Looking for photo problems

As you take and edit photos, you will often come across the same problems over and over. Dust spots, color banding, bad corrections, bad blends and similar. Sometime you will not even notice it. The colors of the affected area in a photo can be so similar that you just don’t see it. Or it’s to dark, or too bright. And still, that you don’t see it, does not mean that someone else looking at you photo will miss it too. Especially if one is doing a big print, one should try to fix as much as possible.

So today I will show you one technique I use to find areas that need to be fixed in Photoshop.

Finding photo problems using Curves in Photoshop

The technique is very easy. In Photoshop, create a new curves layer, and create an extreme contrast using the curve. Just click on it in the left are, and pull it to the top, and then on the right area create a second point and pull it down. It should look something like in this Photoshop screenshot.

Finding photo problems using Curves in Photoshop

It does not have to be exact, just have something that looks similar. What this did is to brighten the shadows, darken the highlights and added a lot of contrast in the mid-tones. The photo will look crazy colorful and psychedelic now.

But when you look at it, you can see that immediately problems stand out. Things that very barely visible are standing out really brightly right now.

Here are few examples of it. Fist, a spot when two parts of a panorama were connected. You can see on the left, that it looks fine, but once you apply this filter, the bad transition shows up.

Finding photo problems using Curves in Photoshop

Secondly, here is an example of dust spots, using this filter it makes them stand out much more. Will not work everywhere, but most of the time it will help a lot.

Finding photo problems using Curves in Photoshop

Also lens flare will be much more visible. You can see one in the previous photo, and here is one more example of it. While in the regular photo, the flare is barely visible, after the filter you can see it exactly.

Finding photo problems using Curves in Photoshop

Let’s look at one more example. This is a sky that is not evenly lit due to being merged from multiple photos. If you try to fix it, it’s not that easy, as the differences are minimal. But once you apply the curves layer, the problem is visible immediately.

Finding photo problems using Curves in Photoshop

The simplest way to work with it, is to have the curves layer on top, and then edit a layer under it. Then when you are done just turn off or delete the curves layer and you are done.

A little bonus for you. When you have uneven color transitions, mostly in skies or after you removed some object using content aware, it’s easy to fix them. Use strong blur on the area and then add noise to the area. Blur will create a nice transition, while the noise will prevent it from create color banding. Best to do this on a separate layer and then paint it in with the layer mask.

Do you need the best camera?

I, probably as many other photographers, get the same questions all the time. Which is the best camera? Which one should I buy? Which one will make my photos better? (btw. the answers here are depends, depends and probably none) Since that is the case, I will share some of my though on this topic with you today.

Btw. If you goal is to show off that you have the best and priciest camera, that by all means get that. If that was the reason to buy, you probably don’t care about taking photos anyway, and it will just sit in some shelf somewhere.

When you don’t need a better camera

You often don’t need a better camera at all. To get better photos you usually need to change other things.

Is your composition good?
The most important thing about a photo is the composition. If your composition is bad, the photo is bad. And a better camera will not help you with this. Instead look for tutorials, guides, look at other photographers work and practice more.

Did you learn the basics?
Here I don’t mean just how to control you camera, but much more. Modes, histogram, focusing, choosing the best settings and so on. While the software in the camera is quite smart, you usually can get much more if you do things yourself. Even the best camera will not focus properly all the time, will not choose the best settings for what you need, and sometimes it can even make thing worse. I still remember the day when I switched to manual focusing. My photos became so much sharper instantly.

Do you edit your photos?
Continuing from the previous point. By post-processing your photos you can get much better results than directly from a camera. Try choosing a software you like and learning how to use it. Photoshop, Lightroom, Aurora or similar. Most are not that hard to get into and you can get them quite cheaply.

You maybe need something else
Maybe you don’t need a better camera, but an accessory. Again this depends on the type of photography. But maybe you need a sturdy tripod if you want to do landscapes. Or an external flash if you do portraits.

Do you need the best camera?

When you need a better camera

This is very depending on what you do. But here are few reasons.

You need higher resolution
This happened to me. As quite a lot of my photos end up being printer big, especially as wall sized posters, I just needed more resolution. I just can’t make a panorama of every photo. Also screen resolutions go up and up every year. 4k is equal to 8Mpix, 8k to 33Mpix. That is a crazy amount of pixels. And yes, there are upscalers, but they are not always the solution.

You need a faster camera
There are type of photography, where a fast camera and even faster focusing is a must. Sports photography is a good example here. If your camera is slow, you will not get the shot. It has to be able to save the photo quickly and focus even quicker.

Your work demands it
This is a bit indirect reason, but it can happen. For instance I bought a TSE lens, because I knew I would have to do over a 1000 interior photos for a client. So having this did make the whole work quicker and much easier.

