Free Yourself with Back Button Focus (Podcast 760)

Free Yourself with Back Button Focus (Podcast 760)


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I was reminded of this today’s topic in the new MBP Community for our Patreon contributors this week, so I figured I’d spend a little time today talking about why I use Back Button Focus, how I set it up on my Canon Cameras, and I’ll also explain how using the back AF button can help you to switch between various focussing modes without actually changing the camera or lens settings.

First of all, let’s back up a little and talk about how I got started using the back AF button on my cameras. It must be around 15 years or so ago now, when the original MBP Forum was full of great enthusiastic photographers sharing thoughts on a daily basis, and a number of people were talking about back button focus, so I decided to give it a try. I set my camera up so that the shutter button no longer activated the camera’s autofocus, and went out shooting at the Ueno Zoo here in Tokyo.

The first morning using back button focus was frustrating to say the least. My muscle-memory up to that point was all about half-pressing the shutter button to activate the focus and exposure metering and I often forgot that the shutter button was no longer activating the autofocus, and wondered why the lens wasn’t focusing, then a moment later I’d recall what I’d done and hit the back AF button. By the afternoon, I’d started to get it drilled into me what was happening, and although still frustrated, the benefits had started to become obvious to the point that I knew I had to stick with it. In the coming weeks I’d forget to focus a number of times, and had to reshoot a few of my landscape shots, either because I’d forgotten to focus, or I couldn’t remember if I’d focused or not, so paranoia set in, and the screens on the cameras back then weren’t really good enough to to reliably check critical focus, so I reshot some images.

The reason I was hooked on back button focusing is because it enables you to completely separate the act of focusing from the exposure and actually releasing the shutter. If you are currently half-pressing your shutter button and reframing to take your photo, there may be times when that becomes a little bit tiresome. Of course, these days, we can much more easily move the focus point around and with mirrorless cameras now we can often move that focus point to pretty much anywhere in the frame, so there really isn’t any reason not to do that, but it can sometimes be more efficient to simply focus with the center focus point and then reframe when you want to make your exposure, and if you don’t have your shutter button assigned to active your focusing, you don’t have to hold the shutter button down while reframing. You can simply focus by placing your focus point over what you want to focus on, press the back AF button with your thumb and then take your thumb off the AF button, and reframe.

Focus Plane Shift
Focus Plane Shift

As an aside, if you are using a very wide aperture with extremely shallow depth of field, you still need to be careful when reframing, because the plane of focus moves if you change the angle of the camera when reframing. Here’s a quick diagram to illustrate what I mean. Imagine you are doing a portrait of someone, and you focus on their eyes, because it’s important to get the eyes sharp, but with the center focus point, which is represented by the black lines. Then you realize that there’s a lot of space over the subjects head, and that looks amateurish, so you keep your finger half pressed on the shutter button to maintain your focus, then tilt your camera down to reduce the space over their head. This reframing and the plane of focus shift is shown by the red lines.

See how the plane of focus is now quite a way behind the subjects eyes? If you are using a wide aperture with shallow depth of field, you’d lose the critical focus on the subjects eyes. Even with a relatively small aperture, you may still be able to tell that you did not focus on the eyes, and that will ruin your portrait unless you intended the subject to not have sharp eyes.

To make things worse, when you reframe, more often than not you actually rock forward a little, moving the camera further forward still, moving the focus plane back even more.

Because of these things, it’s really just so much better when shooting portraits to get into the habit of moving your focus point to sit over the subject’s eyes. If the subject is not looking straight at you, generally focus on the closer of the two eyes, again, unless you have a reason to do otherwise.

Anyway, a bit of a digression there, but to get back to the point, say for example, I was shooting from a distance away, and reframing isn’t something I need to worry about, then it’s easier to do this with the auto focus on the shutter button disabled, by placing my focus point over what I want to focus on, pressing the back AF button, then taking my thumb off of the AF button to stop focusing, and then reframe, and I don’t have to worry about focusing again, because it’s already done.

If you don’t disable auto-focus on the shutter button, when you press the shutter button to make your exposure, it would start focusing again and you’d be in a mess, so it’s important to turn that off. On all cameras I know of you can do this by going into the custom functions. On my Canon EOS R5 I go to the Custom Functions menu 3 and select Customize Buttons, then ensure that the Shutter button half-press option is changed from Metering and AF start to just Metering start. While you are in that menu, open the AF-ON Button option and ensure that it’s set to the default which is Metering and AF start. These settings ensure that you can use the AF button on the back of the camera to focus, and stop the shutter button from focusing. Here’s a video of my camera menus to help if you get stuck.

OK, so now we have our camera set up to not focus when we press the shutter button. Let’s explore the other benefits of using your camera in this way.

Instant Manual Focus

Perhaps one of the biggest benefits is being able to go into Manual Focus without touching a switch or going into any menus. Simply stop pressing the AF button on the back of the camera, and rotate your lenses focus ring, and you should be able to manually focus. You do have to make sure that your lenses support full time manual focus, because some lenses will try to fight it if you rotate the focus ring while they think they are in Autofocus mode, but if you feel no resistance when you try to adjust your focus with the lenses focus ring, you should be fine to use this method.

This is handy for those times when you just need to quickly tweak the focus, and I really like to avoid switching the lens into manual focus with the AF/MF switch on the barrel of the lens, because it’s so easy to forget that you’ve done that, and then especially with wide angle lenses that have deep depth of field even when wide open, it can sometimes be difficult to notice that they are not actually focusing when you think they are.

