Wacom for retouching: Why, Which and How

Anyone who is planning to take their retouching to the next level struggles with the decision of whether they need to buy a Wacom tablet. Questions vary from why do I really need it, which one do I need and how long will it take me to get started. There is no right answer to these questions. But through this compilation of articles, from Fstoppers & Retouching academy we are going to try and help you make that decision with just this one article. 

Elia Locardi for Fstoppers 

Elia Locardi for Fstoppers 

Why Wacom?

Think how quickly and naturally you can sign your name on paper with a pen and imagine doing the same with a mouse in a paint application. Click, drag, click drag, and in the end I’d be willing to bet in most cases the result won’t be a flowing script, no matter how beautiful your handwriting may be. Now imagine doing that with a device which is designed exactly like a pen. Effortless. High chances are it will be very close to your normal signature.  

Working with a Wacom Tablet

Some of the most famous retouchers in the world like Pratik NaikJulia Kuzmenko McKimAaron Nace and have all traded in their mouse pads for a pen and tablet system. Your worry about transition from mouse to pen is probably similar to the feelings people have when picking up an instrument for the first time. Anyone who has become moderately proficient at an instrument can make simple tasks look incredibly easy. Muscle memory is an incredible achievement of the human body, and breaking decade old habits can be so extremely difficult that many people simply give up. 

How long does it take to get used to one?

Don't worry. Everyone picked it up at a different pace. There are lucky ones who picked it up immediately. They made the connection right away and it made sense to them. A larger majority takes a few days to get used to it. Initially, they saw the benefit and liked it but needed time to fine tune the experience and dial it in. Others took a week to fully get accustomed to it. Many could never get used to it in the end and actually ended up selling theirs.

If you don't pick it up right away and you want to be sure you give it a fair chance, there are some tips to make sure you do.

1. Put your mouse to the side! Like learning to ride a bike, you have to put in the effort and time and it won't be easy at first. Use just the pen and immerse yourself in using one for retouching. Keep a mouse around for surfing the web or any other tasks. Other than that, make sure you are just using the tablet.

2. Give it a full week of practice. You can't expect to be comfortable in just a couple of days. When you begin writing on paper for the first time, you have to build muscle memory to make the connection. It's the same principle, you will need time to build the muscle memory to make a relationship if you are using a tablet.

3. Pay attention to comfort. Chances are you may be gripping the pen really tightly or your posture changes when using the tablet. Be aware of your comfort level and make fine adjustments.

4. Practice creating shapes. In Photoshop, create a new blank canvas and begin drawing straight lines and various shapes. Surprisingly this helped me out quite a bit as it allowed me to make the relationship between moving my hand and drawing on screen.

Which Wacom do I buy?

1. Intuos Photo: If budget is a concern for your first graphics tablet purchase then don’t hesitate to start with the entry level Intuos Photo, as Wacom sets the bar high with even the home user end of its range. We recommend you start with this and then transition to the Pro if you are not planning to do retouching full-time.

2. Wacom Intuos Pro: If you want to be a professional photo retoucher, it will be the best choice for photo retouching. 

Which size of Wacom tablet should I choose?
Small tablets require less hand and arm movement than the larger surfaces for retouching and pen strokes are kept tight and controlled. However, many with a background in traditional art prefer a larger surface, so if you’re also an illustrator you may want to go with a Medium or Large.

How to get started? 

Aaron Nace is both an amazing retoucher and photographer. In his tutorial, Five photoshop tips from Wacom Tablet Beginners takes you through various aspects such as adjusting your pen's response to movement, changing the overall brush pressure sensitivity, programming brush size and hardness shortcuts, manipulating flow and opacity settings, and adopting the previous tips to other tools besides just the brush. 

We would like to know your experience with using a tablet:

1. Do you use one and how long did you get accustomed to it?
2. How many of you have tried and never got used to using one?
3. What do you primarily shoot?
4. Do you find the tablet was really beneficial to your workflow outside of retouching?
5. What tips do you have for people who want to get better at using it from your own experience?

