Blog

Processing Media

Marketing pictures and floorplans come to us in a raw state which require processing in order to make them web-and-print-ready. Here’s how do it.

Photolab

Marketing pictures are taken in a RAW format. This format contains all the data the camera sensor received without any processing from the camera’s software. We will need to process these pictures to make them look their best.

Opening the Files in DXO Photolab

You will receive marketing pictures on an SD card. Copy the files from the card to a temporary folder on your computer. Make sure there is nothing else in this folder except for the marketing pictures. DON’T place the files in Sharepoint – RAW files are very large and you will waste considerable resources uploading them.

You will now need to open the files in DXO Photolab. Right click one of the pictures in Explorer and select “Open In DXO Photolab”:

I have an older version of the software called “Optics Pro” here.

If it does’t appear at the top, you may need to hover over “Open With” and select it from there.

DXO Photolab will open. This is a very slow, heavyweight programme, so it will take a while. Once it loads, you will be greeted with this interface:

The filmstrip at the bottom shows the currently selected picture highlighted in blue. Anything you do, including “exporting” the picture(s), will only affect the selected picture(s). You can select multiple pictures at once by holding CTRL and clicking the other pictures you want. You can press CTRL+A to select all the pictures. Or hold shift to select a continuous range of pictures.

Editing Pictures

We are going to run through a series of basic edits that every picture will usually go through. To bring up the editing toolbar, click the Customize button button at the top of the screen.

The “Customize” button has been circled in red. The editing toolbar is visible on the right.

The editing toolbar is divided into multiple sections. Each section is headed by a title highlighted with a dark band behind it. For instance, in the picture above, “Light” is the first section. Clicking the band expands or hides the section. Each section has individual components which modify specific properties of the image. These components can also be expanded or collapsed by clicking on them. They are, by default, not enabled – you enable them by clicking the toggle to the left of them.

First, we’re going to lighten the picture.

Click the toggle next to “Exposure Compensation” to enable it. Then, where it says “0.00”, enter a new value, such as “0.60”. The picture will lighten.

In some cases, this might not be enough to lighten darker pictures. Rather than aggressively brightening the whole picture too much, you can focus on brightening just the darker areas. For this, you would enable “Selective Tone”, and adjust the “Shadows” and the “Midtones”.

Finally, still in the Light section, there is something called “DxO ClearView”. This will increase the contrast of the picture and make everything look a bit clearer and sharper (it effectively removes atmospheric haze). For some pictures, you will definitely want to enable this (I recommend a setting of around 50). However, for pictures of rooms that have marks on the walls etc, you’ll want to AVOID this, as it will make those flaws more apparent.

Next, lets took a look at “Color”

First, we will enable Color Accentuation and increase vibrancy and saturation to the max. Color accentuation is subtle, so you’re not going to be completely blowing the pictures out by doing this.

Next, we’re going to enable Color Rendering. For “Category” we’re going to select “Camera body”, and for Rendering, select our camera (Sony A600). This will very subtly tweak the colours for the camera used. Under “Protect saturated colors”, flick it all the way to the max.

Finally, lets take a look at HSL (Hue, Saturation, Lightness). This enables you to adjust those values on a per-channel basis. A “channel” is a specific colour range – Reds, Yellows, Greens, Blues, Cyans, Magentas. Our camera and lens combination has an issue where blues are too prominent in the colour mix. So from the drop-down next to channel, we’re going to select “Blues”, and then we’re going to reduce the saturation to by about -50.

For exterior pictures, you might sometimes get washed-out looking plants/trees. In this case, you can slightly increase the saturation for the green channel to make things look a bit punchier.

Note that if you think the colours in general still look a bit muted, you can select “All” the channels and increase the saturation by 5 or 10 points here as well. Just don’t over do it.

Now lets look at the Details section

Here, we want to enable noise reduction, and we want to select PRIME.

We also want to enable Chromatic aberration. Adjust the intensity to the max. Tick “Purple fringing”.

This should be enough editing for 99% of the pictures we have.

Presets

The above settings will normally need to be applied to every single picture, with the only per-picture adjustments being the lighting and the HSL. So you might want to create a preset based on the current settings.

Right click the current image (the one with the settings you want to apply to the preset) and select “Create preset from current settings”.

You will get a prompt to save your preset. You can name it whatever you want.

You can now apply this preset to any group of pictures you want in future. All you need to do is select the pictures you want to appy the preset to in the film strip, right click them, then hover over “Apply a preset” and select the name of the preset you created. Simple!

