a23 July 2014

Post-processing Wednesday: Big Ben in the evening

before after

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

In this case Before photo is 0 EV photo without any adjustments and After image is tone-mapped and finished HDR image.

About source images

Today image showing some of the London iconic buildings, Big Ben and House of Parliament, is one of my favourite HDR images taken recently. It was beautiful blue hour with the sky being really blue and with some nice orange lights of the House of Parliament and Big Ben contrasting with water and sky.

You can read more about the image in this post. In that very post not only I show exact location and EXIF of the image but I also share some compositional tips.

As you can see in the Before photo above, some highlights were slightly blown out. At the same time some areas were darker than I intended them to be (especially House of Parliament and Westminster Bridge). So I decided to capture HDR image and for that purpose I took 5 exposure at 1 EV spacing. You can see all exposures below. Going from left to right and top to bottom they are: 0 EV, -1 EV, +1 EV, -2 EV and +2 EV.
Bracketed photos in Lightroom

Darkest exposure (-2 EV) have all lights correctly exposed and brightest one (+2 EV) exposes shadows correctly.

Editing in Lightroom

As always I started my editing in Lightroom. This time, however, the only adjustment I made was applying lens correction by going to Lens Correction tab and checking both Enable Profile Corrections and Remove Chromatic Aberration checkboxes.

Editing in Photomatix Pro

After applying lens corrections to all my source images I opened them in Photomatix Pro 5 by using export plugin to Photomatix. In Photomatix I selected Contrast Optimizer processing method with following settings:
Contrast Optimizer

Editing in Photoshop using Luminosity Masks

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 Photomatix Pro. This layer has two Smart Filters applied to it:
    1. Topaz Detail 3 - I used Topaz Detail plugin to add some extra sharpness to small details.
    2. Topaz Clarity - I used Topaz Clarity to boost general clarity of the image.
  2. Colour correction - next step was to apply colour correct. This was necessary because there was some cyan cast.
  3. Contrast - this group contains operations I did to enhance contrast of the image. Quite a lot is going here this time :)
    1. Midtones contrast - I slightly increased midtones contrast by using Curves adjustment layer. 
    2. Blues contrast - I greatly increased contrast of blues in water and sky using Curves adjustment layer.
    3. Shadows contrast - I added some contrast to the darkest parts of the image (like bridge, House of Parliament and Big Ben) using Curves adjustment layer. At the same time I brightened them up.
    4. Darken blacks - as the name implies I used this layer to darken darkest parts of the image (parts under the bridge) to provide better contrast.
    5. Brighten light - contrary to what I did with darkest parts, I brightened up the brightest ones (lamps) a little bit to make them "whiter".
    6. Water contrast - I applied some contrast to the water area to make it pop.
  4. Colour - in this group are all operations I did to boost colour of the image:
    1. Global vibrance - I applied some global vibrance to make the blue tones more saturated.
    2. Decrease yellows and reds saturation - as the name suggests this Hue/Saturation adjustment layer was used to reduce saturation of yellows and reds a little bit in order to make them look more natural.
    3. Blues saturation - I increased saturation of blues in the water and sky even further.
  5. Lamps glow - I added a little bit of glow around street lamps using Topaz Star Effects plug-in.
Editing using luminosity masks

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