Links to full articles:
1. Retouching Academy: http://retouchingacademy.com/so-do-you-really-need-a-wacom-tablet-for-retouching/
2. FStoppers: https://fstoppers.com/post-production/graphic-tablet-really-necessary-photographer-have-retouching-2602
3. https://fstoppers.com/business/5-best-tips-set-your-wacom-tablet-retouching-photoshop-80643

Weekend projects & how to grow followers on Instagram

Feeling uninspired? We've got something which will get you right back in the game. Every Friday Instagram posts a challenge, that is known as Weekend hashtag projects #WHP. They give you a theme/subject with examples, and you have the whole weekend to come up with a creative way to capture it. Instagram will select the best ones and feature them on their account. That's not it. Besides giving you a new theme to work on, if your photo gets selected, you get exposure to 200 million people. Don't believe us? Here is a real world story.

Sam Vox, talks about how he turned into a full time photographer because of Instagram. In this article, he takes us through his Instagram journey, covering every aspect such as how to curate your feed, to how genuine engagement & hashtags can make all the difference. This weekend project not only helped him grow from 4k to 40k followers but also got him added to the suggested for a month. 

@rodrigopinanueva for the theme #emptymuseoamparo   

@rodrigopinanueva for the theme #emptymuseoamparo 

Let my photographs bear witness

By Harsha Bathija

James Nachtwey is an award winning war photographer. He's an x.


James Nachtwey talks about how he wanted to be a photographer in order to be a war photographer. 

There are vital stories that need to be told.  Stories which connect us, stories which tell us what is going on in the world around us. The free flow of information represented by journalism, specifically visual journalism, can bring into focus how the decisions made by humankind affects not just people belonging to a specific region or country, but everyone who we share this earth with. 

A documentary photography has the ability to interpret events from their point of view. It gives a voice to those who otherwise would not have a voice. Photographers go to the extreme edges of human experience to show people what's going on. Sometimes they put their lives on the line, because they believe your opinions and your influence matter. And as a reaction, it stimulates public opinion and gives impetus to public debate, thereby preventing the interested parties from totally controlling the agenda, much as they would like to.


Miracle Mini: The Sony RX100 Series

This is a review of the best pocket camera ever made.

On June 27, 2012, these were the words that David Pogue, the New York Times' tech reviewer began his review with, of a camera that pushed the boundaries of category definition: a one-inch sensor, an f/1.8 lens from Zeiss combined with an incredibly tiny housing made the (then) all-new Sony RX-100 a stunner. His breathless tone (sample this: "this camera takes amazing photos", "insane amount of detail", "vivid, true colors") combined with his surprise at how well the automated modes worked had us hooked way back when. Yes, it was insanely expensive then ($650 in 2012 monies), and he called Sony out on it. And the conclusion is memorable for us RX100 fans:

...the RX100 has single-handedly smashed the rule that said, "You need a big camera for pro-quality photos."

Five years on

It's 2017 now, and five years on, the inexorable march of time, tide, and Sony's R&D division's experimentation with light have given us four more cameras in the series, the RX100 II, III, IV and V. Year after year, the cameras have kept getting better (sensor improvement!, processor improvement!, OLED viewfinder!, tiltable screen!, 4K video!, massive FPS bump!), delivering more value in a tiny housing than SLRs do.

DPReview's in-depth reviews of the series:
Generation 1: RX100
Generation 2: RX100 Mk II
Generation 3: RX100 Mk III
Generation 4: RX100 Mk IV
Generation 5: RX100 Mk V

But then, the price has kept climbing too. Every model has been launched with a very significant price bump, year after year. Sony continues to sell all five models side-by-side in the market, leading to this fun little chart:


RX100 Models: Current price

From B&H Video, Jan 2017

Shoot This 52 Week Photo Challenge in 2017 to Improve Your Skills

Post carried from https://dogwood.photography/52weekchallenge2017.html

The original Dogwood Photography 52 Week Challenge was a huge success, with tens of thousands of photographers participating from around the world. In celebration of those who have completed the first challenge, a new challenge is now here!

The challenge for 2017 has a higher difficulty level than the original challenge. While this challenge is a follow on to the original challenge here, it is also suitable to be completed as a stand alone challenge. There is no specific start date for this challenge. Each photographer is on their own journey, and only competing with themselves from week to week. If you wish to form a challenge group and compete with each other based on this list you are welcome to do so! If you form a challenge group drop me an invite I would love to watch the progress.

Weekly Challenge Categories

Each week, the weekly assignment will be in one of 3 categories:

Story Telling: Good photographers can take beautiful images of something. Great photographers can take an image that tells its story. This category makes use of compositional rules and directed prompts to push you towards not just looking at the beauty of something, but to find a way to tell that something’s story.

