Category Archives Reviews

41cezb03rl_ss500_I don’t normally do book reviews, because I don’t think it’s right for me, a Photoshop and photography book author, to publicly criticize another author’s Photoshop or photography instruction book. It just ain’t right. Luckily, with this book I don’t have to (which is why I’m making an exception and doing a book review).

I just got a copy of “Footprint Travel Photography” by Steve Davey (published by FootPrintBooks), and I have to tell you, I’m very impressed. Here are seven things I love about this book:

  1. The author is a great travel photographer, and this book is loaded with this beautiful images.
  2. It’s got a nice, clean layout that makes you want to read the book
  3. It’s broken down into short, digestible one, two, and four page sections on a particular topic or idea.
  4. The author writes in a very conversational style, and gives lots of detail without getting overly techie, or trying to sound like he’s smarter than you (he is smarter than me, but he doesn’t rub it in your face).
  5. Although there are lots of small photos in the book, the layout does allow for a decent number of large photos, and they really have an impact.
  6. I love the smaller form factor of the book. Not too big, yet wide enough to accommodate a lot of photos.
  7. But perhaps what I love best about this book (and what made me want to write this review), is that he did something I find very valuable. For every photo in the book (and it’s packed with photos from exotic locales around the globe), he tells you exactly where the shot was taken. Often times, more than just the city, and country. Sometimes, he’ll tell you exactly where at the location he took the shot (from across such-and-such a river, or from a plane flying over, etc.). It drives me nuts when I see a great shot in a travel photo book, and there’s no mention of where the photo was taken, so I was particularly delighted to see how well he covered this thoughout the book. Also, after mentioning the locale, he usually adds a few lines of background info or a tip.

I could only find one thing that I would change about the book, and that is the font size for the regular text is really small (and I’ve had a lifetime of being accused of using too small a font size, so small sizes don’t normally bother me) and the caption-sized text (of which there is quite a lot) is crazy small (either that, or I’m getting really old. I’m probably getting really old). But that wouldn’t stop me one bit (in fact, I’m having to nit-pick to get to that).

I’m going to be spending some more time with the book this week, but since I was excited about it, I wanted to share my first impressions on this new book. Here’s a link to it on and Barnes & It’s around $20. Totally worth it.

OK, today in Part 2 we’re looking at the Post Processing I did to yesterday’s image, and for that I used the new Lucis Art Pro plug-in (which I’m going to mini-review in this same post).

DISCLAIMER: If you hate the Dave Hill look, or you’re tired of it, or whatever…do me a favor—just skip this post. The reason I did the post in the first place is that this is the #1 most-requested technique I get from readers, and I thought I’d give it a whirl. Obviously, this was a huge mistake on my part, because apparently it just mostly made people mad at me (I don’t know why it always has to come to this—it’s just a Photoshop technique for goodness sakes). But since I did part one and promised to show the post-processing, I feel like I should finish it, so I’m going to. However, it’s mean comments like the ones I received yesterday that make me think I should stick to safer topics, like the Nikon D3x pricing and more Lightroom conspiracies. ;-)


Step One: Before you run the Lucis Pro 6.0 plug-in, you’ll need to do something to soften your subject’s skin, because the hyper-sharpening the plug-in adds will greatly magnify every blemish, spot, or skin irregularity and it looks pretty bad. So, I started by using the Healing Brush. I Option-clicked [PC: Alt-clicked] in a nearby area that didn’t have a blemish (to sample that skin texture), then I chose a brush size just slightly bigger than the blemishes I wanted to remove, then I moved over the blemish and just clicked once to remove it. So, I went through the image and did that first.

lucis-21Step Two: Next, you’ll need to do an overall softening of the skin. What I did for this picture is apply the same type of skin softening I might to a portrait of a woman, but I used a higher amount of blurring than I would normally use. I started by duplicating the background layer. Then I applied a 25 pixel Gaussian Blur, then I lowered the opacity of this layer to 50%, as shown here (so it’s half as blurry). Then I held the Option key [PC: Alt-key] and clicked on the Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layer panel. This hides the blurry layer behind a black mask (as seen here). Then I changed the foreground color to white, and I took the Brush tool and painted over just his skin. I avoided the edges of his skin or any areas that were supposed to have detail (like his eyes, eyebrows, lips, etc.). This left the rest of the image sharp, but his skin very soft.


