Best practices walkthrough of my end-to-end process for focus stacking. BProcessing the RAW files, layering for evaluation, retouching approach, display considerations, etc.
Photoshop screen showing to start - switch to Finder, show originals and TIF - enhanced raw files, 16-bit TIF output, DMAP result - previously figured out processing - frames layered to winnow out any unneeded ones - toggle DMAP vs first layer - memory and CPU (show Activity Monitor)
Display concerns - screen density - resizing on Retina displays - 100% vs 200% on dual screens - consider a lower pixel density display for image evaluation
Initial assessment - scan image for obvious defects from motion or lighting changes - get a sense of which frames are going to be best for which areas - refer back as needed while retouching. - some focus stacks can trend to hopeless; address this in the field not in post for example longer exposures
Retouching - top/bottom layout SHOW menu - show Fit to Window - if shot correctly and no motion, retouching can add sharpness in some areas at uniform distance due to lighting diffs, small shadows, etc - moving subjects troublesome, eg the water and vertical trees
Overall step by step retouching 1. paint over the distance using knowledge from the Photoshop stack 2. paint over any appropriate areas with optimal frame 3. paint over moving subjects like trees if they "fit" within a particular frame near/far 4. Detail work left/right/left in bands 5. Save and open result in PS; scan for issues, repeat steps 1-4 as need and/or touchup smaller areas.
TIP: watch at 4K on a 5K display for greatest ease of viewing.
As in... is this actually what Fujifilm considers a professional camera?
Will it affect your images? Most of the time... no. Some might argue never. If you are so lucky, great. But such image quality issues rein-in the post processing options, particularly for monochrome conversion.
FastRawViewer discount code for diglloyd.com readers: DIGLLOYD25
Valid through Feb 29, 2024. Aplicable to: FastRawViewer or any FastRawViewer bundle with RawDigger and/or Monochrome2DNG. Discount cannot be combined with any other sale price.
Many photographers resort to Lightroom just to organize — often with problematic results in the sense of not even knowing where the files reside and with counterproductive/confusing file and folder organization*. Which is also huge productivity killer when you intend to work mainly in Photoshop and/or just want to organize your work by time and place, as I do.
I frequently shoot panoramas, focus stacks, aperture series, and sometimes frame averaging or various shot variations that all relate to each other (eg a particular location or sub-location). This can get quite confusing even with fairly large previews; at reduced size, I might not be able to tell apart an aperture series from a stack unless I can see the appropriate shooting info. Or I might have re-shot the same series for some reason (wind, lighting, etc)
All of those situations means I want to group the related images into a subfolder with an appropriate name.
I am not an Adobe Lightroom or Phase One Capture One Pro user. Those programs are not only an extra make-work chore for me (wasted time and storage spade), but pretty much useless , since I require Photoshop layers for just about 100% of what I need to do. So Lightroom and similar organizational programs have negative utility for me—all overhead and no benefit.
* I mean that literally; I’ve had consulting clients who had no idea where their image files even were, and with a huge mess to clean up of duplicate files and lost files (lost by Lightroom), etc. Messes so bad that it took 7-8 hours to work through.
Enter FastRawViewer—it does not couple file organization with raw file conversion (though it does generate high grade previews extremely fast of a size you configure). In this sense it is very similar to Adobe Bridge, only... better.
FastRawViewer thus eliminates lot of the mess and complexity that comes from commingling organizational tasks with image processing tasks—perfect for my needs, and perhaps hours.
What impresses me about the libRaw folks is how they think through all of their software at every level—the design and each and every feature set is done in a way that shows great attention to detail. Plus the response to issues is very fast, with most of my suggestions implemented quickly (though I don’t get everything I ask for).
The screen show below shows FastRawViewer in a simplified setup; it highly customizable as to what it displays, what is shown or not shown, etc. Further below, I show a common task I do with it.
libRaw FastRawViewer image display with dozens of powerful organizing features
Making a subfolder of a related group of images
A common operation that I need to do: is to create a new subfolder containing related images: panorama, focus stack, aperture series, particular subject, etc.
Below, the need is for a subfolder for six files of a panorama. Select the files, right-clicking and choose Move To => New Subfolder, entering the name and hitting ENTER. It doesn’t get any more efficient than that. Well, it does in some cases—I’ve petitioned for some kind of smart auto-organize feature based on smarts within EXIF info, but so far no luck. There is a “copy” variant as well, as well as facilities to move or copy files to other already-existing folders.
