South Coast Divers
Retouching software.

Is this an easy category too? I prefer Photoshop. Yes, there are other pieces of software out there, I just use Photoshop is all. There is an issue here, it can be very expensive to purchase. I do get email from plenty of suppliers who advertise it for $99 & up. It would be my guess that this is the 'educational version'. If you own one of these inexpensive versions let me know what you think of it, I'd like to know. I am going to give you some of my pointers for using Photoshop to clean up and make that 'picture' an 'image'. I have more finished images in the SCD Photo Gallery, check it out. I have been using Photoshop CS6 and I find that the adjustments made to "Content-aware" is well worth moving to CS6 from CS5. Regardless to which piece of software you decide to use, remember this, there is no "Correct" or "Incorrect" way to use it, the key is to simply "Use it" and see what you can make it do, be open to experiement with your software and get good at it.

Cropping & Sharpness
First, I cannot repeat enough about "LAYERS"!! Always work from multiple layers, always, always, always!!! I hope that sunk in. There is a window within PS that will allow you to open & edit the layers individually. What I do is to first "Crop" the picture, after I saved the new image as something different from the original image. Then I open a new 'duplicate layer' and do my Sharpennig, see the "Filters" tab? Drop down to "Sharpen" and then to "Unsharp Mask", then adjust as you see fit. Always save image as a PSD file, then as a jpg (Or what you want to use) because that way, if you decide you wanted to adjst something again, you don't have to start over.

See the pictures on the right? When I was taking a shot of this Cowfish, it was really tough to get the "head on" shot that I wanted, usually you get a side shot or a "butt shot", straight on is tough, they just don't cooperate. But I got this one, I knew it needed cropping and I was disappointed that it wasn't in the best focus either.

In the top image, is the original image, next is the cropped image, not in perfect focus. The next one shows the Sharpened image and the last one I decided the Sharpened image wasn't what I wanted, so instead of the Sharpen, I Posterized it instead. Huh? What is Posterization Rich? Well, it is under the "Artistic" tab, then the "Poster edges", adjust as you want, again, from a duplicate layer. I did some contrast adjustments around the 'fins' and the eyes, I also made the center of the mouth black and enhanced the lip colors to add some more impact. I liked how this came out and I titled the shot "Kiss me" and I blew this up to a 16x20 and it hangs on my wall in a 20x24 frame with a matt I cut myself, more on that in the matting & framing sections. This image looks even better on a metalic print.

In the bottom image I wanted to show you the "Rule of thirds" that I wrote about in the "Taking great pictures" section. My goal was to get the viewer to see the mouth, hence the title of the image.

I have found that the photo labs I use ( ProPhoto in Irvine & Kodak Galleries ) say that when they print on their printers, they print at 150 DPI. So to enlarge your shots there is an excellent 'plug in' from Alien Skin called "Blow Up" and it uses a different type of pixelization to enlarge your image, consider getting that plug in.

Click on above images to see this shot in the SCD Gallery.
Removing unwanted stuff.
Here is an interesting set of editing I did in Photoshop. See the Harbor Seal picture to the right? This was a picture taken by one of my buddies, Marc, he shot this at Anacapa Island. I asked if I could work on it. When I saw the kelp, it felt like a distraction to the main subject, the Harbor Seal. I started by cropping the image and then increasing it's resolution to 150 DPI from 72 DPI, which was the original resolution. Then I started removing the kelp and rebuilding the flipper on the left of the shot. I did this with the 'cloning tool' & the 'healing brush' to get the result I wanted. I also spent some time removing back scatter using the same tools. I made the background all 'pitch black' (000000 for the color). I had to 'trace' around the Seal and keeping the image at about 300% of the image's size. Working with & around the wiskers was tricky, but if you stay patient and "save a lot" you will get a job like this done. This took me about an hour or so, again always working from duplicate layers. There is a great new feature in CS5, under Edit>>Fill, there is an option for "Content-Aware", try that to help remove stuff too. I had the lab print this on 'normal' paper and 'metalic print' paper and the difference between the 2 is quite amazing because of the amount of silver and the contrast between the silver & black. Marc has this print hanging on his wall. You probably won't believe that the filesize is only around 2MB (jpg) and it printed incredibly as a 16x20, the detail is that good. The people at the lab were blown away by it as well. I knew I did 'well' when I saw the reaction of the lab tech and they wanted to see who did the work, made me get a "warm fuzzy feeling".

Another example of removing back scatter is a shot from Scott Geitler. Again, I asked if I could work on it. The object here is to remove the distractions, both from the background and the subject itself.

Click on above images to see these shots in the SCD Gallery.

