a29 November 2013

Before/after comparison: Golden clouds

before after
It's time for yet another before/after comparison + some post-processing details (for more comparisons like this one go here), where I share my post-processing workflow.

Today a photo I took during beautiful sunset by the lake. Warm light turned clouds into real gold (or gems). This scene was extreme example of why HDR is sometimes necessary - the highlights in the 0 EV photo (Before) are completely blown out making the sky look completely white... Also shadows are way too dark. Thanks to HDR I was able to restore them. I decided to take 7 exposures spaced at 1 EV to capture whole dynamic range of the scene. To learn more about HDR photography, read my HDR tutorial.

I used Photomatix Pro 5 to create HDR image and tone-mapped it with Contrast Optimizer using following settings:
Contrast Optimizer settings

After using Photomatix the image looked like this:
Click on the photo to view it in large size on black background.
It looks quite different from the final image but it already has correct exposure - with both highlights and shadows preserved. Also the colours looks quite pleasing to me.

After saving image in Photomatix I opened it in Photoshop CC and used luminosity masking technique to finish it. My goals were:
  • Increase contrast,
  • Make the colours more vibrant,
  • Add clarity especially to the water surface.
In the image below you can see what layers exactly I used to create final image. Starting from bottom they are:
  1. Background - image created by Photomatix Pro.
  2. Fixes - various fixes & improvements to the image produced by Photomatix Pro. As you can see I used Smart Filters. Smart Filters are yet another way of non-destructive editing of your images. Just double-click on the filter to change settings that were used. Also at this stage I got rid of some branches in the top left corner by cloning them out.
    1. Topaz Clarity - I used Topaz Clarity filter to increase clarity in the forest and in the water surface.
    2. Camera Raw Filter - I used Camera Raw to fix white balance and exposure (as you can note top of the sky was initially too dark - I used graduated filter with positive exposure to get rid of this).
    1. Global brightness - I slightly increased brightness in the image (apart from the brightest highlights) by using Brightness/Contrast adjustments layer.
    2. Midtones contrast - I added some midtones contrast by using Curves adjustments layer.
    3. Highlights contrast - I decreased brightness of highlights (mainly in the clouds area and on water) and increased contrast there using Curves adjustments layer. To achieve darkening effect I used Multiply blending mode.
    4. Shadows contrast - I added some contrast to the darkest parts of the image (forest and reflection on water) and slightly brightened them up. I used Curves adjustments layers for this purpose.
    5. Global vibrance - I slightly increased global vibrance to make blues more blue and greens more green.
    6. Water and sky color balance - further adjustments of colour balance - this time limited to brightest highlights in water and sky. I made them more red and purple.
    7. Water and sky saturation - I increased saturation of water and sky.
    8. Forest saturation - I increased saturation of yellows in the forest area.
    9. Burn - slightly darkened forest using burning technique.
    10. Dodge - brightened highlights in the forest to add more pop to it and make it look less flat.
    11. Topaz Adjust - some colour adjustments using Topaz Adjust filter. I used rather low opacity here to just add a little touch of extra colour.
    12. Sharpening - added some sharpening using high-pass sharpening technique.
    Photoshop layers used to create image
    Click on the photo to view it in large size on black background.
    Finally some EXIF and other technical specs:

    Technical details:
    Camera: Canon 50D
    Lens: Canon 10-22 f/3.5-4.5 USM
    Focal length: 10 mm
    Aperture: f/22
    Exposure time: 0.5 s ("middle" exposure)
    ISO: 100
    Number of exposures: 7
    E.V. Step: 1.0
    Flash used: no
    Tripod: yes
    Filters: ND8 neutral density filter
    Technique: HDR, tone-mapping, luminosity masking
    Software: Magic Lantern 2.3, Photomatix Pro 5.0 (Contrast Optimizer), Lightroom 5.0, Photoshop CC, Topaz Clarity, Topaz Adjust

    Where was this photo taken:

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