Step Three: Now I applied the Lucis Pro 6.0 plug-in (shown above). All I did in this plug-in was to drag the Enhance Detail slider over to 65, and then I clicked OK. Simple enough.


Step Four: Now, the key part of this is Dodging and Burning the heck out of the image, in other words, over exaggerate the highlights and shadows, so the photo almost looks cartoonish (basically, you’re going to make the darkest parts darker, and the brightest parts brighter). If you have Photoshop CS4, you can use the Dodge and Burn tools, because they’ve been greatly enhanced. We’ll start with Burning; after you choose the Burn tool, go up to the Options Bar, set the Range to Shadows (so it just effects the shadows), and lower the Exposure amount to 20%. Now paint over the shadow areas in your photo (like in the folds of his shirt, his pants, on his hat, etc.). You have to really exaggerate the shadows, so you’ll have to paint over the shadow areas a few times, and let it build up a bit.


Step Five: Now switch to the Dodge tool. Up in the Options bar, switch the Range to Highlights, and paint over the highlight areas in his shirt, pants, and along both side edges of him, where the brighter light is hitting. Again, you’ll probably have to paint over these highlight areas a few times to really exaggerate the look.


Step Six: Lastly, you’ll finish off by darkening the edges (kind of an edge vignette effect). I did mine by duplicating the background layer and switching the Layer Blend mode to Multiply. Then I made a rectangular selection that’s about 1 inch in from the image borders all the way around (as shown above). Then I added a 250-pixel Feather, and then hit the Delete key, which knocked a hole out of the darker layer, which gave the darkened edge vignette look. That’s how I did the final image you saw yesterday (and the final shown below).


Lucis Pro 6 Plug-in Review
I had reviewed the previous version of this plug-in, called LucisArt2, last year, and while I liked the plug-in, there was a problem (one problem for Mac users, one for Windows users). On the Mac, to use the old plug-in you had to launch Photoshop in Mac OS X’s “Rosetta” mode, which is a much slower (but more compatible) mode. This slowed Photoshop down quite a bit, but I’d only run in Rosetta when running this plug-in (unless, of course, I forgot to quit Photoshop, turn off Rosetta mode, and relaunch Photoshop, which I did all the time).

Well, luckily, in the new Batch of LucisArt plug-ins, they all run in regular Mac OS X. On Windows, they completely rebuilt the interface, and now it’s dramatically better. Besides fixing OS stuff, there are a lot of improvements, including a new algorithm that gives better, cleaner results, a better more streamlined interface, much more control over how the affect is applied, and in Lucis Pro 6, you can run the plug-in on 16-bit images (the other, less expensive, and less featured LucisArt3 plug-ins can only run on 8-bit images). So, overall—lots of improvements to the effect and functionality.

That being said, in my opinion there are two really huge problems with this plug-in.

  1. It’s crazy expensive at nearly $600 ($595 US). That’s twice what Lightroom costs and nearly as much as Photoshop CS4 itself (you can buy the full version of CS4 from for $639), for a plug-in that is essentially a “one trick pony.” There are less expensive versions of the plug-in (like LucisArt3), but of course, they have less features and can’t run on 16-bit images, but you can get one of those for around $300 (about the same price as Lightroom). Now, the case can be made that if your clients are willing to pay for this look, then it may be worth the investment, but outside of that, I would have a hard time justifying the high price.
  2. I think Lucis Pro 6 has a bigger problem than the price. It requires a USB hardware dongle. To me, this is the deal breaker. I absolutely would not buy the plug-in because of this requirement (Note: the cheaper LucisArt3 does not require this dongle).  I know they’re doing this to cut down on software piracy, but this isn’t penalizing the pirates—it’s penalizing their highest-paying customers. Plus, if I need to use the plug-in on a laptop and my home machine, now I have to carry the dongle in my case. If I leave it at home, and need it at work; I’m out of luck. If I need to use more than one USB port on my laptop, now I can’t use the plug-in. Ridiculous! I don’t know of a single software product in our industry that has become a success while using a hardware dongle (just ask Quark, who added a hardware dongle to QuarkXPress for a very short time), and I hope the people at LucisArt will rethink this going forward

The Bottomline
While the plug-in does a very good job at what it does, I would have a hard time recommending the product for the two reasons I just listed above. While Lucis Pro 6.0 is a big improvement over its predecessor, LucisArt 2, in just about every way, I think the 400% price increase is way off the mark, especially with the limited looks this plug-in can provide (Though the market will ultimately decide if the price is too high). As for the hardware dongle; for me–it’s the deal killer.

