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Layer Alignment


Ruidoso Bill

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Well I'm back, Found a new issue I am having issues with. I frequently shoot two tripod supported shots (wireless shutter, heavy manfrotto tripod), one ambient and one with flash. I only change shutter speed, never change aperture so as to not modify the shot. Also, I use back button focus so to not change focus lock. When I export in layers from LR into CS6 I normally do an auto align but there always seems to be a difference in the images so when I do a mask and blend via painting it always seems to lose sharpness, layers remain slightly misaligned. Is there a better or more precise was to align layers?
 
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Tom Mann

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IMHO the best way to reduce the shot-to-shot differences is by better camera technique, not PS work. I would do everything in my power not to apply any force from my hand on the camera, no matter how massive your tripod. Specifically, I would NOT use the rear focus button because it either has to be held in with considerable force between shots, or pressed twice. Pressing it twice is the poorer option because, not only are you pressing with force on it, but autofocus never gives exactly the same results.

Instead, I would get focus, then flip the little switch from AF to manual, and then leave it there for both shots. I would use a remote cable release so you don't have to touch the camera, and to turn the flash off, I would simply (and gently, without touching) hold up a little black card or box over the flash. Don't try to turn it on or off between shots.

HTH,

Tom M
 

Tom Mann

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I just remembered that about 2 weeks ago, I was asked to shoot a night time exterior of a modest house surrounded by woods that is being put on the market. Currently, there is very poor exterior lighting on that property, but the sellers are going to upgrade and wanted a photo of how it could look after the upgrade.

The reason I thought this might interest you is because my shot utilized many of the same techniques that I described in my previous post. With my camera on my 1970's vintage ultra-sturdy "Samson / Hercules" tripod,

samson_tripod_01.jpg


I walked around the front of the house with a remote trigger in one hand, and a remotely triggered flash in the other hand, and took around 20 shots, each with the flash lighting a different portion of the exterior or the trees. The relation of this to the suggestions in my previous post is that:

a) I focused only once, initially. I initially used auto-focus, and then switched the focus to manual so it wouldn't change between shots;

b) Because I used a remote camera trigger, I never once had to touch the camera, and possibly disturb its aim.

c) I was constantly adjusting the flash, but because it was off the camera, this removed another potential source of camera movement / vibration.


The bottom line of the above procedure was that the aim of the camera was so rock-solid that there was absolutely no need for me to use auto-alignment in PS or anything similar. As an experiment, I actually tried using auto-alignment, but all it did was slow down my workflow. It didn't improve the sharpness of the composite image in the least.

Attached is one of composites I delivered. Because I wanted you to see the sharpness, the file size exceeded the ordinary limits for this forum, but as a work-around, one can zip the file and it gets through the forum uploading software. I also attached a lower rez version so casual readers can get an idea of what the final product looked like without unzipping the large file.

HTH,

Tom M
 

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Ruidoso Bill

Active Member
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I just remembered that about 2 weeks ago, I was asked to shoot a night time exterior of a modest house surrounded by woods that is being put on the market. Currently, there is very poor exterior lighting on that property, but the sellers are going to upgrade and wanted a photo of how it could look after the upgrade.

The reason I thought this might interest you is because my shot utilized many of the same techniques that I described in my previous post. With my camera on my 1970's vintage ultra-sturdy "Samson / Hercules" tripod,

View attachment 69049


I walked around the front of the house with a remote trigger in one hand, and a remotely triggered flash in the other hand, and took around 20 shots, each with the flash lighting a different portion of the exterior or the trees. The relation of this to the suggestions in my previous post is that:

a) I focused only once, initially. I initially used auto-focus, and then switched the focus to manual so it wouldn't change between shots;

b) Because I used a remote camera trigger, I never once had to touch the camera, and possibly disturb its aim.

c) I was constantly adjusting the flash, but because it was off the camera, this removed another potential source of camera movement / vibration.