That’s just one feature—check out FastRawViewer and see what it can do for you. Be aware that behavior if highly customizable, so be sure to go through the preferences to configure to suit.
libRaw FastRawViewer: moving six files of a panorama into a new subfolder
Alternative: macOS Finder — sometimes useful but extremely limited and often unusable
Images grouping can be done in the Finder if the images can be seen and distinguished adequately: select the images, then right click and choose New folder with Selection....
But the feature set is a single capability (making a new folder), and there are hassles, like not being able to folderize a single file without a multi-step process. Nor can key information that may be a deciding factor be viewed, let alone customized. Plus, the Finder is far slower to preview images and it makes it very awkward because there is no file hierarchy separate from the viewing window that works in any efficient way.
Or, as shown below, there is no preview at all, making the Finder totally useless. situation persists 3 years later after I wrote this. This situation shown below has existed for 18 months now for Fujifilm GFX100 raw files, and it is a problem for other cameras too, though common ones do show icon previews.
UPDATE: this uselessness situation persists as of Dec 2023 (thanks Apple).
macOS Finder generic icons for Fujifilm GFX100 image files of nil utility
I’ve made these two videos below publicly viewable. See what you think, feedback welcome. I am of course learning as I go, startingwith the wrong microphone on the first video, so the sound is a little low.
I was out with my GFX100II yesterday and (as a landscape photographer, using the camera on a tripod) I found myself wondering what people use to activate the shutter without touching the camera. As I see it there are three options, although there may be more I'm unaware of:
Fujifilm's phone app
I have been using the phone app, but it's a pain. It keeps crashing and generating warnings on my Android phone, strongly suggesting I put the app to sleep. The app constantly wants to re-establish a connection with the camera, which has me standing for minutes at a time waiting for the "remote" option to become enabled. In addition, it tries to copy camera images to my phone - which only has a limited amount of storage.
This made me consider the cable release option. I believe going from the GFX100s (which I never owned) to the GFX 100 II, Fujifilm shifted the cable release port from one side of the camera to the other. I'd have much preferred if they'd left it where it was. Then I think they changed from a 2.5mm to a 3.5mm port, presumably to accommodate microphones - which I never use.
I believe Fujifilm's cable releases all use a 2.5mm jack, although having never bought one, I can't confirm this. The manual seems to suggest we just live with it and buy some form of adapter, described as "readily available". Ideally I would prefer an L shaped male 3.5mm socket at the camera end and a 2.5mm female socket at some short distance away - especially given that opening the access door on the side of the camera is made difficult by the L bracket I use. I have not been able to find a cable fitting this description, although they may be readily available in Japan for all I know.
Somehow using the self timer seems to be admitting defeat, although I may resort to it after all.
DIGLLOYD: good summary!
Cable releases are problematic in that most “solutions” are crap.
Cable releases have to be physically attached. The mechanics of this mean constantly attaching and detaching, eventually wearing out or gunking up or otherwise damating the port. You have to carry it too, it’s one more thing to not forget, and sooner or later it falls out of a pocket and it’s gone. And being attached to the camera physically, it now becomes a risk itself in transmitting jiggle to the camera precisely when you can least afford it. Plus wind blowing on it. There may be exceptions (eg studio use), but I consider them useless for my work outdoors.
All of the above issues noted (connectivity, warnings, etc) make an app dead on arrival for practical in-the-field use. Then, digging a phone out of a pocket (and the reverse) is a constant headache. As is having to stare at a phone instead of the subject and conditions. Meanwhile, I might have to shade the front lens element from the sun, and maybe while balanced precariously. I now look down at my phone to use the phone app, and my dead body is found a week later. Phone-apps are an anti-solution devised by morons. Again, there might be situations (eg studio) where it could make sense.
Ideal solution — RF remote
The ideal solution which “pro” cameras like the Fujifilm GFX100S and siblings fail to offer is a compact and lightweight RF remote. By that metric alone they should be booted out of the “pro” designation. Then again the PhaseOne IQ4 has the same issue... whatever. Unbelievable.