Weather and dust resistance
Better cameras usually have better weather and dust resistance, and are made from stronger materials. You can see it if you compare a pro camera to a consumer one. There are much more resistant. My lenses fell on the ground, my camera fell, my tripod got bend and similar. Things happen. Everything works.

Do you need the best camera?

In the end, one has to decide for oneself if one needs a better camera or not. New stuff is always nice. But if you will not use anything from what the new camera will bring, what’s the point.

My favorite lenses

Every photographer has their favorite lenses they prefer to use. And it’s not different for me. So today, I will share with you that which three lenses are the favorite from the ones I use. Feel free to share in the comments which ones are you favorite :)

Canon 17mm f4 TSE lens

The Canon 17mm f4 TSE lens is quite an unusual one. Tilt shift lenses, while quite popular with architecture photographers, are not that widely used by other ones. But they are just so great. Not only you can correct perspective distortion in your photos, but you can get views that are normally just not possible. I personally just love to do vertoramas with it, especially of tall buiding while standing really close to them (you seen many photos of the Eiffel tower like that on the blog :))

One of the points I think about, while taking photos, is to take a unique photo, that nobody did before. It’s not really easy if you do landscape and architecture. And using a less used lens, can help you with that, buy giving you a bit different view. That also a reason that I like to do so many panoramas and vertoramas.

Here is one of the many vertoramas I took with this lens.

Canon 24-70mm f2.8 lens

This is my basic go to lens. It could have been a different lens, like a 24-105 or any other with a similar range. It’s just something you grab when you don’t know what you need. The range is good for 90% situations and it just works well. Also making panoramas with this lens without a panoramic head works perfectly.

There is a so called lens trinity in photography. A wide angle (16-35mm or 14-24mm lens) a normal lens (24-70mm) and a zoom lens (70-200mm). With this combination, you will cover a very huge range. But do you need them all? Probably not. It all depends on what type of photos you do.

Let me give you an example. I have a 70-200mm lens. I carry it with me only about 10% of the time, only when I’m sure I will need it. If I need to zoom in, I have the 24-70mm lens, and since my camera is 30Mpix, I can easily crop quite a lot. So If I zoom into 70mm and crop down to 15Mpix, it’s the same as having a 140mm lens with me. This is of course not enough in all cases, but it works well most times.

Here is one of the many panoramas I took with this lens.

Laowa 12mm f2.8 lens

The last of these three is the Laowa 12mm f2.8 lens. It’s the latest lens I bought so the one I have been using for the shortest time. I love doing wide angle photos. And the wider you can go, the better. It’s quite common with architecture and city photos, that you just can’t move further back from something. There is just no place to go. And where sometime a tilt shift lens works better, it’s not all the time.

This ultra wide view of the world is just so different to what most of other lenses and cameras capture. And the more
different it is, the more I like it.

Here is one of the photos I took with this lens.

So these are currently my favorite lenses, and if I go out taking photos, these three are mostly in my bag. Which ones you carry with you?

Taking panoramas without a panoramic head

I have been posting and also taking quite a few more panoramas recently, so today’s post will be about those. To be exact about if you really need a panoramic head, and if you do when. Also, how to take panoramic shots without one.

What is panoramic head?

A panoramic head, is quite a big tripod head, that has two main functions. First is to move the sensor back from the center of rotation, so you avoid paralax shift (will explain in a moment what it is). The second is to allow you to rotate the camera horizontally and vertically in exact increments.

With it, you can get a perfectly shot panorama, with every photo in exact increments from each other. For big and multi-row panoramas you just have to have one. The photos will align perfectly every time if you use one.

I do have one, but use it rarely. It’s just to big and heavy to carry around all the time.

What is a paralax shift?

If you ever moved you camera, you have seen it. When you move your camera horizontally, the objects that you see move also horizontally. But you may have noticed, that things that are closer to you move much more than the ones further from you. Like this, their relative position towards each other changes.

So what effect this has? If you take two photos for a panorama, but he positions between objects in the photos changes, they will not blend nicely or at all. The reason for this is, that you are rotating your camera at the spot where the sensor is. To avoid this, you would need to rotate the camera around the spot in the lens, where the light bends (nodal point). There is a mark on most of the lenses to identify where this is. If you rotate the camera around this spot, there will be no paralax shift at all.

When do you need a panoramic head?

So since the panoramic head can help you remove the paralax shift, you need it in situations when that is a problem. These are:
– when you have something very close to the camera. The closer, the more paralax shift you get
– when you are shooting with a very wide or a fisheye lens. Both of these types of lenses (mostly anything under 20mm) add to the depth of a scene, and with this add to the paralax shift.
– when you are doing a too big of a panorama. If you are doing a very huge panorama, it’s easy to miss a spot or just forget where you started. A panoramic head will help you to get all the shots you need without problems.

