You may have noticed, that in the last year I have started using the Oloneo Photoengine for my photos more and more. It makes a great companion to manual blending, as it can be very easy to create a good starting image from it. You can see my favorite things about it in my Oloneo Photoengine review here.

And since I use it so much, I thought I share few tip for it. For what I do, and why I do it. Maybe some of you will find them interesting, or they will motivate you to try Photoengine out :) So here goes.

1. Use edited tiff files instead of RAWs as input.

You may think that using the RAW files as input is great, for providing as much info to the Photoengine as possible, but a 16bit tiff includes all the dynamic range anyway. And what one also can do, is to use a RAW converter of ones choosing, to correct lens problems even before the HDR editing.

What I do before opening files in Photoengine is that I correct the lens distortion, chromatic aberrations and sometimes noise in Lightroom. I also sometime tone down the highlights in the darkest shot, and brighten the shadow in the lightest shot, to make the blending even better. This is because in every HDR program, the smaller the dynamic range, the usually better, more natural, result one gets.

2. Don’t use all exposures

Again one would think that using more is better, but you are not only trying to get a big dynamic range, but also get a nice photo. Especially if you have taken very bright exposures (+2EV and more) including them in the blend can create an overall very bright image, that just looks awful. You can of course correct this by changing exposure and brightness, but just leaving the bright exposure out can make the thing a lot easier. Also, using less exposures will cause less ghosting, if you had any movement in your shots.

Here u see the same brackets with the same settings, just in the first one I used only 3 exposures, in the second one 4.

Photoengine tips
Photoengine tips


3. Try a single exposure as input

One would not believe how much detail and dynamic range can be found in a single photo. I like to use this mostly for my fireworks shots, as those are by definition only single exposures. As Photoengine keeps the sharpness of the photo and makes it so easier to brighten the darks, and recover the bright areas. And all that with a single slider.
Photoengine tips

4. Take advantage of the contrast sliders

You maybe noticed, there are two contrast sliders in the Oloneo Photoengine. One under High dynamic range tone mapping, the second one under Low dynamic tone. They both work a little differently. The first one works in conjunction with the Auto-contrast, and you just tweak how strong the auto-contrast is. The second one is a straight up contrast adjustment. I you change just one of those, you will not see any difference, but once you also change the strength, you will see it. I suggest trying both out, as I find a combination of both give me usually the best result.

5. Careful about the Detail Strength

It can be really tempting to just add a lot of detail strength to a photo, but I don’t use it at all. If you really feel that you need more detail, try adding it, but just a little. The combination of changing strength and contrast is usually enough, and the photo retains the original sharpness and natural feel.

Here is an example quickly the strength can be too much.
Photoengine tips

6. Use batch processing when editing panoramas

In my tutorial for HDR panoramas, I mentioned that I first create the panorama blends, and then do the HDR editing. But this approach does not work great for bigger panoramas, as no computer is able to work with such huge files without any issues. In those cases I prefer to use an opposite approach. First I export all the files as 16-big tiffs (of course with lens corrections already applied). I do the processing of the first series in Photoengine, and save the settings as a preset. Then I apply the same settings to all other series using the batch processing that is included in Photoengine and use the result for the panorama creation.
Photoengine tips

7. Try the natural mode

The natural mode is just a single check box, but it can make the result so much better. What it does, is that it tones down all over-saturated areas of the photo, making them more believable. Sometimes is better just to decrease the saturations, but that does not always ends with the same result.

Here you can see what a difference a single click can make, and no, I didn’t add any saturation for effect.

Photoengine tips
Photoengine tips


8. Create multiple version to be blended later

Another way to get the most from Oloneo Photoengine, is to created two (or more) different versions of the same photo. For instance, like in the photo from the yesterdays post, I created a darker version, from only 4 exposures and a lighter version, from all 5 exposures. Like this, I had a nice sky in the darker version and a nice foreground in the darker version. All I needed after that was just to blend them together.