Exporting the Pictures

First, create a folder in the property folder in Sharepoint. Call it Marketing Pictures, preceded with the date in reverse order. IE, “2019-10-31 – Marketing Pictures”.

Now, go into this folder and copy the address from the addressbar.

Now, in DXO Photolab, select the pictures you want to export. Then click the “Export to Disc” button:

The export screen will appear:

In the left panel, select “Standard output”.

On the right panel, select JPEG for “Process as”. Then for quality, lower it to around 70.

For Destination, select “Custom folder”, and in the Path, paste the address you copied earlier.

Finally, for ICC Profile, select sRGB. Then click Export. You’re done!

Removing Grey Skies

We live in one of the rainiest cities in England. Our exterior pictures can often be marred by dismal grey skies. Luckily we can remove them.

We’ll begin with the edit and export process in DXO Photolab.

When editing exterior pictures that have dull skies, remember that the idea is to make it look the photo was taken on a sunny day. You will be increasing the brightness and saturation a little bit higher than you normally would.

Export ONLY the exterior pictures. Instead of selecting “Standard output” select “DNG”. Export this to a temporary folder.

Navigate to the file, right click it, select “Open with” then “Affinity Photo”:

This will launch Affinity Photo, which will take a little while to import the photo. When the photo loads, you will be taken to the Develop stage:

The sliders on the right will allow you to make further edits, but this usually isn’t necessary (I skipped the DXO process for this picture, so I might make some adjustments). Just click the “Develop” button on the top right (circled in the picture above and wait for it to process. It takes a bit.

Once it’s loaded you’ll want to duplicate the initial layer. Find the layers panel and select the only layer there (“Background”):

Right-click this and select “Duplicate”. You will now have two identical layers.

Next, we need to find a picture of a blue sky. Finding the right asset to use is difficult. I would use this picture, even though it is a little smaller than our camera picture size:

https://highgatehomes.co.uk/img/sky.jpg

The difference in resolution isn’t a huge deal as the blue sky layer will be blended in and there will be further compression to the whole image thereafter.

Open this file in Affinity Photo in the same way you opened the original. As the file is a JPG, you won’t have to go through the develop process, it will just open in a new tab within Affinity Photo. As soon as it opens, press CTRL+A to select the entire image, then CTRL+C to copy. Switch back to the first tab, circled in the image below:

Before you continue, make sure the magnet icon is selected – I’ve circled it in green in the picture above. This will allow the image to snap at the borders.

Now, select the first layer from the layer panel and press CTRL+P to paste the image. It will have been pasted between the two layers you previously created:

Untick the box next to the top layer (circled in red above) to hide that layer and make the sky layer visible. Now, in the main window, click the sky, and try to position it so that it covers the any area that features grey sky in the original image. You can click and drag circular handles on the corner of the sky image to resize it so that it becomes larger and fills the width of the canvass.

You want to keep the brighter part of the sky in frame, and the darker blue out of the frame if possible. When you’re done, it should look a bit like this:

Now, in the layers panel, select the top layer again and make it visible. Then, on the drop-down box at the top of the layers panel where it says “Normal”, select “Darken”:

If you’re lucky, everything will now look pretty good. However, most likely, you’ll need to make manual adjustments. In this particular case, because the house has white rendering and the blue colour is technically “darker” than the white of the house, the sky bleeds through where it shouldn’t:

We’re going to have to fix this.

Firstly, deselect the blue sky layer (click the tickbox next to the blue sky in the layers panel) to hide it. Then click the top layer again, to make sure that is the layer that is selected.

In the left panel, select the Flood Select tool. It looks a bit like a magic wand. I have circled it in the picture above.

Once you select this tool, its properties will appear across the top bar. Change the “Mode” to “Add”, and the “Tolerance” to 10%. I’ve circled these options in the picture below:

Now, click on the grey sky. Affinity will automatically select everything it thinks is part of what you clicked. Everything within the selection will have a wavery, flickering line around it. However, Affinity will sometimes miss things – the selection will not break a “boundary”, so if there is something that cuts across the sky, the selection will stop where that thing is. Likewise, in the picture above, the colour of the sky at the left is noticeably greyer, and will not be selected. So what you need to do is click each area that has not been selected. Affinity will add this portion to the overall selection. You may need to do this multiple times. Make sure you don’t miss anything out!

Sometimes Affinity might select something you don’t want it to select. In that instance, undo (CTRL+Z), and then lower the tolerance from 10% to something like 5% or even lower.

