Photo problems

There are a few basic problems that you see over and over in many photos. Fixing them is really easy, so it’s sometimes strange to see so many photographers not doing so. Today I will go through a few of them and show you how to fix them. I will be sticking mostly to Photoshop here, but few can be easily fixed also in Lightroom.

Chromatic aberrations

I’m always surprised when I see chromatic aberrations in edited photos. There are just so simple to get rid off. You can even set up Lightroom to do it for you when you import photos.

In Lightroom, you just have to go into the Develop module, scroll down in the right panel and under Lens Corrections check the box by Remove Chromatic Aberrations. This works in almost all cases.

In Photoshop, the simplest way is to use Camera RAW to do so. You should do it on the RAW file, as then it’s just one click. If it’s not a RAW file, it’s a bit more work. When you open a RAW file in Photoshop, the Camera RAW will open automatically. Just go to the Lens Correction tab and check to remove chromatic aberrations. All done. In the case you don’t have the RAW file, you open your file, and then go to Filter/Camera RAW filter. Again you go into the Lens Correction tab, but it will look a bit different. You will have only manual options to do so. Just move the Purple and Green sliders to get rid off the aberration.

5 problems you can quickly fix in you photos

Perspective distortion

Another problem that is very easy to fix is Perspective distortion. If you are not familiar with it, it happens when your camera is not perfectly leveled when you take your photos. As a result, the objects in your photo may look like they are falling inward or outward.

This can be fixed in Lightroom, but I do prefer to use Photoshop. In Lightroom, you first have to rotate the image, so the horizon is perfectly leveled. If you don’t do this, you can’t remove perspective distortion properly. Once this is done, in the right panel scroll down to Transform and move around the Vertical transformation until the edge of the image aligns with all the vertical lines in the photo.

In Photoshop my preferred way to do this is to go into Free transform (Edit/Free Transform or Ctl+T), then right click on the image and choose perspective. Now drag the bottom corners out or in, until you get the lines perfectly vertically. If the distortion is very strong, you will also have to scale the image up. Just right click again, choose scale, hold down Shift and drag the middle top point up or down. You may need to go back into perspective edit afterward, as scaling can change the distortion.

5 problems you can quickly fix in you photos

I prefer Photoshop to Lightroom, as Lightroom automatically crops the image down to the original size and you are losing big areas of the photo due to the correction. In Photoshop you can just easily expand the canvas of the photo, so have a bigger photo in the end.

You can find a more detailed description of this here.

Color Banding

Color banding is created when you lower the number of colors in a color transition. Mostly it’s created when you save a photo into lower quality. If you have a lot of skies in your photos, you definitively have seen it.

The solution here is very simple, just add noise. Noise will add variation to the affected area, so the transitions will become more natural. You can even first remove noise, to get rid of strong noise and color noise, and then add back some softer noise, to prevent color banding.

To do so, just choose in Photoshop, Filter/Noise/Add Noise with the amount of 1%, Gaussian, and Monochromatic. Once done, check the image, if the color banding is still visible add it again with the same settings. You can repeat this until the problem is gone.

5 problems you can quickly fix in you photos

Don’t forget that you don’t have to use it on the whole image, only where it’s needed. Also if you are using layers in Photoshop, merge them into a new one to see how your photo really looks. The previews are not always accurate.

You can find a more detailed article on this topic here.

Lens Flares

I hate lens flares. I even hate them more in computer games. Who thinks that human eyes and brains make lens flares? Such a stupid idea. But you can quickly get rid of them in photos. The best way to get rid of them to not get them at all, but that’s not always possible.

There are two ways, the good way, and the other way. The good way is to take multiple photos where you shade the light source with your hand and then put them together. You can see a detailed description of that here.

The other way is to use Photoshop tools to do so. The results will be not perfect but with a bit of practice, you can do it. There are many things you can do. You can use content aware to fix smaller spots. Use the clone stamp tool for things that repeat or are random in structure. Copy over other parts forms the same image if things repeat.

5 problems you can quickly fix in you photos

I find the best thing to do, is to do all the fixes on a new layer in Photoshop, and once done, hide it, and using a layer mask just paint in the areas you really need. Like this, the fixes will look the most natural.