One Shot to AI Servo Toggle

Another thing that I like to do, especially when I’m doing a lot of wildlife shooting, is to leave the camera in AI Servo or Continuous Focus mode, and then, I can keep my thumb on the AF-ON button when I want to continuously focus on my subject, but then if I want to use a kind of pseudo One Shot, or Single Shot mode, I can just press the back button quickly to get focus, but then take my thumb off the AF button again. Because this works so well, with the camera in AI Servo focusing mode, we are actually able to use three focusing modes without opening a menu or switching any switches.

We tap the AF button and release for One Shot focus, keep our thumb on the AF button for Continuous AI Servo focus, and keep our thumb off the AF button for Manual focus. Especially for birds in flight and many other types of wildlife photography, being able to stop focussing while shooting can sometimes be a life saver. For example, if you are photographing an animal in long grass the camera can focus on the grass in front of the animal, which is not going to give great results.

I was in this situation when we spotted this lion lying in long grass at a reserve just outside of the Etosha National Park in Namibia. He had his head down low for most of the time, but a lion sitting in long grass at the end of the day doesn’t go too long before yawning, so I focussed on his head roughly where his eyes would be when he lifted his head up, then took my finger off the back AF button and waited.

The Scowl
The Scowl

When he eventually lifted his head up to start yawning, I got a few frames, including his yawn, and like this one, as he lowered his head again after the yawn, looking like he’s scowling. I opened up the series of images in Raw Digger and filtered out the Focus related information, and can see that there are no AF Points in Focus. This tells me that as I recall, I had released my thumb from the AF button during the burst to capture these photos.

Raw Digger EXIF Data
Raw Digger EXIF Data

If I had been using the shutter button to focus I could still have gotten this image, but I would have been relying on focusing as the lion started to yawn, and the danger there is that still could have focussed on the foreground grasses, or even if I waited for the head to be higher than the grass, I may have focussed on the front of his mouth. That would have been fine for the teeth shot, but that would be too near to get the eyes sharp in my favorite shot of the burst shown above.

I have to admit though, that when I am not doing wildlife or fast paced shooting that requires AI Servo or Continuous focussing mode, I generally put my camera back in One Shot or Single Shot focusing mode, as I like to get that little little visual flash when my camera achieves focus, and the little beep is reassuring as well, although I know some people really don’t like that beep.

So, just a quick one this week. We’ll wrap it up there for today. I hope you found this useful, and if you haven’t tried back button focusing yet, give it a try, but not on an important shoot! I remember talking about this on my very first Hokkaido Tour & Workshop and although I warned the group about changing their cameras during the trip, someone did and then spent a frantic hour on the Bihoro Pass at dawn thinking that their camera had frozen up, until he recalled that he’d changed to back button focus. Anyway, have fun with this.

Before we finish I’d like to say a huge thank you to our new Patreon contributors Chris, Alin, Dipak, John, Mike and Nick. Your support along with the rest of the contributors is very much appreciated!


Show Notes

You can get Raw Digger here: https://www.rawdigger.com

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Autopilot and Text-Based Watermarks Come to FAB Tools (Podcast 749)

Autopilot and Text-Based Watermarks Come to FAB Tools (Podcast 749)


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Sales of my new Fine Art Border Tools plugin for Adobe Photoshop are picking up, so a quick thank you to any of you that already bought the plugin. I’ve invested more time to implement a few new features one of which I had planned to do from the start, and some others which were a bit of an afterthought but have in many ways stolen the limelight, as I’ll explain in this episode. I wanted to gauge interest before investing another month or so of development time into implementing Text-Based Watermarks. The graphical Watermarks were added in my first release, and in a follow-up release shortly after that, I added the ability to store multiple Watermark files making that feature much more useful.

Autopilot for FAB Tools

The second thing that I added as an after-thought is incredibly cool, and I will share more details in a tutorial a video very soon too, but I was about to submit the plugin for review ten days ago when a thought bubble popped into my mind with pretty much the entire mechanism to implement what I’ve called Autopilot. Then, over this last weekend, I figured out how to make the batch processing even more robust, so I’ve literally just submitted another new build, which includes more robust batch processing. As you can probably imagine, Autopilot takes control of FAB Tools, so you will be able to perform either a Web Frame or Print Frame resize with your fine art frame, and if you turn on the checkboxes, you can automatically add your graphical and new text-based watermarks, completely automatically. Please allow me to explain in more detail.

With Autopilot active, all images that you have open in Photoshop will be processed according to your settings. In the past, batch processing has been in the form of opening many documents at the same time and hoping that you had enough system resources for Photoshop to work with possibly many gigabytes of images open, then you had to click the Apply button and wait for each image to be processed. The Automatic Save & Close button and checkboxes for adding the watermark automatically helped, but with no support for Actions with these plugins in Photoshop, it was a manual process to select each image.

I realized though that I can detect when your image closes, especially when Automatic Save & Close is turned on because FAB Tools is issuing the command, so I figured that I would just wait for the next image to be selected, and kick off the processing again automatically. It sounds easy and was actually a relatively difficult task to program this into the already very complex code, but it was possible. I then had another thought bubble and figured out how to open multiple files in batch mode, so if you want to process more files than you can realistically open in Photoshop simultaneously, simply use the Open button with Autopilot turned on, and it will batch process your images, opening them one at a time, processing your resize, frame and watermarks, and then save and close it before opening the next image that you selected in your initial Open. I’m going to wait for Adobe to release my current build before uploading another update that I’ve just finished, but once you get to version 1.1.7 you will also notice that the Open button turns blue to attract your attention when Autopilot is active and the Open button label changes from Open to Batch Open, to make this all more obvious.

