Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Free Photo Editing Software - RawTherapee

Free Photo Editing Software

I'm one of those people who don't accept that an expensive piece of software has to be better than something cheaper or even free. Naturally, when I started taking photography seriously I needed to edit my RAW images. I started using the software that came with the camera, it was good but I found I needed a lot more control than this software could give me.

My son is a Linux fan and is really into open source/Libre software, he suggested I have a look at program called RawTherapee.

Introducing RawTherapee 

Screenshot of RawTherapee
RawTherapee Version 4.1.1

RawTherapee is a powerful, open source, raw converter for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux! The RawTherapee project was initiated by Gábor Horváth in 2004. In January 2010 Gábor decided to open his source code under the GNU General Public License, thanks to which talented developers from around the world joined the project. This has brought about an exceptional piece of software that has become the starting point of all my photo editing projects. 

Getting to know RawTherapee

Screenshot of Sharpening and Noise Reduction paneBecause RawTherapee is so comprehensive it can take a bit of getting to know but it's well worth the effort.  RawTherapee version 4.1 has just been released and there is an excellent RawPedia Wiki - The encyclopedia of RawTherapee, raw shooting and everything raw. The version 4.0 manual is also very good but is now a bit outdated. If you're new to photo editing don't be intimidated by RawTherapee it's easy to use and a lot of fun to play around with.

Some Basic Features 

RawTherapee has very good Sharpening and Noise Reduction features. I use these a lot, I've found that by applying Sharpening and then Noise Reduction I can clean up a noisy photo without losing any detail. In fact, I sometimes think I've been able to increased the detail in some shots using this method.
To use sharpening and noise reduction in RT (RwaTherapee)  the shot needs to be zoomed to a ratio of 1:1 or 100% (there is a button to do this). The screenshot below has been zoomed to 1:1. I took this photo in extremely poor light, my shutter speed was way too fast and iso3200. Not the way to get a good photo.

I was able to get rid of most of the noise and retain the detail using RawTherapee. 

The photo below is the full fame of the adjusted photo and as you can see I was able to clean up the noise to an acceptable level.

The final photo with sharpening and noise reduction

I don't have the best gear and occasionally on high contrast shots I get color aberrations like on the shot below. The red fringe along the edge of the cloud can be corrected, quickly and easily using the defringe feature in RawTherapee.

Defringe before and after

The Lens/Geometry section of RawTherapee is also incredibly useful. I get all sorts of lens distortions and vignetting from the cheaper lenses I use and these can be corrected in this section of RawTherapee. 

Screenshot of the lens correction profiles
Adobe lens correction profiles can be utilized by installing Adobe DNG converter then finding the folder containing the lens profiles for your camera. I use an older Mac, the screenshot shows the path to where the Canon folder is on my machine. There will be a similar path on Windows and Page 76 of the RawTherapee manual explains how to do this on Linux.

There is only one profile for my camera so I look for the lens I've used rather than the camera. If the result isn't exactly right I make the adjustments manually.

There are so many other great features in RawTherapee including;
  • Tone Mapping
  • Vignette and Graduated Filters
  • Microcontrast and Contrast by Detail Levels
  • White Balance, Vibrance and Color Managment
  • Line Noise Filter, Green Equilibrium and Hot/Dead Pixel Filter
  • and Much More
Check out the full details links below.

Where to get RT?

RawTherapee is free and open source software, which means there is no charge to use it, as long as you observe the copyleft GPLv3 license. You can download the source code, you can even modify it, if you feel the need

RawTherapee is cross-platform : Linux, Mac, or Windows, be it 32-bit or 64-bit and it is available in 25 languages!

So whats stopping you, download RawTherapee and get started-


For a list of features for RawTherapee - http://rawtherapee.com/blog/features
or for a more complete list of features -  

Finishing Software

I still use Intensify Pro to finish off my photos I haven't found better software for adding structure and detail to images.  I also use SnapHeal Pro for erasing object from images. Both Intensify Pro and SnapHeal can be purchased individually or together in the Creative Kit Plus by MacPhun. 
I am an affiliate of MacPhun which means if you purchase any or their products (I recommend you do) I get a small payment. 

