Author: Juergen & Rainer Gulbins
Publisher: Rocky Nook, 2009
Aimed at: Technically minded photographers
Pros: Wel presented, inspiring and enjoyable read
Cons: Over-emphasis on Photoshop
Reviewed by: David Conrad
Multishot techniques are a way of pushing the camera, and even basic imaging physics, beyond what is normally possible. You could imagine doing some of the tricks in the traditional darkroom but multishot is really only possible with a digital camera. You can't really say that the techniques described in this book are fully developed as yet - there is plenty of scope for innovation and creativity.
So what topics does the book cover?
The first thing to say is that it mainly uses Photoshop as its editing tool and it isn't apologetic about using commercial software - so this isn't really multishot on the cheap. It also isn't DIY multishot and there are no suggestions or hints on how you might write your own utility to do the job.
The book starts off with an overview of the different multishot techniques you might want to use and offers small examples of what you can achieve. I wasn't always convinced that the presented effects were worth the effort, but they mostly go to show that multishot technique brings about an improvement. In fact quite a few of the shots were less than perfect - but overall the lack of perfection was slightly reassuring!
Next we have a discussion of the typical workflow in a multishot session - which camera, which file formats, some basic tools, what are the problems and so on.
Chapter 3 brings us to our first technique - super resolution. The basic idea is that you can use averaging and interpolation from a set of shots of the same scene to increase the effective number of pixels and reduce noise. The alternative way of achieving the same result is to stitch together a panorama and this is discussed much later in the book. It might have been better to treat both topics together in one chapter and discuss their relative merits.
The resolution increasing software used in the tutorial is PhotoAcute and the book takes you almost click-by-click through using it. I'm not convinced that this is necessary as the software is fairly self explanatory. The technique can also be used to decrease noise, by averaging and hence allow you to take pictures at a higher ISO and the merits of this are discussed.
The following chapter moves in the fascinating area of combining multiple shots to increase the depth of field.
This is one technique that it is possible to use manual methods and indeed the authors show how to manually stack exposures to select areas that are in focus to show through. This is one of the best chapters in the book because the theory is well explained and issues such as determining the optimum aperture setting to use are dealt with in practical detail.
When we do get to some automated help the tool is PhotoAcute again, Combine ZM and Helicon Focus. Of all the chapters in the book this is the one that made me want to get my camera out and try to create something different. Many of the images presented are clearly remarkable and not achievable using a single shot technique without unfeasibly high lighting levels!
Chapter 5 is about the reasonably well known topic - image stitching. However this is a better discussion of the problems and techniques than most. It covers the practical problems - keep the camera steady and level, use a spirit level - and the problems of the different types of geometry you can target and the distortions that can ruin a panorama. The software used is Photoshop's own photomerge. This is a disappointment because there are lots of good alternatives that will do a better job with less fuss.
The next chapter is about HDRI and hence another fairly well covered topic. The tools used are PhotoAcute, Photomatix Pro, FDRTools and Photoshop. First though the basic ideas of dynamic range are introduced and some simple techniques for correcting exposure gradients in single images are described.
Then we move on to the real thing. How to combine images, file formats to store HDRI and mappings so that they can be displayed on devices that don't have as much dynamic range. This chapter is perhaps a little too much step-by-step and click-by-click but there are some really good hints and tips and some discussion of the ideas. For me HDRI is the most difficult of the techniques to use to create something that is really good. You might have mastered the technique but it is still difficult to produce a final image that impresses - a lot of HDRI images simply look flat compared to a full contrast limited range original.
The final chapter deals with a topic that has only just become a talking point.. It is an obvious enough technique - simply increase the contrast locally across the image. It works with single shots so I'm not sure what its doing in a book on multishot techniques but it is another clever enhancement trick an worth knowing about. For my tastes it tends to produce results that are more impressive than HDRI for less effort.
Overall this book is enjoyable. It describes the techniques well enough for you to feel comfortable with them and able to experiment. It describes the software that is available.If you are a programmer who likes to take photos then it might even inspire you to go out and create some better tools. It has another minor flaw in that it doesn't consider some of the more extreme image stacking techniques of the sort that amateur astronomers use to create very long exposure deep sky shots using lots of images. This particular technique almost certainly has some wider creative applications.
This is a far from perfect book with many omissions and an over-emphasis on working in Photoshop but... I enjoyed reading it and it was a lot more inspiring than many a photo book I've read recently. So it's recommended but with some reservations.