The bottom line of the above procedure was that the aim of the camera was so rock-solid that there was absolutely no need for me to use auto-alignment in PS or anything similar. As an experiment, I actually tried using auto-alignment, but all it did was slow down my workflow. It didn't improve the sharpness of the composite image in the least.

Attached is one of composites I delivered. Because I wanted you to see the sharpness, the file size exceeded the ordinary limits for this forum, but as a work-around, one can zip the file and it gets through the forum uploading software. I also attached a lower rez version so casual readers can get an idea of what the final product looked like without unzipping the large file.

HTH,

Tom M
I already use heavy Manfrotto tripods, like is said in the beginning I also use a wireless shutter release. When using back button focus my D800 & D810's hold the focus, I do not refocus, the only thing I touch is the shutter dial on the rear. Just seems that if I use the auto blend option I see a very sharp result, when I use photomatix I also see a sharp result, it is just the auto align which doesn't seem to work very well, was thinking I was doing something wrong. Seems odd most other software does a better job than PS when it comes to auto align is concerned.
 

Tom Mann

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Sounds like you are doing all the right things, Bill. Sorry to have been preaching to the choir, but we get questions on this forum from people of all ability levels, including those that will (and have) described a $20 tripod from Best Buy as "super sturdy" (LOL), so I'm never quite sure at what level to pitch my initial response to each person.

I have Photomatix and the various other options you mentioned, so, if I get a chance in the next week or so, I'll do some experiments and see if I run into the same problems as you did.

All the best,

Tom M

PS - One thought: Might some of the techniques (eg, Photomatix) apply some pre or post-alignment sharpening that the other techniques do not apply?
 

Ruidoso Bill

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Sounds like you are doing all the right things, Bill. Sorry to have been preaching to the choir, but we get questions on this forum from people of all ability levels, including those that will (and have) described a $20 tripod from Best Buy as "super sturdy" (LOL), so I'm never quite sure at what level to pitch my initial response to each person.

I have Photomatix and the various other options you mentioned, so, if I get a chance in the next week or so, I'll do some experiments and see if I run into the same problems as you did.

All the best,

Tom M

PS - One thought: Might some of the techniques (eg, Photomatix) apply some pre or post-alignment sharpening that the other techniques do not apply?
It just surfaced for me recently, I did go with a new gear drive head, it does have a tiny bit of slop, maybe the culprit. I have been blending a little ambient with my Flash shots, love natural light.
 
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Ruidoso Bill

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It will disappear if I continue to brush. I typically brush at 100% Opacity and 6% flow just to add the tad of ambient desired, when I first begin to brush you can see the misalignment and if I continue of course then it will paint the area over completely and sharpen, both are sharp just slightly misaligned. This is fine in most cases except when I don't want so much of that upper layer showing through. Thanks for the suggestions, always appreciated.

Here is my typical workflow if that helps:

1. Lightroom I do a Pre Blend Preset when typically knocks down the Orange, Yellow & Blue, Also apply my lens profile usually my Nikon 14-24 mm f2.8

2. Lightroom I sync with the 2nd image so they get the same treatment, then export as layers to PS CS6

3. In PS I select both (may be more than 2 on occasion) and Edit -> Auto-Align Layers

4. Select typically the top layer then Alt Create Mask

5. White Brush 100% Opacity, 6% Flow

6. I typically use the Ctrl + Shft + E to merge and flatten

7. Ctrl S, Ctrl W takes me back to lightroom

That's all folks, that is becoming more and more how I process. I process 2-3K of pics each week. I use lots of lighting to get the window pulls I need but without a little ambient sunshine they look a little flat and flashy and this technique makes everything just right. Anyway if you can see any place else in my work flow that might help let me know and again thanks for the suggestions.
 

Ruidoso Bill

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Quick update, I have found that by not doing the lens profile prior to exporting to PS most of the alignment issue are much better, one problem is I was using a new Tamron 15-30 and I can't apply the profile with anything other than a raw image but I tried with the Nikon 14-24 and applied the profile after blending in PS and it is much better. go figure.
 

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