Here’s a link to their site for more details, complete pricing for all three plug-ins with a list of each product’s features, and a comparison of how LucisArt 3 compares with LucisArt 2.

I had a lot of questions and comments from the MacBook Pro review I posted last week, so I thought I’d address a few of them of them here.

Q. Why don’t you just use a mouse?
A. The reason I have a MacBook Pro at all, is because of travel (as I said in the review; I have a MacPro at home, which is my main machine for doing photography, retouching, and editing). You can’t easily use a mouse on a plane, or in a taxi, or in the airport, or in all the places I bought a MacBook Pro for in the first place, like where I’m sitting writing this right now, where my “laptop” is in my lap.

Q. How can anyone seriously use Photoshop with a trackpad?
A. I’ve been doing it for years now, and  while I’m not a trackpad fan to begin with, I was starting to get Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and was having to sleep with arm braces on all night, and take other measures. When I stopped using the mouse, and only used the trackpad or a Wacom tablet, it all went away, and I haven’t had a problem since.

Q. While I feel I should be the last person to give you advice about color correction, here goes: if you are relying on your screen to determine how your prints will look, you're doing it wrong.
A.  When I send prints to a printing press,  I go by the numbers. When my output is the Epson on my desk, or to a photo lab, I go by my screen. That’s why they make hardware calibration devices in the first place.

Q. A number of people posted really nasty comments about your review, including a number that include swearing at you, racial slurs, calling you stupid, a loser, and much worse. This stuff usually doesn’t happen on this blog—-why now?
A. It happens anytime you write something negative about Apple, no matter how minor.

Q. I also noticed that a number of PC users posted angry anti-Apple comments. Why is that?
A. It happens anytime you write something positive about Apple, no matter how minor.

Q. Where are those comments now?
A. I deleted most of them, but if you really want to see what a huge stupid loser I am, read unedited cussing, and references to my mother, (and much more), go check out the 209 comments about my review at Here’s the link (for your convenience).

Q. Don’t they know you’ve been an Apple supporter for many years?
A. It’s doesn’t matter—no one is allow to criticize Apple. Just ask Terry White (who runs MacGroup Detroit—if he posts the most minor criticism of an Apple product, he gets slammed). When I criticize Adobe, nobody gets upset, and I hope it’s because they know I’m not an Adobe-hater; I only point these things out because I want Adobe to keep improving their products, which they do. Adobe listens. When I criticize Apple, it’s for the same reasons, (In this case, I want them to give me a preference to turn off the gestures, or I want Adobe to give me a preference to turn off Rotate View”) but when you criticize Apple “All bets are off.” I’m not an Apple-hater on any level. But I’m hatin’ that trackpad. Whoops—I did it again.

Q. Have you gotten your prints back from MPIX yet, to compare screen to output?
A. Not yet (it’s a long story why), but I won’t have them back until next week. More on this then.

Q. Anything else?
A. Nope. I await your angry responses. In all caps, if possible, and don’t forget to use a fake name and anonymous email address.


There are things I absolutely love about my new 15″ Apple MacBook Pro (photo above courtesy of Apple), but at least 40 to 50 times a day, I want to have a friend fling it high into the air so I can use it for skeet shooting practice.

Now, before I dig into this review too far, part of the problem seems to be an Apple thing, but part of the problem may be something Adobe can fix in Photoshop CS4, because it’s there where the problem is most prevalent, and it’s there where I find myself stringing together somewhat colorful phrases I would not normally assemble.
My Worry
My main concern about the MacBook Pro was that the glossy glass screen would be too glossy for accurately editing photos in Photoshop.

My First Impression
I was pleasantly surprised at how great photos look on its crisp glossy screen. In fact, it’s so luscious, I think it makes the photos look better than they really look. Also, I was concerned about reflections, and while it is more reflective, and I keep thinking that’s going to be a problem; so far, it really hasn’t been. Surprisingly, the only time I really notice the reflections is when it dims the screen. Then, I’m much more aware of them.

