Backing up photos

A year ago I wrote about backing up photos. And there I mentioned the SyncToy application, that I use to locally backup my photos to my Synology file-server. And today I will go a bit more about how to use Synctoy.

What is SyncToy? SyncToy is a free application from Microsoft (can be downloaded here), that is used to synchronize folders. It’s not automatic, so you have to run it yourself. But if you are as I am, and like to be fully in control, you will like it. It’s very simple to use and worked flawlessly for me during the two years I have been using it.

It’s much better than just copying files to a new location, as it detects changes, deleted files, new folder and similar and corrects that all for you while synchronizing.

Using SyncToy to locally backup photos

So how do one use it? First, decide on a folder you want to backup. Then, decide where you want to back it up too. So either a file-server, external drive or a second drive in your PC. In my case it’s a file-server, that is attached as a mapped network drive in my PC.

Continue by creating a folder pair with Create folder pair button. You can see in the screenshots, I have multiple, split based on whats in the folder.

Using SyncToy to locally backup photos
Using SyncToy to locally backup photos

Choose the folders, choose the type of synchronization, add a name to the pair and confirm. Since it’s a backup, use Echo as synchronization method. This will mirror you computer folder onto the backup folder, but not the other way around. So if you delete a file from your computer, and sync, it will be deleted also from the backup. Of course if you delete it accidentally, don’t sync, and just copy the file from the backup :)

Using SyncToy to locally backup photos
Using SyncToy to locally backup photos

Once the folder pair is done, you can just click on Run to sync them. But I prefer to first hit on Preview, that will list all the changes it will perform first. Like this I can quickly see what it will do. Once that is shown, I hit Run to finish the Sync.

Using SyncToy to locally backup photos
Using SyncToy to locally backup photos

Now just run this each time you want to run a backup and you are done.

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.

Winter wallpapers

It’s time again to add few new wallpapers to the wallpapers page. And since we have snow this year, all the new ones will be winter wallpapers. These are all in 3440×1440 resolution, so fit for ultra-wide wallpapers.

If you wonder why I like to share wallpapers in this resolution, there are three reasons. My main monitor has this resolutions, panoramas look great on ultra-wide monitors, and lastly, there are not that many available, as these type of monitors is not that widely adopted by users. Still they are great, and there being bigger selection of wallpapers for them is only good :)

Head over to the Wallpapers page to download them now.

New wallpapers

And here are the new ones.

Winter wallpapers
Winter wallpapers
Winter wallpapers
Winter wallpapers

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.

Topaz Labs

So after doing my first impressions article on the Topaz JPEG to RAW AI application two days ago, I thought I have a look at the second AI powered program from Topaz labs. The Topaz A.I. Gigapixel.

Topaz A.I. Gigapixel

You can guess what it does based on the name, but if you did not, it is to resize your photos into much bigger ones. Again, as with the JPEG to RAW AI, the interface is very simple. You just load the image, set the scale, noise reduction and output format. Then it takes few minutes to create your result (of course based on the size of the photo, size of the result and the power of your PC). Converting a 36Mpix JPG into a 1Gigapixel took around 5 minutes for me.

Topaz A.I. Gigapixel

Result examples

Since there is not much to talk about workflow, let’s directly look at some result examples. In all cases, on the left is a version resized to the same size using the automatic resample in Photoshop. On the right is the Topaz A.I. Gigapixel result. All the examples are quite big, as the difference is better visible then.

So first, just to illustrate the difference in size, here is a 100% zoom on a 36Mpix photo, and a 100% zoom after it was resized to 1 Gigapixel. The scale was set to 6x for this one, and yes, the difference is huge.

Topaz A.I. Gigapixel

Now let’s see the detail comparison. Here is a 22Mpix (19Mb JPG) photo from Dubai.

Topaz A.I. Gigapixel

After the 6x resize, it became a 684Mpix photo (551Mb JPG). So let’s zoom into the area in the center. First, this is a 50% zoom.

Topaz A.I. Gigapixel

And here is a 100% zoom to the same spot. You can see, the A.I. Gigapixel result has much more clarity. The machine learning algorithm really selects out the edges, and ads detail when it finds them. So the result is much more detailed, even if fully zoomed in you can see some edge artifacts.

Topaz A.I. Gigapixel

Let’s look at another photo from Bratislava. This was a 36Mpix photo (27Mb JPG) resized with the 6x scale to 1Gigapixel (783Mb JPG). Again, first, here is a 50% zoom.

Topaz A.I. Gigapixel

And here is a 100% zoom. As you can see, A.I. Gigapixel did really nice work here, with cleaning up the sky, and defining the church outline. It’s a bit worse on the trees, but there of course it has less to work with.

Topaz A.I. Gigapixel

Overall, it did quite a good job. If I would need to print something much bigger than it is, I would used this. The clarity it gives to the photo looks better than a straight up upscaled image.

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

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