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Free and Cheap Photography Software: Part Two - Picture Window Pro (2nd half)

This is the 2nd half of an article on Picture Window Pro image editing software.

The 2nd half focuses on two of Picture Window Pro’s most innovative features. First, the 3-Zone Adjustment (under the “Gray” transformation menu), and second, the Workflow feature, Picture Window Pro’s approach to automating repetitive actions. Warp, for rapid and intuitive correction of perspective distortion is also covered.  Finally, all is wrapped up with my conclusions.

Please be sure to check out some of the other important features and advantages of Picture Window Pro in the “1st half” of the article.

3-Zone Adjustment

Selectively applying brightness adjustments to different parts of an image can sometimes be a lot of work.  Especially when one needs multiple masks to make customized brightness changes in several different parts of the image. Picture Window Pro’s “3-Zone Adjustment” can often make quick work of these complex edits.  It does this by automatically building masks for different luminosity ranges in the image: highlights, midtones, and shadows.

This image, of my son Brian and his girlfriend’s dog Chloe, needs a lot of work. Chloe, from the “reality” of my memory, is a very white, just-washed, dog, but the original exposure leaves her much too gray and “dirty-looking,” plus some detail is lost in her white forehead.  Likewise, Brian’s face is much too dark.  Thus, we have at least 3 complex areas to edit – 3-Zone Adjustment to the rescue!

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Before - Several problem areas

Selecting the 3-Zone Adjustment from the “Gray” transformation menu opens this dialog box. The push buttons at the top toggle between several views of the image: Z - luminosity zones, M - masks (for highlights, midtones and shadows), B - before, and A - After. 

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Three-Zone Dialog Box

The tabs at the bottom of the dialog box reveal all the slider controls for each luminosity range (highlight, shadow and midtone), and for blending the zones. The sliders for blending are shown above.  The sliders for the luminosity ranges also include: Contrast, Brightness and Saturation.  Those are the most important changes applied to each luminosity range.

Immediately below the histogram, triangular sliders enable fine adjustment of the boundaries between highlight, midtone and shadow.  Here we see the 3 luminosity zones adjusted for this image.

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Three Luminosity Zones - Highlight, Shadow and Midtone

The next three figures show the automatically generated masks for the highlights, shadows and midtones.  The Contrast, Brightness and Saturation slider settings are applied using these masks.

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Highlight Mask

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Shadow Mask (Wooh - that looks pretty weird!)

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Midtone Mask

Here is the final result of the 3-Zone Adjustment. 

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Final Result - Clean, White Chloe Dog with all detail retained, correct skin tone for my son (whiskers emphisized!), and darker shadows  (Social Note: Chloe really is that friendly - she is one sweet puppy dog, and still growing!)

Quick and easy!  I hope you agree that the final image captures these two buddies in a much better light.

Workflow - Macros

Picture Window Pro’s Workflow feature makes building macros to do multiple complex edits applied to many images quick, easy and very visual.  Building flexible user friendly macros uses many of the same tools found in the transformations menu. Each step of a Workflow can be tested, refined and perfected until it’s “just right.” And it’s simple to modify any step of a saved Workflow to handle a new situation.

This simple example illustrates the power. Three-hundred (300) + already edited images needed to be cropped, resized, sharpened and saved for use on the web. A great job for the workflow below.  The Workflow was built and tested on one image and saved.  Then the whole batch was loaded into the Workflow dialog - click on GO - a few short minutes later all 300 were processed, with no errors.

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Workflow dialog illustrating a macro using cropping, resizing, sharpening and saving.

Much more complex Workflows are just as easy to build, test, save and reuse using most of the dozens of transformations available to Picture Window Pro users: Color, Geometry, Gray, Sharpen…, Special Effects, and others.

I’ve used this same Workflow several times since then, and I’m sure it will be used often in the future, especially when gobs of images from new events need processing fast.

Warp

Correcting perspective distortion is also quick and easy with Picture Window Pro.  Just select “Warp” from the “Geometry” transformation menu, drag the control points to get the grid lines parallel to the image features that you want to be vertical (or horizontal), and you’re done.

I happen to like this wide view of the many stacks at Sloss Furnaces with those stacks pointing away from vertical, but to please the many critical eyes of my fellow APS members, I now have a version with the stacks vertical.  I’m sure everyone will love it!

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Using Warp to Correct Vertical Perspective Distortion

Conclusion

This quick summary of a few examples of Picture Window Pro’s wealth of capabilities just scratches the surface.  I’ll be happy to entertain your questions about the program.

Picture Window Pro really is a superb editing application for photographers.  It was built by a legendary programmer with only photography in mind.  It has been refined and expanded with truly useful tools and features for over 20 years.  But it’s not “bloated” with hard to use features that you don’t need; it’s for photography, not other stuff.  

In the ten+ years I’ve used the program (starting with v. 4.0 back in 2005) Picture Window Pro has kept up with every advance in cameras, and has kept up with, and often surpassed other companies’ new features.  And it has stayed easy to use, fast and powerful. 

