This week’s Oldie-but-Goodie comes from a trip Mitzy and I took to Washington DC last summer. On a blazing hot day, we took refuge in the Lincoln Memorial where I took this photo with the D300s and Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8.
I used a few photographic tricks to make this image. First was my choice of perspective. I used the Tokina 11-16mm at 11mm to capture the vast interior. The room was also full of people but Mitzy pointed out this excellent vantage point that was completely tourist free! Compare above to the image below. It’s hard to believe that they were taken just a few minutes apart:
To capture the full tonal range of the space I used an HDR technique. I took five images, each separated by 1EV and combined the -2, 0 and +2EV into an HDR image in Photoshop’s HDR Pro tool. Here are the three images that fully encompass the darkest and brightest tones.
The combined image looked like this:
Once the HDR was created I tweaked the brightness/contrast and fixed the vertical perspective in Lightroom.
And that’s it! A unique perspective of a familiar landmark, captured with full tonal range.
Nat and Lauren, some of my best friends, have a new member of the family as of February 7. Easton Nathanael is an adorable baby boy and I feel so lucky to have met him when he was just 8 hours old. Lauren and Nat had Mitzy and me over on Saturday to take some photos of the new family of 4. I haven’t had a lot of experience with baby photography but I love shooting their kids. Their daughter, Harper, has become quite the photogenic toddler especially now that she’s warmed up to me. Here is one of my favourites (D7000 with AF-S 35mm f/1.8 @ f/2.8 1/200s ISO 400):To give a bit of editing history, here is the image when first imported into Lightroom.In Lightroom I did a few tweaks to prepare the shot for editing in Photoshop, namely
highlight reduction/shadow boost
reduced clarity/increased sharpness
‘Camera Portrait’ camera calibration
This is how the photo looked coming out of Lightroom:In Photoshop I removed some dry skin and red patches (under the nose and the lines on the shoulder). I used the color correction tool to shift some of the magenta tones in the skin towards the green and some local reduction of red saturation. I tried out a new Photoshop preset (a gift from a friend) to get the final look.
I’d like to follow up my previous post with a more detailed explanation of how I pieced the composite image together and achieved the final look. Certain aspects of Photoshop, or photo editing in general, may seem like black art but in this case the process is fairly straightforward. I use two common image editing programs:
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 (currently at v4.3)
Adobe Photoshop CS5
As I mentioned in the last post I started the process of taking this image with the final product in mind, simplifying the editing process considerably.
The first step, as in all my post-production, was to import the images into Lightroom. For those who don’t know, Lightroom is an extremely versatile program that provides a near-complete workflow from import, sort, edit, print, upload plus simple tools for generating slide shows, webpages and books. I do 95% of my editing in Lightroom and usually only go to Photoshop for complicated edits like cloning and healing or anything where layers are required.
With the image of the blue room I adjusted the levels to get the brightness/contrast I wanted. I tuned the blue colour of the room with a white balance adjustment and the hue/saturation/luminance controls. I also used this control to reduce the red and orange saturation on my face.If you recall from the previous post I took a second image of the blue room with the snooted flash removed. I copied all of the adjustments from above over to this image. With the red room, I made minimal adjustments. I tweaked the white balance and increased saturation. I added some blacks to increase contrast.When finished in Lightroom I opened the three images as layers in a single Photoshop file in the following order: empty blue room > blue room with me > red room. I selected the three layers and used the Auto-Align Layers tool (in Automatic mode) to remove any misalignment from slight camera movements between shots. I masked off the right side of the “blue me” layer (to allow the underlying empty room to come through). The first image below is the resulting layer and the second image is the mask used to create it.The red room required a more complex mask to keep the red on the door and floor but not spill onto the door frame on the right side.The three layers, when all visible, appear like this:My next step was to remove blemishes such as the smoke alarm in the blue room and some messy cables. For this I created a new layer above the three image layers. I set the healing brush and clone stamp tools to sample from all layers below. The edits appeared in the new layer, leaving the underlying layers untouched. This method makes the removal of healing/cloning edits much simpler because they can be deleted from the self-contained layer. Here is the layer containing the edits.As a final adjustment I added a curves adjustment, again as a new layer but masked off the red room.Here is the final image in Photoshop:Finally, I opened the image up in Lightroom and cropped on a slight angle to add a bit of drama.Thanks for reading!