These are all the tips for now, but of course there is much more to Oloneo Photoengine, and I will revisit this topic again later :)

I have been using the Magic lantern firmware for over two years now, and as I still get questions about it here and there, I thought I make a post about what I thing about it what what I use the most with it. So lets start :)

For those who don’t know what Magic lantern is, it’s a custom firmware, that is made by a third party for Canon cameras. It add a huge amount of functionality, while leaving the core firmware in tact. It accomplished this by working completely from the memory card. That actually the first great thing about it. To disable it, you just use a memory card without the firmware files on it. It’s so easy.

So what do I think about it? It’s just great. The number of new functions is staggering, the stability is great, it’s easy to use, and it even remembers your settings if you take the card out of the camera.

Magic lanternI was quite scared before installing it first time, as probably everyone who uses it does. The camera gear is not cheap, and anything that can brake it is of course scary. But I still haven’t found a single instance where Magic lantern damaged a camera, and of course I had not problems also :)

Actually in the two years I’ve been using it, I found only two problems. Sometimes if I remove the memory card too quickly, I have to remove and reinsert the battery to restart the camera. The second issue is that it sometimes not consistent with exposure time when bracketing (eg. two sets with the same settings result with 8s, 16s, 32s exposures for the first set and 8s, 15s and 32s for the second set, for no apparent reason)

But that’s all for the negatives, so lets look at things what I use and why I’m still using it.

1. No 30 second limit

If you ever tried bracketing on a camera, you may noticed, that the longest exposure are always 30s or under. Even if they should be longer. For instance if you took a 10s shoot, and wanted a +2EV from that, it still would be only 30s, not 40s as it should be. Magic lantern removes this limitation, and you can go as high up as you need. This of course does not mean you can set up normal shot for more than 30s, but only that brackets that need to be higher, are. Still this on it’s own makes Magic lantern worth it :)

Magic lantern

2. More brackets available

Most cameras allow only for limited brackets in the auto-bracketing mode. Magic lantern allows for 9, or even auto-detect (where the firmware takes a photo, and based on that photos exposure will take more darker/lighter photos to get the full dynamic range). It also allows for more defined differences, where you can choose the steps from 0.5 to 5EV. There are two other ways to get this, either by using a Promote Remote or doing the steps manually, but none of them beat the convenience of the firmware.

3. White balance detection

I don’t know how good other cameras are, but the auto white balance on my 5D mark II can be absolutely horrible. This is where Magic lantern can come in and choose a manual white balance. From my experience, it very accurate most of the time. Of course one has to remember to do the metering, but it’s really worth it.

4. Long exposures

Another great thing is, that you can specify any long exposure you want, without needing to go the bulb + remote route. This makes it so much easier and more convenient.

Magic lantern

5. Build in intervalometer

Some cameras have it, some don’t. Again one can do this using a advanced remote, but again, it’s much convenient this way. It’s also very easy to set up and use. You can check my fireworks ebook, where I describe how I use it to make taking photos of fireworks easier.

6. Bulb ramping

If you ever wanted to do a time-lapse of a sunset of a sunrise, you know that it can be really hard. You have to predict how the light changes, and either program a remote to do the changes, or do it manually. What magic lantern can do, is take a photo, analyze it, and adjust the settings to get better exposure for the next one. Like this it takes most of the work away form you, and you can focus more on stuff like composition :). Of course one needs to de-flicker the result, but that’s needed even for a normal timelapse. You can check out the short video here, I took with this function.

Here is a timelapse I did using the Magic lantern Bulb ramping.

7. Focus peak

The ones of you familiar with newer cameras maybe use this feature, but for older cameras, Magic lantern is the only way to get it. This is an overlay for the live view mode, where red lines show you what’s in focus in the scene. I don’t use it that much for photos, but it is really helpful for video shooting.

8. One click zoom

This was such an annoyance for me. You know how it is. When you take a photo and you want to check if it is sharp enough, you have to go to the gallery, press zoom, press zoom again, and than press zoom again. It’s so slow. With Magic lantern one can set it up that it zoom in to 100% with one press of the zoom button. It so much faster.

