New Tricks

August 16, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Always up for accepting a challenge I have made a few changes to my photographic life and I have not done things by halves.

I have wanted to get an Apple Mac for a good few years now but the problem for me was always how I would get hold of all the software I needed.  Not least of all this included Photoshop knocking at the door of over 600 Earth Pounds and I really wanted a legitimate copy. I considered all the options of buying old versions and then buying upgrades but no matter what I looked at it was looking like I would have to settle for the more reasonable £70 baby sibling Photoshop Elements.  Elements has come a long way in the last few versions and really does do most of what you need but at the end of the day there is a reason it is about a tenth of the price.

After a trip to PC World one weekend, where I dribbled over the shiny iMacs and Macbook Airs and was forcibly removed by the bouncer sales staff, I had another look at the Adobe website to see if by some miracle the price of this Holy Grail of photographic editing software had fallen. No, it hadn't but what I did find out was that you can now effectively rent the software using a subscription service.  For a fixed monthly payment you can download and install the latest version and get all of the updates and support.  There are a couple of options. One allows you to subscribe for just a single month at a time as and when you need it, the other is a year contract which works out cheaper if you use it regularly.  I am paying £17.58 a month.  After about six years it would have probably been cheaper to buy it outright and pay for the upgrades.  Even better, if you subscribe, you can download both the Mac and the Windows versions and install both for the same cost - not something you can do if you buy a license.

Armed with a credit card I went back to PC World, negotiated my way around the bouncer sales team and demanded I become the owner of a 21.5 inch iMac. They didn't have any.  As what seems usual these days, they had plenty of empty boxes on show but nothing to actually go in them. I tracked one down at another local store in the end. After getting it home, setting it up and consigning my PC to the loft I have spent the next two months working weekends and away from home to try and pay for it!

I have a few other software packages that I use on and off.  I use DxO Optics Pro for some editing.  DxO has downloadable modules which specifically correct distortions for different camera and lens combinations.  The lab tests lenses and cameras and then basically fix and distortion the lens, for example, may create such as barrel distortion or pin-cushioning.  I was able to download a Mac version of this and use my existing license for it. I also use Portrait Professional to touch-up portrait work.  It is great at removing skin blemishes, whitening eyes, and generally making people look beautiful - except me. Again I was able to download and use an existing license to install it on the Mac. The same was also true for Photomatix Essentials, a recent purchase for HDR work, and my screen calibration software for my Spider Elite colour calibration tool.

This is a composite of three images, each about 30 seconds long, tone mapped using Photomatix Essentials.

The big problem now is learning how to use it all! After spending most of my working and personal life using Windows machines adjusting to the Mac is taking some time. I like the Mac OS, I like it a lot, but it takes some getting use to.  Simple things like the Finder application, which is basically the Windows Explorer equivalent does the same things (in general) but it does it differently, things are not in the same place, shortcut keys are different, you don't even get a right click by default on a Mac!

Then there is CS6.  I haven't even started to get to grips with it yet (what with all that working away) but I have dabbled with it.  New features include a new way of cropping pictures which confused the hell out of me to start with but I am now realising is pretty cool. You can for example rotate the whole picture to level horizons instead of drawing lines and rotating pictures by the angles the lines define (it even sounds confusing like that). The crop is non-destructive so if you decide you want it cropped differently you can just re-adjust it instead of undo-ing the crop and starting again. Simple things but very useful, cropping is one of the main things I change in any picture.

Then today I used the content aware move tool.  This is simply brilliant.  You can select an area of a picture and move it somewhere else in the picture which is useful in itself but the move tool will actually then try and patch the area you have moved the selected part from to fill in the blank space. A few years ago I took a picture of some birds all huddled up on a branch.  I love the picture but have never really entered it into a competition because it had an ugly corrugated roof section across the corner.  No matter how I tried to clone it out it never really worked.  The images below show the before and after effects of using the content aware move tool.  I selected the corrugated area and moved it out of the frame!

The original version ...

The quick five minute content aware adjusted version ...


This isn't perfect but it was literally a five minute play with the tool and is a big improvement on the original.

There are also some great new blur filter including this one, tilt shift, allowing you to get the classic model village look ...














Now I have finished playing I guess I had better learn how to do the proper stuff and more importantly get out and take some more photos to work on.




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