All this is just my opinion, but don’t take my word for it.  Try it.  Download Picture Window Pro for a trial (the trial is a fully functioning version), test it out and see for yourself.  You’ll save lots of $$$ too.  

But if money is no object, you love confusing interfaces and tons of “features” you never use (and never will),…

Nah, nobody’s like that!

Jim Harrison, President

Atlanta Photographic Society

Free and Cheap Photography Software: Part Two - Picture Window Pro (1st half)

“Are your images Photoshoped?” is a question that I get often and can always easily answer. “No. I don’t use Photoshop, but I do use some great photography software that is much cheaper, and even free.”  And now that Adobe has gone to a pay perpetually (subscription) pricing model, it might be well worth your while to check out these great free and inexpensive programs that I use all the time.  

This article, the second in a series of three, covers Picture Window Pro, a superb, inexpensive image editing program built specifically for photography. The first article covered Raw Therapee, an outstanding raw converter - you do shoot Raw, don’t you! The last installment will acquaint you with Lightzone, a unique, free editing program that includes special tools you won’t find anywhere else.

Editor - Picture Window Pro

Picture Window Pro (7.0) provides full feature photo editing capabilities in a very inexpensive, user-friendly interface.  First released during 1994, it was designed specifically for photography and has received regular updates since.

Picture Window Pro is a product from Digital Light and Color, headed by Jonathan Sachs, the original developer of Lotus 1-2-3.  Lotus was the first “killer app” for the IBM -PC back during the 1980′s and was instrumental in the success, popularity and growth of personal computers.

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Picture Window has so many great features that a short article simply can’t cover them all. (it’s excellent user manual covers over 500 pages, plus numerous “white papers” also explain the details of how to do almost everything.)  

Support also includes a message board/forum where user questions are answered quickly, both by the program’s developers (Jonathan Sachs and Kiril Sinkel) and knowledgeable users from around the world.  (Just click on the links to access the manual, white papers and message board.)

For example, when I noticed that there didn’t seem to be a “clarity” function, a quick check of the message board solved that.  Jonathan Sachs post about the “Local Contrast Enhancement” white paper let me know that bilateral sharpening with a large blur radius (40) and a sharpen factor < 1.8 does the trick.

Picture Window Pro sells for $89, and is a great bargain in this brave new world of subscription (pay forever) software pricing.  Full evaluation versions, 64 or 32 bit, as well as the manual and white papers can be downloaded for free.

Here are a few examples to highlight this wonderful program’s key features and ease of use.

Brightness Curves

Most of Picture Window’s editing tools are found under the “Transformation” menu.  Here we’ve selected “Brightness Curve” from the “Grey” transformation.  Applying a brightness curve lets us quickly and easily improve the contrast and exposure for this image that’s much too “flat” after our RAW conversion.

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Brightness Curve - Before

The brightness curve dialog allows us to add multiple control points anywhere on the histogram to adjust global brightness in many different ranges.  We could also use a mask (more on masks later) to apply a brightness curve to any selected portion(s) of the image.

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Brightness Curve - Dialog

Selectively lowering the shadows and midtones while raising highlights, except for the small area of “blown” highlight in the large sign, let’s us quickly complete the image with much better contrast and perceived detail.  The steel rifle targets in the center now show significantly better definition.

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Brightness Curve - After

Masks

Extensive masking tools allow Picture Window to handle a huge variety of editing tasks (that are accomplished by “Layers” in programs such as Photoshop). This image has a nice budding Dogwood flower in the foreground, but the out-of-focus background is too busy and bright, detracting from the sharply focused subject.

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Before Applying a Brightness Curve to the Mask

The masking tools in Picture Window support easy selection of any shapes (or colors).  Here we used the “similar pixels track” brush to select around the flower and stem in just a few seconds. We quickly expanded the mask to encompass the rest of the images, except the flower.

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Mask Critical Area

Next, applying a brightness curve to darken only the masked area (all except the flower and stem), we get a resulting image that really “pops” the bright subject Dogwood flower. 

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All but Critical Area Darkened Using Brightness Curve- The Subject “Pops”

Monochrome Conversion

Monochrome, or black & white, images are still a big part of photography and an important category for our club competitions.  But (almost) all digital images are captured originally in color, so good color to monochrome conversions are a necessity.  Picture Window makes this easy, including the quick testing of many options and filters to get a great conversion.

The very mono-tone cave image below just begged to be in black & white. Selecting “Monochrome” from the “Color” transformation menu we tried numerous options in seconds, settled on a pure red (100% red 0% green and 0% blue) filter for the initial conversion (top right in the figure below).  With Picture Window’s flexible monochrome tools, one can pick any combination of “RGB” from the color space (shown below).  One may also choose any existing color filter (glass filters traditionally used for film photography) by clicking “Options” in the color space dialog box.  

