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Using photoshop ...

Posted by Christian Auer  
Christian Auer January 05, 2012 09:36AM
I know this discussion is as old as digital photography.
One of my best friends, who is an artist, bought already all chemicals to make classic pics again (especially black-white) as he told me thats real photography. In other words, I`m missing a bit the artistic standpoint in our pics nowadays.
Is a good pic "just" the knowledge of how to use photoshop + the money to buy a good equipment? Would this mean everybody could do so?

I am a beginner, trying to find my own style to rework pictures. In my opinion most photographers use too much photoshop. Well I dont have PS but Nikon Capture NX2 but the problem is the same. See those pinups in the magazines, photoshoped to death! Brightest white teeth, no freckles, just unnatural and terrible. Unfortunately this method is also used more and more by mineral photographers. But where`s the border line? Just made a nice boulangerite pic but then I realized there`s a woolen fibre within the specimen, maybe 0,5 mm in size. No way to take it out manually, so I use my software and its off. Shall I also clean the xtls of a quartz till its perfectly lustrous? Shall I remove durt from a crystall?
I don`t want to argue I just want to know what you do and dont!

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/05/2012 10:31AM by Christian Auer.
Maggie Wilson January 05, 2012 04:26PM
Hi Christian - a great idea for discussion. I am also very new to minerals AND photography - looking forward to what other's have to say.

I use Microsoft Digital Image Suite to prepare my photos - to crop the photos and clean up the background of crumbs and smudges, of course, as well as to edit out those infuriating fibers! Though, in our household, the hairs are most likely from the cat. I use the "clone brush" to deal with the hairs, but have also found that the "remove wrinkles" feature works well.

I will "add flash" to brighten a shot, or select "auto fix exposure" to see what the software has to say about an under- or over-exposed picture. After that I might have to tweak the saturation. And then there is the colour adjustments - I use fluorescent lights and select that option on my camera, but one in 10 photos have too much yellow/green in them.

Every now and again, one of the specimens has been sitting out too long and gets dusty. You don't notice it until after the photo is taken. I use the "remove dust" feature, but only sparingly - it has a tendency to blur the entire photo.

Gerhard Brandstetter January 05, 2012 06:02PM
as a mineral collector and as a member of a (competition) photo club i know this discussion too good.... yes, i have my fun with photoshop, but i also have my fun in an old fashioned dark room with black&white equipment and lots of terrible smelling chemistry. what do i usually do with photoshop? in most cases not more than in a dark room. of course corrections of dark and bright zones, but also carefully removing of unwanted parts of a photo. in rare cases i put 2 ore more photos together for on result. yes, this is also a very, very old method, old as a dark room itself.

for me the border line is fluent. it always depends what i want to do with a pic. thats the main thing! if you have a nice shooting with a nice lady in a studio or outdoors you (the photographer!) can decide if you want to have fine art photography in the classic style with one perfect shot only or in a very contemporary style like in your wildest dreams with unbelievable many photoshop hours. the result is very, very different - but it is still fine art photography. chris, i think you may have seen some of my non-mineral pictures on facebook and know what i mean.
next thing: even with digital imaging you can't make a national geography cover if the original pic was not great...... (i also learned photography from a national geography photographer - heiner thaler is a member of my home photo club - thanx to him!)

mineral photography is a very special thing. in my honest opinion the main goal should be to show the character of a mineral. in the way before you show the character of a lady. or of a landscape. or of a fairytale. the sujet does not matter! you use photo stacking with a special equipment. this is also a way ho to show the character of a mineral. it is legal, of course! it is also legal to remove dust or small cracks from "your" specimen - if you use it for yourself, for a slideshow or something. if i want to sell something, i would never do it!!!!

i had got a lot of prices and awards for my non-mineral photography. this photo competitions are usually divides in three types: color, black & white and digital imaging. for all divisions photoshop is allowed!!! why? today it is not possible to say if a photo is one shot only and no photo shop or 100 shots and 1000 hours of digital imaging. my way is simple: if possible, one perfect shot! (but digital imaging is a sort of fun too from time to time....)

and one main thing i learned from jeffrey scovil and other world class photographers like heiner thaler: always try to make "the" perfect photo - and you never need photoshop!!!!!
Christian Auer January 05, 2012 06:15PM
Thanks for the quick responses!
I mentioned possibilities I do with my software and am looking to learn and experience more and more.
Freedom of any picture art of course!

