before/after

27 April 2016

Post-processing step by step: Bamboo Forest

Posted in: before/after, Japan, tutorial, video|

Bamboo Forest in Kyoto

Today I have a new video tutorial for you (scroll down to watch it).

It will show you how I edited one of my recent photos taken in the bamboo forest in Kyoto, Japan – one of those places I wanted to photograph for years, ever since I first saw it in the photo by Trey Ratcliff (and later in another image by Jimmy McIntyre). This place seemed to be really magical. And indeed it is!

However, taking the image wasn’t as easy as you can think as nowadays it’s a very popular tourist spot and also a place popular for wedding photoshoots. So I had to make several attempts to get the image I wanted. On the first attempt, even though it was still early in the morning, the place was already full of tourists and 4 – 5 photoshoots. Now, this might not sound very bad until you realize the forest path is just a few hundreds meters long…

So I made another attempt and was at the location even earlier (much before 7 AM). This time there were just a few people around but there was another problem – it was very dark in the forest and the light patches that appeared here and there resulted in huge contrast. So I had to use HDR to balance the exposure and avoid clipping highlights or shadows.

If you would like to follow the tutorial, here are the files I used for it:

And without further ado here’s the video:

(more…)

3 September 2014

Post-processing Wednesday: Catedral de la Almudena

Posted in: architecture, before/after, hdr, madrid, post-processing|

Time for another post in my Post-processing Wednesday series. For more posts from this series go here.

In this case Before photo is 0 EV photo without any adjustments and After image is finished image after using Photomatix Pro 5 and Photoshop CC.

Try it yourself!

Starting today I will occassionally share my source images for you to try. They aren’t RAWs (just to protect my copyright a little bit) and are downscaled to 2048 x 1365 pixels but you should still be able to play with them.

Here are the images.

If you do process those images, make sure to share your results in the comments on my blog. I’d be very interested in learning how you edited them!

One tip: the images were taken hand-held, so make sure to use alignment in your HDR tool.

About source images

Today photo was taken in Catedral de la Almudena in Madrid, Spain. I shot this image hand-held using very high ISO (3200) as I wanted it to be proof of concept for the post that high ISO is no longer a bad thing.

You can read more about the image itself in the mentioned post.

As you can see in the Before photo above, shadow areas are almost completely black lacking any detail. Highlights look generally quite ok with the exception of the altar which is a bit overexposed. So to solve both issues I decided to capture HDR image and for that purpose I took 3 exposures at 2.0 EV spacing.

You can see all exposures below. Starting from top-left they are: middle-exposure, under-exposed photo and over-exposed photo:

Bracketed photos in Lightroom
Darkest exposure (-2 EV) have all lights correctly exposed and brightest one (+2 EV) exposes shadows correctly.

Editing in Lightroom

As always I started my editing in Adobe Lightroom.

As the images were taken at high ISO I expected there to be some noise, so I set Luminance Noise to 25 in the Noise Reduction panel.

I also applied lens corrections in Lens Corrections tab by checking both Enable Profile Corrections (to get rid of vignetting and distortions) and Remove Chromatic Aberration settings.

After that I exported all my source images to Photomatix Pro using Photomatix Lightroom Export Plugin.

Editing in Photomatix Pro

Editing in Photomatix Pro was fairly easy this time. I simply used Fusion/Real-Estate default preset and saved the image. After using Photomatix Pro, it looked like this:

Result of using Photomatix Pro

Pretty good! Exposure is now correct across whole frame but the image would benefit from enhancing contrast a little bit. And that was what I focused on in my further editing.

BTW if you would like to learn more about Fusion (it’s not the same as HDR!), make sure to read my tutorial.

Editing in Lightroom once more

After reimporting my fused image to Lightroom, I used Upright tool to fix perspective a bit and make the columns straight. Then I exported my photo to Photoshop to improve image contrast there.

