Category Archives: post processing

Dec 2014 – Only the beginning

I apologise for my lack of writing this past year.  I feel like my whole 2014 project was supposed to focus on a more cohesive process of photography and what I found was that most months I do not have time to properly engage every aspect.  Conceive of setting up testing reshooting post processing and publishing take a huge amount of time.  Most months I was luck if I even got one day to shoot post process and publish.  I have learned so much about photography my own process and how hard it is for me to carve out time to pursue this hobby. 

All that being said I feel as though I had arrived and while at the beginning of the year I had hoped I would have a collection of 12 really unique photos that I loved I quickly discovered not every shot or every experiment works.  Walking through that sometimes painful process has brought me here.  I can be much more selective about what I publish and much more excited about my own personal acheivements and not so concerned with reproducing photos I had seen dozens of times before. 

This truly is only the beginning. 

So how did I shoot the last photo of 2014?

I had an off camera light about 280 degrees facing directly across the frame to the subject.  I had the subject facing about 230 degrees.  I placed a lit sparkler about 1/3 into the frame. 

I played around with the fstop and iso and slowed the shutter to lengthen the exposure of the sparkler as well as the background lights. 

I ended up shooting iso 200 f8 and shutter around 1/30. 

This is what I got out of the camera.

image

Its not bad.  I did crop the fingers of the sparkler holder out of the frame. 

I then used a technique to create a bit of a magical feel with a duplicate layer that I blurred to about 30 pixels and then blended with the layer option “screen”

You can see this created a very cool effect but softened the edges and overexposed some of the skin.

image

Then I applied a layer mask to the skin and sparkler.
Adjusted the contrast and played with the curves and shadows to try and balance the light a bit better. 

I also adjusted the brightness of the eyes and added some highlights.  This is especially dramatic in the full resolution image but the scaled version here still shows some benefit to the process. 
Lastly I did some minor color correction and sharpening. 

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Happy New Year!

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October 24 – Explorations of high speed photography

I know I know there is nothing original about milk and high speed photography, but lets be honest our ideas and inspirations usually come from an extension of someone else’s ideas. When I see others peoples work I often find myself thinking “Pssssh , I could do that”. When I saw the photos at http://aurumlight.com/ (slightly NSFW), especially the series with the sword fighters, I realized – no, no I couldn’t. I was, however, very inspired.

My son spends a lot of time walking around the house yelling things like, “Dad look it’s “Pida man” or “Soup – e – man!” (He’s 2. Enough said.) He loves superheroes, and so do I.

I thought I can make a superhero. I’ll just use a lego man and try to get a highspeed photo of him “wearing a cape.” A milk cape that is! Well it turns out the only lego man I actually have in my house is a Vetruvious figure from the lego movie and he’s already a superhero that wears a long white robe, so not much to go with there. Unless I put another robe on him or something.

My son does have a few little tikes figures that he calls his “friends” and since they were readily available I thought I would give them a try.

After all they are little farmers and around here farmers are the closest things we have to superheroes…

After about 7000 failed attempts at getting anything awesome in camera I finally had enough source images to try and accomplish what I wanted through post.

Here are the two source shots I used.
DSC_2734

DSC_2747

These two shots gave me the two building blocks to make the cape (the milk splash was a good shape and while totally in the wrong spot still entirely usable) and have a nice clear image of the figure.

First things first I correct the expose and tried to tone down the blown highlights.

Then I opened both images in seperate documents in photoshop.

I cut the man from one image and the large milk splash from the other.

I then created 3 new layers on the original image of the man. I had the background layer then the milk splash then the top layer was just the cut out of the farmer.

I then set to work with the layer masks to try and create a nicely defined edge on the cape as well as blend the man and cape to make sure that the right parts of the cape were behind the man and that some of it was in front of the parts of the man that would be covered had he actually been wearing a cape.

Then I used some blend as well as some simple brush strokes to try and perfect the lines.

I then selected all the foreground and any background parts of the image that were just clutter. I filled black over everything and left the stacked layers to create the depth without it looking like I had just cut and paste a picture from a magazine.

