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Window Seat: The Art of Digital Photography & Creative Thinking by Julieanne Kost
"Processing Using Adobe Camera Raw"
(Pages 126-127 from Window Seat: The Art of Digital Photography & Creative Thinking - courtesy of O'Reilly Media.)
I like to think of processing the files in Adobe Camera Raw as analogous to processing traditional film; however, there are many advantages to working digitally. For example, you can process a file multiple times with different instructions and then composite the images to create an ideal negative. When processing digital camera captures, the main advantages Photoshop CS2's Adobe Camera Raw offers are control and flexibilityit can correct individual images and also batch processes multiple raw files. By capturing images in the camera's raw format, I can change the settings for processing the files without permanently changing the original images.
As you can see from the pre- and post-processed images (below), the raw images captured at 30,000 feet through airplane windows need a significant amount of adjustment. Their dynamic range is uncharacteristically narrow, their appearance dull, dreary, and uninteresting. I begin by selecting the file (or files) that I want to process in Bridge and choosing File > Open in Camera Raw. Then I adjust the white balance and exposure of the first image. To eliminate any unwanted color casts, I use the White Balance tool to click on an area of the image that should be neutral. If there weren't any neutral areas in original scene, I use the Temperature and Tint sliders to visually correct the white balance.
I find the Auto Adjustments provide a good starting point, so I leave them all turned on in the Adjustments panel and refine the image from there. If necessary, I use the Exposure and Shadows sliders to set the black and white points of the image, thereby extending its dynamic range. I monitor these changes with the histogram preview and clipping warnings for highlights and shadows. Sometimes, as a result of making such dramatic changes to the dynamic range, the white balance requires a slight readjustment; I use the White Balance tool or the Temperature and Tint sliders to fine-tune it.
If the midtones require additional adjustment, I use the Brightness and Contrast sliders in the Adjust panel, or I modify the Tone Curve in the Curve panel. The Brightness slider is similar to using the gray gamma midpoint slider in Levels (in Photoshop); the Contrast slider is similar to adding contrast using an s-curve in Curves. For optimum control, I prefer to use a tone curve. In the Tone Curve panel, I can choose from a list of curves or modify an existing one. When I create a custom tone curve that I may use again on similar images, I save it by selecting Save Setting Subset from the Settings fly-out menu and choosing Tone Curve. (After you name and save the tone curve, it will automatically appear in the Tone Curve pull-down.)
In the Details panel, I turn off sharpening by setting the slider to zero; I prefer to sharpen my images in Photoshop CS2 (using Unsharp Mask or Smart Sharpen) so that I can sharpen explicitly for the printer, inks, and paper that I plan to use. Because these images required such dramatic adjustments, any noise that appeared in the images was amplified. Since these images were already a little soft by virtue of the subject matter, increasing the Luminance Smoothing to 25 (to remove noise in the gray values) and the Color Noise Reduction slider to 50 removed the noise without significant loss of detail. On occasion, I also use the Lens panel to add a subtle vignette to an image by slightly darkening the edges.
After making adjustments to one image, I can apply some or all of those settings to other raw files. If I initially opened multiple images into Adobe Camera Raw, I Ctrl (Mac)/Cmd (Win)-click the thumbnails of the other open images and click the Synchronize button to display the Synchronize dialog. There I select the desired set of attributes to apply, either using the pull-down menu or by checking the boxes next to the attributes. (Note: To apply settings from one image to another without opening multiple images into Adobe Camera Raw, in Bridge select Edit → Apply Camera Raw Settings to copy and paste some or all of one image's settings to other images. You can also edit settings with this menu.)
After making all of my adjustments, I set the Workflow Options to open the files into the Adobe RGB (1998) working space (the space in which I characteristically work) in 16-bit. I usually open them at their native capture size, but if I know I'll be printing an image larger than the native capture size, I resample the image up using the Camera Raw size options. If, on the other hand, I'm not sure whether I will need to print the image at a larger size, I open it at its native size. This avoids resampling the image up and then down unnecessarily and allows me to work more quickly because it's a smaller file. After finalizing the settings and the Workflow Options, I may open the files in Photoshop, save them in another format, or select Done to apply the new processing settings to the files.
See more Sample Chapters from Window Seat.
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Window Seat: The Art of Digital Photography & Creative Thinking by Julieanne Kost
Julieanne Kost is a Photoshop evangelist for Adobe. Her teaching commitments take her virtually across the globe, as she flies from destination to destination. In this book - Window Seat: The Art of Digital Photography & Creative Thinking - she has taken a collection of photographs that she's shot through the panes of glass of her airplane window seats, and gone on to create a book that offers a blend of professional expertise and inspiration for waning creativity.
Our in-flight behavior varies greatly - many of us choose to take a nap while trying to avoid leaning too far into our seatmate's lap, while others watch the tiny drop-down screen and its offerings of archived news clips. Ms. Kost, on the other hand, uses the air travel time that we all-too-often squander in a vastly different way. She uses, to her creative advantage, the unique perspective offered from 35,000 feet as she collects a variety of photos taken through her window.
Window Seat is more than simply a collection of beautiful images, though far be it for us to undermine the often breathtaking aesthetic appeal of Ms. Kost's photography. However, she has an underlying purpose to her artistic renderings not only does she seek to share many of the insights that she has garnered over her years of work as a creative professional, but she also offers some valuable reflections on the nature of ingenuity itself.
Indeed, the Window Seat photographs speak as a metaphor to her essential message that all it takes is a simple change in awareness and perspective to awaken and sustain the creativity that often eludes even the most prolific among us.
It isn't meant to be an expert's instructional manual or an artist's complete portfolio, nor is it intended to be a guru's manifesto. What Ms. Kost has accomplished with Window Seat is a unique blend of all three, as she shares her talent, her insight and her work in a quest to remind us all why we create, and to help us when the flow of ideas begins to stagnate.
Take a look out of your very own window seat, open your eyes a little bit wider as Ms. Kost intonates, and you may well be surprised by what you see.
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