For this photo I used a panoramic head, as it’s a huge 9 shot panorama and it made it easy to get all the shots properly.
Taking panoramas without a panoramic head

When you don’t need one?

So you don’t need one in all other situations. Especially if what you are taking a panorama from, is further from you. There will be a small paralax shift, but it will not effect the final photo at all. Here are few tips for taking panoramas without a panoramic head:

– zoom in. Shoot at least at 20mm or more. I you zoom out, it can happen that the panorama will not blend.
– use manual mode. Getting all the shots with the same settings is important. Meter the scene to get you camera settings, and then use manual mode to get all the shots.
– use manual focus. You don’t want the focus to change in between shots.
– use a tripod. This is a must. You can get panoramas handheld, but they will never be the same as from a solid tripod.
– either do bracketing, or set exposure based on some average spot from your scene. If the panorama goes from bright area to a dark, it’s best to set the exposure based on something in between them.
– turn on the build in leveling in your camera. If it shows up on the camera screen, it’s easier to move the camera horizontally without moving it up or down.
– do multiple panoramas. Never do just one shot, do multiple. Bigger chance you get one right.

This panorama was taken without a panoramic head. There was nothing close to me, so it was not a problem.
Taking panoramas without a panoramic head

If have, you can also use a tilt-shift lens to create panoramas, and you can read more about here.

Photos on Instagram

I always hated how hard is to show bigger photos on Instagram. The limitations there on aspect and size are quite big, and a lot of my photos just don’t fit. It’s just hard to show them off in the best way. So recently I started cropping my photos into multiple versions and sharing those on Instagram, so today I will show you how I do that in Photoshoop. It is possible directly on a phone, but I feel like the results are not as good.

Cropping photos for Instagram

The maximum size of a photo on Instagram is 1080x1350px. I like to have the photos as big as possible, so I use this resolution for them. It also works quite well on modern smartphones.

I create three versions:
Cover photo – a crop from the full photos, showcasing the most interesting part, as a single image in 1080x1350px resolution
Full photo – a crop where I add white space around the photo, so full photo can be showcased
Split version – a crop into multiple photos, that shows the full photo and visitors can slide between the parts to see it.

Cropping photos for Instagram

Like this I think I get the best options of sharing the photo. Those who only scroll by will see the cover photo mostly, those who are interested can swipe through the other and see more.

Cover photo

This one is simple. Choose the crop tool, put 1080×1350 into the ratio box in the top left (or 4 to 5, as it’s the same ratio). Then just move and resize the crop box as you need for your photo and hit enter. Now you just need to resize the result to 1080×1350 and maybe apply some sharpening. I like to do this with TK actions, but any way is fine.

Cropping photos for Instagram

Full photo

Go back to the original photo. Before cropping, change the background color selection to white. This is so after we crop, Photoshop fill the background with white. Just hid the D key to reset the colors. Choose crop with the same ratio as before. Now hold down ALT key and drag on one of the corners of the crop box to make it bigger. Do so until the sides of the crop box snap onto the sides of the photo. Hit enter to confirm. Now resize to 1080×1350, sharpen and save.

Cropping photos for Instagram

Split version

This one is a bit more complicated. First you have to decide into how many parts you want to split the photo. It really depends on the photo. A normal non-panorama shot works best when split into 2 parts. For a panorama you would need more. But it’s easy to just try out different option.

Return to original image. Choose the crop tool, and for the ratio calculate your width based on the number of slices. So if you want 2 slices it would be 2160×1350 (or 8×5), for 3 slices 3240×1350 (or 12×5) and so on. Just look at the crop box and choose one that best fits your image. Confirm with enter when you chosen.

Cropping photos for Instagram

Now we will add guides to the photo, to see where we need to slice it. Go under View/New guide layout and in the window that opens choose Columns and then write in the number of slices you want. The guide lines will show up. If you don’t see them, go into the menu under View/Extras or hit Ctrl+H to toggle visibility.

There are multiple option how to save the slices now, and I will show you two. First one is using the crop tool. Choose it, set the ration back to 1080×1350 (or 4×5) and move the crop box until it aligns wit the first slice. It will snap to the guide lines automatically. Now crop, resize and sharpen and once you save, undo it all with the history window, until you are back to the guide lines. Then just repeat for every slice.

Cropping photos for Instagram

The second option is the slice tool. If you hold down the left mouse button on the crop tool selection, it will give you the option to choose slice tool. Then just create slices by using the guide lines. Each time you create one, there will be a little number in the top left corner of it. One you you have all, resize the photo so it’s 1350px in height and sharpen it afterwards. Choose File/Export/Save for web and once confirmed, it will save every slice as a separate photo.

Cropping photos for Instagram

Now you can post everything to Instagram. Check my profile to see how I do it here. While this is a bit of work, one can do it quite quickly. And if one makes big photos (as I do) this makes them look much better on Instagram :)

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