post-processing: one-third of the job

Started Mar 13, 2004 | Discussions thread
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Andy Williams
Andy Williams Forum Pro • Posts: 24,506
post-processing: one-third of the job

i get asked about post-processing all the time. to me, it is without a doubt one-third of what goes into a quality image. the other two-thirds? your creativity as you think about the subject, scene and composition, and your actions with the camera itself (settings, exposure etc).

post-processing is so important to good quality end results. and there really is no excuse for not learning some of the basics -- and once you have the basics down, you can start experimenting with some more advanced techniques. there's so much out there in the form of tutorials and information (also right here on stf and dpreview)!

let's take a look at three recent images of mine that you all liked very much. i'm showing you the original pics, out of the camera, just resized for the web.

here's the 59th street bridge

this is the original photo, out of the camera with no post:

the day was blah and grey, i shot this thru a plexiglass window of the tramway to roosevelt island. not much to get excited about, right? hold on - a bit of cloning repairs (lower left in the water and the top of the smokestack), some contrast and layer masking, and bumping up the enhance the only colors available, the rust on the bridge.

and here is the final product:

now let's take a look at the parking ticket man

here's the original photo, out of the camera with no post:

he's a little underexposed, yes? no problem. also, the image is a bit boring. i'll get some of my best inspiration when i sit down at the computer in my digital darkroom..... it came upon me that i should really feature the cop and the ticket. so, here's what i did: i work in adjustment layers, so you can easily see the effects of your different adjustments. i created a levels adj layer, and brightened up the exposure some. i used the "layer mask" to brush over the areas i didn't want to blow out (like the hood of the truck, and the cop's cap). then, i went b&w (your preferred method, whichever you are comfortable with). then create layer mask for this layer, and using the brush tool, paint back over the cop and the ticket...restoring the color to just these elements. then i blurred the background even further with gaussian blur, and sharpened the cop only, using a usm layer and a layer mask. a crop, and done.

finally, the snake from my trip to the zoo yesterday.

here's the original photo, out of the camera with no post:

again, this is really ugly. in fact, i nearly tossed it out! but i came back to it twice last night. the second time, i really started first on the color balance - you see, in the reptile house, the lighting was different in each enclosure, so proper white balance was impossible (should have shot this in raw -- then easy to fix in post). once i got the color balance i wanted, then i began working on the elements i wasn't really happy with, namely the leaves and twig in the foreground. these were easy enough to clone otu. now, using layers and layer blending, i could get the background to really darken. using contrast and layer mask, i could get the lighting to be just what i wanted. a bit of selective usm and a crop and you see the finished result here, and this is actually how he looked in that window!

there are so many good post processing programs out there today - from full photoshop to ps elements and of course paintshop pro. ps elements and paintshop pro are both inexpensive, and they both provide tremendous functionality. i don't claim to be any kind of photoshop expert - and many of the real experts here on stf and also the retouching forum will tell you that i'm always asking for help and advice. my point? if i can learn it, you can too.

i look forward to a photoshop session as much as i do a photo session

and so, in closing, a request: those of you who have really good post-processing links or tips to share, bring it on, right here in this thread. please put in your subject line "link enclosed" or "tip enclosed" and i'll put them all together after a while.

enjoy (get the most in post ) photography,

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