Welcome to the Life after Photoshop photo-editing A-Z. It’s very easy to use – just click a heading to expand a definition of that term. There are links to specific programs and many of the entries link to a tag which will show related articles. I hope you find it useful.
British vs American spellings
The ‘bit depth’ of RAW files is a factor in the picture quality they can produce, so this is a selling point for advanced digital cameras. Some cheaper models can only shoot 12-bit RAW files, but while this sounds like a small difference, the extra bit depth potentially offers 4x the image data so 14-bit RAW files are a worthwhile benefit, especially if you want to process photos heavily later.
These are photos with 16 bits of data for each of the red, green and blue colour channels. These aren’t created directly by the camera, but you can generate 16-bit images from RAW files and they withstand heavy image manipulation better than regular 8-bit images. The file sizes are much larger, though, which puts more pressure on your computer’s storage capacity and slows down file transfer speeds, and not all software can edit 16-bit images.
This is the aspect ratio of full HD and 4K UHD video and it’s been widely adopted as the aspect ratio for domestic TVs and computer monitors. The 16:9 ratio means that the picture is 16 units wide by 9 units high. These units can be anything from pixels to centimetres to inches, but the point is that the ratio between them always remains the same at 16 wide to 9 high.
The latest consumer video standard, with a horizontal resolution of 4,000 pixels or thereabouts. 4K video is appearing on an increasing number of cameras and even smartphones, and 4K TVs are gaining in popularity. Strictly speaking, the dimensions for 4K video are 4.096 x 2,160 pixels and the aspect ratio is slightly wider than the 16:9 standard for HD video. In fact, what most makers and users are referring to is UHD video at 3,840 x 2,160 pixels, which does have a true 16:9 aspect ratio.
These are photos which use 8 bits of data for each of the red, green and blue colour channels. This is enough to give over 16 million colours – more than enough for photographic images. The JPEG photos taken by digital cameras are 8-bit images.
These are optical flaws produced by camera lenses and which are largely unavoidable except in the most expensive or the simplest lens designs. They include distortion, chromatic aberration (colour fringing), vignetting (corner shading) and edge softness.
Accent-AI filter (Skylum)
An auto-enhancement filter in Skylum Software’s Luminar image-editing software. It uses artificial intelligence to break a picture down into a series of different areas and optimise the colour contrast and detail rendition in each. It’s an instant-fix filter with no controls except an Amount slider.
Black and white film simulation mode added to newer Fujifilm cameras. It’s designed to give richer, more intense tonal rendition than the regular monochrome film simulation.
A tool used to ‘paint’ adjustments on to an image manually, and one of the key adjustment tools in Lightroom, for example. You may need to choose the adjustments you want to make, e.g. exposure, saturation, clarity and so on before you start painting although non-destructive photo editors let you make changes to these settings afterwards too. You can change the size, softness and opacity of the Adjustment Brush.
A special type of layer in image-editing software which is designed to hold adjustments rather than other image layers. It’s a way of ‘stacking’ a series of adjustments to an image without affecting the image layer itself.
Tags: Adjustment layers
Adobe Camera Raw
Software that works alongside Adobe Photoshop to open and process RAW files before they open in Photoshop itself. Adobe Camera Raw’s tools are also built into Adobe Lightroom. Most people use Adobe Camera Raw to process their RAW files simply because they’re using Photoshop or Lightroom, but other RAW converters are available.
This is a professional colour space offered by more advanced cameras and it captures a slightly wider range of colours than the usual sRGB colour space used by most consumer devices. It can be useful if pictures are destined for commercial print production, but it does introduce complications with colour profiles and monitor calibration.
Affinity Photo (Serif)
For a long time Adobe Photoshop has been the only real professional level image-editing program, but software company Serif has launched a professional photo editing software which competes directly with Photoshop at a much lower price – and for a single payment rather than the software subscription system introduced by Adobe. Affinity Photo has been built from the ground up for speed and performance and compatibility with the Photoshop PSD file format.
AI (artificial intelligence)
Machine-based learning which interprets the contents of the image in a sophisticated way to produce better enhancements or better object and scene recognition. Skylum’s Accent – AI Filter in Luminar uses artificial intelligence to optimise photos automatically, while Google Photos uses artificial intelligence to identify and search through your pictures.
A kind of ‘virtual’ container for photographs you want to keep together. When you use an album (or ‘collection’) in photo editing software, it keeps the images together without actually moving them on your hard disk.
A term now used to design old-fashioned chemical processes to capture images rather than digital – so you can get ‘analog’ cameras, ‘analog’ films and ‘analog’ image effects which replicate the look of these old processes.
Analog Efex Pro (Nik Collection)
Any unwanted digital flaw in a photo, such as exaggerated sharpening and edge ‘halos’ around objects, banding or ‘posterisation’ due to excessive image manipulation or sensor spots exaggerated by localised contrast or HDR processes.
This the picture’s proportions as width versus height. DSLR sensors have a 3:2 ratio, so that photographs are 3 units wide to 2 units high. Most compact camera sensors have a slightly squarer 4:3 aspect ratio. It doesn’t matter what the units are – the ratio stays the same, so a photo could measure 3 inches by 2 inches or 6 meters by 4 meters and still have the same 3:2 aspect ratio. You can shoot in different aspect ratios by cropping the sensor area. HD video is shot in a wider 16:9 ratio.
The professional term for image cataloguing, and often used in photographic or design studios managing large numbers of images on a commercial basis. They may include not just photos but illustrations, logos and other graphics, hence ‘assets’ rather than photos.
As shot (white balance)
When you shoot RAW files you will be able to change the white balance setting later, but the camera will still store shooting setting you chose in the RAW file. When you open the RAW file in your software, it will read this embedded data and display it as ‘As Shot’ in the white balance settings. You can adjust the settings or apply a new white balance preset, and the ‘As Shot’ setting embedded in the file will still be available if you need to return to it later.
Tag: White balance
Aurora HDR (Skylum)
HDR software developed in conjunction with HDR specialist Trey Ratcliff. Aurora HDR can work with single images or merge a series of bracketed exposures. You can apply one of many different preset effects or create your own with the manual controls.
A video file format commonly used by Sony and Panasonic cameras. It’s an efficient file format for high-definition video, keeping file sizes relatively small while keeping the quality high. It uses a complicated directory structure, though, so that you don’t get simple self-contained video files in the way you do with other video formats.
This is where the lighting for the scene shines directly towards the camera and through or around the subject. It can make the exposure difficult to work out because the camera’s light meter needs to work out whether to set the exposure for the bright background or your subject, but it produces striking lighting effects. With portrait subjects it gives attractive ‘rim-lighting’ effects around the hair and it can give transparent or translucent subjects like stained glass windows a rich, luminous colour.
It’s extremely important to keep backups of not just your images but, if you use non-destructive photo-editing software, the changes that you’ve made them. If you use a Mac, you can use the Time Machine feature built into the operating system to back up not just your files and applications, but all their data and indeed your whole system configuration. It runs automatically in the background but does require quite a lot of archive storage space on connected drives. If you use Windows, or you prefer a more targeted backup strategy, many external drives come with backup software included. Catalog-based programs like Lightroom and Capture One also have built-in backup tools for backing up your catalog settings and edits (though not usually the image files themselves).
Backup software usually starts with a ‘full backup’ and follows up with ‘incremental backups’ at regular intervals. This not the same as ‘mirroring’ software, as offered by LaCie, for example, which keeps two sets of folders and files identical by synchronising changes between them. This too can be useful, but it’s not a backup as such.
RAID drives offer data mirroring to protect you against hard drive failures, but again this is not a backup as such because backups are a record of past work, not just current work, and should be stored on a separate drive, ideally in a separate location – to protect against fire, theft and other disasters.
This is where straight lines near the edge of the picture appear to bow outwards, and you see this a lot with zoom lenses at their wideangle setting. It’s most noticeable if the horizon is near the top or bottom of the picture. Barrel distortion is very difficult to eradicate completely from the lens design, but it can be fixed using software, and some cameras now have distortion correction built in. It’s one of a number of common lens aberrations. Telephoto lenses often show the opposite effect, ‘pincushion distortion’.
Batch processing is applying the same image adjustments to a whole batch of photos. For example, you might choose a black and white conversion style and apply it to all the photos from a particular shooting session. You can leave the software to get on with this automated process while you get on with something else.Batch processing can save a lot of time, but only if all the images will benefit from the same settings.
Batch processing and what it means have changed with the arrival of non-destructive editing software. The traditional meaning is a process that outputs or exports new versions of your images as TIFF files or JPEGs. So this is what you might do if you have a folder full of RAW files which you want to convert into editable or shareable images.
But batch processing can also mean applying a preset ‘look’ non-destructively in Lightroom, Capture One or Alien Skin Exposure, for example. Here, you’re not outputting new files, you’re simply changing the appearance of your images. You can output new, processed files if you like, but that’s not necessarily part of the process.
Tag: Batch processing
Most camera sensors use a single layer of photosites (pixels). These are only sensitive to light, not colour, so a mosaic of red, green and blue filters (the ‘bayer pattern’) is placed on top of the sensor’s photosites so that individually they capture red, green or blue light. When the camera processes the sensor data to produce an image, it ‘demosaics’ the red, green and blue data, using colour information from surrounding photosites to ‘interpolate’ full colour data for each pixel.
Bi-Color Filter (Color Efex Pro)
A filter in Color Efex Pro which applies one colour to the top half of the picture and another to the bottom half. You can adjust the vertical position (where the colour changes) and choose colour sets from a menu. There is another filter which lets you choose the colours yourself.
Bits and bit depth
‘Bits’ are the basic building block of digital data, and the more bits of information used in digital images, the subtler the colours and tonal transitions. Bits and pixels are related, in that the greater the ‘bit-depth’ used to create a pixel, the better the quality of the colour/tone information in that pixel. Digital cameras typically capture 10, 12 or 14 bits of data for each pixel, and this is then processed down to produce regular JPEG photos (8 bits) or converted into high-quality 16-bit TIFF files.
Black and white
Technically, black and white should be ‘less’ than colour, but its popularity is, if anything increasing. Black and white suits some subjects extremely well, drawing more attention to shapes, lighting and composition than is generally possible with colour photography. Most cameras have black and white picture modes, which is very useful when you’re composing images, but you get more control over the results by converting colour images to black and white on a computer later, so it’s a bit of a dilemma which route to take.
Black and white photography is as popular as ever, though now it’s seen as a means of artistic expression rather than just a way of capturing images. Its continued popularity might be hard to explain logically since it offers ‘less’ than colour, but that may be part of its appeal – black and white offers fewer distractions, it’s less ‘literal’ and it’s easier to control the graphic and compositional elements that go to make up a picture without them fighting or undermining each other.
You can shoot black and white JPEGs in camera or do what most black and white fans do, which is to shoot RAW files and then process them into black and white later. This offers a ‘digital negative’ with a much wider brightness range and more scope for manipulation without image degradation.
Programhttp://lifeafterphotoshop.com/on1-photo-raw-2019-review/s like Lightroom and Capture One are really good at producing strong, technically excellent black and white images, or you can use ‘analog film simulation’ tools like Analog Efex Pro, Alien Skin Exposure X or ON1 Photo RAW to create a film-like look.
In the days of film, taking the picture was only the start of the black and white image making process and the real work was done in the darkroom. It’s the same now, and the most striking black and white images are created with careful enhancement and manipulation in software.
Tag: Black and white
Black and white filters
It does seem a bit crazy that black and white photographers use coloured filters, but there is a reason for this. When you shoot in black and white, the camera or the film is converting different colours into shades of grey. When you use a coloured filter, you’re shifting and changing the brightness of the different colours in the scene, and this changes their shade of grey in the photograph. This is why they’re sometimes called ‘contrast’ filters too. For example, a red filter allows red light through but blocks light of other colours. Anything red in the scene becomes proportionally much brighter, anything opposite to red, like a blue sky, comes out a much darker shade of grey – nearly black, sometimes.
Creating a smooth transition between one photo and another in a montage, or between areas where different adjustments have applied. A sharp division gives the photo an unnatural look, but blending in an adjustment smoothly looks more natural. One technique is to ‘feather’ a selection before making adjustments. Blending is often used with graduated or radial filter tools.
The way the pixels from one layer in a montage interact with those in the layer below. In ‘Normal’ blend mode, the pixels on the top layer completely cover the ones below, in ‘Multiply’ mode their values combine to produce images that are darker overall, in ‘Overlay’ mode, pixels lighter than 50% grey lighten those in the layer below while pixels darker than 50% grey darken them… there are many other blend modes besides these.