Exposure/reflection problems.
In the "Taking great pictures" part, I wrote how fish (Or u/w animals) can "Reflect like mad". Well, if you think you have the "Perfect u/w shot" of some animal and it has reflected your flash to the point where you are bummed out, here are some ideas for you. There are gobs of Adobe Plugins that you can find, pay for some or others are free. But consider taking your shot and making it a "Painting", or "Painterly look". There are plenty of web pages that will show you how to do this. I have an example at the right. When I shot this Sea Turtle, I thought "That is going to be my best shot on this trip to Bonaire..." Then when I got home and dropped it into Photoshop, I was disappointed to say the least. Well, I ran it through the Topaz Filter called "Simplify" and used one of the "Painting" options and worked with it to get the finished picture you see. I also added the border effects too, called "Stroke". You can also see I removed some unwanted stuff too. The object is to make the picture a pleasing image, or easy on the eyes. So don't delete those shots you feel are over exposed due to reflected light, you can save them. Another idea is to use Adobe Lightroom too, if you are working from a RAW image, you could save your picture with it.

Click on above images
to see this shot in the SCD Gallery.
HDR Imaging
I have been also working on a photography technique called HDR (High dynamic range) imaging. Using this technique creates a very unique result. This technique requires the photographer to take 'bracketed' shots of a scene (5 is best but 3 at a minimum) and then use Photoshop to combine all of the tonal values together to create one image that has all of the tonal values in one picture. There are also plug ins for Photoshop that create something similar (But not quite as good as bracketed exposures), but if you only have one picture, it works very well. Consider getting the Topaz plug in and experimenting with the various settings including the HDR presets for your pictures. Some digital cameras (DSLR) will allow you to take bracketed pictures automatically (So to speak), check and experiment with your camera. If you use a RAW format for your picture taking (Highly recommended), you can actually adjust a single RAW image into all 5 exposures as separate images to combine into your HDR picture from one shot!! Amazing what you can do with Photoshop...

The pictures to the right show examples of the HDR technique, you can easily see the tonal ranges that are combined into one image, which I overly exaggerated for one example. I used the "Topaz Adjust" Photoshop plug in for this one, because I only had one image to work with. You can adjust the amount of tonal ranges in the plug in to suit your intentions. I recently just started using an HDR plug-in called Photomatix and use their "Tonal mapping" which gives a very realistic result, plus you can adjust it for extreme or very mild HDR toning. I used this plug-in for the bottom image. Plus the Photoshop CS5 version has an HDR tab under Image>>Adjustments>>HDR Toning So you can try that and experiement with HDR in multiple ways. I have also used Nik Software's HDR Efex Pro.

Again, what do you want to do? With all of the things that can be done in Photoshop, it is a great piece of software.

See the Wiki article on HDR:
One note: There is a big difference between Photoshop CS4 & CS5 (With HDR). The option under "Automate" dose not have a "Merge to HDR" in CS4, CS4 is mainly for stitching a panoramic picture. There are a lot of posts on the NET about this, so if you have CS4 and want to do a true multiple image HDR, you might have to upgrade from CS4 to CS5 (Photoshop version 12).

Click on above images to see this shot in the SCD Gallery.
Adding Visual Impact.
Above (The Sea Turtle shot) I mentioned something about adding "Stroke", which is a Photoshop tool that you can use to "Add Visual Impact". To the right I have a "Before & After" shot I took in Laguna Beach of a CA Lobster. So how do you do this? After you have made your picture look the way you want, editing, cropping, adjustments etc, you will need to "select all" and "copy merged" and then create a new image. This next image will need to be a couple of inches larger than what you just copied to your clipboard, height & width wise. Set your background to black, or a color from within the picture, I usually start with black (000000). Next, select the rectangle selection tool. There are 2 thoughts about where the "Stroke" should go, do you prefer it to be symetrical around your image? Or offset? Choice is yours, but position the "Box" how you want it around your image. Then select "Stroke" from the Edit dropdown and make sure the color is what you selected earlier. I usually set the size anywhere from 3px up to 10px, again, experiement with this technique to see what you prefer. Other things to consider with this is, do you want a white "Matt like" border around your image? How about changing the backround so there is more than one color? Notice how this Lobster shot has a yellow stroke and then the backgrounds are black and a blue color. I have both of these types in the SCD Photo Galleries, check it out. This technique works extremely well for images that will be on the web, it shows them off really well. But you can also print these like this and then mount them on a foam core or masonite backing with or without a frame.

Click on above images
to see this shot in the SCD Gallery.

Further reading:
"Photoshop CS5 for Nature Photographers" by ELLEN ANON & JOSH ANON. This is a book and also in PDF format, you might have to do some net searching to find it. I highly recommend this one.
"Teach Yourself Visually Adobe Photoshop CS5" This is available as a book and PDF also.
"The Adobe Photoshop Layers Book"
"Rick Sammon's HDR Photography Secrets for Digital Photographers"
"Photoshop CS5 Digital Classroom"
"The Best Of Adobe Photoshop"
All of these PDF's/ebooks will be very helpful to get you started with Photoshop.

If there is something you want to know how to do in Photoshop, drop me an email.

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since 03-21-10.