Today I came across a new high dynamic range (HDR) technique that combines Photoshop’s HDR tool with a feature that was included in the Lightroom 4.1 update that I hadn’t noticed before: the ability to edit 32-bit TIFF images. As a first attempt I processed this image (from a walk on the Lake Erie shore at Fort Erie on Christmas Eve):
The process I used was:
I took a series of images (minimum three) with different exposures to capture the full dynamic range of the scene. Using a tripod is best although the HDR tool in Photoshop automatically aligns the images. For the images used to create the HDR above I shot handheld with autobracketing on the D7000 for -1, 0 and +1 EV exposure compensation.
In Lightroom 4.1 (or newer) I did some minor tweaking of the images to prepare them for the HDR tool. First I applied automatic distortion, vignette and chromatic aberration corrections for the 35mm f/1.8 DX. Next I changed the calibration profile from ‘Adobe Standard’ to ‘Camera Neutral’ in order to reduce the contrast. Finally I adjusted the exposure settings to ensure that the darkest image included the full range of tones in the highlights and the brightest image covered the full range of tones in the shadows. The images looked like this:
I exported the three images to the HDR tool in Photoshop using the ‘Merge to HDR Pro in Photoshop’ command and saved the resulting combined image as a 32-bit image. Note that Lightroom cannot read 32-bit PSD files so it is best to configure Lightroom to export as a TIFF to Photoshop.
With the new 32-bit file back in Lightroom I could begin editing. At first glance, the image doesn’t seem to have any more information in it than before the HDR conversion but that is because all 32 bits of data can’t be displayed at once. Instead, it is best to think of the file as a RAW with an enormous amount of information in the highlights and shadows. Pulling the Shadows slider all the way to +100 and the Highlights slider to -100 and a reduction of the Exposure slider to taste gives the following image. This is a good demonstration of the amount of data present, but not quite a final image. With some further tweaking in Lightroom (exposure controls, curves, saturation/vibrance, sharpening) I got reached this point:
At this point I wasn’t too happy with the banding in the sky… something I’ll have to figure out for future images. In the end I opted to convert to black and white for a darker feel.
And there it is, a simple HDR technique that doesn’t use any of the tone mapping features of common methods. I prefer this approach to those with tone mapping primarily because I have full control over the edit.
I’ve had a request to explain in more detail how I achieved the wedding party composite from yesterday’s post. I borrowed the idea from Ryan Brenizer, who uses this technique very effectively to achieve dramatic (but even) lighting over a group of people. This would be extremely difficult with a single or pair of flashes in a single image, especially on the fly and in the wild.
Here’s how it’s done.
First I set the camera (D300s with AF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 @ 17mm) on a tripod to keep the framing the same between each shot. I used manual mode to ensure consistent exposure. Settings of ISO 200, f/8, 1/250s gave this look:
The ambient light is at least a stop underexposed, which is right where I wanted it. The next step was to set up the flash. I used a Nikon SB-900 set to wireless TTL control (the Nikon CLS system is powerful and complicated… something I’m sure I’ll delve into explaining in another post) and triggered with the on-board flash. To diffuse and soften the light, I added my favourite light mod, the Lumiquest Softbox LTz. This softbox mounts to the flash with velcro and folds up to the size of a 17″ laptop, which most camera bags nowadays have a slot for. Portt, who was assisting me that day, held the flash up close to each pair of people and I took a shot for each position.
In Lightroom, I batch processed the five images for exposure, lens correction, sharpening and then opened them in Photoshop as layers in a single file. Using the first image as a base layer, I painted in the relevant bits from the successive layers and finished things off with some global and local curves and dodging/burning. Here’s the final image:
To get this look in a single image would have required some pretty tricky lighting, both to light each person evenly and to control the spill on the background. In all, the composite took just a few minutes to shoot and less than half an hour in Photoshop. An added bonus to shooting each pair separately is that I can focus on just two faces at a time (i.e. no blinkers).
Lately I’ve been playing with a “vintage faded” editing technique, where I push the shadows and pull the highlights so they clip early. Combined with a bit of cross-processing using the new RGB curves in Lightroom 4, I’m getting close to a look I’m happy with.
I’m finding that the RBG curve tool is extremely sensitive… moving a point on the curve has a strong impact on the image. When focusing on a single image there’s no problem. When trying to batch convert or save a generic preset I find that a curve that looks great on one image looks terrible on another. Maybe I should create a series of curve presets with increasing strength.
Here are a few more shots. Thoughts? Is this look successful?