The best solution is an RF remote release (infrared ones suck but are better than nothing). Sony has a good one, the Sony RMT-P1BT Wireless Remote Commander. Nikon’s suck, I am not sure about Canon, Fujifilm jackass designers apparently didn’t even consider the idea.
I will be continuing to do my usual written reviews as I’ve done for the past 15 years. However, such work takes many hours and often is more detailed than some people even want. Ditto for long essays in the blog—fun but the ROI is no good.
I’ve put off having a video offering for all that time... that now changes.
Some of you might know some of this, but I’d bet that few of my readers know it all. In other words, just one video might give you a valuable tip worth way more than the small subscription fee. And if it’s not worth it... it’s month-by-month so your biggest risk is $20 for the first month or even less if you want to quit early (you won’t!).
What do you have to lose? If you like this blog at all, give it a try today!
TIP: watch at 4K on a 5K display for greatest ease of viewing. Also, 1.25X speed might be useful.
I am experimenting with my offerings.
SubStack is becoming very popular, but I don’t know if it fits well for me or not. It seems more essay-oriented from everything I’ve seen, and I’ve been thinking more about the video side. Still, they just did a major upgrade for videos, so that's something.
But I hear that X is blocking outgoing links to SubStack, a huge negative.
Yet if this writer’s take has even partial legitimacy, then I have to take a hard look at SubStack before I commit too much to Patreon. And already I’ve found that Patreon moves very slowly on improvements, and does ultra-stupid things like not being able to gift a subscription, so I can’t even give my own family or friends.
As a writer, I spent six years slogging away on Patreon, only to move to Substack and quadruple my subscriber number in under four months. I’m no mathematician, but I like those numbers.
Each platform has its issues.
As an experiment, I wrote my first SubStack post on this very topic. The first thing I found is that my 4K video is delivered as 2K (1080p), which in and of itself makes SubStack dead on arrival. Can SubStack deliver high quality 4K video?
Connect and charge all of your devices through a single Thunderbolt or USB-C port.
TIP: watch at 4K on a 5K display for greatest ease of viewing. Also, 1.25X speed might be useful.
I am experimenting with my offerings.
I have done only a smattering of videos over the years, but some things lend themselves to video, and many people find video tutorials much easier than written form. I intend to continue the offerings as usual here on this site, but the videos will be a separate offering, available separately over at my Patreon account. Please become a patron and give me feedback on which kinds of videos are most usefu or enjoyable to you.
UPDATE: apologies that the sound is not loud enough on some of the videos. I think it's probably OK if the volume on your computer speaker is turned up. It seems that macOS threw away my choice of the high quality microphone I thought I was using, and reset it to the LG 5K display.
Many of you already know this stuff cold... and some might not. And maybe there is just one thing in there that might be helpful.
For those who have not mastered Adobe Camera Raw, please let me know if this is useful and what I left out or should have left out, any issues, etc.
The video applies when using ACR in Adobe Photoshop as well as in Adobe Lightroom. The controls in Lightroom are a little different, but the approach and reasoning is identical.
Going forward, I will be doing an entire series on focus stacking and panorama assembly as as other workflow topics. These will be showing up on my Patreon page, currently in development as I learn the platform (ugggh... it has lots of issues and limitations).
Fujifilm has seriously damaged my Fujifilm GFX100S resale value—thanks Fujifilm, what’s my trade-in deal? Great way to please customers who want your Fujifilm GFX100 II at $7500.
I don’t know how a 'serious' landscape photographer can ignore this deal.
At just $4399, we’re talking just $500 more than the Sony A7R V. The A7R V is of course a much more versatile camera, but if we’re talking pixels and peak image quality, the GFX100S just walks away with the prize.
Perfect for anyone for home use—student or parent. And you can upgrade the memory later if need be, all the way to 128GB.
For SSD, many people can do fine with a 250GB SSD (add something like the OWC Envoy Pro Elektron later, if need be), but 512GB is a lot more flexible, and my recommendation for photography usage is 1TB or 2TB.
Apple is not making the iMac 5K anymore and has stated it has no plans to do so. IMO, the iMac 5K is the best all-around machine Apple ever made—reliable and with a gorgeous display. And with an Intel processor, which some folks still need.
As for value, the 2017 models below are just about impossible to beat—you can’t even buy a 5K display for that price.