Dust Spots

Clean your lens often, really often. But if you don’t and shoot at smaller apertures often, clean your photos. A big ugly dust spot will make your photo looks so much worse. Just a short time ago, I saw a photo used as a background in Google Hangouts. It was a nice photo, but there was a huge dust spot right in the middle. It was so ugly.

You can either remove them in Photoshop or also in Lightroom. Both offer tools to identify where they are. In Lightroom, if you select Spot Removal, you will find a Visualize Spots checkbox under the image. Check it and move the slider next to it, until you see the spots in your photo. You can find the same setting in Camera RAW that you can open from filters in Photoshop.

While this works, this is not my favorite way to identify dust spots. I prefer to do create a new layer in Photoshop with an extreme curve. This will create a big contrast between the dust spots and the surrounding area, so showing you exactly where they are. Then I can just use content aware or the clone stamp tool on the layer under it to fix them.

5 problems you can quickly fix in you photos

Here is a more detailed article on how to remove dust spots, and here is one how to identify photo problems using the curve technique.

Sharing photos

I, as many of you, share photos online. But can you protect your photo from being downloaded once it has been shared online? The short answer is no. The long answer needs a bit more explaining, so today I will look at how photos are protected online, and why it’s pointless.

Can you protect your photos online?

  • Block right click – Most portfolio websites offer this option. You can disable the right-click option in the browser while viewing the page. Does this work? No. Is it annoying? Yes. A moderately advanced user can open up the page source and get the file anyway. The only thing one accomplishes by using this is annoying the visitors, as a right click is used for many other things than just saving an image.
  • Watermarks – Small watermarks can be removed easily, big ones with a bit of work. Again, a bit of knowledge of Photoshop and you can get rid of watermarks very quickly. One would have to use a very intrusive watermark to be able to completely prevent this. You can see those when browsing stock photography sites, but if someone really wanted to get rid of it, one could.
  • Embed into Flash – No longer so popular, but some sites used to show images embedded in flash animations. Like that, you prevent being able to save the image and there is no access to the source. But this does not help against taking a simple screenshot. And all your work was for nothing.
Can you protect your photos online?
  • Share only in apps – On mobiles, some apps can prevent you from taking a screenshot, and they don’t offer any way of saving an image. So you would think, share there, and nobody can save it. But that’s not true. There are programs where you can run apps on a PC and once it’s there, screenshot works without issues.
  • Share small resolution – Another popular method is just sharing a small resolution image. While this can be saved, it can’t be used for much. This used to work fairly well, but not anymore. With the rise of AI resizers, you can resize a photo 4x, 6x and even more times, while still having a reasonable quality result.
  • Share a small, very low-quality photo – Ok, this one still works. If you share a small photo, saved at a very low quality, I don’t think anyone will want to download it. But it also defeats the reason of sharing photos in the first place. It will not represent your work at all.
Can you protect your photos online?

The point I want to tell here is that if somebody wants to download your photo, once you share it, there is nothing you can do. Even if you created the perfect protection, they still can just take a photo of your photo on the screen, and your effort is gone.

I stopped worrying about it a while ago. Now I share bigger photos (some even in 4K) and the watermark in the corner is there as branding not as protection. I think most of you could remove it in seconds. It’s the same as with any other content protection out there. If somebody really wants to remove it, they will.

Luminosity masking

Over the last weeks, I have been adding articles about luminosity selections and masks. But since they were posted as normal daily updates here, they are getting lost between all the other articles. So this is an overview so you quickly can find all the posts from one spot.

Luminosity masking articles

Here they all are, in the order you should read them and what is every single one about:

  1. Understanding masks in Photoshop – what are layer masks, how they work and how they are used in Photoshop
  2. Understanding luminosity selections and masks – what are luminosity selections and mask, what do they select and how they can be created in Photoshop
  3. Editing photos using luminosity selections – how can you use luminosity selection when editing photos
  4. Blending photos using luminosity selections – how can you blend multiple exposures together using luminosity selections

Will update here if I add more articles on this topic.

And to make this post nicer, here are few images I blended using this techniques.

Luminosity masking
Luminosity masking
Luminosity masking
Luminosity masking

Topaz Gigapixel AI

I wrote about Topaz Gigapixel AI before. It’s an application that you can use to enlarge your photo up to really huge sizes. And it’s pretty good at it. You can see my test examples in the article here, together with more explanation on this application. But while I was playing around with it, I was thinking, can’t this be used also for something else? Like oversampling? And today I will show you what I got.

