a12 January 2014

Post-processing workflow: Dynamic water

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). Also from now on this series will be known as Post-processing workflow.

Today a photo I took 1.5 years ago on Fuerteventura island. The highlights in the 0 EV photo (Before) are blown out making the sky look almost completely white and very flat even though in reality it was very interesting. Thanks to HDR I was able to restore them, including beautiful yellows just above horizon caused by rising sun. I took 5 photos at 1 EV spacing but I ended up using only -1 EV, 0 EV and +1 EV photos as the remaining 2 didn't contribute to the image that much.

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 lens distortion on my source photos.

Post-processing in Lightroom
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To be more precise I set White Balance temperature to 6500 and tint to 25 to make the image warmer and add a little of magenta cast to add a little more sunrise feel to the image. I also checked Enable Profile Corrections and Remove Chromatic Aberration checkboxes in the Lens Correction tab.

After that I exported all my 3 images to Photoshop CC as layers and blended them using manual blending technique with help of luminosity masking. Here is what I got as a result of blending:
Manually blended image
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The blended image has shadows and highlights correctly exposed but it still is far from what I wanted from this image. I wanted more contrast (especially in the clouds and rocks) and more clarity (especially in the water to make it look more 3-dimensional). I also wanted to add some pop to colours.

In the image below you can see what layers exactly I used to create final image. Starting from bottom they are:
  1. Source images - 3 exposures that I blended together to create above blended image. I restored whole sky from the -1 EV image, and shadows in the rocks from +1 EV image.
  2. Midtones contrast - I added some midtones contrast by using Curves adjustments layer. 
  3. Highlights contrast - I added some contrast to highlights using Curves adjustments layer. At the same time I darkened them a little bit.
  4. Shadows contrast - I added some contrast to the darkest parts of the image (rocks in foreground and clouds), brightening them at the same time. I used Curves adjustments layers for this purpose. 
  5. Sky contrast - I added a bit of contrast to the brightest parts of the sky.
  6. Clouds and water contrast - a bit of contrast to the clouds and water
  7. Global color balance - I moved color balance of sky and water towards reds and magenta using Color Balance adjustments layer.
  8. Dodge & burn - using dodge & burn technique I added some 3-dimensionality to the water to make it look more interesting. Basically I darkened the rocks below water and brightened highlights.
  9. Dodge & burn 2 - I used another dodge & burn layer to brighten some too dark rocks.
  10. Global contrast - I added even more contrast. This time globally, using Overlay blending mode and with small opacity (10%).
  11. Sharpening - added some sharpening using high-pass sharpening technique.
Post-processing with luminosity masks
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Finally, here is some EXIF info:

Technical details:
Camera: Canon 5D MK II
Lens: Canon 24-105 f/4 L IS USM
Focal length: 40 mm
Aperture: f/11.0
Exposure time: 0.6 s ("middle" exposure)
ISO: 200
Number of exposures: 3
E.V. Step: 1.0
Flash used: no
Tripod: yes
Filters: ND8 neutral density filter
Technique: manual blending, luminosity masks
Software: Magic Lantern 2.3, Lightroom 5.0, Photoshop CC

Where was this photo taken:

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