Blend modes are used to control the way different layers in an image interact, and they apply not just to other image layers but also non-destructive adjustment layers.
If you set a layer’s blend mode to ‘Normal’ it will simply cover up the layer underneath – or, in the case of an adjustment layer, it will apply the adjustment layer ‘straight’.
‘Multiply’ mode is different, multiplying the effects of the pixels in the top layer with those underneath to produce a darker image that’s a combination of both.
Or there are two ‘contrast’ blend modes – ‘Soft Light’ and ‘Overlay’ – which darken or lighten the layer underneath, depending on whether the pixels in the top layer are darker or lighter than 50% grey. These blend modes have the effect of increasing overall contrast.
There are many more blend modes, but these are arguably the most useful for photographers.
Tag: Blend modes
‘Bokeh’ is a Japanese word that describes the particular visual quality of out of focus areas on a picture. Bokeh fans will wax lyrical about the background rendering of certain lenses, while sceptics will wonder what all the fuss is about. It all depends on how sensitive you are to the nuances of images.
So although ‘bokeh’ is technically about how out-of-focus areas look, the word has been hijacked somewhat to mean anything that’s out of focus – so there are image effect plug-ins like Analog Efex Pro, for example, that offer a ‘bokeh’ filter for making backgrounds blurred and concentrating attention on the main subject.
There’s nothing wrong with that and it’s a perfectly valid digital technique that can make a photo really effective. Really, it’s a depth of field effect rather than ‘bokeh’, but the word seems to have stuck now so many people think it means the same thing.
Borders and frames
Borders and frames are a great way to ‘finish’ off a picture for printing or display, and they’ve come a long way since the cheesy fake ‘wooden’ frames (and others) that you get in entry-level programs like Photoshop Elements.
A solid black keyline against a white border can really finish off a black and white image, for example, enclosing the space so that the picture feels fully contained and doesn’t just drift off to nothingness at he edge of the frame.
More and more programs, though, are adding roughened, distressed and antique border effects that can give digital images a worn and hand-crafted look. My own favourites are negative or filmstrip borders that make your pictures look like unmounted transparencies or large format slides.
They’re not fooling anyone of course, but they nevertheless echo the feel of traditional analog materials and can help give your pictures an ambience and a feel that’s so often missing in the clinical accuracy of digital imaging.
Tag: Borders and frames
Boundary Warp (Lightroom)
A comparatively new tool in Lightroom that fills in the blank wedges at the edge of a panoramic image stitched together from overlapping frames. Normally, you’d have to crop these off and lose parts of the picture, but the Boundary Warp tool ‘pushes’ parts of the picture out to the edges so that you don’t lose anything.
Taking the same shot at a series of different exposures with the intention of choosing the best one later or merging them together to create an HDR image. Most cameras offer an auto exposure bracketing option. You choose the bracketing interval (the difference between the exposures, typically 1EV) and the number of frames (usually 3, sometimes 5 or even 7). Some cameras offer other types of bracketing, e.g. white balance bracketing or even focus bracketing.
Image and file browsing tool from Adobe that’s used alongside its creative applications like InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator. Many photographers find it perfectly adequate for organising their photos.
Software that can ‘browse’ through the folders on your hard disk and show you any photos inside them as thumbnail images. This is the simplest form of photo organisation tool and works perfectly well for many photographers, even though it lacks flexibility. Adobe Bridge is a file browser, for example, while Alien Skin Exposure and ON1 Photo RAW are examples of photo-editing programs that have browsers built in.
A simple manual tool for painting colour on to an image, making a selection or a mask, or applying an adjustment. You can change the size of the brush, its ‘hardness’ and its flow rate or opacity, all of which can help you adjust the effect and the way it’s built up.
Burn Edges (Silver Efex Pro)
A tool in Silver Efex Pro for darkening the top, bottom, left or right sides of a photo, or any combination of these. You can use it at the top to simulate a graduated neutral density filter or on all four edges for a controllable vignette effect.
This is temporary storage space used by software so that files you need often can be accessed more quickly. It’s typically used for image thumbnails and previews in programs like Adobe Bridge and Lightroom. Sometimes cache files cause problems and must be purged or deleted, sometimes the storage allocation for the cache needs to be made larger in the application preferences to improve performance. Caches and cache files are generally expendable, but they are there for a reason and to speed up performance.
Camera Calibration (Adobe)
A panel in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw which you can use to change the appearance of camera RAW files. The default Adobe profile can produce quite flat-looking generic results, but the Camera Calibration panel may also offer simulations of the camera’s own picture styles – for example, ‘Velvia’ for Fujifilm cameras or ‘Landscape’ for Canon cameras.
Capture One Pro (Phase One)
Capture One is an all-in-one image capture (tethered shooting), cataloguing and editing software from Danish company Phase One. Born out of its medium format studio camera products, Capture One is now a professional RAW conversion tool for DSLR and mirrorless camera owners too. It’s a premium product and its closest rival is probably Adobe Lightroom.
Software designed to organise large collections of photos using an internal database that speeds up searches and lets you create ‘virtual’ albums and smart albums without actually having to move images on your hard disk. Adobe Lightroom is a good example, using a database ‘catalog’ to organise search and display images. Cataloguing software is more complex and powerful than image ‘browsers’ like Adobe Bridge, which simply show you the contents of folders on your computer.
The data used to create digital photos is split up into three colour ‘channels’ – red, green and blue, or ‘RGB’. These are then mixed to produce the millions of different colours required for lifelike pictures. In commercial printing, this red, green and blue (RGB) colour model is swapped for cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK), which are the four colours used by commercial printing presses.
This is a lens aberration that produces colour fringing around the outlines of objects near the edges of the picture. It’s very hard to eradicate completely from lens designs without making them extremely complex or expensive, but it is possible to correct chromatic aberration using software and many cameras will now correct it automatically as they process the image.
‘Clarity’ is just one word for this particular effect, which is a localised contrast adjustment much coarser than regular sharpening, which throws larger objects into sharp relief and can add some much needed definition and ‘bite’ to low-contrast scenes.
Lightroom‘s Clarity slider operates more or less in the middle of this scale, while other programs offer a finer ‘Structure’ adjustment which brings out smaller detail – but again without getting down to the detail of regular sharpening tools. You should try out the Structure slider in Silver Efex Pro to see just how dramatic the improvements can be – black and white images seem to be able to withstand and benefit from much larger clarity and structure adjustments than colour images.
At the other end of the scale you’ve got tools like Dehaze in Lightroom and ClearView in DxO PhotoLab, which optimise the contrast for different regions of the picture.
All of these tools are relatively recent additions to the image-editing landscape, but they can boost the impact of your images in ways that regular sharpening and contrast adjustments never could.
For photographers, ‘clipping’ is where the image histogram is cut off abruptly at one or both edges. It means that some image detail is completely lost in solid black shadows (shadow clipping) or completely white highlights (highlight clipping). Some shadow clipping can be acceptable, but highlight clipping usually looks bad. For videographers, it can also mean audio clipping, where the sound levels suddenly shoot beyond the range of the microphone or sound recorder, or its current gain setting.
Using a special clone stamp tool to copy pixels from an nearby area of an image to cover up an unwanted object or blemish. Cloning is something of an art, and some programs now offer simpler ‘content aware’ object removal.
Where you store or share images online as well as or instead of storing them on your computer. Cloud storage offers the advantage that your images are accessible everywhere as long as you have an Internet connection, though displaying and downloading images is of course slower than opening them on a hard drive, and uploading images in the first place is slower still. Examples include Apple iCloud, Dropbox and Google Drive.
This is a colour model used in printing processes, where colours are defined in terms of cyan, magenta, yellow and black colour channels (black is represented by the letter ‘K’). Desktop printers use CMYK inks but carry out the conversion from regular RGB photos automatically. In commercial printing, a designer will convert a regular RGB photo to CMYK to check the colour rendition and prepare it for printing.
Lightroom‘s name for its ‘virtual’ image containers. Some programs call them ‘albums’, but the terms ‘album’ and ‘collection’ are generally interchangeable. You use Collections to bring together related images with actually changing their location on your hard disk.
A layer blend mode found in most programs that support image layers. Using this mode produces an ultra-high contrast composite image based on the layer it’s applied to and the layer(s) underneath.
Color Efex Pro (Nik Collection)
A software plug in that’s part of the DxO Nik collection. Color Efex Pro offers a huge variety of preset image effects you can browse through and apply to your photos with a single click, but you can also adjust the filters manually and even stack them to create custom ‘recipes’. Color Efex Pro also offers localised adjustments via ‘control points’.
For designers and professional photographers it’s often important to maintain consistent colour rendition from the camera, through to the computer display used for browsing and editing photos and right through to the final output device, generally a printer. Colour management tools use software ‘profiles’ and hardware monitor calibration and printer calibration devices to try to ensure this consistency of colour. It’s a complex process, and it’s worth pointing out that when images are going to be displayed on a screen rather than being printed, you have no control over the colour rendition of the output device. Many photographers don’t use colour management at all.
This is the system used by computers and other digital devices for defining colours. In photography, the RGB system is almost universal – colours are defined using red, green and blue colour ‘channels’. In printing, it’s CMYK, or cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Some image-editing processes use Lab mode, which consists of a ‘lightness’ channel and two (‘a’, ‘b’) colour channels.
One of the two types of digital image noise and caused by random variations in the colour of neighbouring pixels. Colour noise is relatively easy for software to remove without any significant impact on the image quality. Luminance (contrast) noise is the other type, and much more difficult to remove effectively.
A software file used in colour management processes that describes the properties of a specific device so that your computer can correct or ‘normalise’ the way it displays or prints colours. If you don’t use colour management in your workflow, you don’t need to worry about this.
This is a property used often in black and white conversions from a colour image. You’ll find it in programs like Silver Efex Pro, Capture One and others, and it changes the way different colours are converted into shades of grey. For example, you can use it to mimic the effect of a red filter in black and white photography, by reducing the strength (sensitivity) of the blue/cyan colours in the image and increasing the strength of the red/orange tones. In the old days, you’d use the Channel Mixer in Photoshop to achieve the same thing in a cruder fashion; these days, black and white conversion tools offer more control over a wider range of colours.
Different devices can’t always display the same range of colours, so your camera may be able to record a wider range of colours than your computer monitor or tablet can display, for example – in other words, the monitor offers a smaller ‘colour space’. To get round this, there are two main RGB colour spaces you can work on. The sRGB colour space is a smaller, universal colour space that practically any device can match. Adobe RGB is a larger colour space that your camera and printing systems can capture but your monitor probably can’t, which means some complex workarounds and pitfalls and really needs a switch to a more complex colour managed workflow. sRGB is the simplest solution, and (though some will debate this) you’re unlikely to see any real advantage to Adobe RGB in everyday photography.
A traditional technical measurement for the white balance setting that uses temperature values in degrees Kelvin rather than named presets like ‘Direct Sunlight’, ‘Cloudy’ and so on. Colour temperature is used for choosing and controlling the colour of photographic lighting equipment and you can use it an alternative to white balance presets on more advanced cameras.
Tag: White balance
This is the art, or skill, of arranging the objects, perspective and framing of a photograph to achieve the desired visual effect. There are a number of ‘rules’ of composition, including the rule of thirds, the Golden Mean and various other photographic truisms that may or may not prove useful. For an alternative analysis based on shapes and lines, try this article on Composition in Photography.
A software process that reduces the storage space taken up by photo or video image files. It comes in two type: ‘lossless’ and ‘lossy’ compression. Lossless compression is used by TIFF files, for example and retains all the image data but does not produce the biggest savings. Lossy compression is used for the JPEG format and produces much smaller files, but some data is lost in the process – though this may not be visible in real-world viewing conditions.
Image repair tools that can ‘intelligently’ paint over unwanted objects and blemishes using surrounding image data matched to the area being covered up. Photoshop has content-aware repair tools, Affinity Photo offers an Inpainting brush, MacPhun’s Snapheal offers a choice of intelligent object removal tools.
Contrast, in its simplest sense, is the different in brightness between two tone. In photography it’s usually taken to mean the brightness range of a picture – the difference in brightness between the brightest and darkest parts of a picture.
But the appearance of ‘contrast’ doesn’t always depend on this full brightness range. You can often get images which have a full range of tones from dense black to a brilliant white but still look ‘flat’.
This is usually because they have overall contrast but lack it in the most visible part of the image – the midtones. So often you can give a picture more apparent contrast by using a curves adjustment to steepen the curve in the midtones. Where the curve is steepest, the contrast is strongest.
