Topaz Labs ReStyle - Quick Look

Take a look at the new plug in from Topaz Labs called ReStyle.  Hal demonstrates and discusses the plug in this quick video.  Restyle offers one click access to create stylized interpretation of your original image.  You can easily make dozens or hundreds of variations when using the 1000+ presets available in ReStyle. 

The presets are awesome; single click mapping of tones and colors to create unique images, but what makes ReStyle even cooler are the additional controls.  Once you apply a preset you can modify the settings, mask the effects, and even change Blend Modes!Blend Modes are one of my favorite features in Photoshop and it is great to have them available in ReStyle.

ReStyle will retail for 59.99 but the price is 29.99 until the 31st of August with the discount code "restyleit ".

Click the link below to check it out.   


Building a Printer Profile Video Demonstration

Hal recently recorded the process to build your own printer profile using an X-Rite Color Munki.  There are many choices out there but as Hal describes, the Munki delivers pretty good "bang for the buck."

If you prefer to read the process, click on the following link to Hal's description over on the Alpha Strike blog. 

Lightroom 5 Beta Features - Hal's Favorites

The three part video demonstrates and discusses my favorite features of the Lightroom 5 beta.  The full feature list is below but my favorites are: Improved spot removal and retouching, the Radial Filter, improved crop overlay, import functionality, Smart Previews, and Upright for auto lens corrections.

In the video I reference additional keyboard shortcuts for the Spot Removal and Radial Filter tools.  The shortcuts are shown below.

Spot Removal (Q)

-New circle spot (auto-find source): Single click

-New circle spot (user-defined source): Ctrl drag

-New circle spot (scale from center): Ctrl Alt drag

-New circle spot (scale from anchor): Ctrl Shift drag

-Connect two circle spots: Single click + Shift click

-Increase circle spot size: ]

-Decrease circle spot size: [

-New brush spot: Click drag

-Constrain brush spot to straight line: Shift drag

-Cycle Spot Type: Shift + Q

-Auto-Find New Source: /

-Visualize Spots: A

-Hide Spot Overlays: H

-Delete spot: Alt select

-Delete selected spot: Delete

-Delete multiple spots: Alt drag select

Radial Filter (Shift + M)

-New elliptical mask: Drag

-Apply new mask to crop bounds: Ctrl double-click

-Expand existing mask to crop bounds: Ctrl double-click on mask

-Duplicate: Ctrl Alt drag

-Invert elliptical mask: ’ (apostrophe)

-Hide/show guide: H (short press)

-Hide guide on press, show on release: H (long press)

-Apply & dismiss: Double-click on photo

-Delete selected elliptical mask: Delete

Major feature list

-Smart Previews

-PNGs now supported in Lightroom

-New fullscreen mode.  F key is true full screen.  Legacy full screen mode is Shift + F

-Configurable grid overlays for Loupe view

-New searchable criteria for Smart Collections - File size, Image size, Image bit depth, color channels, Color mode, Color profile, Smart Preview statsus, and PNG

-Advanced healing brush for Spot Removal

-Radial Filter

-Upright auto lens corrections

-LAB color readout on histogram.  Right click on the histogram for a flyout menu.

-New book features

I will do additional videos to show some of these upgrade features.

Fiat Lux!

Computer Specs

One of the most common questions we field concerns computer technical specifications.  People often ask how they should equip and configure their next machine for digital photography purposes (often phrased as Photoshop or Lightroom purposes.)  So let's talk computers for one little post.


Recent build in the LIGHT studio.

LIGHT recommends the current specs as an excellent configuration.  Off the side I will add comments and fall back positions.

Processor - Core i7 quad core.  We are currently using the Core i7 3770 at 3.4 GHz.  Although the two programs listed above perform best with a fast processor a good fall back position is found in the Core i5 3xxx options. We could go on a bit further regarding hyper threading or adding additional physical cores but we have not seen a huge requirement in typical digital photography needs.  If you push a bit beyond the ordinary with your work, take these into consideration.

Memory - 16 GB.  Most baseline systems these days are equipped with 8 GB of RAM but 16 will give you a nice performance boost.  There normally is no need to get the fastest clock speed RAM available unless you are also going to play games.  On the lower side, go with 12 and on the upper top out at 32.

Graphics - Dedicated video card.  There are a huge number of options here but start with an nVidia or ATI set with at least 1 GB.  You may be tempted to go with the higher end cards but you will not see a huge benefit unless you are working with video or gaming.  If you are thinking of running two or more high resolution displays you may want to upgrade as well. With all that said, the integrated graphics on the Core i5 and i7 (from 2500-4000) are pretty good.  You might be surprised how well they work.  The nice thing is you can always add a dedicated video card later if you need to.