Autopilot Batch Processing
Autopilot Batch Processing

Also, note that because there is a lot of text on the Autopilot screen, I’ve added a Hide Instructions button which removes the five paragraphs of text when pressed, and your selection is saved, so you won’t need to press this every time you start using Autopilot. The instructions are turned on to begin with though, to help you avoid inadvertently processing something.

Benchmark Tests

I’ve done some benchmark tests and found that on my powerful 8-core CPU iMac Pro, with Autopilot active I can open around 20 TIFF files at once before Photoshop starts to complain that there are too many tasks running in FAB Tools. Because they all open together though, for small batches, this is slightly faster than my new batch processing, due to the overhead of opening and closing all the files individually. I was able to process 20 TIFFs, a total of 2.79 GB of data, and saved them as large B2 media size print files in two minutes and 10 seconds. The same 20 files in batch mode took 20 seconds longer, so there is a 15% overhead. You have no choice if you want to process more than 20 files at once though because the system won’t handle too many files.

I then tried a batch of 100 TIFF files, for a total of 18 GB, and saved them as Web-sized framed and watermarked both with graphic and text-based watermarks and with the new batch mode, which took 10 minutes and 47 seconds. For all of my tests, I was using the 0.5-second pause to prevent errors, but I have found that even on my 13″ Mac Book Pro, with the new batch mode I am not getting any errors even when using the 1-second pause, so this has improved the number of files that can be processed and the stability, so it was a weekend well spent on the updated batch mechanism.

You can mix and match as well. For example, say you start working on a batch of images that you have FAB Tools open via the Batch Open button the intelligent batch mode, and then you want to process another 10 files. You can set your larger batch running, and gather your next ten images while the batch runs, and then once it’s finished, drag and drop your new 10 images to Photoshop. As long as Autopilot is active, it will automatically switch between batch modes without you having to change anything.

If you leave Automatic Save & Close turned off, the images will process and sit waiting for your review, and if all’s well, you can hit the Save/Close button to do just that. If you want to make a change, you can change your settings with Autopilot active and then hit the Revert button to remove your first frame and watermarks, and Autopilot will instantly reapply the frame with your new settings. Once you are happy with your settings, you can turn on that Automatic Save & Close button, and any other images you open while Autopilot is active will be automatically processed. Please do work on copies of your images, especially as you experiment, because they will be overwritten if Save and Close is active.

Round-Robin Processing

Because Autopilot will just sit and wait for images though, you can use it to Round-Robin from programs like Capture One Pro or Lightroom to add your frames and watermarks very efficiently. I figured this would be more impressive to watch so I created a three-minute video to share how easy it is to Round-Robin from Lightroom and Capture One Pro, which you can find below, but I’ll also explain a little more about the Autopilot feature. Say you’re working on an image that you want to prepare for print with a border, or you’re working on some images to upload to Instagram and you want to resize, add a square frame, and watermark them ready, you can simply locate your images, select edit in Photoshop if it’s available, ensure that you make a copy of your image during the edit or export command, and then when it hits Photoshop your frame will be automatically applied and saved, then appear back in your based program a few moments later.

I’ll work on a longer video to fully explain these new features over the next few days, and embed that below as well, so please check back later if it’s not already here when you visit.

As I worked with the new Autopilot mode myself, I did find that I would occasionally forget that it was still active, even though there is an inactivity timer that automatically turns it off, and I opened a file that I didn’t intend to frame and resize, so I have also just added an Auto-off mode in addition to the Inactivity timers. The options are there so you’ll figure out the best way to work, but if you know you’re processing a one-off image or batch then select the Auto-off option and Autopilot will still wait three minutes for your images, before deactivating, but after you’ve sent something to be processed, be it a single image or a batch, after completing the processing, Autopilot will automatically deactivate.

FAB Tools Shortcut Menu
FAB Tools Shortcut Menu

Also, I found it useful to open the Photoshop Preferences General tab and uncheck Auto show the Home Screen checkbox. With that checked, Photoshop will always go back to the home screen, hiding your plugins when there are no images open. If you prefer to leave the Home Screen turned on, you can go to the Plugins menu and turn on FAB Tools under MBP Fine Art Border Tools to display the plugin, even from the Home Screen.

FAB Tools Fonts
FAB Tools Fonts

You can also select Deactivate Autopilot from there too if you have a longer timer set but need to open an image that you don’t want to process before the Inactivity timer expires. If you turn off the Home Screen, when you open Photoshop you’ll just see any open Plugins or panels you have open and this makes it more intuitive to use the new FAB Tools Autopilot, especially when round-robin-ing. Is that a word?

One thing that you do need to keep in mind is that I was not able to prevent you from opening new images while Autopilot is processing other images, and most of the time during my tests, if you do open an image while Autopilot is working, it will result in a bit of a mess. If things go wrong, I try to deactivate Autopilot and provide a message to let you know that things went wrong, but depending on the timing, an image might get saved with errors before we realize that something is wrong, so please try to avoid opening new images while Autopilot is working on other images.

Text-Based Watermarks

OK, so let’s take a look at the new Text-Based Watermarks in a little more detail too. Based on the same layout the new Add Text module looks very similar to the first Watermarks module, but in addition to simply storing multiple text strings for placement on your image or in its new border, there is a selection of 17 fonts, most of which will be available on your system already, and I also store the font style, like Regular and Bold, etc. and the color that you select for your text, as you can see in this screenshot.