On the other side no regulation at all here on mindat?
Whats with a broken xtl on a specimen, can I rework it?
Can I make a pic out of several pics, not as stacking but put together good parts of each pic?
Does the mineral shown has to be real?
Bob Griffis January 05, 2012 06:31PM
I sell minerals on the internet and strive to make them look like they do in person. I also use a macro lens that seems to show every speck of dirt on my glass shooting table. I limit Photoshop to the following:

(1) removal of dust and unsightly reflections by copying and pasting pieces of the background over the spots of dust using an ellipse shape and 50 pixel soft edge. I don't use the remove dust feature.

(2) I use the tone map to lessen highlights if needed, or punch up the highlights, and I adjust the shadows to create some drama as the diffused lighting tends to muddy up shadows. I don't use much over 4 to 6 points of adjustment.

(3) Sometimes I will adjust the brightness and/or the contrast, but again only a couple of points.

(4) Sometimes, I will sharpen the image using the lowest or next to lowest setting. You have to be careful using this otherwise the specimen photo doesn't look right.

I make each of these adjustments while looking at the specimen. The goal is to create an image that looks like the specimen if you were holding it in the best lighting. The goal is not to make it look like something it is not.

As to removal of hair that I couldn't see but the unforgiving macro lens sees -- if it is a specimen for sale, I leave the hair. If it is a photo for my own collection and the hair is not distracting, I leave it--and if it is distracting I sometimes remove it. If I decide to sell the specimen later, I will take new photos and hopefully remember to physically remove the hair-not digitally remove it.

I do not "fix" broken crystals, dings, dirt on the specimen, or anything that would make the photographed specimen different than the specimen you are holding in your hand. This kind of manipulation is no longer trying to present a real tangible physical object--it is artistry at best and deceit at worst.

Hope this helps.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/05/2012 06:34PM by Bob Griffis.
Gerhard Brandstetter January 05, 2012 06:42PM
for me mindat is documentation - no more, no less.
if someone only removes a broken crystal on an not important place it also shows the character of a specimen.
if you remove dust the character is also kept.
if you "repair" cracks it looses a bit of character.
if you remove or add any faces the character is lost.
maybe other persons take pictures of several specimen to produce one ultimative photo only.
whats about a big tanzanite in a druse of diamond octahedrons with a sagenite on the right place? phantasy, but possible with digital imaging. and of course not worthy for mindat!
but for your private fun - why not?
show a crocodile with glittering quartz teeth from your african mineral safari. if you are a conference speaker you'll have a smiling audience at least.
but what i said before: mindat should be documentation only.
the other thing: why not open a discussion thread with "impossible" minerals. would be serious fun also!
Harald Schillhammer January 05, 2012 07:36PM
A lot of useful arguments so far.

For me PS is just a tool, which I do seldom use to produce some artsy-fartsy stuff. Basically, the techniques in digital and analog darkroom are the same. For me digital has the big advantage that there is no messing any more with (hazardous) chemicals and that every step is reversible.
The problem in digital imaging is that if you want to produce a really good image, the use of software is indispensable, mainly to improve the short-comings of the sensor (in many cases also the photographer).

My personal work flow mostly depends on the kind of photography I am doing and also on the requirements of the particular project, assignment, etc. That means, there is a big difference between shooting scientific photography, musicals, product photography, portraits, landscapes, expedition documentary, etc. also considering what it is being used for. There is less effort involved when it is just for a powerpoint presentation than when the final media is fine art print. Even in science photography (for journals) the entire prepress process is involved, and so on.

Interestingly, there is a kind of personal evolution when entering the Photoshop world:

1) you struggle to get a clue how to use it, being overwhelmed by the multitude of functions it offers. If you do not dispair and carry on you enter

2) experimental phase - or also artsy fartsy phase. This usually starts before having even a basic knowledge. You are getting excited by the manifold possibilities to alter a photo, forgetting about photography itself.

3) The wanna-be Guru phase - you have learned how to use the basic functions and behave as if you had invented PS (actually this behaviour already starts between phase 1 and 2)

I will skip the other stages

Eventually, you have mastered the basic functions (I do not know any person who has mastered all functions) and start to use PS sensefully.
After copying others' techniques you start to develop your own.

Most people who use PS to do all kinds of fakery do so because they have to. Anyway, it is always good to know way more than you actually need.

If I have written a lot of nonsense know, blame my weary state caused by a terrible cold :).

Gerhard Brandstetter Wrote:

> and other world class photographers like heiner
> thaler: always try to make "the" perfect photo -
> and you never need photoshop!!!!!