And there are so many more feature in Magic Lantern. But I this is only about the ones I use the most. If you have a camera that supports it (regrettably only Canon) think about giving it a try. It’s just so convenient, just hawing all these features always in the camera.

Here is a video I took showing few of these features, that you may find useful to get into Magic lantern.

You can find more information on Magic lanter and download it on their web page:

As almost every photographer, I also try to be quite active on social media. But probably as for everyone there, there are some practices some photographers do, that should not be tolerated and should stop. So I thought I put together this little list, to give few pointers what to avoid. This is mostly specific to Facebook, but some are applicable also to other networks.

1. Don’t beg. Never beg for likes, views, shares, comments, and so on. I don’t mean one can’t ask for it in the description, but there is always a line, after which it looks out of place and it shows that you are not confident in your photos.

2. Don’t spam. For every social networks there is usually a certain number of posts per day, that look acceptable. It’s hard to say how many are ok, but in my opinion for Facebook pages, it’s between one and 4 posts a day. Just take into account how many pages an average person is following, and you see why more is too much.

3. Don’t invite people to empty pages. This is something I see a lot of times with photographers who only start on Facebook. They just created a page and already they want a huge following. No-one who does not know you personally will like your page if there is nothing there.  First add at lest few posts, a good cover and some photos. And don’t forget to create a good address for the page under .

4. Don’t buy followers. This is never worth it. The followers sold are always fake. I seen reports that not even the followers bought directly through Facebook advertising are always real. Organic growth from good content is always the best.


5. Don’t post to multiple Facebook groups/pages at once. This behavior I always reward by unsubscribing from the person immediately. Just think how Facebook works. You post to 10 groups and people following you will see 10 identical posts on their feeds. A nice photo is great to see, but when you see it 10 times, it becomes spam very quickly.

6. Don’t post/message links to your page asking people to like. Do this only if you want to look amateurish and desperate. You want someone to check out your page? Post a good photo to their page and if they like it, they will check out the rest of your work. I always do.

7. Don’t just say Hi. If you message someone, another photographer you don’t know personally, write why you message them. Just writing Hi, sending a link and similar, will be ignored most times. Say why you message them right away, and what you want (if you want something :)) and I guarantee, if they have time, the chance for a reply is much higher.

8. Don’t ask stupid questions. Better said, think and read before you ask. I give an example here. If I name a photo “Dubai Marina”, mention in the description that it was taken in “Dubai Marina” and tag the photo location as “Dubai Marina” and I still get a question where the photo was taken, I will definitively not reply, because I know the person does not care about the answer.

9. Don’t tag un-relevant people.  This is a favorite tactic to get more views on photos on Facebook. My reaction to this is always un-tag and un-friend immediately. And I think everyone else should reward people who do this the same way.

10. Don’t steal photos. One would think that this does not have to be repeated, but it seams that it has to. So never steal, never post other peoples work without a proper credit. And if you are not sure, ask them first. You will always get caught.  And never try to submit other peoples work into contests under your name (yes, a person did this with one o my photos).

11. Don’t connect every account to your Facebook. It’s very easy to have your Facebook page updated with everything you do on the internet (500px likes, flickr uploads, instagram updates …), but again it gets into the territory of spamming. You can easily get a huge number of posts that your followers just don’t care about.

12. Don’t overdo it on the watermark. I know that everyone tries to protect his/her work, but think about what you are trying to show. Is it really the watermark? If no, then why it is more dominant than the photo?

13. Don’t ad people to groups. It’s nice that you have a group, but don’t just add everyone. Share the group, invite the people, don’t just add them. Group send out notifications, unwanted notifications are annoying. Annoying things lead to un-friending and blocking.

14. Don’t group message all your friends – This is so annoying, especially around the holidays. If you want to post something to all your friends, post it on your wall, don’t group message them. Getting notifications from numerous messages one does not care for can drive one crazy. Never, I repeat, never do that.