I’ve left the Text options open in this screenshot for you to take a look at, but as you can see, there is a lot on that panel, so when you’ve finished adding or modifying your watermark text, hit the Done button, and all of the text options will collapse away leaving just the Show Options button, which says Hide Options in this screenshot, and the pulldown with the text inside. If you don’t need to change any settings, you can simply select any of the stored text watermarks from that pulldown without displaying all the settings.

Text Watermarks
Text Watermarks

Note too that we don’t use points for the font size because that would mean you’d need to change the size in points every time you change the size of your resized image. Instead, as with the graphical watermarks, we use a Scale value, which I’ve set to 30 by default, although you can obviously change that, and this intelligently scales your text to 30% of the width of your image, regardless of the size your image will be resized to. I also fixed a problem with the opacity, which of course, sets the opacity of your image between 0 and 100%. All of these settings are stored on a per string basis, so when you change to a different text string, all of its settings come with it.

Due to limitations in the plugin framework, I’m currently not able to simply access all of the fonts on the users’ system, and there is no way for me to know if the fonts I’ve listed are actually installed, so if you select a font and it looks bland when applied, check that you have the font installed, and if you don’t, install it, and it should kick-in just fine. Also, if there are any fonts that you believe are installed by default that you would like to add, please let me know, and I’ll try to add them in a future update. Similarly, if you use a font in a language that is not covered by these default fonts, let me know, and I’ll figure out a way to make additional font sets available for other languages, etc.

I have also tested that a certain amount of intelligence ensures that if, for example, I store some Japanese text as a watermark, even though I have a Western font assigned, Photoshop realizes that it’s Japanese text and uses a default Japanese font, rather than applying garbled characters. I would like more control over this, so I’ve got a note to work on a solution, but for now, if you do need to use non-Western text, FAB Tools should at least not fall flat on its face.

Japanese Watermarks
Japanese Watermarks

For this example, I applied both my Text and Graphical watermarks inside the resized image, as opposed to in the border, so I made the outer border a bit smaller, and also reduced the opacity of my name stamp to 50%, to make it look more like it has actually been stamped over a dark background. Even with the generic Japanese font to display my company name, it doesn’t look too bad, although some options at some point soon will be nice.

Here is the overview video that I mentioned earlier. I hope you find it useful!

OK, so that’s a quick rundown of these new features for MBP Fine Art Border Tools which have now passed Adobe’s review, so these features will be in FAB Tools when you buy it. For more information on all of the features available, check out the product page, and if you just want to run off and pick up a copy, you can find the plugin in the Adobe Exchange Marketplace. Make sure that you use the same email address as your Adobe ID when checking out, to ensure that your plugin is delivered to your account. Note too that you need to be running Photoshop version 22 or higher to use the MBP Fine Art Border Tools.

Tag FAB Tools!

If you are finding FAB Tools useful and use it on any of the images that you post on Instagram, tag your image with the hashtag #mbpfabtools and I’ll keep my eye out for anything you post. I’d love to see how you are using FAB Tools.


Show Notes

See details on the FAB Tools product page: https://mbp.ac/mbpfabt

See FAB Tools in the Adobe Exchange Marketplace: https://mbp.ac/fabtmp

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Download this Podcast as an MP3 with Chapters.

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Ten Reasons Why I Love Capture One Pro (Podcast 702)

Ten Reasons Why I Love Capture One Pro (Podcast 702)


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After another three weeks with my head stuck inside Apple’s Xcode developing environment, and then a few more days struggling with a new eCommerce system that I’ll talk a little about later, I decided to come up for air today and talk about my favorite image management and editing software, Capture One Pro, from Phase One. As a Capture One Brand Ambassador a number of years ago I was asked for a few paragraphs about why I love this software, but after using it for four years now, and with no sign of jumping ship anywhere else, I figured it was time to put down my definitive list of reasons for still being head over heels in love with Capture One Pro.

I also have an announcement about a great page that the Phase One team has put together, and the chance for you to win a Capture One Pro license, so please stay tuned for that at the end of this episode!

1 – Image Quality

First and foremost, the reason I love Capture One Pro is it’s outstanding image quality. When I first tested Capture One back in 2016 to see if I was interested in using it, I imported around 50 images into a catalog and processed them, and I was instantly amazed by the amount of detail that I saw in my images. The shot that really showed me what I’d been missing is the Japanese Red-Crowned Crane portrait that I used on the cover of my Making the Print ebook. I had processed it high-key in Lightroom originally, but I was simply not aware that there was that much detail in the feathers when I saw my original photo.

Red-Crowned Crane Shot Comparison
Red-Crowned Crane Shot Comparison

In fact, these are the two photos that I used on the cover for the original release and for my 2018 release when Craft & Vision closed their doors, and I actually toned down the detail a little in the new version, because I was so accustomed to the original image at this point. Still, though, I’m sure you’ll appreciate that the difference is significant. The moment I saw this, I realized that I had to spend more time looking at what Capture One Pro could do for my photography.

2 – Excellent Black and White Conversion

The next reason is that I am able to create quality black and white images without using a plugin or other software. I was never really happy with Lightroom’s black and white capabilities and had been using Silver Efex Pro which I really liked, but I didn’t like having to save my images as TIFF or PSD files, which we’ll also get to shortly. In Capture One Pro though, I am able to convert to black and white with the control that I want, and, in true form, the image quality that I have become accustomed to.