Using a brush with soft edges I carefully painted black over every remaining unwanted surface. I then made the edge of the brush more solid and lowered the opacity to create a bit of shadowing along the edge of the cape. Flattened the image and then rotated it and cropped it.

Here is what I got.
flying small

You tell me what you think.

Sept 2014 – lemonade

So I did it.  I think

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I think it turned out.  Not exactly what I thought it would be like but im actually kind of happy with it. 

Here are 2 originals

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As you can see recomposing and including more of the bandshell would contribute to the visual appear. 

I tried to save the dull gray light but only ended up making things worse. 

Attempt 1

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Kind of dreamy but unnatural.

And try 2

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A bit better but missing the punch of having actually shot with real sunset light. 

I didn’t do much to the black and white image for post processing.  

I simply opened it twice in photoshop from raw.  The first time to get the highlights and white crisp and the second to get the dark sky nice and tonal. 

I then blended the two images with layer masks and trimmed a bit.  I adjusted the lens correction and used a couple approaches to try and accentuate the height of the model primarily making the image narrower in the horizontal. 

Finally I converted to black and white carefully balancing the blues and cyans for the trailing fabric and then sharpened. 

Overall I kind of like the black and white image.  What do you think? 

Would selective color work for this image?  Is that overdone?

What do you think of the other post processing attempts overdone?

Any suggestions of things I missed in post production.

July 2014 – heartache

sky pano barn attempt 1-2

I don’t think I’ve ever looked at one of my well thought out pictures and hated it.  Maybe I’ve been frustrated with it being out of focus or annoyed with some element that I should have changed, but I have not outright hated an image I created.

Photography is a craft of heartache.  I say this because it is an art of great hope.  A hope that all of the elements in the frame would come together to capture that magical moment.  That one would be able to actually articulate a thought a feeling an emotion a sense of awe. 

Yesterday I felt a mile high.  I got home from an evening shoot with beautiful light.  Some dramatic clouds and I had made it to my pre scouted location with ample time to set up and shoot.  And shoot I did.  I framed reframed bracketed and panned my way through 7 or 8 dozen shots.  I thought I had it cased.  I thought even as a worst case I would just have to exposure blend and everything would be great.  Even my spot checks on my lcd suggested I had nailed the exposure and composition. 

Today however was a day of heartache.  I could not interpet what was wrong.  Was it motion blur?  Dynamic range?  Color cast?  Something was lackluster and in one image I would love the sky but absolutely hate the foreground or love the framing and hate how the sky turned out.  I spent over an hour trying to exposure stack a panorama.  I never did get it to work. 

Then the regret.  Why didn’t I take more time to set up.  Why did I break the golden run and handshoot something I could have used a tripod for.  Why didn’t I pull out my nd filters and try to get it even closer to right in camera? 

I’d love to say I have learned all these basic photography methods, but clearly I believe I am the exception.  This is a tough lesson to learn.  Don’t get me wrong,  some of my pictures turned out just fine, they just aren’t what I had hoped. 

Your thoughts in the comments are welcome…

So In my commitment to this process outlined is the process below.

First I shot a 5 frame pano at three different shutter speeds. I should have used a tripod and a much greater DOF say F16 or F22, but that ship sailed.

I didn’t realize how noisy the foreground flowers would be and with no real focal point you can see your eye dances around the field quite a bit. I think a tighter crop would probably serve the image well, and getting a touch closer to the barn I could have stitched say 7 images together instead of 5, but I shot from the roof of my car from the road and wasn’t about to go driving through some farmers canola field.

After i stiched the images I tried numerous times to actually process and HDR with the 3 different panoramas and even tried manually exposure stacking them, but since I hand shot three different sets of images I was unable to align the highlights the midtones and the shadow images properly.

So I had a choice. I could publish the abismal images I got (which are not shown here – although I could probably post an example if anyone is so much interested) or I could forge on. I did process a few other images from the shoot which I kind of liked (see below) but that was hardly the point, so I forged on.

With several attempts in photoshop and even one effort in lightroom I managed to take the underexposed images and tone map and caress my way to what you see. I’m still not convinced these images are entirely publishable, but I feel a whole lot better about them than my first 20 attempts.