Now, there’s also ‘localised contrast’. This is where the contrast is increased or optimised differently in different parts of the picture. Lightroom’s Dehaze effect uses localised contrast enhancement. Clarity and Structure tools also increase localised contrast around object edges.
Contrast is an essential ingredient in almost all pictures, but getting enough of it and in the right places can often be a challenge.
Contrast Color Range (Color Efex Pro)
A filter in Color Efex Pro which intensifies the difference in intensity and contrast between colours. It’s effective in landscape photography, for example, for intensifying blue skies without increasing the saturation of the image as a whole.
A colour filter used in black and white photography to change the shade of grey that colours are reproduced as. They’re called ‘contrast’ filters because they can change the contrast (in shades of grey) between different colours.
A special selection and adjustment tool used by the Nik Collection plug-ins and DxO PhotoLab, control points operate over an adjustable circular radius and select only tones similar to the area under the central target. You can use them to adjust Brightness, Contrast, Structure, Saturation and more.
A type of perspective distortion caused by tilting the camera upwards to photograph tall buildings. It’s worse with wideangle lenses because they let you stand closer, so you tilt the camera even more. The only solution is to compose the shot with the camera completely level.
You own the copyright in any photo you take, though if you photograph a model or an important building, you may not have the right to use your photos commercially without their permission (or ‘release’). Some cameras can embed a copyright message automatically in each photo’s metadata.
Creative Cloud (Adobe)
Adobe’s online image sharing, storage, synchronisation and collaboration service. Many of Adobe’s workflow tools now rely on its Creative Cloud services.
Creative Kit (Skylum)
A suite of plug-ins sold by software publisher Skylum and including Intensify, Tonality, Snapheal, FX Photo Studio, Focus and Noiseless. It’s a Mac-only suite and still on sale, though Skylum appears to have transferred its attention to its new image-editing software Luminar.
There are two main reasons for cropping photos. The first and most straightforward is simply to make them fit a specific size of printing paper, screen size or design layout.
It’s all about the aspect ratio, or the ratio of a photo’s width to its height. Most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras have an aspect ratio of 3:2 whereas most compact cameras have an aspect ratio of 4:3. Most computer screens are 16:9, like HD video and UHD 4K, though Mac screens are 16:10…
Anyway, when your images are displayed on specific devices or layouts, or printed on common paper sizes, the chances are they will be cropped to fit. This may happen automatically, but you won’t get any control over what’s cropped off – so many of us would rather do this cropping manually.
The other reason for cropping images is to improve their composition by removing unwanted or distracting objects at the edge of the frame or choosing an aspect ratio that better suits the shape of the subject.
Used to work out the effective focal length of lenses on cameras which don’t have full frame sensors. You multiply the actual focal length by the crop factor to get the effective focal length. The crop factor of an APS-C camera is 1.5, so a 50mm lens has an effective focal length of 75mm.
Curves are one of the most fundamental image adjustment tools in photo editing software, but they’re not often well understood – and particularly the relationship between levels and curves adjustments.
The easiest way to think of it is that levels adjustments are used to maximise the tonal range or total contrast in the photo, from dense black to brilliant white, whereas curves are used to adjust the contrast within a specific range of tones.
An example might help. You might have a photo with maximum contrast that still looks rather flat. Typically you can make these pictures look better by increasing the contrast in the midtones, and you can do that by steepening the middle of the curve. This inevitably flattens out the highlight and shadow areas, though, so you get less contrast here than you had before. Often, this doesn’t matter, but it does highlight a key point about curves – that there’s only a finite amount of contrast in the picture and that you use curves adjustments to control where in the range of tones that contrast is strongest.
Where an object in a photo is cut out from its surroundings using a selection or a mask so that it can be added to another image or placed against a plain (usually white) background.
Daylight (white balance)
This is a white balance preset designed to give neutral colours in fine weather near the middle of the day. You’ll find a preset for this on most cameras’ white balance menus, and you can choose this preset when processing RAW files – though RAW converters don’t always agree about what the precise temperature and tint values should be, and may vary their settings camera-by-camera.
Tag: White balance
This is a relatively new tool in Lightroom and it’s starting to appear in other programs too (ClearView in DxO PhotoLab). What the Dehaze effect does is to split the image up into different tonal areas – such as the sky and the foreground in a landscape photo – and then maximise the contrast within these areas.
The effect is strongest in areas which are quite pale and washed out, such as weak skies or distant hazy horizons. But although it’s called ‘Dehaze’, these are simply the circumstances where this tool is likely to be most effective – there’s nothing in its design that specifically targets hazy backdrops in landscape photos. Indeed, the Dehaze tool equally effective on pale, flat areas in any photograph.
If you turn it right up to maximum the effect can be spectacular but also rather artificial-looking, verging on a kind of HDR look. Used in moderation, though, it can give wishy-washy images a real boost without giving away the fact that the picture has been manipulated.
Process where the camera (or RAW conversion software) takes the ‘mosaic’ of red, green and blue pixel data from the sensor and converts it into full-colour information.
Depth of field
Depth of field is an optical effect you can control with your choice of lens, focus distance and lens aperture. You can recreate the appearance of shallow depth of field digitally, but only up to a point, because the optical effect is created by the different distances of objects in 3D space, while the digital version is being applied to a two-dimension representation with no depth information at all.
So what depth of field effects rely on is the right kind of subject and some skill on the part of the photographer. You can blur a background effectively enough to give the impression and feel of shallow depth of field, but any experienced photographer will see straight away that it’s been done digitally.
But never mind, because very often the ‘feel’ and ‘impression’ of a picture is much more important than sheer technical accuracy. Digitally recreated depth of field can still transform a picture into beautiful image, even if it isn’t technically ‘right’.
Tag: Depth of field
A tool in some Nik plug-ins which simultaneously brightens shadow detail, brings out detail in highlights and increases local contrast to produce a more intense and dramatic image.
A term used by some software companies, for example Serif in its Affinity Photo software, to describe the RAW conversion process, where a RAW file is processed into an editable image.
Dfine (Nik Collection)
Software plug in for reducing noise in images and part of the Nik Collection. Like many other noise reduction programs, Dfine analyses the image and calculates a noise reduction profile. It’s also possible to define the areas used for analysis manually.
Distortion (and distortion correction)
Many lenses produce ‘barrel’ or ‘pincushion’ distortion, and zoom lenses in particular. Wideangle zooms typically produce barrel distortion, where straight lines like horizons near the edges of the picture appear to bow outwards, while telephoto zooms often produce pincushion distortion, where the edges bow inwards.
Distortion can be fixed digitally. Some cameras offer in-camera distortion correction, but only when you shoot JPEGs and with that maker’s own lenses. It’s better to use software that comes with automatic lens correction profiles – and this is now becoming increasingly common. Lightroom, DxO PhotoLab and Capture One Pro all offer lens correction profiles, as do other programs like Alien Skin Exposure and ON1 Photo Raw.
Lens distortion is not the same as perspective distortion. That’s an entirely separate phenomenon that you often address at the same time but has very different causes – and it’s another topic entirely.
DNG Converter (Adobe)
This is a handy free tool you can download from the Adobe website for converting digital camera RAW files into Adobe’s generic DNG format. It’s useful if you have a new camera but an older version of Photoshop, Elements or Lightroom that won’t open its RAW files.
Dodging and burning
Dodging and burning is an old black and white technique for darkening or lightening different areas of a print while it’s being developed. For many photographers this was and is an essential part of the black and white process Capturing the image in the camera is the mechanical stage of the operation, and manipulation in the darkroom is the creative stage.
Dodging and burning is a creative process that’s just as relevant now that we process images digitally as it was when it was done with chemicals. It’s all about enhancing the tones, the composition and the balance of a picture to create a visually satisfying image.
Dodging and burning isn’t restricted to black and white, and many colour images benefit from selective lightening and darkening too – though black and white seems to withstand heavy manipulation much better.
There are many different ways to apply dodging and burning. In Photoshop you might use selections and adjustment layers or the Dodge and Burn tools. In Lightroom you might use the Adjustment Brush, while Viveza (Nik Collection) uses intuitive control points.
Tag: Dodging and burning
An online storage system for your files and photos. You copy photos to a Dropbox folder on your computer and they are synchronised with the online Dropbox servers so that you can access them from anywhere. You can get a free account with a small amount of storage, but it’s essentially a subscription-based service.
Duplex (Color Efex Pro)
Combines a soft-focus ‘glow’ effect with a colour tone in Color Efex Pro. It can prove useful for some effects, but it’s not a filter you’d use every day.
Dust Off (Nikon)
A system offered with Nikon DSLRs for dealing with dust spots on the sensor. You take a reference shot of a white card which highlights any dust spots, and then Nikon image-editing software can use this to target dust spots on your photos and process them out.
DxO Optics Pro
RAW conversion software which not only produces very high levels of image quality but automatically corrects lens aberrations for a large number of commercially available camera and lens combinations, now superseded by DxO PhotoLab.
DxO PhotoLab is the replacement for the old DxO Optics Pro, adding in local adjustment tools when DxO bought the Nik Collection and its technologies from Google. PhotoLab is now a powerful all image browsing, raw processing, lens correction and editing tool, and is renowned for the image quality it can create.
This is the brightness range the camera can capture before starting to lose detail in bright areas (like the sky) and dense, dark shadows. Generally, the larger the camera’s sensor, the better its dynamic range. RAW files capture a slightly wider dynamic range than JPEGs.
Any image adjustment that produces a ‘look’ characteristic of specific photographic or darkroom techniques. It can include infra-red effects, as created by infra-red film, a ‘polarising’ effect to simulate the results from using a polarising filter on the lens, a ‘tilt-shift’ effect to replicate the shallow depth of field of an extreme close-up and so on. Effects can sometimes be applied in-camera but are more likely to be added in software.
Many cameras offer a range of special image effects, usually taking over some or all of the camera controls and using in-camera image processing too. Examples include vintage sepia toning, tilt-shift ‘miniature’ effects, toy camera or cross-processing effects.
Cut-down version of Adobe Photoshop designed for novices and enthusiasts. It comes with a handy Organizer app for managing your photos, but a lower-powered version of Adobe Camera Raw. You pay outright rather than via subscription.
Used to adjust the camera’s automatic exposure setting to make the picture come out lighter or darker. Camera meters aren’t foolproof and sometimes you do need to make adjustments. Doing it this way is quicker than swapping to full manual control.
Date, time and shooting information embedded invisibly in digital photos by the camera. It includes the shutter speed, lens aperture, ISO setting and more. EXIF data is useful later on if you want to see how certain pictures were shot or search for photos based on their settings.
More and more photo editing applications now work non-destructively, so that the editing changes you make are stored alongside the image in a metadata file or within the software’s image browser, and are not applied directly to the image. To produce a photo with your changes ‘baked in’, you have to export a finished version of the image.
Exposure is the science (and the art) of making sure the sensor gets exactly the right quantity of light to produce a good image. Exposure is adjusted using shutter speed (the length of the exposure), lens aperture (how much light is passed through) and ISO (the sensitivity setting of the camera). Camera’s have light meters to estimate the correct exposure setting but it’s sometimes necessary to override this with manual adjustments.
Exposure (Alien Skin)
Exposure recreates the look of old films and processes. It works both as a plug in and as a standalone application, and in this version it adds browsing tools and non-destructive editing. Adjustments are stored alongside photos rather than being applied directly.
A term used to describe a film’s tolerance to overexposure and underexposure and its ability to capture tones in the brightest and darkest parts of a scene, even in high-contrast lighting. The modern-day equivalent with digital sensors is dynamic range, though sensors rarely approach the dynamic range (exposure latitude) of film.
Exposure value (EV)
A numerical value given to the amount of light in a scene. For example, bright sunlight might produce an EV of 17. In practice, cameras deal only in shutter speeds and lens apertures and you’re only likely to see EV values on handheld light meters.
Exposure X (Alien Skin)
Alien Skin Exposure X is an all-in-one photo browsing, organising and editing tool that concentrates on replicating classic film and darkroom effects but is also a very effective everyday image-editor, with fully non-destructive editing tools and support for virtual copies.
Extensions (Apple Photos)
Where regular image-editing tools use ‘plug ins’ for additional effects and options, the Apple Photos app uses ‘extensions’. These are relatively few in number at the moment, but the number is growing.
