a22 February 2014

Post-processing workflow: Hotel at Night

before after

It's been a long while since my last Post-processing Workflow post so it's high time for a new one (for more comparisons like this one go here). In case you want to buy image from this post as canvas print, you can do it here.

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

Today a High Dynamic Range blue hour photo I took in Mexico in the gardens of the hotel in which I stayed - Barcelo Maya Resort in Puerto Aventuras. It has many advantages but one of the greatest are its beautiful gardens and pools. After shooting sunsets I was wandering through them during blue hours and evenings taking even more photos. This specific image was taken on the Valentine's Day during which the bridges in the resort were decorated in hundred small lamps.

In this case Before image is image from Photomatix Pro after using Fusion/Real-Estate method and After is a finished image after applying luminosity masks adjustments in Photoshop.

Below you can see 0 EV photo from my bracketed sequence:
0 EV image

As you can see the image is quite nice, however, it's too dark and there are some highlights (like palm tree trunk) that are completely blown-out. To restore both highlights and shadows I needed to capture as many as 9 exposures at 1 EV spacing in this case. The longest exposure was 30 seconds, while the shortest one - just 1/8 s.

As usually, I started my post-processing in Lightroom where I reduced chromatic aberration and fixed lens distortion on my source photos. Then I exported all my images to Photomatix Pro and there I fused them using Fusion/Real-Estate with following settings:

Fusion/Real-Estate settings
Then I saved the image in Photomatix Pro 5 and went back to Lightroom. In Lightroom I cropped the sunbeds on the left side of the image as they were a bit distracting:
Cropping in Lightroom

After that I exported my image to Photoshop CC to further edit it using luminosity masks. There were a few things that I wanted to improve:
  • Contrast,
  • Colours saturation/vibrance,
  • Clarity.
In the image below you can see what layers exactly I used to create final image. Starting from bottom they are:
  1. Background - it's just a copy of base image in case I would need to go back to it.
  2. Fixes - it's a smart object (created by copying Background layer) on which I introduced additional fixes, like denoising, cloning some part and also increasing clarity.
  3. Midtones contrast - I added some midtones contrast by using Curves adjustments layer. 
  4. Shadows contrast - I added some contrast to the darkest parts of the image (path and trees), brightening them at the same time. I used Curves adjustments layers for this purpose.
  5. Highlights contrast - I added some contrast to highlights (mainly well-lit areas) using Curves adjustments layer.
  6. Lights brightness - I increased brightness of the lightest areas (lamps) so they look as if they are glowing.
  7. Global color balance - I moved color balance of sky and water towards magenta just a little bit using Color Balance adjustments layer.
  8. Global vibrance - increased vibrance (to +21) of colours to make blues and greens pop.
  9. Yellows saturation - increased saturation of yellows (and to smaller extent - reds) to make trees and path look more interesting.
  10. Smart sharpening - sharpened the image using Smart sharpening filter. One of advantages of using this filter is that not only the result is very sharp but also noise is reduced at the same time.
  11. Topaz Adjust to boost colors - as the name explains - I used Topaz Adjust filter (Photo Pop preset) to boost colors a little bit. I blended the result with my image using Color blending mode and using opacity of 58%.
Post-processing with luminosity masks
Finally, here is some EXIF info:

Technical details:
Camera: Sony NEX-6
Lens: Sony E 10-18 f/4
Focal length: 11 mm
Aperture: f/4.0
Exposure time: 4 s ("middle" exposure)
ISO: 200
Number of exposures: 9
E.V. Step: 1.0
Flash used: no
Tripod: yes
Filters: no
Technique: long-exposure, exposure fusion, luminosity masks
Software: Photomatix Pro 5.0 (Fusion/Real-Estate), Magic Lantern 2.3, Lightroom 5.0, Photoshop CC

Where was this photo taken:

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