Happy Shooting

Monday, 19 May 2014

Intensify gets a facelift - Review

Intensify Version 1.0.2 - Review


My name is John Barrow and I live at the bottom of the South Island, New Zealand. Most of my working life I have been a cameraman, shooting magazine shows and documentaries for television. I'm familiar with video editing and colour grading software but until recently I have never used photo editing software.

In December 2013 my family and I moved to a very small village on a beautiful beach and I started taking photos of the area with an old DSLR camera.


Photo Editing

I knew enough to know that shooting a great shot was just the beginning and the basic software I had could only do so much. I tried different software but it seemed to be either too basic or too complicated. I then found Intensify Pro, a layers based app that gave me a huge amount of control of contrast, structure, details and sharpness over different tonal ranges.

Long exposure shot of the ocean
Got my boots wet getting this shot

Intensify Pro

I immediately fell in love with Intensify Pro, I didn't have any problems with learning how to use it and it worked as a plug-in to Apple Aperture. It also works with Adobe Photoshop and others but I haven't tried it with these.

I'm not a professional photographer and I don't have the best gear but I love creating images. The MacPhun photo editing products, Intensify Pro, Snapheal Pro and Focus2 Pro, have make a world of difference to the look and feel of the photos I'm taking.

Photo of a seal pup resting on a rock
Seal pup resting on a rock

So what's new in this version?

Intensify Version 1.0.2 has added some really cool features, including -

Raw file support for more cameras, its native processor supports 16 bit images and it opens them fast.

Because of some of the video editing software I use is not supported in later versions I'm still using Mac OS X v 10.7.5. I've had absolutely no problems using any of the MacPhun products. For those of you who like to stay up to date, this version fully integrates with some of the powerful features from Mavericks OS.

I'm really excited about are the printing and sharing options that have been added to this version. You can now order Postcards, Gallery and Canvas Prints directly from Intensify. Just click the button and send your photos off to the MacPhun Print Lab (powered by MILK Books). Wow!

You can also export images from Intensify directly to SmugMug, one of the worlds leading photography communities. This is a great addition to the already impressive sharing capabilities of Intensify.
It doesn't matter if you're an amateur like me or a seasoned pro, I think you'll find Intensify will quickly become one of your favourite secret tools in your editing toolbox.

Don't take my word for it, have a look for yourself - Intensify

Happy Shooting 
John Barrow
P.S. Follow me on Flickr

Friday, 9 May 2014

Removing Unwanted Objects From A Photo

 Removing Unwanted Objects From a Photo

Editing the Photo

I took this photo of a New Zealand native bird, the Tui. It was feeding on the nectar found in Flax flowers.
photo of a Tui on Flax Flower
Tui on Flax Flower
I really like this photo but it needs a little work. The Tui needs lightening and a lot of it's colour and detail needs to be emphasized. I also think the Flax stalk and flowers on the left of the frame are distracting, so I want to remove them. 

The first thing I'll do is make some adjustments to the photo in Intensify Pro.
Screen shot of Basic Tune in Intensify Pro
Basic Tune in Intensify Pro
A few Basic Tune and Pro Contrast adjustments ad a bit of overall richness to the photo. I did this on 2 layers but it could have been done on one. I always leave the first layer for the original photo and I don't make major adjustments to that layer. 

Screen Shot of Layer 3 Mask
Tui Mask
I now want to make a few adjustments on the Tui itself. To do this I simply create a mask on a new layer. This is very easy to do using a simple paint tool.

I then play with the Pro Contrast adjustments to the Shadows and increased the Small Global Details and Micro Sharpness. This just sharpens the details in the feathers and the pollen on the beak of the Tui. It also lightens the dark areas on the neck.