Image-editing software can’t always do everything you need to an image, so most have the ability to use ‘external editors’ – they send the file to another program, where you make the changes you want to make, and then the edited version is sent back to your original software for any further work. This is how plug-ins work too, but the difference is that external editors are full-blown standalone programs. Only a few programs, such as Lightroom and Capture One Pro, support external editors.
A way of softening the edges of a selection or mask so that there’s no obvious boundary between the adjusted area, or a selected object, and the rest of the picture. Feather values are usually quoted in pixels.
Digital cameras automatically give each photo a unique filename, usually consisting of a series of letters and then a number. There is one key option to be aware of – you can have the camera start renumbering from scratch each time you erase/format the memory card, or you can have it continue from the last number. This second option is the one to choose because it means that you won’t get duplicate filenames later on your computer.
‘Analog’ film comes in three main types: colour transparency (slide) film, colour negative and black and white negative. It also comes in many sizes, from 35mm through medium format roll film to large format sheet film. Smaller formats than 35mm are still available, such as 110 and 126, but are less popular now.
Digital imaging has transformed photography, making it quicker, cheaper and more accessible to everyone. But something has been lost, too, and that’s the imperfect, random and fragile nature of film. We can admire digital images for their accuracy and permanence, but film creates an emotional engagement of a different kind.
Film imposes its own character on a scene, prints fade and stain over time, cheap cameras have light leaks and soft lenses that add their own layer of personality to an image. Some might consider these to be irritating and unnecessary imperfections, but for a lot of people they spark memories and associations that add another layer of complexity to an image.
So software that replicates film ‘looks’ is increasingly popular and it’s also possible to create film or analog looks manually once you recognise the characteristics that make them stand out.
Tag: Film simulation
Software that replicates the look of old films and darkroom processes together with ageing effects like scratches and light leaks. It can work as a standalone application and as a plug-in (Elite edition). It also integrates with DxO PhotoLab, DxO’s RAW conversion/correction tool.
This can mean the filters you attach to the front of the lens to change the appearance of the picture, or software filters that do the same thing on your computer.
Photo sharing website where you can publish pictures from your own portfolio and get comments from other people, as well as commenting on other photographer’s photos. It’s free to join and now owned by SmugMug.
Extended dynamic range movie mode introduced by Fujifilm to handle high-contrast lighting, extending dynamic range by 200% or 400%. Other higher-end movie cameras have a similar feature. It produces flat-looking footage but with extended data in the shadow and highlight areas and the idea is that you process the video later on a computer (grading) to achieve the finished look. It’s the video maker’s equivalent of shooting RAW files.
Focus is a Mac-only software tool for creating shallow depth of field, tilt-shift (miniature) or ‘bokeh’ effects by progressively blurring the image away from a central sharp area. Digital defocus techniques can look convincing, but it does depend on the subject.
A hardware and software technique for getting more depth of field in close-up and macro shots. You take a series of images at slightly different focus settings, then use focus stacking software to blend together the sharpest areas of each into a single image.
This is an important distinction in image cataloguing and browsing software. Some programs can display the contents of your folders exactly as they are on your hard disk, but others supplement these with Albums or Collections which bring images together in ‘virtual’ collections without changing their location on your computer.
Another word for borders applied digitally to a photo, either as a compositional aid to enclose the picture, for example a black keyline, to simulate the look of negatives or prints, or (in the worst case) to produce a pretend wood or metal frame.
Video with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. It’s sometimes abbreviated to ‘1080 video’.
FX Photo Studio (Skylum)
An inexpensive plug-in which forms part of Skylum’s Creative Kit suite. It offers a variety of single-click photographic effects organised into categories. There are few controls, so although it can create some striking ‘looks’ very quickly, it’s not as sophisticated as regular effects plug-ins.
When you merge a series of different exposures to create a single HDR image, you sometimes get movement between the frames from leaves blowign in the breeze, waves, pedestrians and moving vehicles, and these can cause ‘ghosting’ in the merged image. Most HDR software has a ‘ghost removal’ option which slows down the merging process but can reduce or remove this ghosting.
A unit of storage used both for computer hard disks (and SSDs) and for memory cards. 1GB is approximately 1,000 megabytes.
Glamour Glow (Colour Efex Pro)
A filter in Color Efex Pro, part of the Nik Collection, which applies a soft focus ‘glow’ to an image with additional controls for colour saturation and ‘warmth’. This can be used to give portraits a soft, romantic look, but it’s also very effective for landscapes, still lifes and other kinds of photography where you want to create dreamy, evocative mood.
This has two possible meanings. One is a soft-focus ‘glow’ used to enhance portraits, for example. The other is an undesirable side-effect of HDR or localised contrast techniques, where the software attempts to blend one area of adjustment with another but creates a soft ‘glow’ effect around objects as a result.
In photography, this is the hour after sunrise or the hour before sunset, where the sun is low in the sky and casts an attractive, warm light that makes landscapes look more appealing. Sometimes it’s possible to replicate this effect in software – Skylum Luminar has a ‘Golden Hour’ filter.
Online cloud storage system offered by Google as part of its Gmail, Google Photos, Google Docs system and more. You get a small amount of Google Drive storage with your free account, but you will need to pay a subscription for more storage space. It’s an alternative to Dropbox.
A free photo storage and sharing tool that’s part of your Google account. You can store, sort and search all your photos online and they’re automatically available in your smart devices too, via a Google Photos app. It’s not designed for professional use, but it does use machine learning, or artificial intelligence, to identify your photos automatically, saving lots of manual keywording and tagging.
A type of adjustment layer that translates the different brightness levels in a photo on to points on a gradient. It’s an effect you wouldn’t necessarily use that often, though you can effectively convert a colour image to black and white using a black-white gradient map, for example.
An image mask that transitions from clear to opaque gradually using a soft gradient. It could be used to darken a bright sky in a landscape shot, for example, without producing a hard edge where the adjustment takes effect.
The video equivalent of the image-enhancement stills photographers carry out on their images. Videographers ‘grade’ video to match the colours and exposures between clips, to create a certain ‘look’ or to edit video shot in a ‘log’ mode for extra dynamic range.
Graduated filters are clear at the bottom but darkened at the top, with a smooth, graduated blend in between. You use them in landscape photography to tone down bright skies without affecting the land. You can also create graduated filters ‘digitally’ in image-editing software.
Graduated filters are used most for outdoor shots where there’s a bright sky and a much darker landscape beneath it. This is why landscape photographers often use grads on their lenses when they capture images.
But adding a graduated filter digitally gives you a lot more control. You can experiment with the strength, colour and position of the effect at your leisure rather than having to decide irreversibly on the spot. And with a ‘digital’ grad you can mask out tall objects so that they aren’t darkened along with the sky.
There are two things to keep in mind. The first is that you have to judge the exposure so that you keep highlight details in the brightest parts of the picture – shooting RAW will help preserve highlights. If these details are blown out, you can’t bring them back.
The second is to remember that grads aren’t just for skies. There are many pictures that will benefit from a shaded darkening effect down one edge, across the base or diagonally across the image.
That’s not all. Physical graduated filters can only darken, but a digital grad can also be used to lighten up an area of a picture that needs a ‘lift’.
Tag: Graduated filters
Film grain is caused by the random clumping of silver halide grains (black and white) or dye clouds (colour film) – the individual grains or colour spots are too small to see. Film grain looks very different to digital noise – many photographers use film grain simulation filters and tools.
Grain is one a film characteristic that was largely unpopular at the time, but is now considered an intrinsic part of that film ‘look’. The noise created by digital camera sensors is not the same at all, so we have a strange situation where we’re trying to create digital images which are as noise-free as possible, then adding old-style analog ‘grain’ effects in software.
Digital ‘grain’ is now rather good. The Grain effect in Lightroom is very authentic-looking, even down to the erosion of hard edges by grain ‘clumps’, and Capture One Pro offers a grain effect as a standard processing choice. A fine patina of grain, whether it’s real film grain or digitally induced, gives fine detail a subtle texture that’s often missing in ‘straight’ digital images, and helps makes photographs look more natural in a way that’s hard to explain.
Naturally, grain effects are a standard feature in film simulation plug-ins and other ‘analog’ effects tools.
An old chemical printing process which uses gum and chemical bichromates to produce prints from negatives. It produces images with a particular visual appearance and can be replicated, after a fashion, using software. ON1 Photo RAW has a Gum Bichromate effect preset, for example.
‘HD’ stands for ‘high definition’ to distinguish it from older, lower resolution video standards. HD actually comes in two formats: standard HD has a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels, full HD is 1920 x 1080 pixels. Both use the same 16:9 aspect ratio.
HDR (high dynamic range)
HDR stands for ‘high dynamic range’, a style of image processing that’s become both popular and notorious. It’s a technique that’s used to capture scenes with a very high brightness range and employs various tools to bring the brightest and darkest parts close enough together that they can both be seen in a single viewable image.
There are two parts to this. The first is capturing a series of exposures (or even a single exposure, maybe with a RAW file) that captures the full range of tones on the scene.
The second part is using ‘tonemapping’ or HDR software to manipulate the very brightest and darkest areas so that the details in both become clearly visible. Some programs (Lightroom, Affinity Photo) offer HDR merge and tonemapping tools as part of their regular feature set while others (HDR Efex Pro, Aurora HDR) are designed specifically or high dynamic range imaging.
Some photographers try to make HDR images look as natural and ‘unmanipulated’ as possible. Others revel in the hyper-real colours, contrast and detail afforded by some of the more outlandish HDR tools out there.
HDR Efex Pro (Nik Collection)
A process or set of tools for removing an object from a picture or repairing a blemish simply by painting over it. It’s like cloning, except that you don’t have to define a nearby clone ‘source’ to use for the repair – the healing tool chooses and matches pixels automatically.
A photo where the tones are predominantly bright or white. It’s partly the subject that makes a photographer high key – a white cat on a white cushion, for example, and partly the exposure technique – slight overexposure will give a high key look.
The lightest tones in a picture. It’s a pretty vague definition, but most photographers take it to mean tones which are at or near a full, featureless white. Retaining or recovering highlight detail – in bright skies, for example – is a big priority for keen photographers.
Highlight recovery is a common requirement in digital images. In the days of film the problem was shadow details – films were often very weak on shadow detail and you often found nothing more than a solid black when you tried to bring it out. Highlight detail could usually look after itself.
With digital imaging the situation is reversed. Camera sensors can usually capture good reserves of shadow detail that can be brought out very successfully, but highlight detail disappears easily with even the slightest overexposure.
RAW files are your safety net. Typically a RAW data will hold on to around another stop (1EV) of highlight detail than an in-camera JPEG, and any decent RAW converter will have highlight recovery tools to bring that detail back. Just remember – RAW files give you a little extra highlight headroom, but you still have to keep a wary eye on the exposure.
Tag: Highlight recovery
A graphical display of the brightness values in the picture. The darkest tones are at the left and the brightest on the right, and the vertical bars show the number of pixels for each brightness value. Histograms are an invaluable exposure aid when taking pictures, and when editing them later.
Many programs can store a ‘history’ of all the editing changes you’ve made since you opened an image. Using this you can check what you’ve done and even backtrack to an earlier image state if you realise you’ve made a mistake. Some programs can store the history as part of the saved image file, while non-destructive editors like Lightroom will store it indefinitely as part of the image’s adjustment metadata.
A way of adjusting the colours in an image – the Hue adjustment shifts the colour along a continuous spectrum, while the Saturation adjustment changes its intensity. For example, you can shift the hue of leaves away from yellow towards blue and increase their saturation to make the leaves look ‘fresher’.
Apple’s cloud-based storage service, integrated into its desktop and iOS (iPhone and iPad) operating systems. You can use it to make your photos available on all your devices via iCloud Photos and the Photos app, though as with other cloud services, once you’ve used up your initial free allocation, further storage has to be paid for on a subscription basis.
Any program which can edit, enhance or manipulate digital images is technically an image editor, though usually this term is reserved for more advanced, technical programs like Photoshop rather than simpler everyday photo management tools like Apple Photos or Google Photos.
A branch of photography that uses parts of the light spectrum not normally visible to the naked eye but which can still be captured on film or digitally using black and white or colour film made sensitive to infra red or a digital camera modified to remove the infra red filter that normally covers the sensor.
Inpainting brush (Serif)
An automatic object removal tool in Serif Affinity Photo. You brush over the object or blemish that you want to remove and the Inpainting Brush automatically fills in the area with pixels and patterns from surrounding regions. It’s quick and often very effective and comparable to Adobe’s ‘content aware’ retouching tools.