Now that is funny - I know Heiner Thaler since more than 20 years (last time I met him was long ago, though). My friend and now retired colleague Heiner Schönmann introduced me to him. Later I also met his daughter, she was the girl friend of another friend of mine (the world is a village). Anyway, I know that he is (or was) top notch in crafting wood, I never knew that he is a world class photographer.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/05/2012 07:38PM by Harald Schillhammer.
Gerhard Brandstetter January 05, 2012 08:17PM
harald, we mean the same men.
yes, heiner studied (!) wood crafting, but you'll also find his photos in "geo" and "national geography". he also took some mineral photos for a mineral book. i spent some time with him including a mineral collecting trip to tunisia and some cave adventures. oh - he is famous for his cave photos!!! but in the pre-digital era.....
a slide photograper like me in my early years.

and believe me all: if you used an old fashioned slide film you had only one shot for a perfect photo. thats the way how to learn real photography!!!!
Harald Schillhammer January 05, 2012 08:57PM
Gerhard Brandstetter Wrote:
> and believe me all: if you used an old fashioned
> slide film you had only one shot for a perfect
> photo. thats the way how to learn real
> photography!!!!

I was shooting slide film for 25 years before I switched to digital. The first 3 years in digital I still shot like in the old days when film was expensive. It takes a while to adopt the digital shooting style when you learned photography the hard way. It has another advantage - in film days you had to learn to really look through the view finder and anticipate the right moment. But I am very happy with digital. I haven't touched film since 9 years.

BTW - caves, that is how Heiner and Heiner met.


Vítězslav Snášel January 05, 2012 09:28PM
Excellent topic for discussion !
When processing or editing photos "phostoshop" is also needed to think one important thing!
It's a huge difference between editing photos for the web (screen resolution), or if we want to have a photo
in print quality and in a larger format .
Each "artificial" intervention (treatment) in photography (sharpening, contrast, color enhanced) may have effect for the display on PC monitor, but in the actual print may be negative show all these "soft interventions" in the photo.
I agree with the idea that photography whether conventional or digital should be made primarily in order photoshop
served only minimal image correction and it only really necessary cases.
The less we make artificial (software) interventions in the photograph - that we will have better quality photo.
Of course they are but currently software development that help photo - such as software "stack images".
These software allow you to work with minimal demands on technical equipment and allow us to create a photo that would otherwise not technically possible (per one frame).
Such software I consider as an asset(benefits) !


Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 01/05/2012 09:42PM by Vítězslav Snášel.
Ron Gibbs January 08, 2012 08:47PM
For me the use of Photoshop has been most associated with the purpose of the photograph. When I first taught digital photography for the WEB (way back in the 90's - seems so long ago) I used to open with this statement ... Begin at the end.

Before you modify a photo you need to know what you will be doing with the photo. For instance, if the photo will be used for print, then you must maintain all of the resolution you can and plan accordingly. You must work with more restraint as there are many "mistakes" that can be covered-up/reduced by a drastic reduction in image size which cannot be done if the image is for print. For example, a fair degree of over sharpening will be muted if the image is reduced by a factor of 3 or 4 in size. Size reduction reduces contrast and the width associated with a sharpness boundary, it makes most images "appear" sharper even though it actually works the opposite way.

Another example, if a sample has a very fine structure, easily seen at the 12MP level of the camera, it will become something else again as the image is dropped from 4000x3000 to 800x600, or less, for WEB use. So did you edit out or increase the detail in the fine image? A one pixel thick line takes up 1/4000 of the image, 0.00025 of the width. If that same line continues to show up when the image is only 800 pix across, then it now takes ups 0.00125 of the width, it's five time larger in size on the smaller image. I might also add that the size reduction will actually widen the line to at least 3 pixels during the pixel averaging to down size it. Hence it's 3/800 of the width, but admittedly a bit less contrasty as that is averaged too.

Beyond just technical forethought, I like to preplan based on the final presentation ... some thoughts ...
(1) if I am printing for my own use as in a wall canvas - then I may decide to crop or "fix" anything and everything - cracks, blemishes, even supplement color, I might add painterly effects, etc. I consider this to be an art piece - no different than if I were painting it. So no holds bared.

(2) if I am trying to sell the piece and using the photo for that purpose, I will sharpen (ALL digital photos suffer from square pixels and hence a degree of lost sharpness), color correct, and spot for dust. I would not "fix" or repair anything. I even try to emphasize the samples faults by position and lighting.

