Agnes Caruso Photography

Photography


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Hugin – your panorama maker!

Creating panoramic images is not a trivial thing and learning how to do it well is not easy. There are many different solutions, some require special lenses, others are software based. Wide angle lenses have been in many photographers’ bags for decades. They allow to take a panoramic photograph ready to print once downloaded. However, many photographers do not have one of those and majority of amateurs do not have one either.

So what can they do? Taking a series of images partly overlapping is the solution, even photos taken with a wide angle lens can be stitched together. Such series of images has to be then processed to create one single image. This is done with a software tool. One of the best tools I have used for this purpose is hugin software. I do not remember when I started using it but it was still on my old MacBook Pro. Now I use it on Windows 10 platform. It allows you to stitch horizontal and vertical panoramas, adjust their sizes and composition.

The user interface is available on three different levels: simple, advanced and expert. You can also switch between the interfaces as I frequently do while running the program.

I have seen opinions that the software is not great for beginners but I did not find it difficult at all to use. The user interface is not what many people are used to and may seem complicated or difficult but it really is very easy to use. Help content is great and can guide you through all the aspects of creating a panorama.

How to create a panorama?

  • Export your images in jpeg format from Adobe Lightroom or another program. Additionally, I save my images for making panoramas in a separate folder to make them easy to find.
  • Load your images and simple interface is the easiest way to get this done, especially when you are starting with the software.
  • Order of images does not really matter for most part but I like keeping them in a direction from left to right. The first image you import will be called anchor image to which the next one will be compared, so the best practice is to have one of the edge images (left or right) as anchor ones. You can change the anchor image after import but that is an extra step.

  • The next step is to let the software align your images, if there is a good overlap between them, using ALIGN function directly in the simple interface is going to do the trick. You can also select the type of lens you are using or projection you want to use but it is not critical to do it at this stage. You can also inspect the connection points between images, seen in the lower image as colored squares with numbers. If you need to manually assign connection points it will take a little bit of time and effort. I had very few images which needed this kind of adjustment. If there is an alignment problem check how the software is aligning the images.
  • Once the panorama was created, canvas size can be adjusted and an image can be cropped. I usually adjust it to an optimal size, but you can choose any size. Composition can be additionally altered using golden ratio, rule of thirds or diagonals, seen as very light yellow lines in the bottom image of the bridge panorama.

  • Each time you create a panorama, software will save a project which can be later re-opened in hugin software.
  • If you continue working then with a second image set, you will need to remove the current images from the project and add new ones. However, when the software saves the new project you need to check the file name as it tends to save it with the same file name as the previous one.
  • Most panoramas we create are usually horizontal and if you are attempting to do a vertical one, there will be a need to adjust the mode for matching points from normal to vertical. You can see a vertical panorama of Hallgrimskirkja.

Images created can be used directly or can be imported into another software for some additional processing. hugin is a great little software that does a perfect job. Obviously if there are no adequate overlap points it may struggle to join images and you may need to edit points by hand.

One thing that you need to remember is that if your images have very different light the final panorama might look strange. One solution I found was to actually ensure the correct exposure when taking pictures. It is by far the best way to get matching or gradient images. Light adjustment in software like Adobe Lightroom is a much less preferable solution as it can create artifacts and unnatural effects across the panorama. And if you want to make changes to the whole image, it is best to do them once you created and imported panorama back into Adobe Lightroom.

 


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Adopting Windows 10 for a photography workflow

IMG_9094-Edit_pp-1Changes of computer platforms or even system upgrades can be daunting and I do not think that we are really feeling adventurous when our workflow is working. However, what to do when your process is not quite perfect or you have to make a change? Have many of you thought about upgrading to or changing to Windows 10? Probably not many. So I just want to show you a few tricks that seem to have worked for me and how I went about the change.

My existing workflow was working but getting a little tired and with two upgrades of the MacOS in short succession I was starting to get a little edgy with my once powerful MacBookPro. The time has come to do something to improve things. What were the factors that I took into account before making a decision how to go forward?

The most important point was what we all call a “pain point” so how much effort I am willing to put into the change. Do I really want to switch from a Mac, what are my needs going forward? Another obvious factor was value for money not just price. What would make the new computer or system valuable?