Using mathematical analysis to fill in the gaps in data. The photosites on sensors only capture red, green or blue light, so interpolation is used to examine surrounding pixels and calculate full colour values from those. When you increase the size (in pixels) of a photo, the software interpolates new pixels from the existing ones.
The name of the operating system for iPhones and iPads. It’s often used to distinguish apps for these devices from those for Android devices. Most apps are available in both iOS and Android versions.
This setting increases the camera sensor’s sensitivity to light. Each ISO step doubles the sensitivity, so it’s easy to use ISO as another exposure control alongside shutter speed and lens aperture. The more you increase the ISO, though, the more the image quality degrades.
Regular ISO settings conform to strict technical standards regarding exposure, but many makers offer ‘expanded’ settings beyond these which may produce noticeably poorer image quality but do allow shooting in a wider range of conditions.
Standardised, universal file format for digital photos that can be displayed by practically any device without any kind of conversion. It uses powerful compression to reduce the file size of digital photos so that you can get more on to a memory card or a hard disk, and they’re quicker to transfer. There can be some loss of quality (often invisible to the naked eye), so for ultimate quality many photographers shoot photos in their camera’s RAW format instead. It’s only more advanced cameras that offer this RAW option, and it produces much larger files which you will need to process yourself later on.
JPEG vs RAW
Most digital photos are shot as JPEG images. This is a universal image file format that uses sophisticated compression to keep the files small and manageable. JPEGs are created by processing the RAW data captured by the camera. Some cameras let you save these RAW files instead. The files are larger and you need to process them later on a computer, but they offer the potential for better quality.
Where the tops of tall buildings appear to converge. This happens when you’re so close you have to tilt the camera upwards to get everything in. You can correct it by choosing a more distant viewpoint and keeping the camera level, or by using keystone correction tools in software.
Where the shot is taken with the camera held horizontally – pictures are wider than they are tall.
A simple selection tool where you drag an outline around the object or area you want to select. The selection is ‘closed’ and ready for use when you finish the loop back at the point where you started. The Lasso tool is not very accurate but when used in conjunction with other selection tools and editing processes it can nevertheless be very effective.
Layers come in a couple of different types. There are the image layers we’re all used to from all those Photoshop manipulations we’ve seen countless times, but there are also adjustment and/or effects layers used to change the appearance of a photo rather than combining it with another one.
Adjustment/effect layers are the province of non-destructive image editing tools like Capture One Pro, ON1 Photo RAW, Alien Skin Exposure X and others (regular image-editors like Photoshop and Affinity Photo have them too). The underlying image remains unaltered, and the adjustment layer simply changes its appearance. You can add multiple adjustment layers and used masks to control the areas of they affect. You can change the settings for adjustment layers or removing them completely at any time, right up to the point when you export a final, finished image for sharing or printing.
No lens is perfect. All lenses display aberrations to some degree, including distortion, chromatic aberration (colour fringing) and vignetting (corner shading). These are worse with cheap kit lenses or zooms, and eliminating them optically is both difficult and expensive.
So it’s often more effective to put up with these slight optical imperfections in the original lens design and fix them digitally instead.
An increasing number of programs now offer automatic lens corrections which can identify the lens used to take a shot and apply a specially-calibrated correction profile from that lens. The better the software, the better the corrections and the more lenses are supported.
DxO Optics Pro was the first in this field (now DxO PhotoLab), though Lightroom’s lens corrections are really good too and Capture One Pro has profiles for a large number of consumer and professional lenses. These are probably the top three simply because they are RAW conversion tools you’d use at the start of your image-editing workflow anyway, but there are plenty of other programs which will fix your lens defects for you too.
Tag: Lens corrections
Almost all lenses suffer from aberrations, including distortion, chromatic aberration and vignetting. These are difficult to eliminate optically in the lens design, so software publishers are increasingly offering lens correction profiles to do this digitally. The software can identify the lens used from the image’s EXIF data and then find and apply the correct profile automatically.
Levels adjustments are one of the most basic yet most important things you can do when enhancing photos. The levels tool will usually display a histogram which shows you whether the tones in your image cover the full range from solid black, on the left of the scale, to solid white on the right.
If they don’t, you can then move black point and white point sliders to line up with where the histogram does actually start and end to maximise the tonal range of your picture.
It’s a quick and simply way to maximise contrast and tonal without clipping (cutting off) any details in the extreme shadows and highlights. You don’t have to do it with every single image – some look best with low contrast – but it’s one of the handful of core adjustments you’ll find yourself doing again and again.
Lift and Stamp (Aperture)
The tools used in Apple’s image cataloguing program Aperture to ‘Lift’ adjustments from one image and ‘Stamp’ them on another. It’s a quick way to copy adjustments from one image to many others.
Old and cheap film cameras have poor seals and badly-fitting backs that may let light through on to the film inside. This produces pale streaks across the image or at the edges and has become associated with an ‘old camera’ look. Some programs now replicate light leaks digitally in a variety of colours, patterns and orientations.
Tag: Light leaks
Lightroom is an all-in-one photo cataloguing, organising and editing tool that also synchronised with a mobile app so that you can browse and share your images while you’re on the move. It uses the same RAW conversion engine and tools as Adobe Camera Raw, which comes with Photoshop, but comes in two versions: Lightroom Classic CC uses the same desktop-based storage system and tools as the ‘old’ Lightroom, while Lightroom CC is a new stripped-down version with a simpler interface which uses paid-for cloud storage.
An app for iOS or Android devices which works alongside the desktop Lightroom app to display images you’ve synchronised via Creative Cloud. When sync a Collection in the desktop app, that Collection and its images will appear in Lightroom Mobile. You can view and even edit images in Lightroom Mobile and your changes will be synchronised with the desktop version.
Light Table (Aperture)
A display mode in Aperture where you can arrange a group of images on a ‘virtual’ table to plan an effective layout or presentation or just to decide which images fit best together.
A Photoshop mode for bending, pinching and distorting areas of an image to create a special effect or ‘improve’ the body shape of a subject. Other applications like Affinity Photo offer similar tools.
Adjustments made only to specific areas in a photo, not the whole picture. You pick out the areas you want to adjust with selections, masks or brush tools.
A relatively new type of image adjustment that splits a photo up into different areas, depending on its properties, and applies an optimum contrast adjustment to each. It’s used for a variety of ‘dehaze’ and similar tools. It’s also used as a kind of super-coarse sharpening which doesn’t make the edges of objects crisper in the normal way, but works over a much wider radius to give images more visual ‘punch’ from normal viewing distances.
In traditional film photography, this is a small magnifying eyepiece for examining the detail in a negative, slide or print. In digital imaging it’s a magnifying view for use on-screen. Aperture and Capture One use a digital representation of a loupe, while Lightroom has a Loupe view where you can zoom in and out.
A photo where most of the tones are dark, such as a black cat in a coal cellar. You can also give photos a low key look with slight underexposure. It gives photos a dramatic, moody look, though the subject matter has to be right for this to work properly.
LUT (lookup table)
LUT stands for ‘lookup table’. Essentially, it takes the colours in an image and remaps them on to new ones. It really is a table consisting of a large grid of colour swatches and how they should be adjusted in the converted images. Its closest equivalent is the device profiles used in colour management systems, which work on a similar principle, but LUTs are usually designed for creative effects rather than colour correction. LUTs are often used to simulate classic films or filter effects. They’re commonly distributed as preset effects for programs like Lightroom, Capture One, Alien Skin Exposure X and now Skylum’s Luminar image-editor. It is possible to create your own LUTs, but it’s a somewhat technical process. The advantage of LUTs for image editors is that they are, in theory, software independent. The same LUT (or image effect) can be used in any software that can import and apply lookup tables. The disadvantage is that the LUT effect can’t be edited. It’s a straightforward colour conversion with no user-editable settings, though you can of course add other image adjustments in the software used to apply the LUT.
Luminance (contrast) noise
The chief component in image noise and the one that’s most difficult to remove because software can’t easily distinguish between random image noise and real image detail. The result is that the more noise reduction you apply, the more you tend to lose fine image detail, resulting in images with obvious and objectionable ‘smoothing’.
Luminar is a comparatively new image-editing software that offers instant effects presets made with a range of different filters and tools which you can combine and adjust manually. It offers easily-customised ‘workspaces’ which contain only the tools you need and which makes the interface as straightforward as possible.
LUT is short for Look Up Table. It’s a kind of conversion profile that ‘remaps’ the luminance and colour values in an image on to new values. LUTs are widely used in cinematography to create a certain ‘look’ and they have now captured the attention of software publishers.
The old name for publisher Skylum, producing plug-ins which include SnapHeal, Noiseless, Intensify, Tonality and others, now offered in a single Creative Kit 2016 package. Skylum has now launched a new standalone image-editor called Luminar and an HDR tool called Aurora HDR, in both Mac and Windows versions.
Image cataloguing programs store a database of images and their locations on your computer. Most will leave your image files where they are without moving them (‘referenced’ files) while others may offer to store your files within the image database (Aperture) as ‘managed’ files.
Masks are related to selections, but they’re a more permanent way of masking out adjustments made to an image. For example, you might make an initial selection in an image-editor and then convert it into a layer mask which can be saved with the file and re-edited later if necessary.
The number of pixels captured by the camera’s sensor. Smartphones typically have around 8 megapixels and upwards, while regular digital cameras typically have 16 megapixels or more. Megapixels used to be a good guide to image quality but now sensor size is more important.
HDR (high dynamic range) images are usually created by blending a series of different exposures of the same scene to capture a wider brightness range than the camera could capture with a single exposure. These are then blended together by HDR software using a ‘merge’ process.
Any information embedded in a digital photo. It can include time, date and shooting information (EXIF data) embedded by the camera, keyword, caption and copyright (IPTC data) added by image cataloguing programs and, sometimes, image processing data added by non-destructive image-editing programs.
Midnight filter (Color Efex Pro)
A filter in Color Efex Pro that takes a regular daytime shot and simulates the look of moonlight using a combination of darkening, colour shifts, desaturation and glow effects.
Very broadly, the middle brightness tones in a photo. Imagine the full range of tones in an image split into four equal parts – the darkest quarter makes up the ‘shadows’, the lightest quarter makes up the ‘highlights’ and in between are the ‘midtones’.
Also called ’tilt shift’, this effect uses selective blurring to create the optical illusion that you’re looking at a tiny model of the world rather than the real thing.
It relies heavily on the choice of image because for this trick to work the subject has to be one that we’re used to seeing as a tiny model. For the perspective to be realistic you need a subject you’re looking down on from an angle – so street scenes shot from tall buildings are good candidates.
You also need a scene where there aren’t too many tall objects, because if it was a real model these would be sharp from the bottom to the top, but this blur effect makes no such distinctions, simply blurring the top and bottom parts of the picture.
This effect works because we’ve all been conditioned to expect close-ups of small objects to have very shallow depth of field. This can be replicated pretty easily in software and there are a number of different plug-ins and programs that can do it. The real trick, as we’ve said, is finding the right image to use it on.
Tag: Miniature effect
Photography based around using a smartphone or tablet to take, edit and share pictures. Many smartphones now have highly sophisticated camera arrays, advanced camera apps which include filters, effects and editing tools to rival those on desktop computers and, of course, the ability to publish images immediately and share them on social media.
A fine interference pattern sometimes visible when you photograph fine patterns. It happens when these clash with the rectangular grid of pixels on the camera sensor. Actually, you almost never see it – most cameras have anti-aliasing/low pass filters to prevent, and it doesn’t seem to be an issue for those that don’t.
Monitors rarely display colours with complete accuracy, so some professionals use calibration kits that use a sensor to read the monitor’s colours and then apply a software profile to correct the display.
Two or more images combined, usually using layers in a program like Photoshop or Affinity Photo.
Old movies (and quite a few new ones) are full of ‘pretend’ night shots. The look like they were taken in moonlight, but it’s all an illusion created by clever use of exposure, colour and filters.
There are three things you can do to get this ‘moonlight’ look. The first is to shoot in direct sunlight because technically sunlight and moonlight look just the same, it’s just that the moon is considerably dimmer. You can simulate this in the second step, by reducing the exposure.
Finally, we all have the idea that moonlight has a blue tone (technically, it doesn’t). This is a third adjustment you can make in your photo-editing software to finish off this ‘moonlight’ look.
Tag: Moonlight effect
Taking two shots on a single frame. In the days of film this meant locking the film advance when cocking the shutter and taking another picture on a frame of film that’s already been exposed. On a digital camera, the camera stores the first image in its memory and then merges it with the second.