When you’re done press CTRL+B (or, in the top menu, click “Select” then “Grow/Shink”. This will bring up a little window that will allow you to expand or shrink your selection. Expand your selection by at least two pixels, but I recommend you use half-value, like 2.5 pixels, or 3.5 pixels. Click okay and the selection will expand.

Now, invert your selection by clicking the icon circled in the picture below:

Now, in the layers panel, select the sky layer, and make it visible again by ticking the box next to it. Next, select the eraser tool circled below:

Use the eraser to delete the portions of blue sky which are bleeding through the house. The tool’s settings run along the top, and the brush size can be expanded. Don’t forget to erase the sections bleeding through the chimneys! Because of the selection you made, you shouldn’t have to be too careful around the edges of the house – if you try and erase the blue sky outside the boundary of the selection, nothing will happen. When you’re done, it should look a bit like this:

It’s starting to look pretty good! Except here, we can see the grey sky lingering on the left edge of the screen. You can remove the current selection (it is the icon just to the left of Invert Selection), select the top layer, use the Flood Select tool to again select that portion of sky. Make sure you get all of it – it extends further out than appears. When you’re done, all you need to do is press the delete key. Simple!

However, the sky currently looks a little unnatural. So, we might want to try to blend it a bit. Select the sky layer in the layers panel and change the opacity to something like 80%:

Opacity is circled in red here.

Now all you need to do is export the picture. Click “File” at the top left, then “Export”:

Circled in red in the picture above

This will bring up the export window:

Select JPEG from the top row, and change the quality to around 70. Then click Export to save the file into the appropriate folder. That’s it, you’re done!

Floorplans

The floorplan will be a PDF file with multiple pages. First, open it, and note which pages contain the full floors (IE, which page contains the ground floor and which page contains the first floor).

Next, right click the floor plan in Explorer and select “Open with->Affinity Designer”:

The PDF import screen will open:

Tick “Load Pages” and in the box, type the numbers of the pages with full floors, separated by a comma. IE, in “1, 4”.

Next, make sure “Replace missing fonts” is selected, and choose a replacement family. Arial will do fine, but the font we use throughout our branding is Din. It stored on our Sharepoint (“Marketing Materials\FF Din”).

Click Okay to open the file.

Each floor will open in its own “artboard”. What you want to do is, click the a floor title, (IE, Ground Floor), and move it to the centre of the artboard. Then select the floor title and the floorplan itself, but not the rest, like this:

Now hold “ctrl+c” to copy.

Next, click File, then “New From Clipboard”

That will open just that floor in its own tab within Affinity Designer:

Next, click File again, and this time select “Document Setup”.

Next to “Objects will”, click “Anchor”. Under Anchor, click the middle left square:

Now, we’re going to change the dimensions to make room for additional floors. For a property with only two floors, this is quite easy. We’ll double the width of the document (plus a little headroom).

The first box next to “Dimensions:” controls the width – it currently reads 375.5px. We’re going to change this to 800px. But before we do that, we have to click the lock icon. In its current state, the height will expand in proportion to the width to maintain the aspect ratio. We don’t want that. So make sure the lock is in the open position before you edit the dimensions.

We now have enough room to paste the first floor to the right of the ground floor. We will click the tab back to the first document. It is circled in red in the link above.

For the first floor, we will do exactly the same thing we did with the first floor – move the title, select the entire floor and title, and then copy it. We will then click the tab back to the other document, and click paste. Now its just a matter of aligning everything nicely. You might want to move the ground floor a bit further to the right, so that there is extra space on the left. You might also want to vertically align the floor titles.

It should now look a bit like this:

Notice how there is an equal space to the left and right of each floor. Remember that we can just highlight each floor by dragging our mouse cursor and then dragging the floor to where we want.

Tip: Make sure the magnet icon (circled in red in the picture above) is clicked in before you try to align things. The magnet snaps objects into place in relation to each other. So if you want to align the title on the left with the title on the right, you would select the first title, then move the next one – it will snap in relation to the first title and will show alignment markings.

The remaining problem we have now is that the top and bottom are cropped too tight. So lets go back to “File”, then “Document Setup”.

This time, under anchor, we’re going to click the very centre square. Then we’re going to expand the vertical dimensions by about 20-30 pixels:

Before we click okay, we’re going to click the “Colour” tab circled above, and untick “Transparent Background”.

That’s it! The floorplan should now look pretty good. It’s ready for exporting. Click “File”, then “Export…”.

Select PNG:

Now, with the lock in the CLOSED position this time (because we want to maintain the aspect ratio), increase the dimensions of the of the document until the estimated file size is around 100kB. Then click export to save the file. It’s done!