SSD - Solid state drive for programs and speed critical data.  SSD prices have dropped significantly and the performance boost is really nice.  An SSD is not a must have but a majority of our clients enjoy the faster start up times and fast program launches.  At a minimum go with a 128ish GB drive.  You can go bigger (my laptop has a 512 GB SSD) but the drives will be a bit pricier.

Hard drives - At least two, one for data and one for scratch/working space.  Hard drive prices have come back down so we like at least 1 TB for storage and 320-500 GB for scratch.  Try for the 7200 rpm drives and if you want faster there are 10k and 15k rpm available. 

Ports - USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt.  Odds are you will connect external storage to your machine and you want it to be fast.  At the top of the list is the Thunderbolt connection, huge speed and flexibility but not as many peripheral/storage choices and much more expensive.  Not nearly as fast but almost ubiquitous and priced right, the USB 3.0 connection is a necessity. Definitely think about these options as one of the most frustrating things is waiting for your machine to communicate with external storage (Lightroom users especially.)

Fortunately, these specs are not too far out of reach for most folks.  Although you may pay a bit more for the system, configuring it properly will save you big in time and workflow efficiency.


Pure fun building this little beast of a Photoshop machine.

For the somewhat adventurous, LIGHT recommends building your own system.  I recently built the computer shown in the pictures above for about $1275 and two hours of my time.  It has all of the options listed above and is unbelievably fast.  For those who may be thinking Thunderbolt and Windows?  My machine is Windows and has two Thunderbolt ports along with eight USB 3.0 and a handful of USB 2.0.  Depending upon how and when you source your parts the do it yourself option can save you quite a bit.  More importantly, the process forces you to learn about the options and make smart choices as to what is best for your needs and workflow.

Any questions, comments, concerns, or addtions add a comment or email me at

Fiat Lux!

Add Two Steps

Recently, we have seen an increase in photographers using the High Pass filter in Photoshop to add edge contrast and texture detail to their images.  This is a cool technique but when you use the filter remember to add two more steps; desaturate your layer before applying the High Pass filter and always target your filter effects with a mask.


You may have seen or heard many photographers talking about how they sharpen only on the Lightness channel in L*A*B* or they make sure to change the blend mode of their sharpening layers to Luminosity or they use the Fade option with a Luminosity blend mode change.  There are many good reasons to make these switches and we suggest you use them in your sharpening or contrast boost workflow.  For the same reasons, when you use High Pass desaturate.

It is a common misconception that when you run the High Pass filter you are left with an image that is baseline 50% gray and only shows brighter or darker tonality at the edge contrast and texture detail.  Instead, High Pass may retain color information from the original image.  This can lead to color shifts or colored fringe along a high contrast edge similar to haloing.


Notice the

remaining color.

Our workflow is to copy the background layer or stamp visible if you have a multi-layer document and then desaturate via Image>Adjustments>Desaturate this can also be executed with the keyboard shortcut of CTRL+Shift+U for Windows or CMD+Shift+U for Mac.


For those who want to play or have more control you can

  • Run a Black and White adjustment instead and modify the tonality of the color arcs.
  • Use multiple layers of High Pass set to different radii.
  • Leave the color in your layer in order to generate a color boost. Watch out for fringing!
  • Use the filter on a Smart Object so you can make changes.
  • Invert your filter layer to decrease contrast and texture detail.

The second misconception is that areas that appear to be smooth after running the High Pass filter are not. Make sure to use a mask and target the filter effect to only those areas that you want to modify. In general, LIGHT does not recommend enhancing the edge contrast or texture detail on the following:

  • The sky especially blue sky.
  • Areas of constant color or tone.
  • Flowing water.
  • Out of focus areas.
  • Human skin especially female skin.

Fiat Lux!

Alaska Time Lapse

While I was looking over some images for yesterday's blog I found this sequence.  Thought it would make a nice simple time lapse.

Gorgeous Alaska day and a slow humpback whale dive.  Shot the sequence on my photo tour with a Canon 1D Mk IV and an EF 70-300 4.5/5.6L.

Put the time lapse together with Lightroom. Recommend the 720 quality option.

Ambrosia Coating: Rolling it on.

Ambrosia Coating: Application to Canvas with a roller.

from Hal Schmitt on Vimeo

A quick video showing the process and disussing tactics, techniques, and procedures for effective canvas coating with a roller.  For this demo, I used a Canon ipf 6350, Alpha Strike's new Lucia/Lucia EX ready canvas, and Ambrosia.

With this new coating you can also coat water resistant photo and art papers;archival protection without glass or glazing, very, very cool.  More videos on those soon.

For all of the product specs check out Ambrosia.