I think I could continue even more, but  there is a simple rule. Before you do anything, think first about it. Do you want to be taken seriously? Do you wan to be taken as a professional? Than behave like that. And even if you don’t want to be a professional, try to behave like a decent human being. If something bothers you, it will also bother other people if you do it.

A very important step in every photo editing, is the final step, saving for web. Here I will show you how I do it currently for all my photos (all the ones on this blog). So let’s get started.

First, lets take a photo. This one is already finished and I need to save it for web.

How to save for web

This photo has not yet been sharpened. If you want to get the best result, you have to first re-size your photo, to the final size, before you start with sharpening. So let’s re-size it first.

Go to Image/Image size and change the height to 900px (that’s the size I normally use, is different for everyone else). The width is calculated automatically here, as the constraint proportions is checked. As we want to create a web result, the document size has no importance for us.

How to save for web

Once re-sized, let’s continue with the sharpening. There are many ways one can do it, but one of the simplest is to just use Filter/Sharpen/Unsharp mask. Going with a smaller radius (0.1) and higher strength (100+) usually works the best here. On some photo one needs to go with smaller strength, to avoid the “over-sharpen” look.

How to save for web

A easy way to skip these steps is to use the Web Sharpening actions from TK Actions. You can find more about them here.

Lastly one needs to save the photo. But instead of using File/Save as, we need to go to File/Save for web. We need to use this, because we need to convert and include the color profile with the photo. We need to convert it to the sRGB, so it’s properly shown in web browsers and also include the color profile, so every program displaying them, does it in the same way. The preview should be set to Internet sRGB, so you see the final result as it’s shown in a browser.

How to save for web

Other than that, you can use any quality setting you want. And that’s it. Just choose a name you want and save it :)

There are many things one can do to improve ones photography skills. One can read books, watch tutorials, get new equipment and much more. But the thing that helps the most, is taking and editing photos. The much the better. The more you do something, the better you get.

Now the question is, how to get oneself to shoot and edit as much as possible, when it isn’t ones main job. A lot of people try so called 365 projects, also called a photo a day project. The goal there is to take a photo every day. But I thing, having a daily blog is a more crazier version of this.

The veins of Dubai

This blog passed it’s 4th year of existence some time ago, and it hasn’t been always easy to keep up with it. As every photographer knows, there are days when one really is not in the mood to touch the camera, or when every result just looks ugly. Of course there are also days when one is busy, one is traveling and there is absolutely not time.

It actually happened a lot of times, that I just arrived late at night home from a trip, and first thing was to copy the photos to the PC and edit one, so I can update the blog :)

To every photographer, I would suggest to try it out for a while. Not many can stick with it, as it just takes too much time and commitment. I have thought many times to switching to a less regular posting, but as I’m a very stubborn person, I never did it :)

But do I think that it’s crazy to do a daily photo blog? Yes I do. It helps one get better, helps one to try to do more with photography. But it also makes one more nervous. Once you get used to a daily post, and one is late, it aggravating. Or when one had no time to shoot for a while, or no good photo opportunities, and one want something new for the blog.

As everything, it’s usually goes up and down. It’s great after a trip, when one has a huge amount of new photos, and it’s horrible after a month without a new one :)

It’s also a great pleasure to look through ones old posts, and see how the skill evolved (of course when one gets over how horrible the old photos are :)). I started posting to Flickr right when I started with photography, and to the blog soon after that, so I have a history of all my photos.

I seen photographers who started with blogging and ended quite quickly, because the haven’t seen the response/ visits/ comments/ fame there were hoping for. But in all cases, one has to do this for oneself. Actually blogging is the only platform, where you can do what you want. On social networks it is easier to get followers and views, but there one is always at the mercy of Google/ Facebook/ whoever, who can change anything from day to day. On ones own blog, one is the own master. Also blog posts don’t get lost in time so easily :)

So if you are a photographer, I really suggest you start a blog. I just would not do a daily one :)

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