Black and White Conversion
Black and White Conversion

The tonal range is excellent, and when necessary, I can easily create additional masks to modify things like the foreground rocks in this image with one mask and add a second mask to adjust the sky. Of course, generic adjustments to the entire image are still possible with the background layer. I’m going to put a video together showing more about this soon, but for now, if you are interested in seeing more about some of the masking and black and white conversion capabilities, check out the videos and other posts that I’ve already released on Capture One Pro here.

3 – Highly Customizable User Interface

I am also a huge fan of the highly customizable user interface of Capture One Pro. I don’t know if this should be visible by default in the latest version, because I generally continue to build on my originally saved Workspace, but as you can see from this screenshot, you can add Tool Tabs from the predefined tabs, or create your own Custom Tool Tab, and that gives you things like the Black and White tab that you can see in the previous screenshot, which I added and customized to my liking.

Highly Customizable User Interface
Highly Customizable User Interface

For example, the Black and White Tool Tab that comes with Capture One Pro contains the film grain tool, for adding artistic grain to images, but because I never use that, I simply remove it from the Tool Tab. I do use Layers a lot though, especially on my black and white photos, so I added that to my Black and White Tool Tab, along with the High Dynamic Range sliders, which I also use a lot.

4 – Most Edits Work on Layers

The other thing that I love is that pretty much all of the edits you can make to an image can be applied just to specific layers, including masks, as well as generically to the entire image. There are a few exceptions, such as the generic Black and White sliders because, at this level, you are telling Capture One Pro how to convert the entire image, although there is very granular color edibility that we’ll look at shortly.

Layer Adjustments
Layer Adjustments

The Vignette tool also works on the entire image or the crop, depending on your selection, but as you can see from this screenshot, there is a paint-brush icon next to all of the other tool headers. This indicates that the adjustments that you make with that tool can be applied to layers. These icons become visible when you select a layer in the Layers tool.

5 – Advanced Color Editor

I also love to work in color, and Capture One Pro gives me complete control over the color in my images, via tools such as the Advanced Color Editor. Here I took a screenshot of the same image showing the original raw photo, but also showing the processed image with the mask that I created to enhance the blue in the ice, and the final processed image. You can move the vertical bar separating the two views as well. On the left side, I have three views, and on the right side, I have the final processed image.

I created the mask by selecting the color with the color picker from the Advanced Color Editor, and then right-clicking the ellipsis in the top-right of the Color Editor and then selected Create Masked Layer from Selection. This is a great way to select specific colors for finely tuned adjustments. Here are the three images as regular files too, so that you can see them in the Lightbox by clicking on the images.

6 – Luminosity Mask

In the previous major update, Capture One was given one of the most useful features that I can recall for a few years, and that is Luminosity Masks. This enables us to select specific areas of the image based on a very fine-tunable luminosity range. I covered this in the following video that I release as episode 658.

7 – Keep My Images in Raw Format

As I mentioned earlier, removing my dependence on third-party plugins and programs meant that the vast majority of my images, and I’m talking pretty much 100%, are kept in their original raw image format. I also find that the editing tools, including cloning and healing, are good enough that I can avoid jumping into Photoshop or Affinity Photo to make larger changes for the vast majority of my images. Seriously, I save maybe one or two files each year in a format other than the original raw file, and this is huge for me. I really dislike having to round-trip to other software to work on my original image as keeping them in their original raw format gives us the ability to benefit from all future processing engine updates.

Phase One isn’t just sitting on their thumbs, they release a major update to Capture One Pro pretty much every year, and each time they upgrade, there is potential to see even better image quality in my photographs. If my images are stored as a TIFF or PSD, or any other third-party file format, I have to go back and redo any work that I did on my original because that was baked-in to my copy. Because all of the changes I make to my images are stored as instructions and mask files etc. when I never leave Capture One Pro, nothing has to be redone when the processing engine gets updated. I can usually simply press a button to update the image to the latest processing, and I’m done.

This also, of course, saves on disk space, as third-party file formats are generally much larger than the original raw files unless you are saving as JPEG, which should never be the case for the main archive version of your images anyway.

8 – Organization and Filtering Images

Although I initially wasn’t overly happy that I had to split my one huge Lightroom catalog into multiple yearly catalogs when I jumped ship to Capture One Pro, I have become accustomed to my current workflow, and feel very comfortable to move between my yearly catalogs, as well as accessing all of my Final selects in a master catalog, as I explained in my previous post.

When I need to find images, the filters section provides pretty much everything I need to find specific images, based on my star ratings, gear selection or searching for the keywords that I add to my images as I archive them, or any EXIF data, including that which I added myself to scanned film photographs.

Scanned Film Filtered by Custom EXIF
Scanned Film Filtered by Custom EXIF

Note that in this screenshot, I’m showing medium format film that I tagged with Phil Harvey’s ExifTool and my own custom script that I use for walking through a folder of images tagging each as I go. There is no way that I’m aware of to enter data into the camera EXIF field with Capture One Pro alone, but it uses data that you add like any other camera.

9 – Workflow Speed

It’s also possible to customize the keyboard shortcuts for most of the commands in Capture One Pro. This helps us to tailor our workflow to our own needs and allows us to really streamline the workflow, which leads me to one of the largest benefits I’ve found after improved image quality, and that is the overall speed with which I’m now able to work through my images.

In the past I would leave my location workshops with at least a number of days of images unprocessed because I simply didn’t have time to process and select my images each day. Now though, I leave every tour with every day except the last completely processed. I go through and make tweaks to my selection before saving my final selects, but I’m generally caught up by the time the tour finishes.