Editing in Photoshop using Luminosity Masks

In the image below you can see what layers exactly I used to create final image. Starting from bottom up they are:
  1. Background – image after editing in Photomatix Pro.
  2. Noise reduction – due to high ISO there was still a little bit of noise in some areas of the pictures, especially in the red stands. So I used Topaz Denoise plugin and limited its scope to those areas using layer mask.
  3. Midtones contrast – I then applied just a little bit of midtones contrast using Curves adjustment layer.
  4. Floor contrast – after that I created layer mask for the floor and added quite strong contrast to it, to make the floor pop.
  5. Shadows contrast – after that I did the same for the shadows, to add clarity to them.
  6. Desaturate a bit – it’s a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. I brought the cyans and reds down a little bit because they were visible in some areas adding some unpleasant cast.
  7. Sharpening – then I applied a little bit of sharpening using this technique.
Editing using luminosity masks
20 August 2014

Post-processing Wednesday: Christmas market

Posted in: architecture, before/after, hdr, post-processing, warsaw|

Time for another post in my Post-processing Wednesday series. For more posts from this series go here.

In this case Before photo is 0 EV photo without any adjustments and After image is finished image that I manually blended using luminosity masks in Photoshop.

About source images

There is still some time before next Christmas but today I decided to show you how I edited image captured during exactly that time of the year almost 2 years ago.

You can read more about the image itself in this post. Well, image in that post is slightly different but it shares EXIF data as I was shooting with same parameters for almost whole evening.

As you can see in the Before photo above, some highlights were slightly blown out, especially in the areas near light sources. At the same time some areas were darker than I intended them to be, eg. sky and buildings on the right. So I decided to capture HDR image and for that purpose I took 7 exposures at 1.5 EV spacing. You can see all exposures below sorted from brightest to darkest:

Bracketed photos in Lightroom
Darkest exposure have all lights correctly exposed and brightest one (+2 EV) exposes shadows correctly.

Editing in Lightroom

As always I started my editing in Lightroom. This time I moved tint of White Balance to +24 to make the image a little bit more magenta. I also applied lens corrections in Lens Corrections tab by checking both Enable Profile Corrections and Remove Chromatic Aberration settings.

After that I exported all my source images to Photoshop for manual blending.

Editing in Photoshop using Luminosity Masks

After finishing processing my images in Lightroom, I opened them in Photoshop CC and used luminosity masks to first blend them and them improve contrast and colour a little bit.

In the image below you can see what layers exactly I used to create final image. Starting from bottom up they are:

  1. Manual blending – this layer group shows all the layers I used to blend images. I used 0 EV photo for almost whole image apart from brightest and darkest areas (for them I used darker and brighter exposures respectively).
  2. Midtones contrast – I first applied just a little bit of midtones contrast using Curves adjustment layer.
  3. Blues saturation – then using Hue/Saturation adjustment layer I increased saturation and lightness of the blue areas (houses on the left, big Xmas tree on the right).
  4. Lights saturation – at this stage I thought that some areas have still too low saturation – especially ones close to light sources. So I created another Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, increased saturation using it and using layer mask limited it only to the brightest parts of the image.
  5. Darks clarity – at this stage I was pretty happy with what I had. However, the image lacked a little bit of details in shadows for me. So what I did was to use High Pass filter with large radius and fairly low opacity (30%) and to limit its scope to the darkest parts of the image using layer mask.
  6. Sharpness – then I applied a little bit of sharpening using this technique.
  7. Midtones contrast 2 – finally I decided to add a little bit more contrast to midtones. I added it using Curves adjustment layer.
    Editing using luminosity masks
    6 August 2014

    Post-processing Wednesday: Blue sunset in Mexico

    Posted in: before/after, hdr, landscape, long-exposure, mexico, post-processing, video|

    Time for another post in my Post-processing Wednesday series. For more posts like this one, go here.

    Today it will be slightly different as instead of a lot of text and a few images there is a video (a few of you asked me whether it would be possible). In this video I show how to use a few tools (Photomatix Pro 5, Lightroom, Photoshop, Topaz plugins and luminosity masks) to create and edit HDR image. I also share a few small tips here and there. As always I’m looking forward to your feedback.

    BTW don’t forget to subscribe to HDR Photographer Newsletter to receive information about most interesting updates to this blog. You can subscribe here.

    Also make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel in order to be notified whenever I share new videos there.

    Ok, without further ado here is the video showing the workflow:

    Camera info

    Finally some EXIF information:

    Technical details:
    Camera: Sony NEX-6 (read my review here)
    Lens: Sony 10-18 f/4
    Focal length: 12 mm
    Aperture: f/7.1
    Exposure time: 6 s (“middle” exposure)
    ISO: 100
    Number of exposures: 6
    E.V. Step: 1.0
    Flash used: no
    Tripod: yes
    Filters: no
    Technique: HDR, tone-mapping, luminosity masks
    Software: Photomatix Pro 5 (Contrast Optimizer), Lightroom 5.4, Photoshop CC, Topaz Clarity, Topaz Detail
    23 July 2014

    Post-processing Wednesday: Big Ben in the evening

    Posted in: architecture, before/after, hdr, london, post-processing, reflection|

    Time for another post in my Post-processing Wednesday series. For more posts from this series go here.

    In this case Before photo is 0 EV photo without any adjustments and After image is tone-mapped and finished HDR image.

    About source images

    Today image showing some of the London iconic buildings, Big Ben and House of Parliament, is one of my favourite HDR images taken recently. It was beautiful blue hour with the sky being really blue and with some nice orange lights of the House of Parliament and Big Ben contrasting with water and sky.

    You can read more about the image in this post. In that very post not only I show exact location and EXIF of the image but I also share some compositional tips.

    As you can see in the Before photo above, some highlights were slightly blown out. At the same time some areas were darker than I intended them to be (especially House of Parliament and Westminster Bridge). So I decided to capture HDR image and for that purpose I took 5 exposure at 1 EV spacing. You can see all exposures below. Going from left to right and top to bottom they are: 0 EV, -1 EV, +1 EV, -2 EV and +2 EV.

    Bracketed photos in Lightroom
    Darkest exposure (-2 EV) have all lights correctly exposed and brightest one (+2 EV) exposes shadows correctly.

    Editing in Lightroom

    As always I started my editing in Lightroom. This time, however, the only adjustment I made was applying lens correction by going to Lens Correction tab and checking both Enable Profile Corrections and Remove Chromatic Aberration checkboxes.

    Editing in Photomatix Pro

    After applying lens corrections to all my source images I opened them in Photomatix Pro 5 by using export plugin to Photomatix. In Photomatix I selected Contrast Optimizer processing method with following settings:
    Contrast Optimizer

    Editing in Photoshop using Luminosity Masks

    After finishing processing my image in Lightroom, I opened it in Photoshop CC and used luminosity masks to boost both contrast and colours a little bit.

    In the image below you can see what layers exactly I used to create final image. Starting from bottom up they are:

    1. Background – image after editing in Photomatix Pro. This layer has two Smart Filters applied to it:
      1. Topaz Detail 3 – I used Topaz Detail plugin to add some extra sharpness to small details.
      2. Topaz Clarity – I used Topaz Clarity to boost general clarity of the image.
    2. Colour correction – next step was to apply colour correct. This was necessary because there was some cyan cast.
    3. Contrast – this group contains operations I did to enhance contrast of the image. Quite a lot is going here this time 🙂
      1. Midtones contrast – I slightly increased midtones contrast by using Curves adjustment layer. 
      2. Blues contrast – I greatly increased contrast of blues in water and sky using Curves adjustment layer.
      3. Shadows contrast – I added some contrast to the darkest parts of the image (like bridge, House of Parliament and Big Ben) using Curves adjustment layer. At the same time I brightened them up.
      4. Darken blacks – as the name implies I used this layer to darken darkest parts of the image (parts under the bridge) to provide better contrast.
      5. Brighten light – contrary to what I did with darkest parts, I brightened up the brightest ones (lamps) a little bit to make them “whiter”.
      6. Water contrast – I applied some contrast to the water area to make it pop.
    4. Colour – in this group are all operations I did to boost colour of the image:
      1. Global vibrance – I applied some global vibrance to make the blue tones more saturated.
      2. Decrease yellows and reds saturation – as the name suggests this Hue/Saturation adjustment layer was used to reduce saturation of yellows and reds a little bit in order to make them look more natural.
      3. Blues saturation – I increased saturation of blues in the water and sky even further.
    5. Lamps glow – I added a little bit of glow around street lamps using Topaz Star Effects plug-in.
    Editing using luminosity masks
    9 July 2014

    Post-processing Wednesday: Forest paradise

    Posted in: before/after, landscape, mountains, post-processing, Tatra|

    Time for another post in my Post-processing Wednesday series. For more posts from this series go here.

    About photo

    Today I would like to share post-processing steps for one of my landscape photos taken last autumn in Polish Tatra mountains. Weather was rather ugly, it was cloudy, dark and raining often so dynamic range of the scene was very low so there was no need to use HDR. That’s why I took just a single exposure.

    Adjustments to make

    Adjustments to make

    In this case Before image shows unedited image and After shows finished image after editing it in Lightroom. Generally speaking Before image already looks quite nice but it would benefit from a few adjustments that were shown in the image above and were listed below:

    1. Increase global contrast as the image has fairly low contrast,
    2. Increase saturation of yellows and reds to make image more vibrant,
    3. Darken rocks in foreground as they attract attention to much and are therefore distracting.

      For more details about this photo, including exact location and EXIF metadata as well as link to buying a print, please read this post.

      Editing in Lightroom

      This image is a bit different than majority of my images because almost whole processing (apart from sharpening) was done in Adobe Lightroom. Why? Because it was sufficient to use Lightroom in this case. One thing that you should do is to always use as easy workflow as possible to achieve results you want. This way you will save some time for processing more images 🙂

      1. I started by going to Lens Correction tab and checking both Enable Profile Corrections (to remove vignetting and distortion) and Remove Chromatic Aberration.
      2. Then I went to Tone panel:
        1. I decreased Contrast to -7.
        2. I decreased Highlights to -50. Purpose of this change was to restore some detail in brightest parts of the image and to darken them a bit (especially rocks in foreground).
        3. I increased Shadows to +67. Purpose of this change was to restore details in darkest parts of the image (shadows between trees).
        4. I decreased Blacks to -43 in order to increase contrast of the image without affecting midtones and highlights.
      3. In Presence panel I made following adjustments:
        1. I increased Vibrance to +27 to boost saturation of less saturated colours (like greens).
      4. Then I went to HSL / Color / B&W tab to adjust colours. What I wanted to achieve was to make reds, oranges and yellows more pronounced:
        1. First in Hue panel I decreased Orange to -13 (what moved them towards Reds) and Green to -16 (what moved them towards Yellows)
        2. In Saturation panel I increased Orange to +62, Yellow to +18 and Green to +33 thus increasing saturation of them.
      5. Final step was addition of small vignetting in order to focus viewers attention on the center of the image instead of its corners. So in Effects tab I adjust Post-crop vignetting:
        1. I set Amount to -36,
        2. Midpoint to +50
        3. Finally I used large Feather of +98 to provide very smooth transition between region with and without vignette.

      I already mentioned that the only thing I did in Photoshop was to apply sharpening (because it gives me more options to do that than Lightroom) so I loaded my image into Photoshop CC and sharpened image using high-pass sharpening. Make sure to follow the link to learn more about this sharpening technique.

        25 June 2014

        Post-processing Wednesday: Sunset in Paradise

        Posted in: before/after, landscape, mexico, post-processing|

        Time for another post in my Post-processing Wednesday series. For more posts from this series go here.

        About photo

        Today I will show you how I post-processed one of my landscape HDR photos I took this February in Mexico.

        In this case Before image shows unedited 0 EV exposure frame and After shows finished image after applying all adjustments mentioned below. Note that images differ quite a lot and they have even different crop.

        Using HDR here was essential as otherwise the image would have very dark shadows (pay attention to rocks in the unedited image). Also some parts of the sky are blown out in the 0 EV photo. HDR helped me to rescue both very dark and very bright parts and ensure they are correctly esposed.

        At high level, post-processing of this photo involved following steps:

        1. Apply Lens Correction adjustments in Lightroom and export 4 bracketed photos to Photomatix Pro 5 using Photomatix Export Plug-In.
        2. In Photomatix Pro 5 tone-map HDR image using Contrast Optimizer tone-mapper to restore highlights in the sky and in the rocks.
        3. Crop the image in Lightroom and apply some minor adjustments to boost saturation and fix colour cast.
        4. Load image into Photoshop CC and use luminosity masks to increase contrast and colour saturation.

        For more details about this photo, including exact location and EXIF metadata, please read this post.

        BTW to learn more about HDR photography, make sure to read my free HDR tutorial.

        Editing in Lightroom

        As always, I started editing in Lightroom by applying lens correction and chromatic aberration reduction. After that I exported my 4 exposures to Photomatix Pro 5 using the Photomatix’s Lightroom Export plugin.

        Editing in Photomatix Pro

        In Photomatix Pro 5 I used Contrast Optimizer tone-mapper with following settings.

        Editing in Photomatix Pro

        After using Photomatix the image looked like this:
        Image after editing in Photomatix Pro

        As you can see it has much more details in highlights and especially in the shadows which were pretty dark in the 0 EV image.

        However, at this stage the image had very low contrast and saturation. I improved that in next steps.

        Editing in Lightroom again

        After using Photomatix I used Lightroom once again, this time to crop my image and apply some initial colour and contrast adjustments.

        I started by cropping the image. There were a few reasons for it. First of all there was some ugly vignette despite using lens correction (this vignette was caused by using ND filter on ultra wide angle lens) and I also wanted this image to satisfy golden ratio rule.

        Here’s the crop I used:

        Cropping in Lightroom

        Additionally to cropping I applied following adjustments:

        • Increased Contrast to +37
        • Increased Whites to +33
        • Increased Vibrance to +35

        Here is how the image looked after using Lightroom:

        Image after editing in Lightroom

        This time it’s pretty close to the final image! Not that vibrant yet but we aren’t far for sure.

        Post-processing in Photoshop

        After finishing processing my image in Lightroom, I opened it in Photoshop CC and used luminosity masks to boost both contrast and colours a little bit.

        In the image below you can see what layers exactly I used to create final image. Starting from bottom up they are:

        1. Background – image after editing in Lightroom.
        2. Topaz Clarity – I then applied Topaz Clarity to increase clarity of the image. I applied it to whole scene.
        3. Motion Blur – I applied some motion blur (using Filter -> Blur -> Motion Blur) to blur distant water. In the foreground water was nicely blurred already but a bit further from the camera there were still some waves and ripples I wanted to get rid of.
        4. Contrast – this group contains operations I did to enhance contrast of the image.
          1. Midtones contrast – I slightly increased midtones contrast by using Curves adjustment layer. 
          2. Highlights contrast – I added some contrast to highlights (clouds and water) using Curves adjustments layer.
          3. Shadows contrast – I added some contrast to the darkest parts of the image (rocks and palm trees) using Curves adjustment layer. At the same time I brightened them up.
        5. Colour – in this group are all operations I did to boost colour of the image:
          1. Light saturation – slightly increased saturation of brightest parts of the image (water and sky)
          2. Lights color balance – fixed color balance of brightest parts of the image (water and sky) by moving it towards blues and magenta thus getting rid of slighly green colour cast.
        6. Sharpening – I then applied sharpening using High-Pass Filter as described here.
        7. Topaz Adjust – I added some details to the scene using Topaz Adjust filter (using Photo Pop preset) with small opacity (23%)
        Post-processing with luminosity masks
        18 June 2014

        Post-processing Wednesday: Crazy Mayan Dance

        Posted in: before/after, dance, mexico, people, post-processing|

        Time for another post in my Post-processing Wednesday series. For more posts from this series go here.