Technical: Technical Aptitude is just as important as creative inspiration in photography. With that in mind this category is a mix of in camera and post processing techniques designed to expose you to new technical skills and techniques.

Artistic Impression: When this category comes up, you really have room to express yourself. You can interpret the assignment literally or figuratively. Unlike the other two categories that are more focused, the idea of this category is to let your creativity shine.

Sharing Your Photos

I highly encourage sharing your work each week. I know it’s hard to put yourself out there, but it is an important part of growing as a photographer. If you want to share your images with the rest of the people who are taking part in the challenge I recommend the following hashtags: #dogwood52, #dogwood2017, and #dogwoodweek[NUMBER] (ex: #dogwoodweek1, #dogwoodweek2).

If you run into others who are also participating and sharing, be sure and comment on their image!

The 52 Week Challenge


You can also download the PDF directly from here: (via Petapixel.com)

This post has been reposted from Dogwood Photography's excellent website.

Obsessed with the image by Joseph Radhik

5 years ago during my last days at business school, I was shortlisted for the final round of placements for an international firm after being very very arrogant in the first round (I already had my dream job and wasn't interested in leaving India). In the final round, the senior management dude had only one question to ask: "Joseph, what keeps you up at night?"

I remember being stumped initially (as it is I was flummoxed at being shortlisted) and I also remember grinning widely 'cuz I was really starting to like this firm! I answered this: "Creativity. Creating new and interesting content keeps me up at night, keeps me going through the day, keeps me looking forward to the next dawn and pretty much drives my whole life. Whether it is a simple presentation of existing facts with some new thinking, a photograph of today's sunset or even a byline for a brand OR ANYTHING that I can make, it is in creation that all my happiness lies. It is not a way of life, it's almost an obsession."

Five years, 2 jobs and one chottu niche business later, I can happily say that nothing has changed. Heck, it has been just a shade more than 10 years since I picked up my first camera, just short of 10 years since I opened Photoshop for the first time, and slightly more than 15 years since I picked up a piece of pen n paper to write 10 page letters to my sister/dad complete with illustrations and more! The habit of blogging came n went, I ditched the canvas n brushes to pick up the keyboard n mouse, relationships have come and gone, homes have changed and I have gone from fat to thin to fat to now slightly chubby but that single obsession with creating content has been the one common factor in the conscious part of my life (Stephen King reference!).

So, why am I talking about this now? (Instead of working in Photoshop on my next upload of Postcards!)

Because I see a lot of new photographers/artists/writers addicted to social media and spending more time talking about their (or others'!) work than creating a body of work. And it doesn't help that appreciation for work is never too far away in this age. No matter how good (or bad) you are, a 100-500 Likes are never too far away, nor are a few RTs and a few thousand followers. Now, more than any other time, is when I think we might be facing a decline of quality of content around us simply because of the accessibility of appreciation. Don't get me wrong, I see unbelievably high amounts of good work being dished out every single day on behance/500px/1x/flickr/DA and many more such websites. But then, I also see a lot of crap everyday. Crap with a lot of Likes. The term "viral" is used like it is a daily word (I'm making a viral video - dafuq is that supposed to mean?) and "________ Photography" pages are created at the speed of 168 per second (unofficial stats here).

I am writing this not because more people are creating content (everyone learns only by doing *more* work), but because I get tons of "Invites to Like my page", "Oh your work is good, here's mine" posts on pages, "RT please." requests. So before this post turns from a thought to a rant, let me change the tone and talk about what makes me tick and how I go about my content creation.

Disclaimer: I do not consider myself an expert in this, far from it! I'm yet to create even one piece of viral work or something that has become world famous but I just like seeing great work around me. :) Also, this will focus on photography (mostly).

 Tip: Pay close attention to the names/websites in this post, they have meant everything to me in my progress as a photographer.

Get better taste, aim higher - much much higher. Be inspired. Move on.