The Reality
I’m still worried. Because it makes photos look so darn good, I only want people to see my photos on a glossy MacBook Pro glass screen, but of course, that’s not going to happen, as they’ll be viewed on the Web on whatever computer they have, and of course, they’ll be viewed in print. I’ve only had my MacBook Pro a few days, so I haven’t had a chance to do any serious printing in-house on my Epsons, and just last night I sent my first lab print to, so I have no idea how my on-screen color correction and edits will relate to my final images in print or on the Web. So, while I’m pleasantly surprised at how nice the screen looks, I’ll have to wait and see how the Photoshop editing process plays out. I will update you on this as soon as I know.


My Worry
I know that one of the key features in Photoshop CS4 is the new hardware accelerated graphics and that now Photoshop hands off a lot of processing directly to the graphics card, and while I could see a difference in my old MacBook Pro, I was wondering if the new NVIDIA graphics card in the new MacBook Pros would really make that big a difference.

My First Impression
It’s way better than I expected. So much so, that it actually changes your Photoshop experience. I’ve never felt like Photoshop has moved faster than it does with the new NVIDIA cards. It’s crazy fast, and zooming, moving, rotating views, etc. is just amazingly, crazily, wonderfully fast.

The Reality
My first impression was correct. So much so, that I’m going to install an NVIDIA graphics card in my MacPro tower at home, which is the machine I do most of my serious photo work on.


My Worry
Since the new MacBook Pros don’t come with a mouse button, I was afraid it would be weird not having something to click, and it would take me a long time to get used to it. Instead, the whole trackpad is a mouse button (well, most of it anyway), so wherever you are, you can just click.

My First Impression
Wow, you don’t really need a mouse button. I started working with it immediately, because your hand sits right where it always did, and when you want to click, you just click with your thumb like you always did. After five minutes, you don’t even think about it again.

The Reality
I was wrong. The trackpad is killing me, and is the main culprit behind all my MacBook Pro Pain. Apple will have to fix part of it (and if the reports I’m reading online are correct, they’ve already begun a fix), but Adobe will probably have to fix the other part.

The problem is a combination of the new trackpad finger gestures, which let you control navigation and rotation within Photoshop much in the way you work with photos on an iPhone (you can flick images around, you can pinch to zoom in, etc.. It’s actually a very cool intuitive idea). Here’s the problem; my thumb rests on the trackpad where it always rests—right where the click button used to be. But if it moves upward even 1/16 of a inch (which it often does), then the trackpad thinks I want to rotate the canvas view in Photoshop, and so it turns my canvas to a 45° angle. Sometimes, it just starts tilting my canvas back and forth while I’m trying to work. Sometimes it not only rotates my canvas, it zooms me out to less than a 1% view of my image. So, 40 to 50 times a day (maybe more), I have to go and reset my Canvas to normal, and then zoom back out to fit in view. It is driving me crazy to the point that I now find myself making finger gestures to my new Mac.

I went to the Trackpad preferences, hoping there was a way to turn off the “rotate my screen wildly and zoom in and out at random” feature, but sadly, there was not (see the capture below).


I’ve pretty much turned off whatever I can in the preferences above, and yet, still I rotate. Here’s a quick video of how this affects my day.

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Now, this problem happens to a lesser extent in my Web Browser and in my Mac Mail application, where suddenly my text zooms in, or gets really tiny. It doesn’t bother me as much there, but that’s probably because it doesn’t rotate my view, eh?



When I was hosting my Dunedin, Florida PhotoWalk (as part of the worldwide photowalk), I saw a photographer in my group, a very nice guy named David Rogers, using the handiest camera strap I’ve seen in while. It’s called the Rapid R-Strap, and while I thought it was ideal for shooting in situations like a photowalk, I’m going to order one tonight for use with my 2nd camera when I’m shooting sports.

After talking with David about it, he offered to do a full review of it for the blog, and so, here you have it; the complete review from photographer David Rogers (Thanks David!).

Review: Rapid R-Strap from BlackRapid
The Worldwide PhotoWalk seemed a perfect opportunity for me to test the R-Strap from BlackRapid, Inc. I’m not the kind of person that likes to wear a tie let alone a 6lb. swinging weight around my neck so when I found out about this strap and the fact that it came with a 30-day return policy I felt I couldn’t lose. If I didn’t like it I’d send it back and be no worse off.

It aint going back! The simplicity of the design alone has you saying “why didn’t I think of that.” Truth is, much like the automatic kitty litter box, you probably did think of it but never did anything about it.

