a25 June 2014

Post-processing Wednesday: Sunset in Paradise

before after

Time for another post in my Post-processing Wednesday series. For more posts from this series go here.

About photo

Today I will show you how I post-processed one of my landscape HDR photos I took this February in Mexico.

In this case Before image shows unedited 0 EV exposure frame and After shows finished image after applying all adjustments mentioned below. Note that images differ quite a lot and they have even different crop.

Using HDR here was essential as otherwise the image would have very dark shadows (pay attention to rocks in the unedited image). Also some parts of the sky are blown out in the 0 EV photo. HDR helped me to rescue both very dark and very bright parts and ensure they are correctly esposed.

At high level, post-processing of this photo involved following steps:
  1. Apply Lens Correction adjustments in Lightroom and export 4 bracketed photos to Photomatix Pro 5 using Photomatix Export Plug-In.
  2. In Photomatix Pro 5 tone-map HDR image using Contrast Optimizer tone-mapper to restore highlights in the sky and in the rocks.
  3. Crop the image in Lightroom and apply some minor adjustments to boost saturation and fix colour cast.
  4. Load image into Photoshop CC and use luminosity masks to increase contrast and colour saturation.
For more details about this photo, including exact location and EXIF metadata, please read this post.

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

Editing in Lightroom

As always, I started editing in Lightroom by applying lens correction and chromatic aberration reduction. After that I exported my 4 exposures to Photomatix Pro 5 using the Photomatix's Lightroom Export plugin.

Editing in Photomatix Pro

In Photomatix Pro 5 I used Contrast Optimizer tone-mapper with following settings.
Editing in Photomatix Pro
After using Photomatix the image looked like this:
Image after editing in Photomatix Pro
As you can see it has much more details in highlights and especially in the shadows which were pretty dark in the 0 EV image.

However, at this stage the image had very low contrast and saturation. I improved that in next steps.

Editing in Lightroom again

After using Photomatix I used Lightroom once again, this time to crop my image and apply some initial colour and contrast adjustments.

I started by cropping the image. There were a few reasons for it. First of all there was some ugly vignette despite using lens correction (this vignette was caused by using ND filter on ultra wide angle lens) and I also wanted this image to satisfy golden ratio rule.

Here's the crop I used:
Cropping in Lightroom
Additionally to cropping I applied following adjustments:
  • Increased Contrast to +37
  • Increased Whites to +33
  • Increased Vibrance to +35
Here is how the image looked after using Lightroom:
Image after editing in Lightroom
This time it's pretty close to the final image! Not that vibrant yet but we aren't far for sure.

Post-processing in Photoshop

After finishing processing my image in Lightroom, I opened it in Photoshop CC and used luminosity masks to boost both contrast and colours a little bit.

In the image below you can see what layers exactly I used to create final image. Starting from bottom up they are:
  1. Background - image after editing in Lightroom.
  2. Topaz Clarity - I then applied Topaz Clarity to increase clarity of the image. I applied it to whole scene.
  3. Motion Blur - I applied some motion blur (using Filter -> Blur -> Motion Blur) to blur distant water. In the foreground water was nicely blurred already but a bit further from the camera there were still some waves and ripples I wanted to get rid of.
  4. Contrast - this group contains operations I did to enhance contrast of the image.
    1. Midtones contrast - I slightly increased midtones contrast by using Curves adjustment layer. 
    2. Highlights contrast - I added some contrast to highlights (clouds and water) using Curves adjustments layer. 
    3. Shadows contrast - I added some contrast to the darkest parts of the image (rocks and palm trees) using Curves adjustment layer. At the same time I brightened them up.
  5. Colour - in this group are all operations I did to boost colour of the image:
    1. Light saturation - slightly increased saturation of brightest parts of the image (water and sky)
    2. Lights color balance - fixed color balance of brightest parts of the image (water and sky) by moving it towards blues and magenta thus getting rid of slighly green colour cast.
  6. Sharpening - I then applied sharpening using High-Pass Filter as described here.
  7. Topaz Adjust - I added some details to the scene using Topaz Adjust filter (using Photo Pop preset) with small opacity (23%)
Post-processing with luminosity masks

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