As an example, one of the biggest time savers for me has been the ability to create a keyboard shortcut that copies all of the changes I’ve made to an image to the clipboard, and then apply them to future images with a second shortcut. I use SHIFT + COMMAND + C to copy my adjustments, and SHIFT + COMMAND + V to apply them to other images. As I go through similar images this saves me heaps of time, and as the image content changes requiring changes to my copied adjustments I simply update the copied adjustments and continuing pasting until it needs changing again.

10 – Tethered Shooting

The last thing that I wanted to mention is the ability to shoot tethered. I left this until last because I don’t do it often, but when I need to, I really enjoy having the ability to do this right there in Capture One Pro. When you first connect a supported camera, you get one dialog that asks if you’d like to register your camera with Capture One Pro and literally it’s just one click, and you get access to all of the controls that you see on the left side in the Capture Tool’s Live View Window here.

EOS R Live Tethering
EOS R Live Tethering

As you can see, you can control most of the aspects of the camera right from the Live View window, including even making very fine adjustments to the focus, and, of course, releasing the shutter, so if you do focus stacking, this is a great way to work. I’ve also found it very useful when doing portrait work, as being able to see the images on the computer as we shoot makes for a very dynamic shoot, and once again, really speeds up the workflow.

Essentially, Capture One Pro is just that, a Professional image editing package that provides the tools and image quality required to satisfy even the most discerning professional photographer, but these benefits are available for anyone that forks out for a license.

Win a Capture One Pro License!

On that note though, as I mentioned at the beginning of this episode, I have a Capture One Pro license to give away and wanted to invite you to take a look at an amazing resource that the Capture One Pro creators have put together, called the 30 Day Challenge. I’m not going to ask you to watch every video, but do take a look and watch the videos on areas that you are interested in. If you are new to Capture One Pro, this really is an invaluable resource.

If this all whets your appetite enough to give Capture One Pro a try, please do download the fully functional 30 day trial version, with no credit card required, and take it for a spin yourself. I had been meaning to try Capture One for years, and finally set an afternoon aside to do it in the summer of 2016, and from that first photo that we looked at earlier, I was hooked. My photography is simply better and I enjoy my photography more now that I use Capture One Pro, and that is why I’m happy to recommend it to you.

To enter for your chance to win the license that I have, I would like you to do two things, in addition to downloading the trial, and that is to write one paragraph describing what you liked about Capture One Pro, and link to one photograph or blog post that you can share based on your experience. Please post these below in the comments, and make sure that you use a valid email address for your comment, so that I can contact you if I select you as the winner. Your mail address will not be visible to anyone else, and I will not share any of the email address with anyone, including the folks at Phase One, the makers of Capture One Pro. We aren’t harvesting addresses, we just want you to have fun, and get the most out of your photography.

The deadline for entries is May 25, 2020, and I’ll announce the winner shortly after that. Also, please only enter if you do not already own a current Capture One Pro license. Let’s give people that haven’t already got one a chance to win.

New Digital Products Store

New Store Screenshot
New Store Screenshot

One last bit thing that I’d like to share with you is that I have just created a new digital products store via FastSpring, that enables me to offer downloadable products with a streamlined checkout process, in a multitude of currencies, while staying on top of worldwide sales taxes which is becoming a full-time job in itself.

At the moment you can buy my eBooks and Fine Art Border scripts, as well as my Viewfinder Mockup files, and a more streamlined monthly desktop wallpaper subscription with a 12 image Starter Pack. At the time of recording, I’ve had to use just basic links for the wallpaper subscription, but the actual checkout and delivery process is already much smoother.

If you are finding yourself stuck indoors self-isolating during these difficult times, hopefully, my eBooks will help you to fill some free time that you might have, so to celebrate the opening of my new digital products store, I’m offering a 30% discount off all of the currently available products below, until the end of May 3, 2020. Just use the code NEWSTORE30 when you checkout to claim your 30% discount! And if you know me, you’ll know that I don’t do sales very often, so don’t miss this chance if you have thought about picking up any of my digital products.

Although my general intention is to provide my digital products as popups throughout this website, you can also see all of the products together on FastSpring here and I’ll list them below as well: https://mbpkk.onfastspring.com/


Show Notes

Check out the Capture One Pro 30 Day Challenge here: https://www.captureone.com/en/explore/30-day-challenge

New FastSpring store: https://mbpkk.onfastspring.com/

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Scanning 120 Film with the CanoScan 9000F MarkII (Podcast 690)

Scanning 120 Film with the CanoScan 9000F MarkII (Podcast 690)


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Four years ago I walked you through scanning 120 format film on my Epson Scanner, which was around six years or so old at the time, making ten now. When I came to scan the film that I had processed recently, I found that my scanner had broken, so I replaced it with a Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II. This scanner is also a few years old in design, but it’s the latest model that I could find that offers high-resolution scanning and the film guide for 120 film.

Note though that B&H Photo and Amazon.com don’t seem to stock this scanner anymore, and Canon’s website here in Japan also marks it as running low on stock. This is a sure sign that Canon is probably preparing to release something new, which I would like to have waited for, but I didn’t have that luxury with my old scanner having broken.

Preferences Scan Panel
Preferences Scan Panel

Regular flat-bed scanners designed just for documents shine light onto the document while scanning, but to be able to scan slides or negatives, the scanner has to have a light built into the lid to shine through the film, so this is something to be careful of when buying a scanner for this purpose. Also, not that all of the dedicated film scanners that I could find online were relatively low resolution. We’re talking about creating images that are around 10 to 15 megapixels, even when scanning medium format film, and that is just too low to be of any use in my opinion. Of course, if you never want to make any large prints, and your final use is the computer screen, then that resolution would be fine.

