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For years, the first thing I told photographers about Photoshop was to avoid the Brightness/Contrast adjustment. Your images would fare much better using Levels or Curves. But Photoshop CS3 has changed that. Brightness/Contrast now behaves like an intelligent tool.

The new version actually compresses highlights and shadows instead of clipping them. This is a tremendous difference that you can test for yourself. If you have the beta version of CS3, open an picture, then go to Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast...

Play around with the sliders and watch what happens to your photo. Now, click the Use Legacy box and make the same adjustments. The resulting image will look much worse than your first effort with the box unchecked - I guarantee it. The Use Legacy box enables the old algorithm that most of us avoided.

You can learn more about this improved tool by reading the latest dekeBytes that walks you through the process of using the new Brightness/Contrast. What will they think of next?

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ExpoDisc as an Incident Meter

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As good as our camera's built-in reflective meter is, some high-contrast situations can fool them. For many years, handheld incident meters were used by serious shooters to ensure proper exposure in difficult lighting. You can use your ExpoDisc to convert your camera's reflective meter to incident by following these easy steps.

  1. Set your camera to Aperture Priority mode and choose an f-stop, such as f-5.6.
  2. Put the ExpoDisc on your lens.
  3. Turn off autofocus mode.
  4. Point your camera in the direction of the light source illuminating your subject and click the shutter. The trick here is to meter the same light that is falling on your subject.
  5. Review the grayscale image created by the ExpoDisc in your camera's LCD monitor. Note the shutter speed recorded at exposure. That combination of shutter speed readout and the f-stop you set is the "incident" reading for that scene.
  6. Return your camera to autofocus mode, set the aperture/shutter speed combination you recorded (manual exposure mode is probably easiest for this) and shoot the scene.

The difference between a reflective meter reading and incident is that reflective measures the light bouncing off the subject, and incident records the light falling on the subject. Since your camera's meter is calibrated for 18 percent gray, as is the ExpoDisc, you can convert your reflective meter to incident by using this method. (You can read more about incident meter reading in this brief Luminous-Landscape tutorial.)

If you want to take advantage of this technique to the fullest, the ExpoDisc manual includes more information on how to meter for incident light under different lighting conditions (Section 2.d). One additional tip, for instance, is that, when shooting a backlit subject, you can reduce the exposure one full stop to preserve darker than normal tones in shadow areas.

As an added bonus, remember that you can set the custom white balance at the same time you take the incident meter reading, ensuring that you have both accurate color and exposure. Give it a try!

Photo of John Baker demoing ExpoDisc at Photoshop World, Boston by Derrick Story.

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CRE8
Conference, Orlando FL
Join Derrick Story for a Digital Photography Field Trip in Orlando Florida on May 11. And don't miss his sessions on Camera Raw and Photoshop Lightroom. CRE8 Conference - May 9-11, 2007

Don't Forget the Detail Shots

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When you're out shooting architecture and other objects in the wild, don't forget to capture the detail shots too. For example, this is a handsome church in Northern California. I like the overview image that gives me the sense of how it must of felt to enter this structure every Sunday in days gone by.

But there are many individual elements of interest also. For example, the hooks that hold the doors open while people flow in are beautifully designed and appealing in their own right. The texture of the wood worn away from years of rubbing against the metal is also interesting. I find the details just as fascinating as the overall structure.

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Make a mental note to capture as many of the details as possible when out shooting. Sometimes it's the small things that become the big shot of the day.

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My Favorite Jay Maisel Quotes

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I sat in a darkened ballroom last night and listened and watched as Jay Maisel took us on a tour of light, gesture, and color during his session at Photoshop World. Jay has been creating unforgettable images for decades. He is a member of the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame, was the American Society of Media Photographers' Photographer of the Year, and has been honored with the International Center of Photography's Infinity Award. (Photos by Jay Maisel)

During the session, Jay showed us visual examples of how he captures light, color, and gesture to create powerful images. As we were looking at the pictures, he would add tidbits of wisdom, and I've included some of my favorite thoughts here.

On preparing for a shoot... "Try to go out empty and let your images fill you up."

When composing a picture... "Be aware of every square millimeter of your frame."

"If you can capture the element of surprise, you're way ahead of the game."

"I don't see light as something that falls, but as a positive force."

"As people, we love pattern. But interrupted pattern is more interesting."

"Never put lettering in your photos unless you want it read."

On air quality as it impacts composition... "I'm a New Yorker. I don't believe in air unless I can see it."

When finding the right angle for a shot... "Move your ass."

If you ever have the opportunity to attend a workshop by Jay Maisel or study his work, I highly recommend it. He shared a terrific closing anecdote with me after his talk last night. I thought I'd close with it here.

"A friend of mine brought a cardboard box to one of my presentations. I asked him, why the box? He said there will be two groups of people in the audience today. Half will leave before the presentation is over because they will have to go outside and take pictures. The other half will want to leave their cameras in this box."

