a18 December 2013

Before/after comparison: Welcome to Mordor

before after
It's been a while since my last post-processing workflow so it's high time for a new one (for more comparisons like this one go here).

Today a photo which I called Welcome to Mordor (for details, like EXIF data, about original photo click here). The highlights in the 0 EV photo (Before) are completely blown out making the sky look almost completely white... Thanks to HDR I was able to restore them, including some beautiful sun rays. I decided to take only 3 exposures spaced at 2 EV in this case as the scene didn't have very extreme dynamic range.

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

As usually, I started my post-processing in Lightroom where I corrected white balance, reduced chromatic aberration and fixed distortion on my source photos.

Then I exported them to Photomatix Pro 5 to fuse my 3 images there using Fusion/Real-Estate that was introduced in version 5. In the image below you can see my exact settings. Note that I used -10.0 for Highlights to restore as much as possible from them. I also set Shadows to 2.2 to brighten them up a little bit and finally I set Local Contrast to 2.9 to increase clarity of the image just slightly.

After using Photomatix the image looked like this. It looks very similar to the After image. In fact in Photoshop I made some small tweaks this time, mainly to increase clarity and contrast.
Image fused in Photomatix
Click on the photo to view it in large size on black background.
After saving image in Photomatix I opened it in Photoshop CC and used luminosity masking technique to finish it. My goals as stated above were:
  • Increase contrast,
  • Make the colours less vibrant to create a bit gloomy mood.
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 5.
  2. Fixes - various fixes & improvements to the image produced by Photomatix Pro. I reduced noise using Topaz Denoise and cropped the image slightly.
    1. Midtones contrast - I added some midtones contrast by using Curves adjustments layer. 
    2. Shadows contrast - I added some contrast to the darkest parts of the image (mountains and some darker clouds). I used Curves adjustments layers for this purpose. 
    3. Mountain contrast - I increased contrast in the mountains area using Overlay blending mode.
    4. God rays - a bit of dodging & burning to make the sun rays (aka God rays) more apparent
    5. Fix color balance - reduced blue cast from the mountains
    6. Saturation - slightly increased saturation of greens and yellows
    7. Global vibrance - I slightly decreased global vibrance to make the scene a little more gloomy. 
    8. Clarity - I increased clarity in the mountains area using this technique.
    9. Sharpening - added some sharpening using high-pass sharpening technique.
    Post-processing in Photoshop
    Click on the photo to view it in large size on black background.

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