Photographic Multishot Techniques
Photographic Multishot Techniques: High Dynamic Range, Super-Resolution, Extended Depth of Field, Stitching, By Juergen Gulbins & Rainer Gulbins
|Value for money||5/10|
|Did it do what it said on the box?||6/10|
Disappointing content, and too much Photoshop
This book should really be titled "Photographic Multishot Techniques with Photoshop CS3". Although it does touch on some other software (in particular a quite detailed look at PhotoAcute) you get the distinct impression that the authors are out of their comfort zone unless they can "do it in Photoshop".
This is a great shame, because multishot techniques such as panoramic stitching and HDR are areas in which smaller software vendors have frequently produced powerful, innovative, inexpensive software solutions. Also, it makes the book less relevant to anyone who cannot afford (or does not want to invest in) full-blown Photoshop CS3.
The introductory sections are quite good, introducing the reader to basic multishot workflow techniques. However, there’s not much here for the more advanced reader. For example, the book explains how RAW files differ from processed files, but doesn’t really explore the pros and cons of feeding RAW files straight into multishot processing vs pre-processing them in a separate RAW convertor.
Surprisingly, the authors decide to start their exploration of multishot techniques with super-resolution, combining very similar shots to increase resolution or decrease noise. This is an odd choice, partly because it’s a relatively rare requirement, and partly because the only effective software support appears to be from PhotoAcute, which makes this a "one solution" chapter. Given that there’s another section at the end dealing with issues like sharpening and local contrast enhancement, it might have made more sense in that position.
The next section turns the attention to focus stacking. This is at least a balanced chapter, exploring techniques with Phtoshop, PhotoAcute, CombineZM and Helicon Focus. However, rather than exploring the options within the stacking tools, the authors seem happier to take the default output, and then extensively post-process it in Photoshop.
The section on panoramic stitching is particularly disappointing. Although there are a wealth of alternatives available, some of which are absolutely excellent, the authors don’t do a single worked example using anything other than Photoshop ‘s Photomerge command. They also use some very poor examples: some are just bad photography, like the wedding group with a number of people facing away from the camera, but others simply emphasise the limitations of the Photoshop focus. In one example the authors show a first-cut panorama which Photoshop has distorted wildly and stitched badly, but there is no "corrected" version.
HDR gets a better treatment, but again very much "Photoshop first". After a good introduction to the general subject, the first worked example uses manual blending of layers in Photoshop, then there’s a brief but effective example with PhotoAcute, then it’s back to Photoshop again! Finally they get to the clear leader in this space, Photomatix Pro, but again there’s very little attempt to explore the options of this powerful software. One key function is simply described by comparison to a Photoshop CS3 function, which is meaningless if you don’t have that software. FDRTools gets a surprisingly detailed review, given that the authors were working with a beta release of the software which was clearly not fully functional.
The final section is about improving image micro-contrast. While of interest, it’s not really a multishot technique, being more about various post-processing options in Photoshop. This is another missed opportunity to explore the trade-offs between pre-processing and post-processing component images, which would have perhaps been more useful.
Overall this book left me frustrated, as an opportunity lost. I did learn things from it, but instead of a balanced overview and keen insights into technique, this is just too much about fiddling in Photoshop.