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You can imagine one of the keen interests among photographers here at Photoshop World is an exploration of the latest version of Adobe Bridge included in CS3. Many shooters have been using this file browser in tandem with Photoshop to manage their pictures. And for good reason. Adobe Bridge allows you to organize, preview, rate, and even process your photos working in tandem with Photoshop itself.

But the previous version of Bridge was not without its problems. For one thing, it was slow. This led many working shooters to explore speedier apps such as Photo Mechanic. Also, Bridge is not just for photography. It serves as a browser for other media apps, such as InDesign. As with Photoshop itself, serving too many masters sometimes dilutes the user experience for photographers. This is why Lightroom is getting so much attention -- it is for shooters and photo editors only.

My good friend Deke McCelland has just published an excellent introduction to Bridge 2.0 titled, Introduction to a Bridge with images provided by Pascal Genest and David Politi courtesy of iStockphoto (including the screenshot on this page). If you're wondering if you should stick with Bridge in CS3 for your photo management, you might want to read this article. It is comprehensive and informative. Deke also has some very useful videos available online from Lynda.com.

My advice: if you're committed to Bridge and like it, I would look closely at version 2. It is much faster, more robust, and has some terrific features including its own version of Camera Raw. But if you're looking to start fresh with a new photo management application, I would seriously consider Adobe Lightroom (Mac & Windows) or Apple Aperture (Mac only). These programs are written specifically for photographers, and I think each provides a better overall experience for shooters than Adobe Bridge.

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Doors Open at Photoshop World

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The doors are open and Photoshop World is in business this week at Boston's Hynes Convention Center. I'm already in town preparing for my talks in the O'Reilly booth on Adobe Lightroom, but I'll also have some time to sit on talks by great artists such as Vincent Versace and Jay Maisel. Of course I'll report the highlights here on The Digital Story. Stay tuned...

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Have you submitted your entry in the March Photo Assignment: Self Portrait?

If not, you still have this weekend to do so. Entries so far has shown good creativity, technique, and sometimes displaying an activity important to the subject. But the bottom line is, we want to see your picture! Get your self portrait in by the end of the month...

If you want to browse past entries, just visit our Photo Assignment page. See you soon!

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Sponsor Note...

ExpoDisc Custom White Balance -- Simply Better Color. Simply Better Pictures. Visit www.expodisc.com

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Now that Adobe Photoshop CS3 is official, it's probably time to start learning about its new features and interface enhancements. What better place to begin than with Deke McClelland, who is one of the best Photoshop experts in the business?

Deke will be publishing a series of CS3 tutorials on O'Reilly's Digital Media site. He's calling them dekeBytes. You can check out the first installment now, titled A Tour of Photoshop CS3's New Interface, posted by his editor, Colleen Wheeler.

In this mini-tutorial, Deke shows you what's different in the Photoshop CS3 interface and how to navigate those changes. Within minutes, you're well on your way to mastering the latest version of everyone's favorite pixel editor. The next installment will cover highlights from the new version of Bridge. Keep your eyes peeled for that next installment.

“The Goddess” photo by Aleksandra Alexis courtesy of iStockPhoto.

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Dinner Time is for Pictures

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When you're on the road, daily schedules often get turned on their head. One of the benefits of this disruption is that you can be out taking pictures instead of finishing up at the office, eating dinner, or taking care of some other life chore. Dinner time is often a great time for photography.

My travel routine includes a sandwich around 4pm, then off to a location that I want to photograph. I spend the hour or so before twilight scouting the possibilities and preparing my gear. Then as the light begins to sweeten, I start shooting. On my way back to my room, usually around 9:30 pm, I'll grab a light snack to keep my hunger at bay while I upload the images and begin photo editing. By the time I go to bed, I've gone through all the photos at least once, played with a few favorites, and backed everything up to a second hard drive.

So when you have a chance to be more in control of your schedule, take the opportunity to shoot when the light is at its best. Dinner can wait...

Photo by Derrick Story. Captured atop the Stratosphere in Las Vegas. Panasonic Lumix FZ8, ISO 100, 1/160th at f-4.0, focal length 6.0 mm.

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Gary Fong's New Whale Tale at WPPI

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Gary Fong has a new gizmo for your flash. The Whale Tail, shown here, will fit on most strobes, provides adjustable directional light, and includes optional color balance, warming, and cooling filters. The device will be available in April on Gary Fong's web site for about $75.

Gary attracted big crowds at WPPI as he demoed the new Whale Tale. He is part showman, part photographer, and has quite the inventive streak. Most people seemed impressed with how the Whale Tale softened strobe light and reduced shadows.

If you get one once they're available, drop me a line with how you feel it performs, and I'll post a follow up.

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Sponsor Note...

ExpoDisc Custom White Balance -- Simply Better Color. Simply Better Pictures. Visit www.expodisc.com