The final image (bottom right in the figure below) uses a brightness curve to smooth the harsh lighting of the cave image while retaining the full range of subtle tonality in the subject cave formations.

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Monochrome Conversion

That concludes the first half of this summary of a few examples of Picture Window Pro’s outstanding features.  The next installment will cover more great, unique features including 3-Zone Adjustments, Workflows (macros), and others, plus my conclusions.

Jim Harrison, President

Two More PSA Honors Awards!

We now have the results from the final batch of entries for this year’s Photographic Society of America (PSA) Projected Image Division (PID) competition.  Two more Honors Awards (Blue Ribbons) were received by our talented Atlanta Photographic Society photographers.  Stan Greenberg won an Honors Award for “Sunrise at the Boneyard,” and Jim Harrison also won an Honors Award for “Sloss Wheel 2.”  Congratulations!

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Sunrise at the Boneyard by Stan Greenberg

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Sloss Wheel 2 by Jim Harrison

The final results for the entire year are also in and APS once again did very well among the clubs competing in Group D.  We finished in 8th place among the 30 clubs participating in that group from across the US, and around the world. Please check this link for the final results from all the groups, plus the incredible galleries of award winning images.

APS is proud of all 13 of our members whose images were entered for this year’s competition: Jim Barbour, Brad Bartee, Ru Britton, Enrique Duprat, Stan Greenberg, Jim Harrison, Marc McElhaney, Al McLeod, Janerio Morgan, Shakar Narayanan, Darryl Neill, Mike Shaefer, and Don Stevens.  Our APS photographers are among the best!

Jim Harrison, APS President

Older Posts

Custom Post Images

APS MeetUp Group

APS is now on "Meetup"

Join our Meetup group to follow our scheduled competitions, programs, field trips and other club activities. The Atlanta Photographic Society's Meetup group is for both club members and guests.  Our Meetup group's name is "Atlanta Photographic Society."  Please click on the link to join our Meetup.

http://www.meetup.com/Atlanta-Photographic-Society/

Member Happenings

Mike Shaefer's Images Published

The latest issue of Jim Zuckerman's newsletter, Photo Insights - June 2016, includes a beautiful spread of images by Atlanta Photographic Society member Mike Shaefer. Mike's photographs are in the "Student Showcase" section, pages 31 -34.  All ten of Mike's images are from his recent trip to Cuba, and, as usual, wow!  

Outstanding work!!

Equipment Corner

ColorMunki

The Atlanta Photographic Society's X-Rite ColorMunki device is available to Club members only for their personal use to calibrate monitors and printers/papers. The checkout period is ~1 month (bring back to the next club meeting in ~1 month).

A color managed work flow is essential to ensure that what you see on your monitor is accurate, and that what you print is what you see on your monitor. It's also necessary for accurate viewing of your images on other monitors.

For more information on the ColorMunki, tutorials, etc. please see the X-Rite web site. You can also consult with Don Stephens or other club members with experience using the ColorMunki.

Tips, Techniques and Learning Corner

Photography Fundamentals Videos

A wonderful series of 24 half-hour videos covering the fundamentals of photography is available for checkout to  club members only for their personal use for photographic learning/education.

The checkout period is for ~1 month ( bring back to the next club meeting in ~ 1 month).

Whether you are a beginning, intermediate, or advanced photographer you are sure to take away at least one new gem of insight that you can put to use to improve your photography from each of these outstanding lessons.

Ultimate Photo Guide Videos

This excellent series of 10 short (4-6 minutes each) videos from Outdoor Photographer and Digital Photo Magazines cover a great introduction to photography for beginners, and are a good, quick review of the basics.  You can view them all in about one hour.  It is available for checkout to  club members only for their personal use for photographic learning/education.

The checkout period is for ~1 month (bring back to the next club meeting in ~ 1 month).

The Digital Photography Book

Scott Kelby's superb book is a very handy longtime favorite.  It's highly recommended by both your President, Jim Harrison, and our Competition Chair, Al McLeod.

It is also available for checkout to  club members only for their personal use for photographic learning/education.

The checkout period is for ~1 month ( bring back to the next club meeting in ~ 1 month).

Your inkjet paper purchases can now benefit the Atlanta Photographic Society! Just click on the Red River Paper link, order your favorite papers, and the club receives 5% of the purchase amount.

Red River Paper was founded in 1997 and has become a trusted supplier of exceptional photographic inkjet papers to customers around the world. The company offers products that often exceed major retail brand quality with a savings as much as 40%.

 

Wings Camera & Digital

Wings Camera & Digital has been serving Atlanta's photography needs for an amazing 103 years!

APS members will get Full Camera Cleaning for $24.95 (regularly $29.95). Use APS2015 for Discounts. Thanks Mike!

PDF Slide Presentation on Paper

by Janerio Morgan

Paper Presentation PDF

NOTE: Right-Click and download the PDF and view the PDF from your desktop instead of the browser, so you can click on the website links to view the many resources.

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