When I first installed the software that comes with my new Canon scanner, there were a number of limitations forced on me by the software, which would have resulted in lower quality scans, so we’ll cover this first, in case you have bought the same or a similar scanner. Note too that I have not been able to access these settings via the TWAIN scanner drivers that are installed, so I am not able to get higher resolution scans from within Affinity Photo or Photoshop, I have to use the Canon IJ Scanner Utility. There are other dedicated scanning applications available, but at this point, I have not tried any, so we’ll stick with the method I’m currently using.

Settings for Higher Resolution Scans

To enable higher resolution scans, when you first start the scanner software by opening the Canon IJ Scan Utility application and then clicking the ScanGear icon, switch to the Advanced Mode, then open the Preferences panel. Under the Scan menu Advanced Mode Settings section, enable both the Enable Large Image Scans checkbox and the Enable 48/16 bit Output checkboxes. Without these options, the scanner will only provide relatively low-resolution scans of medium format film.

You can also turn on Enable Large Image Scans by clicking the Settings button on the Scanner Utility and it’s a good idea to select TIFF for the Data Format under ScanGear, as you ideally want to be saving your images in a lossless format. JPEG is compressed generally, and will gradually degrade as you resave your images, so in my opinion, JPEG should really only be used as an output format. The only other options are PDF and PNG, neither of which are suitable formats for photographs.

What Resolution to Use?

In my earlier tutorial on this, I mentioned that I was scanning at 4200 dpi (dots per inch). I also mentioned that this was possibly overkill, but I did some more experimentation with my new scanner and found out a few other interesting points that I also want to relay. Firstly, I found that I was still seeing a usable quality increase in my scans when using 4800 dpi. This gives me scanned images that are slightly over 10,000 pixels square, which means the images are 100 megapixels. That’s almost ten times the resolution of the dedicated film scanners I saw, many of which are a similar price to the CanoScan that I decided on. I also tried the higher setting of 9600 dpi, but this just increased the file size. No more usable resolution was recorded.

This got me thinking about my original tests though, so I double-checked some other recent photos shot with my first TLR camera, the Yashica-D, but scanned with the new scanner, and I found that photos were limited by the optics of the Yashica, rather than the film or scanner. I just completed some tests using ILFORD DELTA 100 film and processed it with Perceptol, which is a very fine grain developer, and the images were all pretty soft compared to the images I’m getting from my new Rolleiflex.

Of course, the takeaway for you here is that this really is something that you need to test and decide on for yourself. With my Yashica-D, we were probably looking at me realistically only being able to scan up to around 3600 to 3800 dpi and still getting usable resolution, but with the Rolleiflex 3.5 with the Planer lens that is up to 4800 dpi. I’m not sure how this compares to other vintage medium format cameras, so the best thing to do is to keep increasing the resolution until you stop seeing any more usable detail.

Also, note that I am scanning with the Color Mode set to Grayscale (16bit). I’ve experimented with the color scanning modes, and there are lots of methods discussed online, such as scanning in color but only using certain color channels, and throwing the rest out, then ultimately going to a black and white image, but I really don’t see the benefits in doing that, so in my usual way, I have decided that these are hoops that we don’t need to jump through. 16bit Grayscale images are very high quality, and ultimately I want a neutral gray toned image, so this works for me.

Here’s a screenshot of my final settings in the ScanGear window, and you’ll notice that the Data Size number is in red, which is Canon shouting at me for scanning my image at such high quality. As I’ve already told the software that I want a high-quality scan, I find it a bit pointless to display this number in red, but that’s how it is. Also note that I am leaving Unsharp Mask turned on, but Image Adjustment and Grain Correction are off.

Scanning 120 Film CanonScan ScanGear
Scanning 120 Film CanonScan ScanGear

I am also leaving the Manual Exposure checkbox turned off most of the time, but if I inadvertently over-expose something, or the software just seemed to misunderstand the content of the image, I can override that with the Manual Exposure checkbox and adding a new percentage. Going higher than 100% seems to reduce the exposure and lower than 100% increases the exposure in the image. You can also adjust exposure using the Tone Curve options that you can see towards the bottom right corner of this screenshot.

You can actually see the images that you are about to scan pretty well, especially if you are working on a large display with this window maximized. I also like that I can scan up to three frames at a time now. The Epson scanner was only two frames at a time, so this is another benefit of replacing my scanner. I can now scan a 12 frame roll of film in four sections. One other thing to note is that the shiny side of the film should be facing down when scanning. That’s the front of the film, so although you can flip the scanned images if necessary it’s better to get the orientation right for your scan.

You’ll also note that the corner of my circular ND filter was showing in the top right corner of these images. I have since found a place that does custom made filters that should fit the Rolleiflex, but for a recent trip to photograph the rocks that you see in this screenshot, I had simply taped an ND to my lens hood, and because you don’t look through the shooting lens on a Twin Lens Reflex camera, I didn’t notice until after I’d shot these three images. I corrected this and continued to reshoot the rocks using an ISO 25 film from Rollei, but unfortunately, it looks like I got a bad batch. All of the images I shot on the following roll had a really strong mottling, almost like a leopard fur pattern. I ran more tests when I got home and found it to be that particular film, which was disappointing. Anyway, a bit of deftly cloning was enough to get rid of the filter ring in the corner, so I still came away with the photos I was looking for.