How it works:
The R-Strap is worn over one shoulder (my left) and crosses the body like a car seat belt or messenger bag. It attaches to the camera via the tripod socket on a large lens setup or the camera body when using smaller lenses. The camera is now hanging upside down at your side or just above your right butt cheek. In one very smooth motion you grab the camera with your right hand and swing it forward and away from your body up to your eye. Shoot!, then lower it back to your side and continue about your day.

[ed. Here’s a quick video from the manufacturer showing the R-Strap in action]:

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The greatest feature of this setup is the fact that your hands are free and your (more…)


If you’re not familiar with any of the “P-series,” (technically Epson calls these “Multimedia Viewers” because they play videos and music), they’re part portable hard drive for safely backing up your memory cards on location, part photo-viewer with a big bright screen, and part in-the-field laptop replacement, because you can create collections, do slideshows with a music background; you can sort and rate your images on them, and a half dozen other things in a size so small you can fit it in your camera bag. I’ve been using these “P’s” since there was a P-2000 and I take one on every location shoot without fail, as it’s become an important part of my workflow.

Anyway, I got to play around with the P-7000 quite a bit this past week, and I wanted to give you a quick review on what’s new, and why I like the P-7000 so much better than my beloved P-5000.

Here’s what I loved:

  • The Larger Storage Size; Epson has doubled the storage sizes of both units (compared to the previous P-3000 and P-5000). At 160GB the P-7000 has double the memory of my P-5000 and the P-6000 is 80GB (vs. 40GB for the P-3000). Last week (at my Mary Duprie workshop), I had to delete files on my old P-5000 to fit the shots from that day, so the 160 GB version is going to mean more to me than I once thought.
  • Better Software: If I had a gripe with the P-5000, it was that the software needed to be a little more robust. It did a lot, but it fell short in a couple of areas (especially when it came to importing images), but luckily the new software is MUCH better (it looks pretty much the same, but it has enhanced functionality in a number of areas).
  • It’s faster at Importing Images. These new units are supposed to be 35% faster at importing images ( I didn’t run lab tests to confirm, but I can tell you it definitely feels faster).
  • The Screen Display is Off The Hook: The new screen technology, using Epson’s “Photo Fine Premia” technology (which displays 16.7 million colors) is just stunning. It’s incredibly crisp, bright, and pretty much blows away what you see on the back of your camera’s LCD (and the new screens encompass 94% of the entire gamut of the Adobe RGB Color Space used by many photographers). When you zoom in tight to view your images really close (to check sharpness, etc), the display is tack sharp, and you can get in really, really close.
  • They added a new Jog Wheel to help you scroll through your images more easily (this is bigger improvement than you might think. Ask anyone who has an earlier P-series).
  • The P-7000 comes with a nice little travel pack, which includes a travel case, a car charger, and dual battery charger, and a few other little kickers.

What I Wish Were Different:

  • The software is much better for sure, but the overall design of the interface still needs a lot of work. Since this was designed for photographers, the interface design should appeal to creative types. Looks matter, and I’d love to see the look of the interface get the same amount of attention everything else has. Right now, the software is very functional. The problem is; it needs to look better, be easier to use, and more fun to use.
  • They’re pretty darn expensive; The P-6000 has a street price of $599 and the P-7000 goes for $799. I know they replace you having to carry an expensive laptop into the field to back up and view your images (which is does for me), but it shouldn’t actually cost as much as a laptop (for example, Dell’s new Vostro 1710 laptop, with a 17″ widescreen LCD display, 1 GB RAM, an 80GB hard drive, and built-in DVD burner sells for $100 less than the P-7000; at just $699). I think Epson needs to reevaluate the prices of both units, but the marketplace will ultimately decide if it’s too high or not.

The Bottomline
It is, without a doubt, the best P-series Epson’s ever made. The software, while not where I’d like it to be, is certainly much improved over earlier versions. The speed is better, the screen is insanely good—all the hardware parts of this puppy just rock. Best of all, it fits snugly in my camera bag (even my smallest one) and knowing that my images are backed up while I’m on location is absolutely invaluable to me. If price isn’t a big factor, and you want the very best back-up and photo viewer on the planet, pick up either the P-6000 or 7000 when they come out in September.

(Photo above courtesy of Epson).