Mask Pro 4.1, and it has had a major influence on how I realize some of my ideas through its versatile masking technology. This plug-in works with Adobe Photoshop CS2, CS3 and CS4, and when using my “file-format jumping” approach, I can transition the effects achieved using Mask Pro within the Save As file format I’m using and into the software to which I’m transitioning. So when I start with Capture NX 2, save as NEF and then as TIFF, open in Photoshop CS3 as TIFF, apply Mask Pro 4.1, save as TIFF and open again in Capture NX 2, edit further and save again as NEF and TIFF, I can keep a smooth, productive workflow of experimentation and creativity, which helps me take maximum advantage of the synergy among the software I’m using.

realitySoftware Choices And Images From My Imagination
The original images in this article were created with a specific objective: I wanted to experiment using editing and masking techniques that would enable me to combine individual images into composite images.

My work nearly always begins using a RAW format. I use the Nikon NEF file, but that’s a personal choice. Using a RAW format provides me with a wide assortment of advantages, the most important being nondestructive editing, and it allows me to use the file-format jumping techniques that I’ve described in other articles in Digital Photo Pro. In short, when I’m file-format jumping, I’m starting in one format, saving in another and then shifting back to the original, all the while adding changes to the images and finally merging the images to create an interesting composite. Similar performance can be achieved using original RAW formats other than the NEF format. I also use Nikon Capture NX 2, which gives me the freedom to create NEF RAW files from any JPEG or TIFF file I make, no matter what camera I use. Own a Canon, Olympus, Pentax, Sony or any other? Shoot in JPEG or TIFF and then use Capture NX 2 and save as NEF within your own workflow of experimentation.

Cormorant At Sunset
Working from a small powerboat, we maneuvered toward a cormorant that was sitting on a piling in the harbor. The background was a sunset sky, hence the orange cast, and although the bird was backlit, I had the camera set to -2 EV to emphasize a desired silhouette effect and saturate the background.

When you accept the idea that digital images should be underexposed so that highlights more likely will achieve detail, you must be prepared to accept that the shadow area (the silhouetted object) can be noisy. The newest camera models help to minimize or sometimes eliminate noise, but there’s always the potential that noise will raise its nasty head.

Here’s a tip: If the silhouetted image exhibits noise, use a Photoshop brush tool and paint it black. I find that working with the image highly magnified, I easily can find the lighter noise pixels and touch them up without too much effort. Using Capture NX 2, I accomplish the same effect by using the Colorize tool and its eyedropper to set the desired black color and selectively brush it onto the image.


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