Before and After shot of this adjustment
Before and After Adjusting the Tui mask layer

Removing the Unwanted Object

Ok, now its time to remove the unwanted flower and stalk from the photo. From Intensify Pro I can export the photo directly to SnapHeal Pro.

From here I can use a paint tool, similar to the one I used to make the mask in Intensify Pro, to paint the object I want to remove. You will want to be as accurate a possible when painting the object as you don't want to remove unnecessary pixels.
Screenshot of Painting the Remove Mask
Painting the Remove Mask
Screen shot of the Erase Tool
Erase Tool
This is where it gets interesting. The Erase Tool has 3 modes, Global, Local and Dynamic. Each mode has 3 settings, Normal, High, and Highest.
These setting all have different algorithms to erase the object. You can mouse over the different modes to get an overview of what each mode works best with.

In this case I found the Global and the Highest setting worked best. You can click through the different setting to find the one that works best.

It's done, as easy as that.

Screen shot The Erase Tool left a few lines
The Erase Tool left a few lines and odd shapes

There were a few lines and odd shapes left but a few clicks with the Clone Tool quickly fixed the problem.
The Final Result photo
The Final Result
The Original Photo
The Original Photo
From SnapHeal Pro you can export the image back to Intensify Pro or save it to any format you choose.

Intensify Pro and SnapHeal Pro both work as add-ons to Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture but most important they work just as well as stand-alone programs.

If you are interested in purchasing both Intensify Pro and SnapHeal Pro you can save 20% or get more information about these and other photo editing programs.

You can sign up to receive tutorials, specials, competitions and much more or just click the skip button.

Happy Shooting 
John Barrow
P.S. Follow me on Google+

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Recovering Lost Detail in Dark Areas of a Photo

Disappointed By Lose of Detail 

Recently, I was playing with long exposure shots on a rocky beach near where I live. One of the photos had great potential but it was dark and the darker areas had no detail in them at all. I liked the photo but it really lacked detail and it really had no vibrancy. I decide to have a play with it.

Original Photo-Long exposure of Rocks
Original Photo

There was a load of detail captured in every shot that just needs to be enhanced. This is the process I used to recover the lost detail in the dark areas of this photo using a piece of software called Intensify Pro. 

The Process

After opening the RAW image in Intensify Pro I adjusted the Exposure, Contrast and Shadows on layer 0 in the Basic Tune area. I lifted the shadows quite a bit at this stage.

Basic Adjustments on Layer 0 Screen shot
Basic Adjustments on Layer 0
I then added a new layer and created a mask on the areas I wanted to work on in more detail.

Mask on New Layer Screen shot
Mask on New Layer
On this mask I've increased the Exposure, warmed it up a little with Temperature Adjustment, Increased the Vibrance and I've increased the Pro Contrast Adjustment in the Shadows. 

Adjustments to the Mask Layer Screen Shot
Adjustments to the Mask Layer
 I then wanted to created a bit of mood so I added a Gradient Mask to the sky area, on a new layer.

Sky Gradient Screen Shot
Sky Gradient

I made a few adjustments to the Exposure, Vibrance, Pro Contrast (Highlights and Mid Tones) as well as Structure (Global Midtones)

Sky Gradient Adjustments Screen Shot
Sky Gradient Adjustments
Up until now I have been making manual adjustments but Intensify Pro has a lot of really good Presets and at this point I applied one of my favorites called Pro Quality to a new Layer. This just sharpens the image and adds a little depth.

Pro Contrast Preset Screen Shot
Pro Contrast Preset
 Just for fun I added another Layer with a Mask on the sky and made some adjustments to the Pro Contrast area.

Some Tweaks to the Sky Screen Shot
Some Tweaks to the Sky

From here I exported the image to SnapHeal, which is another app/add-on to Intensify Pro to straighten up the horizon and to deal to a few hot pixels. Hot pixels can show up with long exposure shots.

This is the final result.

