Photographic Multishot Techniques

Authors: Juergin and Rainer Gulbins

Publisher: Rocky Nook

Review by Conrad J. Obregon

Digital photography has replaced film. It’s not just because it’s cheaper. There are things that can be done with a digital camera that were difficult or impossible with film. These include the ability to extend the light range of photographs to match the human eye and to extend the areas of a picture in focus far beyond the normal abilities of film. Many of these capabilities require the combination of several images to achieve. It’s these latter capabilities with which the authors deal.

After a discussion of the general workflow for multishot processes the authors explore super-resolution, which allows the combination of several successive images to create an image with greater resolution then the native resolution of the taking camera; focus stacking, which combines several images of a single subject at different focusing distance to achieve a deeper field of sharp focus; stitching, which allows the combination of several different images to achieve a broader or higher picture then a single image; and high dynamic range photography which allows the photographer to expand the range of light beyond that normally captured by a digital camera. The authors also discuss methods of achieving a greater degree of contrast between the parts of a captured image which makes for a more vibrant picture. This last technique does not involve multiple images, but the authors discuss special software to achieve it. There is little discussion of the artistic choices to be made in using these techniques. The writing is straightforward and clear, although somewhat prosaic.

Almost all of these techniques involve software above and beyond the standard image processing software. The book contains information on using programs like Photo Acute, CombineZM, Helicon Focus, Photomatix Pro and Akvis Enhancer. The discussions are not tutorials and complete step-by-step lessons are usually not offered. There are no images provided to work on, either by CD or download, although the book illustrations are quite good. The authors acknowledge that many of the programs are continuously evolving so that one has to extract the specific procedures from the software. I found that some of the programs had adopted different interfaces since the writing. This was even true of Photoshop. The authors recognize the introduction of Photoshop CS4 just before this book was published, but fail to thoroughly explore its use. This was most obvious in the case of focus stacking (known as auto-blending in Photoshop). For my own purposes, after comparing focus stacking in Photoshop CS4 to using other programs discussed by the authors, I found Photoshop to be easier to use and the results more than adequate.

Most of the programs discussed are quite quirky, with interfaces that were not intuitive (although some, like Photomatix with which I had a prior familiarity, continue to move along in this direction). Some seemed crash prone.

The benefit of this book is that it introduces you to a wide variety of these programs. Some photographers will find they have no call to use these programs. For example, I found it easier to make a sharp capture of a bouquet of flowers from leading to trailing edge by shooting at a small f/stop than by using multiple, differently focused shots. At the same time, I realized that there were images I had not tried to capture in the past because of depth of field problems that I could now deal with.

Advanced photographers who need to push beyond the capabilities of the single image will find this book interesting and useful. HDR is well covered elsewhere, but for the other tools mentioned, this appears to be the only book in town.