That's my way of saying look beyond your sphere of influence to things that are beyond your benchmarks now. If you are a wedding photographer whose style lies in making people look beautiful - immerse yourself in the best works in fashion/beauty photography across the world. Two weeks ago, I spent 4 hrs learning how to take a headshot (from a Peter Hurley DVD) and I constantly live in the world of Grazia/Vogue and beautiful movies. And though this means I look very effeminate while browsing in a bookstore or I see movies in still frames - to the extent that I sometimes can only see lighting, texture and color combinations and not the story! It also means that every time I put the viewfinder to my eye I see every detail, every highlight, every shadow in the scene and then take a decision to remove, add or modify the composition, exposure or any other variable. If you're someone who likes to 'capture the moment', National Geographic is a great place to start (and Boston's Big Picture feature). I've been reading NatGeo magazines since I was in 5th grade and they are the sole reason behind me picking up a camera.

When I started to learn photography, I used to be awed by Flickr's Explore section, and then while I *slowly* developed my skill I found myself moving on. My next stop was a great little web forum named FredMiranda.com which is a place for professional photographers of every genre to exchange thoughts and work. For the longest time, I spent countless hours in the landscape division, then sports and it is then that I stumbled upon wedding photography. The work I saw almost made me cry the first time, it was that striking, powerful and filled with beauty. But soon FM also died because of an influx of newbie photographers and the overall quality of work being displayed wasn't as strong as before. By this time, I'd become a constant follower of some of the best guys on FM (Tony Hoffer, Sam Hassas, Jeremy Clay, Spencer Boerup, EB, Brenizer) and a weekly visit to their blog was enough of a dose for me. In the eight years it took to me get here, I'd also started shooting a lot more so now I did not have enough time to spend on forums, I was now spending that time in Lightroom. I came across a wonderful set of DVDs titled "Masters of Wedding Photography" where I came across three greats - Jeff Ascough, Joe Buissnick and the very very awesome Jerry Ghionis. Today, I hardly go to any of the websites or photog's blogs mentioned. I spend my lunchtimes and lazy afternoons (if any!) on Vimeo while learning and looking at great work in the cinema/video space everywhere. I follow Indian and international cinematographers/DoPs whose work I admire, and try to see more great contemporary films. I also spend much more time looking at both old and contemporary art (most of which I don't "get") than I used to earlier.

I have no clue what will inspire me next but I am pretty darn sure that I'll never stop immersing myself in beautiful work everyday.

Ask why, not how. Obsess.

Everyone who sees a good photo nowadays asks "Which camera?" "What settings?" "What kind of editing did you do?" "Strobist info?". I'm sorry, my friend, but if you can't make that out while seeing the image itself you are doing it wrong. If you make/take enough images regularly and spend enough time looking at them instead of answering comments or waiting for Likes, you wouldn't be wondering such things. A 16mm lens looks very different from a 35mm and a f/1.4 shot looks very different from a f/4 shot. Harsh noon light looks way different from the soft myriad hues of sunset and so much more.

So before asking "How", ask "Why does this image look good?". Is it the geometry in the image? Is it the play of colors? What is being included/excluded in the composition? Why was this image shot at the time it was shot? Why does the light look the way it does? Why does the subject look good here? (Is it their stance, their confidence, the light or are they always that darn beautiful! :D) Look for BTS (behind-the-scenes) videos of photographers working, see how they interact not only with their subjects but also with their environment. How they shift around looking for light, how they create light, how they anticipate moments and anything you can garner. Look for patterns and similarities between the work you admire, I noticed that I loved how most of my favorite photographers made people look so happy and places look so "alive" that I felt like I was there, and I tried looking for similarities between their work. Of course, it wasn't just a broad search, it came down to specific things like processing, toning, and even focal lengths - or simply realising that I love images that are 'real' and not excessively photoshopped. This was what worked for me, you might love a different kind of style and am sure you'll find your inspiration if you look for it.

In the beginning, this tip just means shooting more and comparing your work to what inspires you and asking "why does that look better than my image?". Sometimes it is the lack of compression in the image, sometimes it is the lack of context, or inferior lighting, or not enough expertise in editing, or that it wasn't the right moment. As you progress, and observe more great images *and try to emulate them in the field*, your eye will evolve and see further detail and subtleties that you never noticed before.

I'm not saying "see, learn and apply", I'm saying "observe, obsess and evolve". Being obsessesed with your image is part and parcel of being a visual artist and the first step begins at pushing yourself to expand your vision and not be happy with 'nice' but instead aim for 'epic'. The one thing that I learnt across everyone's work was this: great images are not made by chance but with a lot of observation, experience and planning. And so here's my next tip.

Put in those 10,000 hours.

