Photoshop performance booster

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There are many ways to tinker with and improve Photoshop’s performance, most importantly to allocate plenty of RAM for the application and utilizing a second hard drive as a scratch disk, both of which are sufficient most of the time. However, if you are working with large files on a regular basis, and file save and read times stifle your workflow, you may want to rethink your strategy and switch to SSDs for the most time consuming tasks.

I have had a hybrid setup on my Mac for a few years now, an SSD for my system and apps and a regular platter hard drive for file storage, and while recent SATA drives are plenty fast for most applications, performance takes a hard hit with huge Photoshop files. I’m just finishing up a retouching job where every psd file is larger than 1.35GB and some even hit the 2GB ceiling and I had to save the larger files as psb files (Large document format), the largest file weighs in at 2.76GB.

Regular HDDs didn’t cut it in terms of performance, and I ended up adding another SSD as an additional work drive for Photoshop files only & I was able to cut file opening times drastically (SSD 13.3 seconds vs HDD 32.5 seconds) and save a few percentage points during file saving (SSD 29.6 seconds vs HDD 37.2 seconds). I also allocated my regular 2TB HDD file storage drive as a scratch disk. All tested with a 2.76 GB psb file, 100% in RAM, Maximize Compatibility during save is on and a ton of other apps are open…

My Windows 8 PC’s performance also greatly improved with an SSD as a system/app drive… I remapped my document folders to a regular HDD and everything is flying pretty good.

Samsung 840 Pro 256GB

Samsung Electronics 840 Pro Series 2.5-Inch 256 GB SATA 6GB/s Solid State Drive MZ-7PD256BW

Samsung 840 EVO 250GB

Samsung Electronics 840 EVO-Series 250GB 2.5-Inch SATA III Single Unit Version Internal Solid State Drive MZ-7TE250BW

Samsung 840 EVO 120GB

Samsung Electronics 840 EVO-Series 120GB 2.5-Inch SATA III Single Unit Version Internal Solid State Drive MZ-7TE120BW

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post processing experiment

how to make your photo shine… post processing experiment – email your RAW or jpg file to [email protected] and upon selection I will post a video tutorial on my blog. I’ll process your image in Lightroom or Photoshop (your choice, make a note in your email) and I’ll explain in a video response what I’m doing to improve your photos looks, and why I’m doing it. let the games begin – this shall be fun!


just a few things for clarification in general:
editing: to “edit” photos in the the old days would just be to make a selection of frames from the negatives or contact sheets to get physically “printed” and improved in the darkroom
printing: in the darkroom days, one would take the negative into the darkroom for “printing” and improve its looks by selection of paper and by “dodging and burning”

neither term is accurate anymore and especially editing has taken on a double meaning, as in “selection process”, or as in “post processing”. in my video I refer to it as “post processing” the task that one achieves by using tools like Photoshop or Lightroom to improve the look of one’s photo.

wedding photographers refer to the editing/selection process as “culling” and everything else after as “post processing”… I think that’s an accurate choice and it may take some time for me to get used to…

“printing” now simply refers to sending the bits and bytes to a printer, on-site, or off-site.

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resizing film grain vs digital noise

street photography in black and white by Markus Hartel, New York

Oh I’ll bet this has been asked and answered a billion times, but has anyone ever seen a good explanation between the difference between film grain and digital pixels.

What I mean by that is that you can take a nice “clean” digital image from a good sized noiseless sensor and with some interpolation you can go very large with it even though you are beginning with a file that is actually much smaller than a full 35mm scan which is about 78 MB (or somewhere in that area if it’s RGB and 16 bit).

But as I say – I can take a much smaller digital file and easily go to that size with an interpolation program without seeing any noise or artifacts.

I’m not really saying it clearly but I remember when I began the switch from film to digital I had an idea that those grains corresponded to pixels and they just don’t. Anyone ever go through the same conceptual enigma?

film grain is somewhat organic and random, where pixels are ordered in a rigid grid and normal linear (or cubic, bicubic) algorithms just work better with that sort of “order”.

if you take a film scan with organic grain, it pretty much interferes with the pixel pattern and your imaging software doesn’t know exactly what to do with that seemingly random mess.

also, film grain looks differently in the highlights, midtones and shadows and that makes it even harder to compensate.
digital noise on the other hand is somewhat ordered and repetitive, hence makes sensor specific/heat map noise reduction in camera possible… it also explains why noise reduction algorithms (there, math again) work so well with digital, but fail miserably with the randomness of film.

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Guide Guide for Photoshop

I give you GuideGuide: a columns, rows and midpoints panel for Photoshop CS4 & CS5
most excellent for (web) design in Photoshop

purchase & download directly from amazon:
Adobe Photoshop CS6 | Adobe Photoshop Elements 11

Redefine your with TopazLabs plug-in bundle
Purchase TopazLabs B&W White Effects today!