I am generally turning on the checkbox for all three images, and scanning them all at once. If there is a frame that you obviously don’t need to scan, you can do this by leaving the checkbox turned off. The software will only scan the images with a checkbox enabled. At the resolution and settings I’ve chosen, it takes about two to three minutes per frame to scan the images, so six to nine minutes to scan all three. I sometimes also find that the autodetection of the images doesn’t work every time, and I have to jiggle the film around a little to get the software to recognize them. One thing I have noticed though is that it helps to slide in the strip of plastic that comes with the scanner to effectively show the scanner where the start of the first frame is, as you can see in this photo.

Scanning 120 Film with the CanonScan 9000F Mark II
Scanning 120 Film with the CanonScan 9000F Mark II

Once you have the film set like this, you close the lid and start up the ScanGear software. If you already have the software open from a previous scan, just hit the Preview button again to take a look at your next three images. If you shoot 35mm film, by the way, you can also use this scanner. A film guide for mounted 35mm slides and 35mm film strips is included.

Change Color Space

One other thing that I have found is that the color space Dot Gain 20% does not seem to be supported by Capture One Pro, my photo editing software of choice. I have to open the files up in Photoshop and convert the color profile to ProPhoto RGB before I can edit the images in Capture One Pro. Of course, Adobe RGB or sRGB would also work, but I prefer to work in ProPhoto RGB. And, I have not yet found a way to automatically open the images in Photoshop or Affinity Photo after scanning with the ScanGear software. You can specify an app in other modules, but not when using the ScanGear drivers. These options are grayed out, so that adds a few extra clicks to the workflow, but it’s not a big deal.

Example Images

Here are two of these images that I scanned so that you can take a look at the end result. The film, by the way, is the recently rereleased FujiFilm Neopan Acros Mark II. I’m finding it really nice to work with, and the tones are great, but I have noticed a larger number of flaws in the emulsion that I would rather not see in a film. There are patches of white flakes, which I guess would be black flakes on the negative, on most frames that require a bit of cloning to remove. I haven’t really noticed these on the Rollei RPX 100 or the ILFORD DELTA 100 films that I’ve also been using.

Here also is a 100% crop of the first of the two images above, to show you the image quality at this resolution. As you can see, there is plenty of detail, but it’s bordering on getting a little soft. I’m at the top limit of useful resolution for sure.

Meotoiwa (Rolleiflex 100% Crop)
Meotoiwa (Rolleiflex 100% Crop)

Here too is a 100% crop from the same scene shot with my EOS R. The image is obviously sharper at 100%, partly because I’m pushing the resolution on my scans, but also because the Rollei is more organic with it being film.

Meotoiwa (EOS R 100%)
Meotoiwa (EOS R 100%)

Before we move on, here is one other example image shot with the FujiFilm Neopan Acros MarkII 100 ISO film, really to illustrate that this film really does have beautiful tones, and in true Neopan form, the blacks are beautifully rich, as you can see in the glossy black cat ornament here.

Frogs, Cats and Jizou
Frogs, Cats and Jizou

Storing Processed Film

I was also asked in the comments on one of my recent posts how I am storing my processed film, so let’s take a look at that, but unfortunately, I have not been able to find a similar product on B&H Photo or Amazon. If anyone knows of something similar to this on sale online anywhere, maybe you could share a link in the comments below.

Fujicolor RF Binder
Fujicolor RF Binder

Also, as you can see here, even just placing the loose pages on white paper enables you to see the negatives pretty well, but you can also drop this onto a lightbox and view the images with a loupe if you prefer because the polypropylene is perfectly clear. There are also iPad apps that provide a bright white screen so that you can use them as a Lightbox as well.

Fujicolor RF Binder Loose Page
Fujicolor RF Binder Loose Page

OK, so we’ll leave it there for today. I hope this has helped some if you were looking for information on scanning film, but with the products not being readily available everywhere, I’m sure I’ve left you with a job to find something available in your market. This will hopefully point you in the right direction though. I guess this is a sign of the overall interest levels in shooting film, but I am encouraged by the fact that FujiFilm just rereleased Neopan Acros. Hopefully, there are enough people still shooting, or starting to shoot film with its resurgence, that it compels more manufacturers to follow suit.

Thanks very much for listening today. If you enjoy this podcast please consider supporting us on Patreon, which comes with various tiers of benefits depending on your contribution, although all tiers provide access to the full blog posts for more than 780 episodes as well as access to the MBP Community. For further details check out our Patreon page at https://mbp.ac/patreon.

You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter LinkedIn, and Instagram, etc., and links to everything that I’m up to are at martinbaileyphotography.com, so do drop by and take a look. I’ll be back next week, with another episode, but in the meantime, you take care and have a great week, whatever you’re doing. Bye-bye.


Show Notes

SHOW NOTES HERE

Music by Martin Bailey


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Loading 120 Film into the Rolleiflex 3.5F Camera (podcast 689)

Loading 120 Film into the Rolleiflex 3.5F Camera (podcast 689)

This is just a short video to show you the process of loading a roll of 120 medium format film into the Rolleiflex 3.5F TLR camera. Moving forward I will be releasing short videos like this as individual episodes like this, just as quickly consumed snippets of information. These will usually be in addition to a full weekly episode, so I hope you find this bite-sized information useful.

You can see all film-related episodes using this grid.

[ess_grid alias=”film-posts-grid”]


Show Notes

Follow us on Vimeo here: https://vimeo.com/martinbailey

Music by Martin Bailey


Video

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