Topaz Gigapixel AI

Enhancing clarity using Topaz Gigapixel AI

You probably already heard of oversampling while referring to some mobile phone cameras. It’s a process where the camera takes a high megapixel photo, which is then downscaled to the final resolution it provides. So for instance, to create a good clarity 12Mpix photo, the mobile phone takes a 48Mpix photo that is then resized. The results are usually much clearer and sharper than just taking the 12Mpix photo from the start.

And here is where Topaz Gigapixel AI comes in. What if I used it to upscale an image to something huge, and then downscaled it back to the original size. Would I get a similar result? Would it be worth it? And from me writing this article, you probably deduced the answer.

The results are really nice. Not only they are sharper, have more clarity, but even the noise is reduced. The details stand out more and overall there is more definition in the photos. It’s a bit longer process than just using sharpening, but the results are also a bit different.

Let’s look at a few examples. For all of these, I took the full-size JPG, enlarged it to the 6x size (32000px width as maximum, as that’s the limit of JPG file) using Topaz Gigapixel AI and then resized again using Photoshop to the original size. I did try downscaling again using the Gigapixel AI but it took longer, and I preferred the Photoshop result as it was a tiny bit sharper.

The left photo is the original JPG, the right is the oversampled one. All images were taken at 100% zoom.

Enhancing clarity using Topaz Gigapixel AI
Enhancing clarity using Topaz Gigapixel AI
Enhancing clarity using Topaz Gigapixel AI
Enhancing clarity using Topaz Gigapixel AI
Enhancing clarity using Topaz Gigapixel AI
Enhancing clarity using Topaz Gigapixel AI
Enhancing clarity using Topaz Gigapixel AI

Overall, I think in all the examples, the clarity and definition were enhanced, and the details just stand out more. Not yet sure if this could be used as a replacement for sharpening or something like a details enhancer. But anyway, it’s an interesting use for this application, and if you already got it for the upscaling feature, you can try also this process.

There is a 30 day trial available on the Topaz labs website, so you can get it now and give a try.

Taking photos through glass

I almost called this taking photos through windows, but then I realized, even walls can be made of glass :). You probably had this experience. You are at a place with a great view, but there is a glass wall or window in front of you. And all your photos have all these ugly reflections visible in them. I hate those, and I think you too. So what to do? Today I will share with you a few tips on what to do and how to get better photos through glass.

Taking photos through glass

Get better photos through glass

  • Clean the glass – As a photographer, you probably carry a microfiber cloth with you anyway. So why not use it and clean the glass in front of your camera to get rid of fingerprints and other dirt from it. The cleaner the glass, the cleaner the photo.
  • Use a bigger aperture – If you use a bigger aperture (smaller F-number), focus on something in the distance. Keep the camera close to the glass and the whole area of the glass will be completely out of focus. And that’s what you want. You don’t want to see the fingerprints or scratches in the photos. Like this, they will completely disappear.
  • Put the lens right against the glass – The closer you have your camera to the glass, the less it will be visible in the photo. So try putting the lens right onto the glass wall or window (but first make sure your lens has a flat front, don’t try this with a fisheye). Like this, not only the glass will be out of focus, but you are blocking all reflections from the side of the lens.
  • Turn off all the lights inside – If you can, especially in the evening and at night, turn off all lights. If it’s darker inside that it’s outside, you will get rid of most of the reflections. This is of course not possible if you are at a lookout platform or something similar.
  • Shade the camera with a piece of clothing – To get rid of reflections, you can try to shade your camera with your jacket or other pieces of clothing. Just put the camera as close as you can to the glass, and then hold the jacket over it. Take a test shot and you will quickly see if it worked.
  • Use a dedicated shade – If you tend to take many photos through the glass, I would suggest getting a dedicated shade, like the Lenskirt. I use it and it just makes the whole process very easy. Check out my review of the Lenskirt for more on this one.

If the window or wall is double glass, with space between, you are mostly out of luck. A lot of things just don’t work in that case. You can try all these tips then.  But if there is a gap between the glass, there will always be a reflection there. Turning off lights and shading as many areas as you can works the best here, but don’t expect great results.

Btw. the photos in this post were taken through glass walls, both with the help of the Lenskirt.

Taking photos through glass
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