(3) For general work, in teaching, or as a display example, or to provide a sample reference of a material, I would likely fall somewhere between. I apply the emphasis I think I need to get my projected topical information across. If I were discussing a specific crystal structure I would be certain to pay more attention to edge sharpening so that particular feature stood out.

(4) If you consider your work photo-journalistic, then you should likely do nothing to the original. (Color balance and sharpen at most.)
Color balance is not too controversial since the original image's color has already been affected by the lighting used to take the photo. Mild sharpening overcomes a basic problem with all digital images (again due to square - uniform pixels.)

I believe the degree of modification is based solely on the intended use of the image.
Jenna Mast January 08, 2012 10:48PM

When humans first started creating "art" it wasn't art as we think of it now. It was a way of storing and conveying information, or served some spiritual purpose. Thousands of years later, when Van Gogh tried to sell his paintings, the town's people laughed and told him they weren't art, they were globs of paint on a canvas, and when the camera was first invented, photography was not considered a real art.

I don't think using photoshop detracts from the art integrity of the image. However when used improperly it can reduce the integrity of what the image is representing if the goal is to represent what a person would actually see if they were to see it in person. That being said, I think it's a shame that you can't open a magazine today such as National Geographic, and find an image that hasn't been "corrected" a little too much.

I used photoshop frequently in my mineral photos to compensate for the fact that I don't have a very good camera or set up. I use it to correct for the white balance and contrast and gamma levels. I use it to give the photo a more proper background, and I use it to try to bring out crystals that the lens on the camera couldn't resolve very well, but ultimately, my goal is to show the viewer what they would see if they were looking at the specimen in person. So, go ahead an use photoshop if you want, just resist the temptation to make colors more intense than they really are, and crystals more perfect than they really are.
Zbynek Burival February 07, 2012 08:47PM
It is the same problem as HDR photography. It can help capture things absolutely impossible but it can also completely devastate picture. You can cut bread with your knife or you can cut your finger - do not blame the tool.

Photoshop (or other high quality editing SW) is a must for serious photography. You have to adjust contrast, brightness, saturation, sharpen details if resizing etc. Many advocates of "classic" film photography often forget about many things which photolabs do to the film pictures. Do not blame Photoshop for doing the same thing most ppl did to pictures in darkroom. The line is up to each photographer. But straight-from-the-camera picture are simply bad. You need to resize them or adjust it to get best results. We did the same to film or photolab did.
Jake Harper February 08, 2012 12:20AM
PS can be lot's of fun as well!

All knowledge is vain, except where there be work
All work is empty except where there be love
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Uwe Ludwig February 08, 2012 09:52AM
The perception of the colour is not objective. The impression of the colour of a picture differs from viewer to viewer.

I made the following observation: I’m already 68 years old and I make pictures of my specimens since many years. Using some photoshop programmes I altered the pictures until they were according to my impression. Some months ago I had a cataract surgery and I got new lens inserted into my eyes. After removing the bandage at the next day my visual sensation was changed (and improved!). All blue colours were bright and dominant compared with the impression before. The reason is the lens of older people becomes more and more yellow brown.

After seeing my pictures in the next time I had to comprehend that all my pictures were adjusted too bluish. I had an amethyst specimen which I considered as too grey and which I put already in the waste. Now I took it back in my collection because now the colour was a nice soft violet.

May be my observation will give some help if using the photoshop.

Uwe Ludwig
Don Saathoff February 08, 2012 06:15PM
Uwe, your observation is correct.....I had one cataract removed so now I look at a mineral first with the right only (old lens) then left eye (new lens), then both. Subjectively, now I doubt either eye's accuracy!!

Modris Baum February 08, 2012 08:36PM
Uwe & Don,

I had a very similar experience - both eyes. For the first week or two after the surgery, everything looked so blue I though I would need to wear some sort of filter contact lens. But after a while the brain's "auto balance" kicked in and now everything looks "normal" - just much brighter and more vivid. No more "washed out" colors and fog.

So you are right - color perception isn't some "absolute". ( There are numerous experiments and "illusions" that demonstrate that we don't "see" like a camera. "Objective" reality is manufactured by our optical processor.)

As far as I'm concerned - cameras rarely capture my "mental image" of a specimen. It's that "mental image" I try to recreate on the monitor - best as I can within all the limitations. My equipment and skill are a "lemon. I try to make "lemonade". Photoshop is my helper. "Objective" reality be damned.

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