The Final Result Photo
The Final Result

Original Photo
Original Photo
You can see the photo has been transformed and it only took me about 20 minutes using Intensify Pro. One of the things I really like about this software is you can adjust the opacity of each layer independently. On this photo I decided to lessen the effect on the rocks mask so I decreased the Opacity of Layer 1 to 43%.

I've pushed this image pretty hard to demonstrate my point but how much or how little adjustment you make are entirely up to you and the look you're trying to achieve.

Layer 1 Opacity Screen Shot
Layer 1 Opacity

I really like Intensify Pro, it is very easy to use and it can make an enormous difference to your photos, it can be run both as a standalone app or as a plug-in for Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, Photoshop Elements and Apple Aperture.

Form more information and a free 14 day free trial click here

Happy Shooting
John Barrow - E-Star TV  

Saturday, 1 March 2014

The Thing About DSLR's

My DSLR Takes Photos!

Isn't it funny, I have been so caught up in shooting video with my DSLR that I forgot it takes photos!
A little while ago we decided to move to a small town by the sea, it's quite remote and very wild. I've been out walking every day and I always take my camera but I've been taking photos and shooting very little video.
A Bruising Sky, photo of dark clouds over the ocean
A Bruising Sky
I will be making videos around this area but for the moment I'm enjoying the photography so much, I'm just going to run with it.

Photo Editing

One of the things I was getting really frustrated with was why my photos looked good but not great! I knew I could frame a good shot and I knew how to expose correctly but other peoples photos would sparkle and stand out. I tried different software and spent hours tweeking and playing with shots, it took a while but I started getting pretty good results.

Faded Glory

 Then I Found Something

Quite by accident I found a the piece of software that changed everything for me, it gave me the sort of control of my photos that I didn't believe possible.
I'm going to be exploring this software and how to use it in future posts.
So say tuned...
On The Rocks

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Panasonic and Fuji's New Sensor Boasts 29.2 Stop Dynamic Range

 Panasonic and Fuji's New Sensor

Panasonic and Fuji's New Sensor illustration of sensor

Fujifilm and Panasonic have teamed up and developed an image sensor that leaves anything already for sale in the dust. Using Fuji's patented "organic photoelectric conversion material" to gather light rather than the conventional silicon photodiode, they have produced a sensor that pretty much doubles the dynamic range of leading sensors now in the marketplace.

Hard to believe?

As mentioning by Fujifilm/Panasonic's news release, the new sensor will capture 88dB signal-to-noise ratio, which converts close to 14.6 stops of dynamic range in each direction or 29.2 stops EV. Compare this to, the most effective sensor at present, arguably found in the Nikon D800E, and gets only 46dB or approximately 7.7 stops in each direction or 15.3 stops EV. Along with the recently introduced noise-cancelling circuit also installed, the sensor has been said to; 
[prevent] highlight clipping in bright scenes and captur [e] a vivid and texture-rich image in low light.

Panasonic and Fuji's New Sensor graphic comparison of sensors

The enhancements don't stop there!

Aside from the big jump in dynamic range, the organic layer will also detect light from a bigger angle due to how thin it is (1/7th of the traditional silicon layer). Typical sensors detect light between 30 and 40-degrees of incidence, this sensor can increase it to 60-degrees.

This would mean a more exact color reproduction, no color mixing, expanded lens-design options, and the prospect of creating smaller sized cameras.

Each pixel in the new sensor supplies 1.2-times the sensitivity of standard pixels. In a conventional sensor, some of the light-detecting surface is used up by the connections around pixels, but those "metal interconnects" have been coated in the Fuji's organic material in this sensor. All the pixel's surface is able to be used:
Panasonic and Fuji's New Sensor graphic comparison of sensor surface

This is an impressive innovation. The organic sensor has cleared reliability tests, paving the way for the use of the organic CMOS image sensor in a wide range of applications.
So we might be finding these sensors on the marketplace inside a few sensor generations.