To start off, the new computer has to be able to do what I am already doing and have room to grow with my needs, and the system has to support all of the applications and tools I have and need or may need. Processing photos is not a simple task that any computer can do, at least not when you are dealing with large number of photos in RAW format. I knew I needed some serious power, so dual core and fast processor was critical. The next thing was RAM, which needs to be at least 8GB, so you can fly through the processing steps. When you browsing for actual computer make sure to look at the RAM and if it can be expanded if it comes with a lower number such as 4GB. A large hard drive is always good to have, but do not go crazy, remember – “value for money”, 1TB drives are pretty common, although 500GB are even more common. It is pretty common sense that you want to have a few USB ports, potentially some extension ports. One thing that seems to be getting out of style, but can still be needed is a DVD/CD drive. Yes, just in case you have some old fashioned disc copies of your software or images, it could be a critical part of your new gear. And finally, a graphics card. Yup, it needs to be good or your images are going to look like they need a lot of help and computer is still going to struggle if you are processing videos in particular. There are many choices, the type and version of the card makes a difference. The top card in 2015 is Nvidia GeForce GTX 980, followed by Nvidia GeForceĀ  GTX 970 and AMD Radeon R9 290X. So here is your top three, but unless you are a video editor, play lots of games or a bit of a geek, it is not really going to help you much. My suggestion is read a bit more, and make a list of what your processing needs are, if you will be editing videos, it has to be a bit better than what you need for just images. Now if you thought I was finished on this topic, not yet. There is one critical issue, a backup drive! Yes, you need one and there is even more choice, My Book, My Cloud and variations on the theme from WD, SATA, Toshiba… and some more companies. I used both WD and SATA before, they both work fine, you can also back up to a cloud storage if you buy one of the Cloud Drives and use it to merge all your files from different sources. Choice of one over another is a personal and subjective decision, choose what you know if you are not sure. You may want to get some more in depth technical aspects of choosing an actual computer, then checkoutĀ ShutterBug, it is definitely a helpful resource.

IMG_8510-Edit_pp-6So now that we reviewed the needs, what can we buy? A Mac or Windows, so far we are equal, computers with both systems are technically pretty even. Yes, I remember Vista and Windows 8 and a few other things. However, Mac was not that good to me, system upgrade disabled some of my applications permanently and I had to change the photo processing workflow, so I think that we are still equal. The obvious thought was to toss a coin and decide, but obviously that is not the best way to solve the problem. Microsoft just raced through Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and then Windows 10 was coming. Should I switch to Windows 8? The answer was no, by the time I get settled it will be outdated. The new version, Windows 10, was just about to be released so I decided to wait till it comes out.

As you can figure out, I decided that Windows 10 offers a better value for money for me, allows me to run all the applications I use currently and I can establish a workflow that will do what I want and how I want. I am sure I can hear a few “Oh boy! is that going to even work? She must be a geek!”

I am not a geek but know enough about computers to feel comfortable jumping in a little ahead of the curve. So what software do I actually use on Windows 10? Adobe Lightroom is pretty much my workhorse, I use Portrait Studio for some of the work, Hugin – the perfect panorama tool, now supports Windows (Hurray!), Canon camera software (not super useful but has occasional use) and I also decided to test and run Corel PaintShop Pro X8. I know Adobe Photoshop, I used it quite a lot and I still have not made a decision if I want to keep using it or not. In meantime I wanted something close to it that I can have on my desktop, so Corel fits perfectly. I also create books on Blurb and there are two applications for book editing, that I am going to compare, but both work just fine so far. Again InDesign from Adobe is great and would be my choice for professional editing, but I find it a little tiresome when I have to return back to it after a break.

An even more critical question you may have is: how did the file transfer work, all the settings especially in Lightroom supporting processing, export etc.? The transfer and re-establishment of the same version (can call it a clone) took me about an hour. Now my laptop can rest and get upgraded to the newest OS and I can do real and fast work on Windows 10.

How does Windows 10 feel? You get pretty much the features of Windows 7 with the start menu and some of the Windows 8 features such as tiles still available. Touchscreen is a huge advantage, even if you think you may not use it, it comes in handy and on a laptop is it critical, on a desktop it is nice to have it. As to the critical settings menus etc those got moved a bit around so it does take a little time to find what you need. I just had an interesting conversation at a Micro Center store about Windows 10 and how some people feel that it is not ready for prime time. It can definitely do what my old laptop was capable of doing, it feels better than Windows 7 and it is faster. All the standard Office applications can be put on or you can use a cloud solution, there are many choices. New Microsoft Office 2016 is pretty much the same as its previous versions, there are a few new features which I have not yet explored. When it comes to Apps, on a desktop just use online services, Apps are not so useful.

WP_20151031_005 (2)And finally the all important question, how long did the transition take? How long before all was re-established, your settings for online services – Flickr, SmugMug, WordPress etc.? I would say a day, if you want to be conservative, set aside 2 days and take it easy. If you subscribe to Xmarks you can bring in all your bookmarks right across from various platforms and browsers, so that saves you time too. The hardest task you will face is actual computer selection and that is again “VALUE FOR MONEY”, I suggest making a list of must haves and would like to have. Then head to some of the stores to see what is out there. Best place to look in my opinion is B&H store, but as not everyone can get to the NY superstore, you can chat with helpful fellows at B&H online or visit some local stores to get a look at Windows 10. Some of the Microsoft store staff is really good and can take you for a nice tour of the system and they also run classes in case you need them.

In conclusion, it works! If you are still hesitant, reach out to me and I can try and answer your questions or give you some suggestions. Take it easy grab a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy!