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Software arranges photo lighting after the shoot

Posted August 23, 2013
Software arranges photo lighting after the shoot

Software arranges photo lighting after the shoot
Many images of a scene, lit from different angles, can be combined in Photoshop for the desired lighting effect, and new software simplifies the process.

What often separates professional photographers from amateurs is their mastery of lighting. Lighting can control what parts of an image draw your attention, or whether an object looks expensive or cheesy. And even for pros, getting the lights set up for the desired effect can be time-consuming.

The age of digital photography has brought a new approach, called “computational lighting design.” Still not easy, but new software from Cornell will give amateurs a head start and save time for pros.

The idea, used mostly in architectural and advertising photography, is to set the camera on a tripod and walk around with a flash, firing it from many different angles to shoot a hundred or more exposures, each with slightly different lighting. Load the images into Adobe Photoshop as “layers” and superimpose, mix and chop the layers to get the lighting you want.

Even for professionals, getting the right combination is difficult – more art than science, and sometimes requiring hours or days of skilled labor. Working with professional photographers – and later testing with amateurs – Kavita Bala, associate professor of computer science, graduate student Ivaylo Boyadzhiev and Sylvain Paris of Adobe Research have developed software that preassembles many layers into three basic views that the user can combine and modify. They described their work at the 2013 SIGGRAPH computer graphics conference July 21-25 in Anaheim, Calif.

Bala said she was inspired by an advertising photo so beautiful that “you want to own the product.” The secret, she realized, was all in the lighting.


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