To get the full technical overview, here's the full press release on Fujifilm's website.

I can't wait to to get my hands on this, very cool!

John Barrow - Cameraman

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Camera Techniques For Professional Results

By John Barrow E-StarTV


Your New Camera


Ok, so you have a few days off work, you’ve got your new camera and you have decided to make a movie of your trip to the mountains.! Don't jump in the car just yet, I may be able to help you out with a few simple filming techniques.

Film making has become very popular and the quantity of videos being produced is increasing. The quality of the video is getting better. But the quality of the shooting is not getting better.
The difference between a badly shot video and a one that is shot well is just a matter of attention. By paying attention to a few simple camera techniques you can shoot like a pro in no time.
Camera - Photo of my old camera
My Old Camera, Still Makes Beautiful Videos!


Read The Manual


People have a tendency to pull the camera out of the box and start shooting. The manual is only looked at when you run into a problem. This may work for a new TV or alarm clock. But trying to figure out how to work the camera when there is great action happening is a downer!

A great camera operator knows the camera instinctively, the camera becomes a part of you! Being able to change setting without taking your eye from the viewfinder will improve your ability to capture any moment. This can take a bit of time but knowing your camera inside and out really helps. So read the manual then read it again! 


Some Helpful Accessories


There are times when a problem can send you home before the job is done. Preparing for a shoot can make the difference between a great movie and no movie. Before hitting the road make sure you have;
  •     All your batteries fully charged, knowing how many you need helps.
  •     Enough recordable media. As soon as your SD card or tape if full, thats it!
  •     Lens cleaning equipment.
  •     A tripod. Do not leave this behind.
  •     Battery charger/power supply.
  •     An extension cord for the power supply.
    camera - Photo of a Lens Pen Pro Kit
    Click to Purchase
Lens cleaning is essential and you can't go past the Lens  Pen. They are the best, easiest and most effective device on the market. I use one every time I get my camera out! They're not expensive and Amazon have them!
I also make sure I have a portable monitor handy, especially if I’m shooting with a DSLR. Most video cameras have an adjustable viewfinder, shooting low angle shots or in tight spots isn’t much of a problem. DSLR cameras can be a bit tricky in these situations because the viewfinder is fixed to the back of the camera. A small monitor is really handy!

Some of the newer DSLR cameras have addressed this problem with swiveling viewfinders.

Take everything - microphones, filters, lenses, remote shutters, reflectors etc. If you have it, take it! It seems to be a law that if you don’t take something you will end up needing it.


A Tripod is More Than You Think


Camera - Photo of old Manfrotto tripdo
My Old Tripod

You can get away with a bit of shake in a video but if every shot is shaky your audience will lose interest real fast. Those big panoramic vista shots should be rock solid and the only way to achieve it is with a tripod.

I have always found the humble Tripod to be a most versatile tool. With the legs together it can be used fast like a monopod. Leaving the Tripod attached to the camera and holding it just below the head makes for a pretty effective steady cam. Being able to pan and tilt the camera is also a nice feature of a tripod.

Some lenses have stabilizing technology that works well. It can help take out those long lens jitters you can get even on a tripod. I cannot recommend digital stabilizing. I would prefer to use editing software stabilization in post production and have a bit more control of the outcome.
I have a small Manfrotto Tripod its 25 years old but its light and very rugged. The one device I added to it is a leveling device. This allows me to quickly level the camera without having to adjust the legs  

Camera - Photo of my leveling device
Leveling Attachment for My Tripod
If you have to shoot without a tripod try and brace yourself against a solid object.

The old beta-cams I used for television were heavier, they sat on your shoulder and you hand was strapped to the lens, you could even brace it against your head. Modern cameras are much lighter and a lot harder to hold steady.

There are some really cool rigs made for smaller cameras. Check this one out!




Lighting is a topic that could take up volumes so I’m only going to touch on the basics here. Cameras are getting better at low light shooting all the time. But you will always get a drop in quality as the light level drops.