Those among you who have read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers know what am talking about but for the rest, here's a short summary: Gladwelll postulates that most super talented artists (and successful people in general) are not born geniuses but that instead they have put in a serious amount of work to get to where they are. The quantity of 10,000hrs of serious work is what is seen as the common factor between geniuses like The Beatles, Bill Gates and so many more.

I'll put it in a simpler way, something I teach at all my workshops: photography or almost any creative craft is like learning to drive. Initially, it is all about the car - how fast you let go of the clutch, how much pressure you put on the accelerator, when to put on the indicators, how to use the sideview mirrors and all those tiny details. Then it is about the cars around you, how fast are they going, how much space is there to do a manouevre and so on. But it is only after these phases, that the real fun begins: the road and the drive itself. After you put in enough time learning all the basics, you start to truly immerse yourself - feeling the g forces pull you and numb your ears while driving hard through a corner, the exhilaration of blasting through at 200kph, the joy of getting the approach speed to a corner just right and sailing through the apex. If you don't do the basics right, and don't spend enough time in the grind, the next time you are cornering at 100kph at an altitude of 1500+m, there's a high chance the scenery in the distance will be much closer, much faster than it should be. :D

Simply put: shoot more. Everyday if you can. Don't be scared to experiment, raise the ISO, go hand-held, shoot with your phone, use instagram. Do this enough and you'll reach a stage when the camera (DSLR/iPhone/Whatever) is a natural extension of your vision. When you reach that stage, the only limitation will be your vision, and your imagination.


Not to make great images or better your portfolio. But to soak in everything that his wonderful world has to offer. I believe that our work reflects who we are and that at the end of the day, we are simply the sum of all our experiences. Discover new languages, new food, new ways of living, do not be a tourist but truly travel by immersing yourself into a new culture. Your horizons will expand and your boundaries disappear. Make some images while you are at it but remember that the experience is far more important than the images. The memories etched in your mind are more significant than a few gigabytes of data (one of the reasons I didn't really moan when my hard disk of travel photos crashed).

Exploring the world in real life is a much more inspiring activity than couch surfing the internet. :)

Let this be the source of your happiness and your sadness, but not the only source.

Remember that life is far more than just this craft. Linda Montgomery says “When you do any kind of creative work there is an energy to it. This energy is made up of everything that is you, your personality, your life experience, the books you have read, the things that you are drawn to as a human being. This energy gives the work life and this is what people respond to when they see it."

Hence, live your life to the fullest, the richness will show in your work. :)

Finally, be obsessed wit your work but also learn to look back at your best work and grin.

I agree this sounds a bit self-involved but looking back at the best of your work makes you realise how good you are/were and you can be your own inspiration. When you feel your vision is at a low, it always helps to realise that it is just a phase. (I travelled to Bali last year and of the 2000+ images I shot during our travels, I returned with *one* image I truly liked!).

A REQUEST: If you've read this far, then please do SHARE this Note with your friends. Everything I've learnt in photography has been through the internet and this is my way of giving back the love. :)



PS: Be grateful that you have something that keeps you up at night. Most people coast through life without a passion that makes life so rich. :)

PPS: If you put any of this into effect and do create some epic images, feel free to share them with me at joe@josephradhik.com and let's see if we can work together someday. :D


PPPS: What's a post without an image? :)

Obsessed with the image

The lost art of posing: How & why to pose your photography clients

The lost art of posing: How & why to pose your photography clients

“There is no problem with posing. [The problem is] people’s perception of what it is,” Ghionis said. “Once you master it, I believe it’s like a fine art. There is a science behind posing and I will prove that to you today.”

[DP Review] With greater clarity: Nikon D810 Shooting Experience

[DP Review] With greater clarity: Nikon D810 Shooting Experience

The Nikon D810 represents a consolidation of its two predecessors, the D800 and D800E. The 36MP full frame DSLR lacks an anti-aliasing filter to make the absolute most of its high resolution sensor and provides a number of meaningful updates over the previous generation. [Via dpreview.com]

The Anatomy of a Powerful Image: By Jerry Ghionis

The Anatomy of a Powerful Image: By Jerry Ghionis

Photography is all about light. The word “photography” is derivative of two Greek words that when literally translated means “writing with light” or “painting with light.”

You need to understand light, both natural and ambient. How it shines. How it reflects. Anticipating it. Subtracting it. Sculpting your subjects with it. Lighting should be your first passion when it comes to the study of photography.