Deep thoughts (and photos) by M. Scott Smith

The Nikon School 🔗

On Sunday, I attended the Nikon School's all-day Digital 201: Workflow Techniques course. Despite having to get up early on a Sunday morning (and losing an additional hour due to that annoying daylight savings time change), the course was quite worthwhile.

It was taught by two seasoned professionals, Bill Durrence and Nick Didlick. Both have been taking pictures professionally for decades, and yes, that is Nick's real last name. Nick is from Canada, eh.

Some of the material in the course I already knew, and some I didn't care about, but I did pick up quite a few useful gems.

  • Enabling the long exposure noise reduction feature on the Nikon D100 can significantly reduce noise in long exposures. (Hey, who knew?)

  • I need to start using the built-in histogramming function on the D100. It can be quite useful in assessing the shadows and highlights in a shot, which can otherwise be difficult to tell on the camera's tiny LCD screen, especially in bright sunlight. (And, true enough: I often review a photo on the LCD screen and think it looks great, but discover it's junk when I bring it up in Photoshop.)

  • Nikon's imaging software includes a cool feature to automatically remove dust artifacts from images. With the dust still on your CCD, you can take a "baseline" photo (e.g., shooting a white background) which lets the software figure out where the dust is. It then automatically undusts pictures that were taken with dust in the same positions. This could have been very handy for me in the past -- instead I spent hours in Photoshop undusting images one by one.

  • Shooting photos in RAW/NEF mode has a lot of benefits. Normally the A-to-D converter in cameras like the D100 applies a great deal of image processing to the photo -- adjusting color, contrast, etc. In RAW mode, you get the bits exactly as they come from the CCD sensor. It's equivalent to getting the raw negative in film photography. Using Nikon's software, you can then apply "instructions" against the raw data (basically duplicating what the camera does, but with infinite more control and variability) without damaging the raw data. This has a lot of obvious benefits, but not all photographers go this route; many stick with high-quality JPEG as the format in the camera. The latter is quicker to work with and produces files which are much smaller. Some newer digital SLR's don't even include TIFF (normally uncompressed, vs. compressed and lossy JPEG), as there's no reason to with RAW.

  • Setting the white balance in the camera to "cloudy" when taking pictures inside (especially with the flash on) warms up the flash and photo, compensating for indoor types of light (e.g., incandescent).

  • I love the D100, but notice that the photos I take are always a little soft. It's easy enough to fix in Photoshop. Turns out the softness is by design (or at least a side effect of the design). Digital cameras such as the D100 have a low-pass filter over the CCD, and this effectively softens the image. So you normally need to sharpen the image when you're done touching it up and correcting it. Best way to sharpen an image in Photoshop? Using the Unsharp Mask option. Unsharp, of course, means sharpen.

  • I really should stop using a Sharpie to label CD's. The ink eventually (sooner than later) destroys the data on the CD's. Oops.. Ball point pens are bad too.

  • Apple's three Cinema Displays are the only LCD's on the market right now to have some type of really good color certification. (Don't remember the certifying authority, and don't care much. I just include this point as further evidence that Macs rule!)

  • Good workflow in Photoshop: First bring up Levels, examine histogram, and make sure there's good detail in both the shadows and highlights, adjusting as necessary. Then go to Curves. Lots of good tricks for selectively fixing specific parts of an image. Shouldn't use Brightness/Contrast filter, as it uniformly throws away information -- and guess which one I've always used? Better choice is to use Curves to add a couple points and fix in specific density ranges.

  • History brush is your friend. Need to better learn how to use it.

  • To convert an image to grayscale, use Channel Mixer -- don't just change mode to Grayscale, as that throws away two of three channels.

  • Lens Blur option in Photoshop CS makes it easy to add selective depth of field to specific parts of an image.

    Lots of other good advice, and I'm anxious to make some subtle changes in the way I take and process/correct pictures. The instructors were quite entertaining and also showcased portfolios of their work -- they've taken some phenomenal pictures. (Nick has a portfolio of some of his shots.)
  • Elsewhere 🌐

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    3. Past Yonder

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