Neutral density (ND) filter
A filter which reduces the amount of light passing through the lens or reaching the sensor without affecting it in any other way. It allows longer exposures in bright daylight (useful for creative blur effects) or controls bright light in a camera with limited exposure controls.
A style of photography designed to reflect the dramatic, low-key lighting of Hollywood noir films. It can be achieved with lighting or, increasingly, with digital image effects which convert images to black and white, exaggerate contrast and often add grain and a vignette.
Random ‘speckling’ in an image caused by variations in the light levels captured by the photosites on the sensor. Noise is worse with the smaller photosites on small sensors and at higher ISO settings generally. You can get ‘chroma’ (coloured) noise and ‘luminance’ noise (general ‘grittiness’) the same colour as the background.
While there are plenty of tools out there that get rid of noise very effectively, you have to be careful how you go about it. Colour noise is easy to dial out and removing it doesn’t usually have an impact on image quality – it’s luminance noise that’s the real issue because even now, regardless of all their brave words, software publishers still haven’t truly figured out how to separate real image detail (good) from random image noise (bad).
As a result, when you try to dial out luminance noise in software, you inevitably start eating into vital textural detail too. If you push it too far you end up with that horrid ‘watercolour’ effect that afflicts many small-sensor cameras and smartphones. The noise is gone, but so too is everything else that might once have been fine, textural detail. You’re left with clean hard outlines filled in with mush.
So take care. There are lots of tools for removing image noise but you have to rely heavily on your own judgement – there’s very often a delicate tipping point where detail loss starts to hurt the picture quality more than noise removal improves it.
Tag: Noise reduction
Noiseless is a Mac-only noise reduction tool which works both as a standalone app and a plug in. It smooths out noise in high ISO images via a range of presets designed to tackle different kinds of noise. You can adjust the strength of the noise reduction and set the controls manually if you wish.
Software which doesn’t make any direct changes to the pixels in a photo, but saves processing instructions alongside it. These instructions are used to change the appearance of the photo when it’s displayed and can be applied permanently to a new ‘exported’ image.
Increasingly, photographers need to store their images on external hard disks because there’s not enough room on the computer’s internal disk. This means – usually – that the external disk needs to be connected before you can do any editing work. Some software, however, can work with lower-resolution preview images while the external disk is disconnected. Capture One Pro catalogs offer offline editing, as do Lightroom‘s Smart Previews.
Old Photo (Color Efex Pro)
A filter in Color Efex Pro which offers a variety of vintage photo effects, from sepia-tinted black and white to faded colour. In some ways it’s been superseded by newer and more elaborate ‘analog’ film effects, but it still produces a range of attractive vintage photo effects.
ON1 Perfect Suite
This is the predecessor to ON1 Photo RAW, which replaces it. The ON1 Perfect Suite was a collection of plug-ins organised within a single interface, but the tools, technologies and features have now been merged into a single all-in-one program.
ON1 Photo RAW
ON1 Photo RAW is an all-in one image organising and editing program which includes a large array of preset effects and manual tools for manually adjusting and ‘stacking’ effects in layers. Includes tools for black and white and portrait photography and also works as a plug-in for Photoshop and Lightroom.
Tag: ON1 Photo RAW
Image organisation is a big topic. We all have very different needs, expectations and levels of understanding when it comes to keeping an ever-growing library of images organised.
If you shoot jobs for clients, it’s relatively straightforward because you’re likely to have a linear shoot-cull-enhance-share-archive workflow. If you keep a large stock of photos which you’ll constantly re-visit, re-work and re-use it becomes a lot more complicated and you may need a database-drive tool like Lightroom or Capture One which will offer faster and more advanced image searches.
The technical description is a picture where all the tones are squashed into the brighter end of the tonal scale and where the highlights may be completely ‘clipped’ (lost). The artistic description is a photo that’s lighter than the photographer intended.
One of the most useful blend modes in Photoshop and other image editors. When it’s applied to an image layer or adjustment layer it changes the appearance of the layer below. Tones darker than 50% make the those areas in the layer below look darker, tones lighter than 50% make them appear lighter. It’s often used for dodging and burning effects or for increasing contrast.
Panoramic images are so easy to create now that they hardly take any longer than a regular photograph. If you want to do them with the maximum possible technical accuracy you’ll use a panoramic tripod head, adjust your nodal point precisely, rotate the camera to a vertical position for maximum coverage and resolution and then overlap your shots at specific degree intervals.
But you can also shoot panoramas handheld, visually estimating the overlap between frames and worrying about the stitching process later.
Some cameras will even stitch panoramas live, in-camera, though these will be JPEG images that don’t really give you any opportunity for fixing things up more carefully later.
A tool in Photoshop for covering up blemishes or removing unwanted objects from pictures. You use the tool to drag out a freehand lasso around the offending area, then drag the marquee to a nearby area containing the tones or textures you want to replace it with. It can be very effective although as with all ‘smart’ object removal tools, it’s a bit hit and miss.
Serif’s term for the different workspaces in its Affinity Photo application. For example, you have a Develop persona for processing RAW files, a Tone Mapping persona for HDR processing, a Liquify persona and a regular Photo persona. The idea is that each persona displays only the tools you need for that particular activity.
If you do a lot of travel or architectural photography you’ll know all about the problems of perspective. The most common issue is converging verticals, or keystone distortion, where you had to tilt the camera upwards to get the whole of the subject in the frame, and this has made the sides of the subject lean inwards.
But smaller problems can be just as annoying, such as a slight horizontal skew that leaves things you know should be horizontal on a slant. Or a perfectly rectangular facade that’s actually not quite rectangular because you couldn’t shoot it from dead opposite.
All of these things can be fixed with digital perspective correction tools. Lightroom and Capture One Pro offer built in perspective correction tools – and other programs like Luminar, Exposure X and ON1 Photo RAW can do the same.
Note that you should only carry out perspective correction after you’ve applied lens corrections to fix any lens distortion. Any trace of barrel or pincushion distortion makes it impossible to judge if a line or object is properly horizontal or vertical.
Perspective correction might seem like a relatively technical and unimportant job, but it can make a big difference to pictures of landmarks and buildings.
Danish company which produces professional medium format cameras and lenses and publishes Capture One Pro, a high-quality RAW conversion and image-editing program that’s also a powerful tethered shooting tool for studio photographers.
Photography Plan (Adobe)
A subscription plan which includes Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC. It’s designed for photographers and does offer very good value for money compared to the old scheme, where you paid a much larger amount for a ‘perpetual’ licence, and also had to pay to upgrade to new versions.
Image blending technology found in Adobe Photoshop, Elements and Lightroom. It’s used to stitch individual overlapping frames into seamless panoramas, or to merge bracketed exposures into a single HDR (high dynamic range) image.
Rightly regarded as the king of image-editing programs, Photoshop is the most powerful program there is for image enhancement, correction and manipulation, though it does not have the image cataloguing tools or the range of special effects offered by some rivals.
Photoshop Elements is a cut-down version of Photoshop which has been simplified for beginners and a casual photographers. It includes its own Organizer application for browsing and searching both photos and videos, and has a Guided mode to show how different image effects can be achieved. Most serious photographers are likely find its family-orientated approach and rather dated image effects off-putting. But it is quite cheap, and available on a perpetual licence.
Tag: Photoshop Elements
A free app for tablets and smartphones that offers a selection of quick editing tools and image effects. It does not have anything like the power of the desktop program, but it can still add interesting and useful effects to your pictures.
The photo synchronising system used by Apple before the widespread adoption of its iCloud Photos system. With photo stream, the last 1,000 images or the last 30 days’ worth are automatically synchronised across your devices. The newer iCloud Photos system has no such limitation, synchronising all your photos so that every picture you take is made available on all your devices.
Cameras usually offer a range of picture ‘styles’ such as ‘Standard’, for neutral results, ‘Vivid’ for richer colours, ‘Portrait’ for gentler tones and more. These are applied to JPEG images saved by the camera. If you shoot RAW files you can choose the picture style later on.
This is where straight lines near the edge of the picture appear to bow inwards. It’s not as common as barrel distortion, but you do see it quite a lot with telephoto zoom lenses when the lens is set to its maximum focal length. You may not notice it with many types of subject, but it can be corrected with software later anyway.
The individual building block of digital images. Each individual pixel is a single block of colour, but when there are enough of them viewed from far enough away they merge to form the impression of a continuous-tone photographic image.
Pixelmator is a low-cost image-editor and illustration tool for Mac and iOS which has a clean and simple interface but powerful editing, retouching, selection and layering tools and a range of customisable effects. It also has painting tools and vector drawing tools, making it equally suitable for art projects, illustrations and diagrams.
A generic term for tools or modes which show where pictures were taken. Smartphones will tag any photos you take with them with the current location automatically. Very few cameras have the GPS hardware necessary to do this, but it is possible to add the location information later by dragging photos on to a map in programs like Lightroom or Apple Photos. You can use the Places feature to find images taken at a specific location.
Plug ins are like add-on programs which work from within your regular software. They provide specialised effects or in-depth tools – or simply a an easier way of working – that aren’t part of mainstream photo-editing applications.
Plug ins need a ‘host’ application, usually Photoshop, Lightroom or – for those still using it – Aperture. Other host apps can often work with plug-ins with a little manual configuration.
If you had to characterise these two types of software you might say that ‘host’ apps offer routine image enhancements and adjustments while plug-ins provide inspiration and ideas, though the boundaries are becoming blurred.
Polarising filters darken blue skies and can cut through reflections and glare in water, glass and polished surfaces. They come in two types: linear polarisers are cheaper and older and don’t work well with modern autofocus systems; circular polarisers are more expensive but they are the type needed for modern cameras. Polarising filters are often used to intensify blue skies in landscape and travel shots and it is possible to create a digital polarising effect.
Post crop or pre crop vignette
Normally, if you apply a vignette effect to a photo and then crop the photo you will crop off some of that vignette effect at the edges, too. However, Lightroom‘s ‘post-crop’ vignette will re-apply the vignette settings after the image is cropped so that you don’t lose the effect. Skylum’s Luminar has a Vignette filter which offers both modes – pre-crop and post-crop vignette.
Presets are specific adjustment settings, or groups of settings, saved for re-use. Presets are used widely by image-editing and effects software to apply a sophisticated set of adjustments to a photo with a single click.
A special noise reduction tool in DxO PhotoLab Elite which uses extremely sophisticated noise reduction analysis and processing to achieve much better results than normal noise reduction. It’s very processor-intensive, though, so you can only preview the effect on small areas of the image at a time, and processing the full image can take a couple of minutes.
‘Profiles’ are closely related to LUTS (lookup tables). They adjust the brightness and colour values in an image, sometimes to correct a device’s colour rendition (like monitor profiles) but often to apply a creative effect or film simulation.
The idea of ‘quick fixes’ probably won’t appeal to those who think of photography as an art or a craft, but sometimes they’re all you need. Sometimes a quick fix is an important part of the culling process, where you don’t just need to know what the images look like straight from the camera, you need to know what they could look like. That’s why tools like Lightroom’s Auto Tone button are worth taking seriously – they don’t provide the final image but they do give you an idea of its potential.
There is also some crossover between quick fixes and effects presets. You know your photo needs a very particular ‘look’ to make it work, and a quick fix preset can give it to you.
Tag: Quick fixes
A circular/elliptical selection, or mask, which you can move around the photo and resize to get just the effect you want. Typically, you can adjust the area inside the radial filter or outside it. It’s a quick and effective way to ‘relight’ a photo or concentrate attention on the main subject.
A tool in Lightroom and some other photo editing applications. The centre of the gradient area is left unedited, and the editing adjustment you make are blended in progressively towards the edges of the picture. You can change the size of the gradient, its position and how progressively the adjustments are blended in. The gradient can also be inverted so that your adjustments are applied in the centre and areas outside the gradient area are unaltered.
An adjustment in some HDR programs that has a somewhat vague and undefined effect, in a technical sense. In Aurora HDR, for example, it adds a kind of soft ‘glow’ which goes well with the supersaturated, other-wordly feel of most HDR images.
RAID drives are a high-end desktop storage system that offers extra speed and security, but in larger drive units that are also considerably more expensive (and noisier) than regular types. They use two or more hard disk drives working in unison to offer data ‘rendundancy’, so that if one drive fails your data is still stored across the others. They can also offer much faster data transfer rates than regular hard drives, which can be especially useful for video editing.
A RAW converter is software that processes RAW files from a camera and converts them into regular image files. Not all RAW converters are the same. The closest analogy is the different developers used to process film. Examples include Adobe Camera Raw, Capture One Pro and DxO PhotoLab.