I have used tradesman’s lights to great effect and I have also used camera mounted lights. Having the lights offset from the camera always looks better. Don’t be afraid of having pools of light instead of blanket lighting. But remember to manually expose your subject and let dark areas be dark.

As the light drops, your depth-of-field will decrease so watch your focus and don’t use auto focus as it may hunt a bit.

Outdoors you pretty much get what you get. You can use reflectors or camera lights if the light is a bit flat. The golden hours just after sunrise and just before sunset are great times for interesting lighting. We would always shoot our pretty landscapes and moody shots during these hours when possible.

Experiment with strong backlighting but make sure you shield any direct light from the front element of your lens. You may need to reflect a bit of light in to add detail to a heavily backlit subject.

Play around with lighting , it's a lot of fun!


Camera - Rode Camera Mic PhotoAudio Can Make Your Movie


Camera Mics Suck! Get yourself a camera mounted shotgun style mic. They are not expensive and will make all the difference. Get a mate to hold the mic and point it at the sound source but watch handling noise. There some great stand alone mics that can record surround sound as well as stereo, you can also set the record angle for live recording of groups and multiple sound sources.

Get Buzz Tracks! These are audio atmosphere tracks of the environment you in. They are incredibly valuable when editing and they can cover a multitude of sins. Make sure you get nice long buzz tracks, several minutes minimum.

If you don’t have a microphone jack on your camera, don’t be put off just make sure you get some good buzz tracks with the onboard mic.


Framing Your Shots


Camera - Photo of me shooting an sequence
Me Hard at Work!
I started out behind a studio camera and on occasion we would have open days where the public could have a go on a studio camera. It was interesting to watch who had a natural instinct for framing and who would have to work at it.

There is a tendency for some people to frame things in the center of the frame. This just doesn’t look that great. There is a guideline called the “Rule of Thirds”. I don’t like rules but it pays the learn this one before you start breaking it.

I found this video that explains this the “Rule of Thirds”.

The frame should feel comfortable and well proportioned. Of course, if you're feeling creative, you can always throw this rule out the window.


Features To Leave Alone


Some handy-cams come with a load of digital features. Digital zoom, film effects, camera fades and digital stabilizer to name a few. DO NOT USE THEM! All these things can be done with editing software and you will still have clean footage. But if you shoot with a film effect it will always be that way!


Setting Your DSLR For Video

DSLR cameras are designed for taking still photos. The presets are also set for still photography and they don’t work well for video.

You need to get rid of digital sharpening, lower the contrast and lower the saturation. I posted a really good video by Philip Bloom and Andrea Allen in my post Setting up your DSLR for shooting movies.

The other thing to consider when using your DSLR to shoot movies is keeping the shutter speed constant. But this limits your ability to decrease the amount of light hitting the sensor. The way to fix this is using a variable ND filter. For more information on on this check out my post “Constant shutter speed on your DSLR camera”


One More Trick You Should Know


We called them “Cut Aways”. When you shoot live action or an interview or anything really you are going to need shorten the sequence. Quite often you will need to cut away from the action and you will need something to cut too.

Interviews are easy, while the journalist is chatting to the interviewee, pre recording, you can grab all sorts of shots like a close up of the interviewees hands or an over shoulder 2 shot from behind the interviewee. Any shot where you can’t see lips moving can get you out of trouble when editing.

The classic is the Noddy. Its the shot of the interviewer reacting to what is being said. The noddy works best when shot at the end of the interview, you will know the range of reactions required. You will want to match the shot size of the Noddy and the person being interviewed, for this to work well work well.

Big wide shots, closeups, crowd shots, extreme close ups, all come in handy when editing. Along with your buzz tracks to cover any holes in the sound and your production will have the polish of a professional production.

Its a lot to think about but as you start editing you will soon find out why these things can make life a lot easier!

Good Luck Have Fun And Enjoy The Process!

John Barrow E-Star TV