        Note: if there is particular photo (from my blog) you would like me to present in this series, please leave comment under this post.

        About photo

        Today photo will be different than in the recent parts of the series. Normally I share post-processing for my HDR photos but… I don’t take only HDR photos. So today photo is non-HDR one. What’s more this photo was Editor’s Choice in Camerapixo We Inspire Vol. 3. – you can read more about it here.

        There is one more reason I decided to share this image today. A lot of my photos take me even a few hours to process. Sometimes, however, post-processing is much simpler with just a few steps but the photo still looks very good afterwards. Crazy Mayan Dance belongs to the second group.

        For more details about this photo, including exact location and EXIF metadata, please read this post.

        Generally speaking processing of this photo was quite easy. It was mostly about correcting colours and improving contrast a little bit. I also increased saturation to make the scene more vibrant, more lively and more dynamic.

        At high level, post-processing of this photo involved following steps:

        1. Apply some basic adjustments in Lightroom.
        2. Load image into Photoshop CC and increase contrast and saturation.

        In this case Before image shows unedited image and After shows finished image after applying adjustments mentioned above.

          Editing in Lightroom

          Adjustments in Lightroom were rather subtle and here is the list of them:

          • I brightened the image a little bit by increasing Exposure to +0,20.
          • At the same time I wanted to preserve highlights so I dragged Highlights slider to -33.
          • However, decreasing Highlights has the effect of lowering the contrast in the image so in order to maintain it, I increased the Whites to +25.
          • I also increased Vibrance to +31.
          • I also enabled lens corrections to reduce any lens vignetting and get rid of distortion.

          Post-processing in Photoshop

          After finishing developing my image in Lightroom, I opened it in Photoshop CC and applied a few more adjustments.

          In the image below you can see what layers exactly I used to create final image. Starting from bottom up they are:

          1. Source – this group contains some operations done on the source image.
            1. Topaz Denoise – even though this shot was taken at ISO 100 it contained a little bit of noise in the darkest parts (by brightening the image, this noise became more apparent). Using Topaz Denoise plugin I got rid of it.
            2. Topaz Clarity – I used Topaz Clarity to increase clarity in the image.
            3. Camera Raw Filter – in Camera Raw Filter I increased saturation and vibrance slightly. I could do that in Lightroom of course.
          2. Midtones contrast – I slightly increased midtones contrast by using Curves adjustment layer.
          3. Topaz Detail – Topaz Detail is one of the most effective ways of enhancing details and sharpening. As I found one of the performers (the one standing in the middle) to be a little blurry I decided to sharpen him a little bit. I applied sharpening selectively only to him using layer mask.
          4. Darken stone – stones in the scene were quite bright and I found this very distractive so I decided to darken them. I used a simple trick here – I created new layer, filled it with 50% gray and painted with black brush the areas I wanted to darken. Then I just changed the blending mode to Soft Light, slightly reduced opacity of the layer and voila! I achieved darkening effect I wanted.
          5. Dodge & Burn – I used dodge & burn mainly to model muscles of two still performers.
          6. Global contrast – I decided to use Levels adjustment layer in order to apply some additional global contrast. I dragged White Point slightly to the left (249 instead of 255) and Midtone to 0,96.
          7. Correct colour cast – I reduced green/aqua colour cast using Color Balance adjustment layer.
          8. Reduce vibrance – finally I decided to make the image slightly less saturated so I used Vibrance adjustment layer and dragged both Saturation and Vibrance to -10.
          9. Sharpening – I then applied sharpening using Smart Sharpen filter.
          Post-processing in Photoshop