Tag: RAW processing
Usually when you take a picture the camera will process the data captured by the sensor into an image file. More advanced cameras can save the image in its unprocessed state – a RAW file – so that you can do the processing yourself later on your computer.
Cameras with the ability to shoot RAW files will almost always offer a RAW+JPEG option too. Here, the camera shoots a single image but saves two versions – the RAW file and a JPEG processed and saved with the current camera settings. The JPEG is useful because you can share it with other people straight away and it also offers a useful benchmark when you’re processing the RAW file later.
RAW processing (in-camera)
Some cameras now let you process RAW images and save them as new JPEG files on the memory card. That might sound a bit pointless when you could shoot JPEGs in the first place, but it does mean you can try out different white balance settings, picture styles and more.
Used in black and white photography to darken blue skies and lighten skintones and foliage. It can produce dramatic, high-contrast images.
Image cataloguing programs which use a central database to keep track of all your photos store both a representation of each photo and its location on your computer. Some programs will offer to import the photos into a central, ‘managed’ library, but usually they will simply ‘reference’ your files in their current location.
Reference View (Lightroom)
A new view in Lightroom that lets you place a ‘reference’ image alongside the one you’re working on, so that you can match the overall look and feel – this could prove very useful if you’re trying to achieve a consistent ‘look’ across a series of pictures.
A software technique for changing the appearance of the lighting in a photo, and a variation on classic dodging and burning techniques. For example, you can use the Radial Filter tool in Lightroom to create a ‘spotlight’ on your principle subject, darkening the rest of the frame, or the advanced Lighting filter in Affinity Photo.
Changing the pixel dimensions of a photo, usually to reduce the file size for sharing or online use. Resampling is irreversible because it changes the pixels in the photo. If you resample an image down to a smaller size, there’s no way to return it to its original form – the pixels discarded in this process can’t be restored.
‘Resizing’ and ‘resampling’ sound the same but they’re not. ‘Resizing’ an image means usually means changing the size at which it will be printed, not changing its actual pixel dimensions. So for example you can ‘resize’ a photo to print it as a 6″ x 4″ or a 12″ x 8″. The only thing that changes is the number of pixels per inch in the final print. Some programs blur the distinction between ‘resampling’ and ‘resizing’ so it’s important to make sure you understand what they’re about to do.
This can mean one of several things depending on the context. Camera resolution is the number of megapixels on the sensor, lens resolution is how well the lens is able to resolve fine detail. Screen resolution is the number of dots on the screen and therefore how sharp/clear it looks.
Image retouching can be as simple as removing a couple of sensor spots from a sky or cloning out a few scraps of rubbish in a landscape shot. It can also be a highly-valued professional skill in the fashion and advertising industry.
Plenty of programs offer spot removal and retouching tools, some with ‘content aware’ object removal that attempts to replace unwanted objects with details from the surroundings. Where these work or not depends on the particular image – you can think of them as no-loss experiments. If they don’t work you can simply hit the Undo button and go back to regular cloning tools.
The principles of the Clone Stamp tool in Photoshop and its equivalent in other programs are pretty simple. Getting a good results doesn’t need any particular technical understanding – instead, it relies heavily on experience, subtlety, patience and skill. You can read about it as much as you like, but it’s only by doing it that you get the ‘touch’.
RGB stands for red, green and blue, the three colour ‘channels’ that go to make up all the colours in a digital image. It comes in two varieties – sRGB is a ‘universal’ RGB that can be used and displayed by any device, whereas Adobe RGB is a more specialised alternative for pros.
This is where you temporarily send a photo to a different image-editor or plug-in to carry out adjustments you can’t do in the software you’re using. When this external editing is complete, the picture is returned back to the original program – a ‘round trip’.
Rule of thirds
A ‘rule’ of composition that says that pictures look best if objects are placed one-third of the way in from the edge or top/bottom of the picture, rather than being placed directly in the centre. It can be helpful, though calling it a ‘rule’ gives it more importance than it deserves.
The intensity of a colour or a photo. The higher the saturation, the more intense the colour. You can increase the saturation of a photo, but at a certain point the stronger colours will start to ‘clip’ – objects lose any fine detail and become a solid block of colour.
A way of separating out a specific part of a picture for adjustments. Selections can be made using a variety of tools such as a rectangular or circular marquee, a magic wand or a selection brush. When the selection is made, it has an animated, dashed outline sometimes called ‘marching ants’.
A special effect which converts the whole image into black and white except for one specific colour range. One the the most common examples is a black and white image with a bright red subject – the girl in the red coat in the film ’Schindler’s List’, for example.
Tag: Selective colour
Selective Tone (DxO)
This is like the ‘manual’ version of DxO PhotoLab‘s Smart Lighting feature. It’s designed to help you control the dynamic range, highlight and shadow recovery of your RAW files during processing with separate sliders for Highlights, Midtones, Shadows and Black tones.
An old black and white darkroom technique that turns regular black and white prints a vintage brown. It also adds depth and richness to monochrome images. These days it’s an effect that’s easy to create digitally and is just one of a number of popular toning effects.
Previously known mostly for its budget design and illustration software, Serif has now branched out into professional design and image-editing with its state of the art Affinity range, including Affinity Photo.
Session (Capture One)
Capture One is Phase One’s professional image capture, organising and editing application. It started out as a tethered shooting tool for studio photographers, capturing each shoot as a ‘session’ where photographers could quickly sort through images, marking some as ‘picks’ and rejecting others. Capture One now offers Lightroom-style image catalogs but still offers its Sessions mode for photographers who prefer to work that way.
The darkest tones in a picture. A pretty vague term (like ‘highlights’) but usually taken to mean the darkest areas where you can still see some image detail. Digital cameras often retain more shadow detail than you can see initially, and this can be brought out later on a computer.
Shadow recovery is a very useful technique for backlit photos or images shot in high contrast lighting. Digital cameras are not very tolerant of overexposure, so it’s often necessary to expose for the brightest parts of the scene and then enhance the shadows in post processing.
This is another reason for shooting RAW files rather than JPEGs. RAW files typically have a lot more latent shadow detail that you can bring out with careful processing. This can reveal more noise in these darker areas, but this varies from one camera to another – and you can process this out to some degree with some selective noise reduction.
So how much shadow detail can you recover? Generally, the bigger the sensor, the better the dynamic range, but it’s typically a lot more than you might expect – perhaps as much as 3-4EV in exposure terms.
The real challenge is to keep the image and the lighting looking ‘natural’. It’s all too easy to end up with a pseudo-HDR effect or compressed midtone contrast that makes the whole image look ‘flat’.
Tag: Shadow recovery
Almost all digital images need some degree of sharpening. This is partly because of the way colour images data is interpolated from the camera sensor’s red-green-blue pixel array, partly because most cameras have anti-aliasing filters over the sensor to prevent moiré/interference effects with fine patterns, and partly because no lens is perfect and will deliver different levels of sharpness and different aperture/zoom settings.
But it’s good to be clear about what kind of sharpening is applied and when. The kind of sharpening applied by default for in-camera JPEGs and most RAW processing software is ‘capture sharpening’, which addresses the types of image softness described above.
But there’s also ‘creative sharpening’, which you can use to digitally blur backgrounds or intensify the sharpening on your main subject.
Finally, there’s ‘output sharpening’, which is used to optimise the photo’s detail rendition for different output devices. The type of sharpening you need for on-screen display is quite different to the settings needed for a large art print or publication in a magazine.
You can use capture sharpening and creative sharpening to enhance your pictures, but output sharpening is best kept for when you’re preparing an image for a specific purpose.
Sharpener Pro (Nik Collection)
Software plug-in for sharpening images and part of the DxO Nik Collection. It comes in two parts – Sharpener Pro Raw Presharpening for enhancing images straight from the camera, and Sharpener Pro Output Sharpening for preparing images for printing on different devices.
Silver Efex Pro (Nik Collection)
Smart Album or Collection
An album or collection in a photo organising application that automatically brings together images that match the properties you choose. For example, you could have a smart album/collection containing pictures shot on a Sony A7 camera in the RAW format with the keyword ‘winter’.
Smart Lighting (DxO)
A feature in DxO PhotoLab that attempts to optimise exposure levels and highlight detail retention in RAW files. You can adjust the strength of the effect and apply exposure compensation at the same time, to get the ideal result.
Smart Preview (Lightroom)
With Lightroom‘s Smart Previews you can store smaller, lower-resolution versions of your photos within the Lightroom catalog while storing the full resolution versions on an external disk drive. Smart Previews are compressed DNG files and fully editable – any changes you make are automatically used for the full resolution photo when your drive is reconnected. Smart Previews make it practical to view and edit your image library on a laptop with a relatively small internal drive.
An unwanted image effect where excessive noise reduction has also smoothed out much of the fine, textural detail in a photo, making it look soft and unnatural. You see this a lot in high-ISO photos from compact cameras with small sensors, where the maker’s noise reduction is often very aggressive in an attempt to hide image noise.
An online photo sharing/portfolio website designed for photographers to display their work, create online portfolios and sell images. SmugMug now owns Flickr.
Snapheal is a Mac-only software tool for removing unwanted objects from pictures. It does this using one of three removal algorithms which use surrounding detail to produce an ‘invisible’ repair. It also offers manual cloning tools, and it works as a standalone app or a plug in.
A Snapshot is a record of the current image state while you’re editing it. You can create a Snapshot in Photoshop or Lightroom when you reach a point that you think you might want to return to during editing. You can save a number of Snapshots to quickly compare different editing steps.
Soft Contrast (Silver Efex Pro)
An interesting localised contrast adjustment in Silver Efex Pro, part of the Nik Collection. Positive values give images increased contrast but with a dark ‘glow’ effect around objects that can be very effective as a ‘look’. Negative values brighten shadows and dim down highlights and can be a useful pseudo-HDR tool – though you will see that same ‘glow’ effect if you push the slider too far.
Soft focus effects are popular in portrait photography but they can also work well in landscapes and other kinds of imagery where you want to create a romantic, ethereal look.
There are many different ways of creating a soft focus look. In a regular image editor like Photoshop or Affinity Photo, you can combine a blurred image layer with the original using blend modes and layer opacity, for example, but if you’re using all-in-one editing/effects programs like Luminar, ON1 Photo RAW or Alien Skin Exposure, you’ll find soft focus tools built in.
Alternatively, you can use a plug-in suite like the DxO Nik Collection, which has a multitude of ways of adding a soft focus or glow effect to your pictures.
Tag: Soft focus
Solarisation is an old darkroom technique for partially reversing a print during the development process. This produces a picture that’s part positive and part negative. The result is a picture that can add a surreal look to any subject from a portrait to a landscape. The lighter parts of the scene reproduce naturally, but the darker parts are reversed, so that bright skies, for example, become dark and foreboding.
You can reproduce this effect digitally in a couple of different ways. One way is to simply reverse the curve in the curves panels so that it peaks in the centre and drops back down to zero on the right (though a double-peak often works better).
The other way is to use a dedicated Solarisation filter like the one in Color Efex Pro, part of the DxO Nik Collection. This is quicker and easier and gives a wider choice of effects in both black and white and colour.
A more complex type of toning where two colours are used not one – shadows are tinted with one tone and highlights with another. The results can be very effective, though it’s not always easy to find good-looking toning combinations and split toning doesn’t work with all images.
Tag: Split toning
Spot (on sensor)
The sensors in interchangeable lens cameras are prone to picking up specks if dust which appear as small black spots in your images. Sensors have anti-static coatings and sensor cleaning mechanisms designed to repel and shake off dust particles but they often persist despite this. They can be removed with manual sensor cleaning or by using dust removal tools in software.
Spot and Patch (Aperture)
Image ‘healing’ tools in Apple’s Aperture. They are not really designed for large-scale cloning and repairs – that’s where you need a program like Photoshop – but they are ideal for smaller objects and blemishes, including sensor spots.
Spot Healing Brush (Photoshop)
This is a tool for simply brushing away blemishes, sensor spots or unwanted objects in your pictures. You can ‘dab’ once with the brush for spots or paint over irregular objects. It uses pixels from surrounding areas to fill in the gap, and it works really well with small objects against larger backgrounds. It’s less effective at larger repairs, but worth and try nonetheless.
Cameras with interchangeable lenses do not have sealed interiors and the sensors can pick up spots of dust. These can be removed in software using spot removal tools – you dab on the dust spot and the software uses nearby pixels to cover it up. It’s like cloning but easier, because you can leave the software to ‘heal’ the spot automatically.