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Non-destructive Photoshop dodge/burn

Non-destructive dodge and burn layer, Photoshop tutorials by Markus Hartel
Sometimes it is more intuitive to dodge and burn instead of using curves, here I dodged some detail into the smoke and burned the shadows a bit more for drama.
Non-destructive dodge and burn layer, Photoshop tutorials by Markus Hartel
Did it ever bug you that dodging/burning in Photoshop is destructive and can not be changed after you used the tools? I have good news for you – with a little trick it is possible to do your dodging and burning in a separate layer.
Non-destructive dodge and burn layer, Photoshop tutorials by Markus Hartel
First, create a new layer via Layers>New Layer. If you use the “New Layer” icon in the layers palette, press the alt or option key simultaneously.
Non-destructive dodge and burn layer, Photoshop tutorials by Markus Hartel
Name the layer as you wish (I chose dodge/burn for the obvious reasons) and set the Blending Mode to Overlay, this will reveal another option at the bottom “Fill with Overlay-neutral color (50% gray)”. Select that option.
Non-destructive dodge and burn layer, Photoshop tutorials by Markus Hartel
Now you can dodge (lighten) and burn (darken) to your hearts content. You’ll find adjustments for brush size, range (highlights/midtones/shadows) and Exposure right under your menu bar.
Here’s the best part – you won’t need to worry anymore if you screw up, simply go into the dodge/burn layer and paint in your mistakes with the 50% gray color (use the eyedropper to pick it up from an untouched area)
Non-destructive dodge and burn layer, Photoshop tutorials by Markus Hartel
this is how the dodge/burn layer looks by itself. Instead of using the dodge/burn tools, you could paint white or black with different opacities in the d/b layer.

purchase & download directly from amazon:
Adobe Photoshop CS6 | Adobe Photoshop Elements 11

Redefine your with TopazLabs plug-in bundle
Purchase TopazLabs B&W White Effects today!

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Easy Neutral Colors


Oftentimes it might be a bit tricky to achieve the right White Balance, especially when shooting jpg. I usually shoot RAW and try to get the color temperature as close as possible in Adobe Camera RAW or Lightroom.

For this tutorial I purposely introduced a slight yellow-ish warm cast to the image. Oftentimes, it’s hard to find a neutral spot for using the mid-gray picker in the curves or levels… the goal is to make this image as neutral as possible with the least amount of work.

First we make a duplicate via “duplicate layer”:

which should look like this:

now, select the top layer and run the Filter>blur>average filter, which gives us some ugly looking brown mess like this:

now we make a curve adjustment layer:

take the neutral color picker (the middle one) and click anywhere in the brownish area
(marked with the X) – voila, your brown shows as neutral gray:

here how this simple move applies to the RGB channels without me (or you) touching a single curve:

now you can simply deactivate (or toss) the middle layer to see the final result – pretty cool, huh:

The easy way out: If you go into the curves “options” dialog you’ll find a “Snap Midtones” option which works almost (but only almost, depending on the image) as good:

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Channel Mixer Settings

here are some Photoshop Channel Mixer values to create the look of different kinds of film

Film Type R G B Film Type R G B
AGFA 200X 18 41 41 Ilford Pan F 33 36 31
Agfapan 25 25 39 36 Ilford SFX 36 31 33
Agfapan 100 21 40 39 Ilford XP2 Super 21 42 37
Agfapan 400 20 41 39 Kodak T-Max 100 24 37 39
Ilford Delta 100 21 42 37 Kodak T-Max 400 27 36 37
Ilford Delta 400 22 42 36 Kodak Tri-X 400 25 35 40
Ilford Delta 3200 31 36 33 Normal Contrast 43 33 30
Ilford FP4 28 41 31 High Contrast 40 34 60
Ilford HP5 23 37 40 Generic B/W 24 68 8

note: open up the Channel Mixer, activate the "Monochrome" setting and type in the given RGB values.

purchase & download directly from amazon:
Adobe Photoshop CS6 | Adobe Photoshop Elements 11

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Real film grain files!

NEW – stylize your DSLR video film grain clips from the original scans!

NEW! download grungestock film grain for DSLR video, also available with Instant Color Grading™

Since I posted the “convert to b/w” tutorial I had quite a few requests for my “real” film grain files. Each file is full frame 35mm, 24MP equivalent and can be used with any digital photo – simply paste the grain into a new layer and set the blending mode to overlay, adjust the opacity to taste.

read my great tutorial here
Voila, your digital photo looks as if it was taken with film.

The grain files scale pretty well up to 200% for coarser grain, but I like Tri-X 800/1600 the best to begin with…

purchase the royalty free grain files here

NEW – enhance your DSLR video with film grain clips from the original scans!

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Color to b/w conversion


Today I’ll show you a very simple technique to convert color images into a realistic looking black and white photograph. Forget about “convert to grayscale” or “desaturate”. The channel mixer offers much more control over the tonal range and one can simulate the look of a specific film. The values shown mimic Kodak Tri-X pretty accurately.


I simply saved the values in a channel mixer file and load it every time I need it. No way I can manage to remember phone numbers. download the channel mixer file (.zip) here.

These values are a good starting point, play around with different values for a different look.

In the second step, you’ll need to adjust the contrast curve as shown here for a good looking b/w photo.

Download curve files that mimic Tri-X 400, Tri-X pushed to 800 and Tri-X pushed to 1600.

These curves are a good starting point, but the image still needs some adjustments.


For an even more realistic “film like look” overlay some real film grain in a separate layer.

purchase & download directly from amazon:
Adobe Photoshop CS6 | Adobe Photoshop Elements 11

Redefine your with TopazLabs plug-in bundle
Purchase TopazLabs B&W White Effects today!

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