Tag Archives: post processing

A critical eye

I am starting to wonder if it is my own sense of “not good enough” that has taken my joy of photography away.  My own critical eye sees only the imperfections when i go to share a picture i have taken with someone else.  I am afraid all of the “things i have done wrong” in lighting technique composition and post processing will be immediately  obvious to everone else. 
I have to admit I have trouble sharing my enjoyment of my photos with others.  Maybe it is the uncertainty of what i really like about it. 

Long story short  i am posting a picture i took of my daughter.  I like it for almost all of the reasons i don’t  like it, but i do like.  I really like it and i need to be ok with enjoying it rather than dumping on all the parts that i “should” have changed. 
My biggest critic is myself.  My greatest triumph os to continue to create even where i might have failed.  To discover how many more ways there are to tell a story in photography.

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It is 2015…

…and there has never been a better time to go back through my archives and clean up the gigs of storage and post process a few hidden gems.  2 of my favorite shots that I shared on 500px this year were from my archives and I suspect I am sitting on a few more gems that just need the right boost from post processing. 
I hope to share the process a bit but in the meantime I highly recommend taking a trip through your old archives to find those pictures you previously overlooked.  Please share in the comments below.

Here is one of mine from 2013 that I processed and published last year.

Check out this awesome photo from 500px: https://500px.com/photo/84185457

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.

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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.

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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!

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.
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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.
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You tell me what you think.

Oct 2014 – Mo wedding post processing

I have had a pretty good week.  Aside from insane hours of school work I did manage to find some time to post process.

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I am pretty happy with this image.  I spent a bit of time on the floor in this image as the crop left too small of a visual mass to allow the reflection to lead the subject. 
I ended up cloning in about 1/3 of what you now see of the floor. 
I was not the actual photographer at this wedding so I would have preferred a fill light on the subjects faces.   But as you can see the dynamic range of the camera did a fairly good job of lifting the shadows without the window light blowing out the rest of the frame. 

I had another shot in this series that was tighter to the subject and actually excluded the upper windows and the lamp.  I thought I would like it better but with this crop I feel the balance is strong between the white space created by the window and the visual interest of the reflection.  This helps to allow the eye to focus on the subjects but still see the interest of the rest of the frame. 

This is a low resolution image but still maintains a ton of the detail of the original shot. 

I hope you like it and even if you don’t feel free to leave your constructive criticism in the comments below. 

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.

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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.

April 2014 – New York Post processing

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I have included some low res test shots right out of camera for you to see.

The sunrise in central park requires a dynamic range I simply could not get with a single shot.

I like the composition of the tower with the rock and trees in the foreground less at sunrise then I did the previous night and the sun rose much further north than I had expected so the light cast hard shadows in places that I was hoping would be highlighted.

As a result the one shot this month that I will concentrate on is the trees backlit by the sun.

I also go some great shots from the rooftop observatory which we planned very much to be there for sunset and were greeted with almost perfect conditions, so this project has payed huge dividends already for me.

Careful planning and setup is key to getting it right in camera, and I will only need to do some exposure blending and sharpening to get the final products I am looking for for these pictures.

It is nice not to have to rely on software to get a good image. I’ll say that a different way. Get it right in camera and let the software do softwarelike stuff (ie. Panorama stitching – dust removal etc.)

Hope you enjoy these sample images.

I hope to post the final product this week.
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