So what exactly did I do. I compressed the highlights bumped the exposure even further I added some serious gain to the shadows and blacks and finally added some contrast. I tried to reduce the noise a bit and sharpened the images. Overall fairly minor adjustments.

I won’t share any “secret sauce” post processing tips because the truth is, if it’s worth shooting it is worth shooting right in camera.

My best to all of you. Thank you for your kindness your likes and your follows.

-Ed
tree1-3

DSC_1758

sky pano barn attempt 3-2

June 2014 – Ahead of Schedule

Well after about 100 million frustrating attempts to actually capture a bubble where I wanted it to be I ended up with a handful of useable shots.

Below you will see how I post processed them.

bubble post 1

From the Raw image the first adjustment is for white balance exposure and basic contrast.

This is a bit of a trick as with so much of the image being black the histogram is of very little help. The idea here is to boost as much of the light while keeping the background crisp and black.

Next is noise reduction. I like how lightroom handles noise reduction as the color noise tends to be more of an issue. In this case the low iso (only 400) and the relatively large image (36 MP) means very little noise reduction is required to publish and image on the web (say 1024 x 768). There is very little noise in the image to begin with but with the help of the sliders we can clean that up nicely.

I also turn off all the sharpening in camera raw as I prefer to sharpen later in the process (as is the case almost always if you intend to do any post processing beyond the camera raw). Open the image for further editing.
bubble post 2

I then did the same thing with a second image.

bubble post 3

I copied the second image and pasted it into a new layer on the first image.

bubble post 4

Then blend the layer together using lighter color. This is a great method of exposure stacking and will add the second bubble to the first. I used layer masks to ensure the background and bubble edges stacked correctly.

bubble post 5
I moved each layer around until the bubbles were in their desired positions. I had some issue with a few of the bubbles at the top or bottom of the frame as they could not be moved to the center of the frame without looking flat due to their missing edge.

bubble post 6

Next I flattened the image and adjusted the “levels” allowing me to clip the blacks for a much sharper image and making the blending of the two images look a bit more natural by setting the “true black” across the board for both images.

bubble post 7

Resize.
Crop.
And last of all, sharpen.

Here you go.

bubble post 8

The final image is a bit more complicated, but I’ll post that later. For now, give it a try – see how well your images turn out.

May 2014 – a wedding

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Well, it didn’t kill me. Although at several points I was certain I was going to die. Trying to be inconspicuous and still get up close and personal with a wedding ceremony is a task best saved for a solid 180mm lense. I brought a 50mm…
Lesson learned.
Fortunately for me I wasn’t “THE” photographer.
I actually had a lot of fun once I got into it. I found myself inspired even.

I know that the idea of my blog was to share the whole brutal process of selecting a frame and talking about post processing, but life has been far to demanding lately for that. My apologies.

I will leave you with this.
When you take a good photograph post processing becomes easy. I cropped I converted to B and W and I added a bit of vignette.
Done.

I am happy with it.

I am also happy not to shoot a wedding again…

April 2014 – On location NYC

I have not settled on this as the final post processed image, but this is what I am going for. This is a true HDR merged with photoshops Merge to HDR pro. I am relatively happy with the tone mapping, but the color appears a touch too yellow for me taste. It also seems to matter a lot what mood im in. I am going to attempt to get the same dynamic range with a photo exposure stack using the layers blending options in photoshop.

I won’t call this the final product, but you get the idea. I am relatively happy with the composition and this shot works well for both large prints and square format prints.

Let me know what you think.

Since I am feeling lazy today you don’t get the step by step. If you want it – comment in the comments section below and I will follow up with a post on the full process involved.

central park 1

I have also included an exposure stack of the image I had original chosen when I was exploring NYC looking for a location.
I think it turned out kinda cool, but it is missing a story, some sort of hook to connect me with that time and place.

sunrise central park

Finally I have included one of the shots from sunset over new york. What a cool moment.

I will almost certainly make a print of this for my own purposes. The top of the rock observatory prevents commercial photography so unlike my other prints this one will not be for sale.
If you are desperate to get your hands on it for some reason we can work something out.

sunset nyc