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Geotagging Workflow

My geotagging workflow has changed dramatically for my initial post in October 2009, I now only use my iPhone with the Trails app and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4. And it all makes it so easy.

First and foremost, synchronize your camera time with your phone, this is relatively important for the geotagging process to happen correctly. Second, don’t (as it happened to me) forget to start Trails before you embark on your photography journey. I found that on long journeys, 6 hours plus, I needed to recharge my iPhone so I keep it charging whilst in my car.

There are 2 versions of Trails on iTunes, the free but limited Trails Lite GPS Tracker and the paid Trails GPS Tracker, I use the later.

Here are some screenshots from Trails:

Trails supplies me with both a GPX (Standard GPS tracking) and a KML (Google Earth) file the later is nice to show a photowalk trail on the web like I did here. The only issue I have with trails is the way to get those files from the iPhone, I need to send them by mail. I may despise iTunes but at least allow me to pull it off as I do other apps, in particular when it is a large file (my record is 8 hours).
Once I have the GPX file, I store it in the same folder as my photos to avoid loosing it and open Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4, LR 4 has a new function called “Map”. Import your photos, select all those you want to geotag, click on Map, locate the squiggly icon (GPS Tracklogs) at the bottom next to the lock click on it, select “Load Tracklog…”, locate your GPX file, open and apply. That is all there is to it. you will need internet access to see the Google maps.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Screenshot
Adobe Lightroom 4 Map Screenshoot

You can see a few orange markers these are the newly geotagged photographs, you will need to save the photographs for the tagging to be written to the EXIF data. Also in blue (not shown here) will be the trail.

Happy geotagging

High Dynamic Range workflow

I get asked how I do my HDRs a lot, I more than often direct people to the master and, by definition even if we have never met, teacher Trey Ratcliff. His work is the one that got me back into HDR in the first place, however it seems that my style is a tad different from his. The truth is that I evolve and try different techniques with each photograph. I could not reproduce an exact match to something I did before. As all arts, nearly, each piece is unique, that is true for me but my workflow is constant.

First and foremost, not all situations are good for HDR work! This is important, not all photos make for a good HDR, you will need high contrast, little movement and time to shoot an HDR. But try never the less, see what works for you and what does not.

  • Shooting the HDR, it all starts here!
    • As with normal photography, get that EV 0 photo as you would if you where not doing an HDR, this is your reference photo it owe to be perfect every time. So expose it right and do as if HDR did not exist, I cannot stress this enough. I personally shoot everything a 1/3 of a stop lower, I like it better that way but that is up to taste and preferences. Know this though, all the rules of photography applies.
    • Shoot in RAW, you should anyways.
    • I, generally, do 3 handheld photographs, EV 0, +3, –3 at f/8, ISO 100, it’s no secret that I found that f/8 is magic for HDR photography, I tried others for example low depth of field which I generally love just does not work for me.
    • Frame it right, in fact because I do it handheld I frame it wider, yes I crop my HDRs a bit but to the slight movement of handheld photography.You can go manual but you will need a tripod or do like me use Aperture Priority.
    • Do not change you aperture or ISO, is an HDR only the speed should change!
    • Set your camera to shoot all 3 (or more if you can) in one go, see your camera manual under bracketing.
    • The tip to know how many photo’s you need? Expose for the highlight get your reading then expose to the shadow get the reading again, I use 3EV because of my camera’s limitations but calculate how many photographs you need according to your EV bracketing mode.

Now that you have the 3 (or more) photos and I assume you have imported them on to your computer using your favourite tool, let’s review my workflow step by step. See the results bellow, in this case I used 3 photograph.

Original 0 EV

EV0 – 1/640, f/9, ISO 200

Original -3 EV

EV0 – 1/5000, f/9, ISO 200

Original +3 EV

EV0 – 1/80, f/9, ISO 200

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  • Step 1 – Create the HDR
    • Do not modify the originals, you will do the fine touches at the end of the process.
    • I convert them to JPEG at 1 EV separation, yes that means that I can end up with up to 11 photos, I only select the best 5 to 7 though.
      How do I get so many out of 3 photographs? Adobe Photoshop Lightroom has a slider for this sole purpose.
      This is why I shoot raw, I can pull up to a 2 EV photo up or down with very little degradation.
      Technically, you are able to do an HDR with only 1 photograph shot in RAW.
    • Import all the photos into the HDR program, I use Photomatix Pro, though there are a few others. 
      Protomatix Pro - Settings for processing exported files
      • The trick here is to tick “Align images”, “Crop aligned result” and selecting “by matching features” in case of movement, the perspective correction is selected because I use wide angle lenses.
      • “Reducing ghosting artifacts” in auto helps with movement that may have occurred, I tried most the setting “High” is always selected nowadays.
      • “Reduce Noise” on “All source images” helps for later noise control.
      • “Reduce chromatic aberration” helps latter as well.
      • As you can see I set it to reimport into Adobe Photoshop Lightroomin TIFF, TIFF keeps more information thus making it easier to edit later.
    • In Photomatix Pro, I will modify the settings to come as close as possible to the look I want, I generally start of with the “Enhancer – Default” preset, I find it smoother and more realistic.
      Do not do this if it is for a panoramic, the blending needs to be the same! In fact I created a preset that I can use for each panoramic sections.
    • Save it.
    • If it is a panoramic, merge and crop it before you go to step 2 and watch that sky if there is any.
  • Step 2
    • Topaz Adjust

      Because the HDR process flattens the colours, I import it into Topaz Adjust and use one of the colour enhancing filters, I do not always use the same one but I do use the “Spicify” filter more often then others, remember that each photograph is unique.

    • Here are the catches:
      • Grunge, I recently found a way around it, Topaz Adjust 5 (and maybe before) has a Transparency setting in the “3. Finishing Touches” section, I use that in addition to other settings.
      • Halo effect, that one is often hard to control.
  • Step 3
    • Adjust the final HDR as you would any other photos.
    • Do look at reducing grain.

As you see it’s not a complicated science, you can also go back to my previous entries where you will find more details about how to shoot an HDR and more.

Finally, enjoy doing them, it’s what photography is all about, enjoyment.

Here are some HDR photographers I follow (i will update regularly):

Last updated on the 6th of March 2012