A standard colour space used widely by displays on smartphones, computers, tablets and other electronic devices. It’s reproduces a sufficiently wide range of colours to give realistic photographic images and is supported by almost all devices. As colour spaces go, it’s a safe and effective ‘lowest common denominator’.
A solid state storage device that uses memory chips rather than a hard disk. SSDs offer much faster data transfer rates than regular hard disks, they’re smaller and have no moving parts. They are, however, MUCH more expensive, so while an SSD is ideal add-on storage for desktops and laptop computers, especially if you want to take your data with you on the move, they are a substantial investment.
Stacking or grouping
A way of keeping related images together in an image cataloguing program – such as different exposures in a bracketed series, the individual frames of a panoramic image, the shots from a continuous shooting sequence or edited and original versions of a photo. Adobe Bridge can stack images, as can Lightroom. Apple’s now-discontinued Aperture offered the most consistent and versatile stacking system.
Software that you launch directly and which doesn’t need any other program to run – as opposed to plug-ins, which need a ‘host’ application.
Generic images offered for sale to anyone who wants to licence them for use on websites or in publications. Stock images are generally submitted to a searchable stock library by individual photographers. When a client pays to use an image, the photographer gets a percentage of the fee and the stock library gets the rest.
It’s very easy to accidentally shoot with the camera slightly skewed so that horizons or vertical objects aren’t straight. Most photo editing apps have a simple Straighten tool to put this right.
Structure is a relatively new concept in image editing. It enhances detail and outlines using the same basic principles as regular sharpening but across a wider radius. It’s not designed to enhance fine detail, but shapes and outlines seen from normal viewing distances. It’s like Lightroom’s Clarity adjustment, but on a finer scale.
You can find structure adjustments in the DxO Nik Collection plug-ins, DxO PhotoLab and other photo editing applications. Adding structure to an image does give it a lot more ‘bite’ without losing any key shadow or highlight detail. It works especially well for black and white images.
Pushed too far, it can create ugly edge effects and make images look a little coarse – like so many image editing adjustments it needs to be applied with a certain amount of care.
Styles (Capture One)
Capture One offers two kinds of one-click adjustment and a slightly different terminology to other programs. In Capture One you can create custom settings for each of its tools and save this as a ‘Preset’. Capture One Presets use a single tool. But you can also combine multiple Preset adjustments to save a ‘Style’. Phase One sells a number of different Styles packs designed by professional photographers and for use with Capture One.
A new way of paying for software where you pay a monthly or a yearly subscription rather than paying a single sum for a licence to use the software for as long as you like.
A technique used by professional studio photographers where the camera is connected to a computer and the computer is then used for controlling the camera, checking pictures as soon as they’re taken and then correcting and enhancing them as necessary before saving.
Textures are a great way to add an ‘analog’ feel to a digital image. They can be relatively subtle, such as adding a ‘paper’ texture that simulates the fine pattern or fibres of art paper, or more dramatic, simulating the look of an old photographic ‘wet plate’ or unusual printing materials like tin or wood. Textures can also replicate the appearance of a scratched, stained or faded print.
To add them manually you need an image editor that supports layers and a selection of texture files – you can photograph textures yourself and build a collection.
Alternatively, you can use software with filters for blending in texture files (Skylum Luminar) or programs with a library of textures built in, such as Alien Skin Exposure X, ON1 Photo RAW or Analog Efex Pro (DxO Nik Collection).
An image file format that uses ‘lossless’ compression but produces much larger files than JPEGs. It’s sometimes offered as a file format on more advanced cameras but it’s more useful later on as an image file format for image editing and manipulation on a computer.
A specialised type of lens which can be tilted relative to the camera body. This changes the plane of sharp focus and can be used to extend or contract the available depth of field. It can also be simulated digitally using tools which leave a central strip of the photo in sharp focus but progressively blur the rest of the image towards the edges.
Tilt shift lenses, or ‘perspective control’ lenses, have built-in lens movements which let you shift the lens up, down or sideways relative to the camera, or tilt it at an angle. The shift movement is good for correcting converging verticals in architectural shots, while the tilt movement has traditionally been used for depth of field control in studio photography.
This tilt movement works by aligning the camera’s plane of focus with the subject’s, but you can adjust the tilt the other way and dramatically reduce the depth of field, even with subjects some distance away from the camera.
This effect has been made popular by Lensbaby and its deliberately lo-fi lenses, where you can freely adjust the tilt of the lens.
It’s also possible to recreate this effect digitally using ’tilt shift’ filters. The effect is not quite the same since tilt lenses are acting on objects in 3D space while tilt shift filters are working on a 2D image, but the results can still be convincing and interesting enough to be worthwhile.
Tag: Tilt shift
Time and date setting
All digital cameras record the time and date and embed it in the photo’s EXIF data. It’s important to set the time and date correctly on the camera because it’s used later on when you want to search for photos on your computer or sort them in chronological order.
Tint (white balance)
A secondary white balance adjustment used alongside colour temperature for more complex light sources like fluorescent lighting. Colour temperature works across an amber-blue spectrum, while tint adds a green-magenta axis.
Tag: White balance
Tonal Contrast (Color Efex Pro)
Tonality is a software tool for creating a wide variety of black and white image effects but also includes some colour processes too. It comes with a wide range of preset effects, each of which can be adjusted using manual controls. You can also create and save effects of your own.
Toning is a popular technique in black and white photography where a chemical tint is added as the print is being developed. Now, you can of course do the same thing digitally.
Sepia toning is popular for creating a vintage look, but selenium toning can add a richer, colder tone, while cyanotypes – strictly speaking, a different chemical process – have a much stronger blue tone.
Split toning is becoming popular too, where shadows (the darker parts of the picture) are given one tone and highlights (the brighter parts) another. Lightroom offers a Split Toning panel, for example.
With digital imaging, toning isn’t restricted to black and white. You can also add a tone, or a split tone, to colour images as an alternative to white balance or colour adjustments.
Tone Enhancer (ON1)
An all-in-one tonal adjustment filter in ON1 Photo which offers control over Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows and more – and it has an expandable Curves adjustment panel too. You’d use it as a first stop for detailed and careful tonal adjustments to your photo.
A technique used by HDR software to ‘map’ the extremely wide brightness range of a high dynamic range image into an editable form where the extremes of shadow and highlight detail are preserved. It’s usually the first and sometimes the only step in making an HDR image.
Toy camera effect
A deliberately low-quality image effect that mimics the retro look produced by cheap old film cameras. Pictures have added contrast and colour saturation and strong vignetting at the edges of the frame. Some toy camera effects add a colour shift to simulate old and out of date film.
Changing the perspective or scale of a photo or objects within the photo. Typically it can include straightening, scaling up and down, skewing or correcting converging verticals, for example.
The ‘designer’ word for text.
Where a picture comes out darker than you expected because of the way the camera has adjusted the exposure, or where you deliberately make the photo come out darker for dramatic effect.
Upright tool (Lightroom)
A set of perspective controls which can correct converging verticals, skewed horizons and other perspective problems. Lightroom offers a set of automated one-click buttons which often fix the problem immediately, plus a manual tool for correcting more complex or difficult perspective problems.
Variants (Capture One Pro)
Used in Capture One Pro to create different versions of a photo without physically duplicating the image file on your hard disk. Capture One Pro’s adjustment are non-destructive, which means they consist of processing instructions rather than direct adjustments to image files. Lightroom has a similar feature called ‘Virtual Copies’.
Tools use for drawing shapes rather than editing the pixels in photos. Vector shapes are described mathematically, so you can scale them up to any size without quality loss, edit them after they’ve been created and combine them in different ways. In photo editing, they’re most likely to be used for making a very precise ‘path’ for cutouts and object selection.
A more sophisticated version of the regular saturation adjustment which targets the weakest colours rather than applying a constant saturation increase across the whole range. It’s less likely to produce solid, ‘clipped’ colours and can give a more natural, more controllable colour boost.
DxO Viewpoint is a software tool that corrects distortion using lens correction profiles, fixes volume deformation created by wideangle lenses and offers perspective correction tools for fixing converging verticals and more. Works as a standalone app or as a plug-in and also integrates with DxO PhotoLab.
Vignette effects can be very useful, both as an aid to composition and as a way of adding a vintage, ‘analog’ look.
A vignette can help focus attention on the main subject and tone down a distracting background. It can also act as a kind of framing device so that the picture feels properly enclosed and your eyes don’t drift out of the frame.
Most photo-editing programs have a vignette tool. Lightroom, for example, has a ‘post-crop’ Vignette effect which adapts to any cropping adjustments you make, though its manually controlled Radial Filter is a more powerful tool for creating carefully customised vignettes.
With most vignette tools, you can choose the strength of the effect, its size, whether it’s circular or rectangular or somewhere in between, and how smoothly it blends into the rest of the picture. Sometimes you can choose where to place the centre of the vignette too.
Any effect which gives the look of an old photo, including sepia toning, photo borders, paper patterns and textures and anything else which gives a distressed, ‘aged’ look.
Virtual Copy (Lightroom)
Because Lightroom uses non-destructive editing, its adjustments are stored as metadata (processing instructions) rather than new image files. This means it can create any number of Virtual Copies of the same image for trying out different effects, without having to duplicate the image itself on your hard disk.
Volume deformation or anamorphosis
A special type of distortion correction once built into DxO Optics Pro but now built into the separate DxO ViewPoint application. It fixes the distortion usually seen with wideangle lenses where objects near the edge of the frame appear disproportionately wide – it’s most obvious with human figures.
A non-technical way of describing the colour temperature of the light in a scene. Pictures taken with a low sun have ‘warmth’ because the light takes on a golden colour. Many photographs – landscapes, for example – can be enhanced with a little additional ‘warmth’.
Warmth is an image characteristic that people often respond to. Landscape photographers like to shoot in the ‘golden hour’ when the sun is low in the sky, and people generally prefer portrait shots to have a little warmth to the colour rendition.
You can introduce this warmth by your choice of lighting or by adjusting the camera’s white balance. You can also add it digitally later on, though it’s not always easy to make it look realistic and pleasing. Filters generally add a flat, global colour adjustment that doesn’t really reflect the way that natural light works. In a landscape shot, for example, you’d expect the landscape itself to have warm tones but not necessarily the sky – and yet a simple warm-up filter will add warmth to both.
Nevertheless, it’s worth trying out different digital techniques to add warmth to photographs which would really benefit from this kind of rendition.
A way of marking images as your own property to prevent others from passing them off as their own or earning income from your work. Watermarks are visible on the image, which is a downside, but they do act as a visible deterrent and warning that you take image copyright ownership seriously.
White balance is one of those camera controls that’s easy to take for granted but it can be quite important. If you photograph weddings, for example, you need to make sure that white wedding dresses, veils and cakes are actually reproduced as white.
If you shoot JPEGs, getting the white balance right is especially important, because while you can change the colour rendition later, your window for adjustment is much smaller.
Shooting RAW files, however, gives you full control, since you can choose any white balance setting you like – the RAW file preserves all the colour information captured by the camera.
Even here, though, there are a couple of things to be aware of. Your software’s ‘As Shot’ setting is the only one which will accurately portray the camera’s own rendition – other white balance presets in the software may not give you the same results that the camera’s presets would give you. Adobe’s white balance presets, for example, always look very warm to me.
One of the chief advantages of shooting RAW, though, is that you can quickly standardised the white balance setting across a whole series of images – this is what non-destructive editing and cataloguing tools like Lightroom and Capture One Pro do especially well.
Tag: White balance
The steps taken by photographers at various stages of the image capture, editing and sharing process. For many photographers, getting the right ‘workflow’ means choosing the best image browsing and cataloguing approach and working out how to integrate their photo editing software with their filing system – it often boils down to figuring out how to make two programs work efficiently together.
Highly complex photo-editors offer so many tools that the interface can quickly become cluttered and confusing. To get round this, most offer the ability to produce a custom workspace containing only the tools you use most often.
A sensor layout unique to Fujifilm which replaces the usual bayer pattern of red, green and blue photosites with a more ‘random’ arrangement. Fujifilm says this eliminates the need for a low-pass filter to combat moiré (interference) effects, resulting in sharper fine detail.
A system developed by the great landscape photographer Ansel Adams for measuring the light levels throughout a scene and allocating them to ten brightness ‘zones’. The idea was to develop the film to a specific level of contrast that captured the full range of tones and make appropriate artistic interpretations with dodging and burning during the print-making process. It worked well with the very exposure tolerant sheet films of the day, where each negative was processed individually, but it’s mostly of academic interest today since digital sensors don’t offer this extended exposure latitude.