Diffusion & Softening of Digital Photography Images

Like many people who've made the switch from film cameras to digital, I've discovered that the lens tools I once used so effectively on my cameras to soften, diffuse and vignette my images for quality "finished" professional results won't do for digital what they did for film.

I'm sure it's arguable by some that their diffusers still work fine, and I too have discovered that some tools still work okay under some circumstances; my Ziess Softar #1 seemed to offer decent results when photographing a single subject in the studio but I knew that the black netting diffuser that I used with my Lindahl Bell-o-shade no longer worked on the Nikon D70 zoom lens at the wider angles without showing lines in the image. Not a risk I was willing to take professionally so I just stopped using the Lindahl shade and drop-down filters for a while.

Then it happened. A savvy carriage trade-minded customer brought in a wall portrait that she had purchased several years ago by a photographer obviously using medium format lens tools like I was used to using in the past with my film camera. She wanted her new wall portraits to have that same "softened" look. So I arrived at the portrait session armed with my digital camera equipped with the very mild Softar Filter that works at any aperture on any lens thinking that this was good insurance at getting the kind of "softness" she could live with.

Understand that I knew any diffusion used on an entire family group portrait would be more exaggerated by their relative head sizes but I had explained that to her and she assured me she liked her portrait images "very soft".

While the images looked good on the small camera monitor, once I opened them up in Photoshop and printed them out as proofs I knew they were too soft. I called a colleague who is a digital expert and explained to him what I had done. He told me that you simply cannot use on-lens filters anymore for professional softening and diffusion without creating mush on 35mm type digital camera images. This leaves the special effects job now to the computer and not the camera. "But I've tried using Photoshop CS for their diffusion tools and what I get doesn't look like real photography," I complained, "The results are terrible." He agreed that Photoshop's filters weren't the right tools either to mimic the professional photography filters of the past but told me that there is a company that has a software program that is a plug-in for my Photoshop and has filter tools to recreate believable results for various levels of softening and diffusion.

The software is called "PhotoKit" and is available from Pixel Genius for only $49.95. I bought the Mac version and it is wonderful. I have played around with it now and have found that you can get varying degrees of whatever you want that looks similar to what you used to be able to do with your old lens filters and drop-down tools. Even more possibilities are now available to you. One of my favorites is the ability to lasso areas and "clear" the results of diffusion keeping eyes and teeth sparkly and sharp.

If there is a downside to doing your diffusion this way it's that the customer can't really see the results on the proof, so they have to "trust" your artistic license. But it was like this with retouching too so there will be a short new education curve for your clientele to learn, or to save yourself from disaster you might offer a second proof appointment to show the customer a proof of their selected images with the added softening or diffusion. It's going to take more time and you'll end up with having to rework some things more than you want so I'd only recommend this for customers like mine who's initial concern was the diffusion issue.

In summary, softening and diffusion can be done effectively and professionally but it's not as easy as it used to be when you'd just pick the filter you wanted and pop it over the lens. Your old on-camera lens filters will often turn your digital images to "mush" or images of weak contrast that may or may not be salvageable.

Tom Ray is a Certified Professional Photographer through the Professional Photographers of America. If you are interested in his full story please go to: http://www.rayphotography.com/HomeBiz2info.ht ml - Professional Photography: Success Without School!

In The News:


Get Closer to Your Subject

Almost any shot will look better if you take two... Read More

Optimize Your Photos for the Web

It doesn't matter if your emailing photos of your grandson... Read More

Wildlife Scouting Cameras

For years I wondered how big the bucks were that... Read More

The Alligator Farm - Home to Beautiful Winged Creatures

Your first thought when you read "Alligator Farm" might be... Read More

Nikon Digital Cameras - Cool(pix) and Functional

Even though Nikon entered the camera world by 1948, today... Read More

Photography - Things to Consider Before Buying a Camera

Before you are able to take the kind of photos... Read More

Disposable Cameras for Weddings

Disposable wedding cameras (also called single-use cameras) will never replace... Read More

Removing Cracks and Creases when Restoring Old Photos ? 5 Minute Digital Fix

A common problem with old photos is that they often... Read More

Photography Has No Gender

Women photographers are fortunate. Unlike other titles, photographer has no... Read More

Choosing the Right Digital Camera

Choosing the right digital camera for general use can be... Read More

Digital Camera Memory - An Introduction

The digital camera is essentially a computer-based device, whose core... Read More

Digital Camera Batteries

Every device needs a driving force to operate, just as... Read More

The Beauty of Nature Photography

Nature is all around us, and its beauties are unlimited.... Read More

How to Create a Great Video - a Simple Guide on How to Shoot Home Movies with a Camcorder

So you have bought a camcorder and have shot some... Read More

Digicam File Formats

Looking at the digital camera, a person can visualize it... Read More

Canon Digital Camera - from Humble Beginnings to World Class Company

Started in a single-room by three Japanese men in the... Read More

The Arizona Desert Museum

The vast beauty and richness of the desert can be... Read More

Help! My Old Colour Photo has Turned Pink ? 5 Minute Digital Fix

Almost all of us will have seen this particular photographic... Read More

Use A Tripod!

Using a tripod is essential when taking photos - and... Read More

Traveling to Europe with Your Digital Camera?

The Vacation Season is fast approaching and naturally you will... Read More

How to Buy Wholesale Disposable Cameras

Wholesale disposable cameras are disposable cameras bought in quantity. Bulk... Read More

Crooked Horizons in Your Photos? ? Here is a Five Minute Digital Fix

Remember the good old photography days?Film camera in hand, you... Read More

Light and Depth of Field

With such a fantastic device as the digital camera for... Read More

Using a Camcorder to Record Family Events Quickly and Easily

Let's start there (but not spend too much time on... Read More

Let Those Digital Photos Out! (You Don?t Have To Print Them Yourself)

What have you done with the photos you've taken with... Read More