Post-pro case-studies

The workflow on a shot with strong sun, deep shade & weird mixed lighting.

I was out the other day with Francois, who is in town for a while from overseas. We were doing a lesson together and a bit of a walk. Hie Shrine in Akasaka is a good spot to have some photo fun as it has a nice courtyard – getting nuked by sun the other day when we were there – and a great set of torii gates around the other side from the main exit/entrance.

These are the tori, which I have shot at various times in the past but I like this shot of them; shot on a day when I was in a sort of  ‘focus-who-needs-it?’ frame of mind.

The Gates to Bokeh Heaven; Hie Shrine, Akasaka, Tokyo

We pitched-up in the courtyard of the shrine – which you could have fried eggs on the pavement of it was that hot – quickly deciding that the safe photographic action was over in a shaded area with benches where a few people were sitting. One woman in particular, who was fanning herself to keep cool, caught our eye. Francois took a few shots from behind but was shooting straight into the harsh sunlight directly behind the woman. I took a few shots of her from the side, with the whole depth of the bench area behind her; it was a good angle for composing a nice shot and the lighting – although not perfect – was easier to deal with, just by virtue of the fact that there was less of the frame filled with the savage brightness Francois was up against from his spot.

Got a few nice candids of her and she didnt seem to mind me shooting. But, after three presses of the shutter she was up and gone.

The shady spot; Hie Shrine, Akasaka, Tokyo

Issues with this shot straight out of the camera were;

  • Odd lighting: green cast coming through the leaves, red cast from all the items in the shade reflecting that sun back in from camera-right. Temp of the shade and temp of the light coming in were very different. This can cause problems getting the WB right on location.
  • Muddy shadows and highlights that were partly a white-balance issue and partly because there was an enormous dynamic range going on which meant me setting an exposure to try and capture as much of it as possible.. and you cant have your cake and eat it.

Post-pro solutions:

This was a nice shot and one worth working on to make perfect. It wasn’t perfect in-camera and probably would have taken me far longer than the time I had to get right. Candid subjects won’t stay in place forever. You have to be quick to get the shot and it’s often a case of getting the best you can, checking the histogram to make sure it’s within acceptable parameters and then figuring the rest out afterwards.

  • I made two TIFFs from the RAW; one made through ViewNX and one through Capture One. Reason? This was shot with a custom pic control in the Nikon and ViewNX preserves that and Capture 1 doesnt, as it does not read the Nikon algorithm. So, I made the best of both pieces of software because they each have their own quality of RAW conversion. This allowed me to expand the dynamic range and bring some of the intense colour through from the Nikon picture control. Both TIFFs were opened in P’shop, pulled into the same canvas as two layers and layer masking used to bring out the best in both.
  • Cleaning up the WB was something that was done with a combination of removing colour cast in Nik Color Efex 3 and then finally using the PhotoStylizer filter, set at 0%, to do a deep clean of the whites and greys. This filter in Nik also pumps the red and blue channels which worked well with this shot.
  • Final little bit of output sharpening using Nik and that’s how we ended up.

I worked on this image with Joanna – one of students – yesterday as part of a Photoshop class I was giving her. If I’d been doing this shot on my own, not showing someone step-by-step, it would have taken less time bu I spend enough of my life in front of screens. I dont like to spend too long per shot to edit. :-)

As it was a lesson, I made screengrabs of some of the important stages we covered in Photoshop…..

This pic shows, from left to right, the two original TIFFs as imported from the RAW processors and three more stages of post-pro to the final shot. Explanations on the image itself, under each stage.

From left to right; oroginal two TIFF files and various stages of post-pro

Whilst we were going through the process, Joanna asked me; “If you’d decided to apply the PhotoStylizer filter earlier, rather than going through the three passes of the RemoveColourCast filter, would we have reached the end-result earlier?”

Good question, Jo.

So we went back and applied the PhotoStylizer to one of the first stages of shot in post-pro. My hunch was that I’d added the effect at just the right moment, as the operations we’d done had not just removed colour cast but lightened things and changed the nature of the shadows along the way. By design, I must add. So I was tempted to think that adding the PhotoStylizer earlier would have given us more or less the colour in the mids and highlights we ended up with but that the shadows would still have been muddy.

Here are the screengrabs:

Nik3 PhotoStylizer added to first version of TIFF from the edited RAW

Nik3 PhotoStylizer added to first version of TIFF from the edited RAW

Nik3 PhotoStylizer added at the final stages of post-pro, after the RemoveColourCast filter had been applied multiple=

As you can see, my hunch was correct and we have ended up with a much more pleasing image in the second screengrab. Quite often, when I get to a point with an image that needs skintones, highlights or mid-tones cleaning. Or, if it is an image that has red or orange as a predominant colour, I will just try this filter before I finish the processing. It’s usually always best done at the end.

Let me know if you have any questions or just leave a comment and I’ll reply.

If you fancy a post-processing class or one-to-one lesson on Photoshop with me, drop me a line via the contact page of this site.

All the best.

Alfie

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Japanorama is run by British professional photographer, Alfie Goodrich, and provides practical photography teaching in Tokyo. Weekly workshops, group and one-to-one lessons bring together photographers of all ages and abilities.

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