Post Processing: Before & After | Dave Morrow Photography

Friday, October 19, 2012

Post Processing: Before & After


I get a lot of questions on how much post processing I do after getting home from a shoot. The truth is it varies drastically from shot to shot. I have processed some pictures in 5 minutes and others in 5 hours. I'll give a quick run down with each of the next shots on the tools I used to process them. Each one of the Before Shots is straight out of the camera with zero adjustments at 0EV or normal exposure. It is of course exported to Jpeg from RAW format. If you don't like post processing, escape while you can. If you would like to learn how to process shots like these, I offer One on One Personal Instruction over Skype & Google+ applications. Check out the One on One Personal Instruction Page for more info. Want a few more tips on post processing HDR Photography, my HDR Tips & Tricks Page may be just what you're looking for. I also use tons of software when I process photos & two of my favorites are Topaz Labs or HDR Soft the Makers of Photomatix. If you would like a discount when purchasing either of these packages just use the coupon code DAVEMORROWPHOTO when checking out to receive 15% off:)

In the past few months I have learned to use Tony Kuyper' Luminosity Masks & Actions to produce a hand blended HDR Image. This process allows me to fully unleash the all of the data contained in my RAW files.You can head over to his Luminosity Mask Actions Page and select the "Special Offers" Link at the top of the page. Photomatix is still used from time to time depending on the situation, but I would highly recommend adding both to your post processing arsenal.

As always, all my tutorials can be found at www.DaveMorrowPhotography.com/learnphotography


 Before the Magic

The Final Product
Nothing's Shocking - Ruby Beach, WACheck out my FREE Star Photography Tutorial  and  Star Photography Post Processing Video Tutorial  Ready to learn star photography? Trust me it's easier than you think. Check out the link below for my summer star photography workshops, where I will teach you everything you need to know.  Under the Stars Night Photography Workshops

Processing Technique for the Picture Above:

Pick up my Star Photography Post Processing Video Tutorial to watch me process this exact shot from start to finish.

Lightroom 4:
  • White balance adjustment
  • Export two separate JPEG files, both from the same RAW file.

Photoshop 5:
  • Use secret magic and trademarked secrets to blend two JPEG files into 1 nicely exposed PSD.
  •  Use Tony Kuypers Luminosity Masking Actions & Techniques on midtones, darks and lights to bring out full detail contained in the file.
  • Color Balance for small color adjustments in the sky.
  • High Pass Filter on Soft Light blend mode to sharpen entire image for stars only.
  • Nik Define for local denoise in dark regions only.
  • Final luminosity mask adjustments
  • Add slight Vignette using OnOne Perfect Photo Suite
  • Save as Jpeg.

 Before the Magic

The Final Product 
The Hidden Grotto - Ruckel Creek, ORfrom www.DaveMorrowPhotography.com

Processing Technique for the Picture Above:

Pick up my Luminosity Masking Video Tutorial to learn the techniques I used to process this shot.

Lightroom 4:
  • White balance adjustment for a single JPEG file.
Photoshop CS6:
Before the Magic
 

The Final Product
Lost in Iceland

Processing Technique for the Picture Above:

Pick up my Luminosity Masking Video Tutorial to learn the techniques I used to process this shot.

Lightroom 4:
  • White balance adjustment for 0EV Jpeg file.
  • Sync -2EV and +2EV with the 0EV Jpeg file in LR4.
Photoshop CS6:
Before the Magic

The Final Product
Day Break

Processing Technique for the Picture Above:

Lightroom 4:
  • Minor white balance and contrast adjustment.

Photomatix:
  • Process 9 exposures in -4EV to 4 EV.

Photoshop 5:
  • Blend Photomatix layer with 9 exposures -4EV to 4EV to bring out dynamic range.
  • Lumonsity Masks on midtones, darks and lights to bring out detail and saturation.
  • Saturation masks(to desaturate) & Vibrance masks(to saturate).
  • Color Balance for small color adjustments in the sky.
  • Nik Color Efex Pro Contrast (I'm in love).
  • High Pass Filter on Soft Light blend mode to sharpen entire image.
  • Slight Motion Blend Filter on clouds to remove minor noise and provide movement.
  • Nik Define for local denoise.
  • Save as Jpeg.


Before the Magic

The Final Product
The Wind & The Door

Processing Technique for the Picture Above:

Lightroom 4:
  • Minor white balance and contrast adjustment.
  • Clarity and Sharpen Sliders.
  • Minor Saturation boost.

Photomatix:
  • Process 7 exposures in -3EV to 3 EV

Photoshop 5:
  • Blend Photomatix layer with 7 exposures -3EV to 3EV to bring out dynamic range.
  • Lumonsity Masks on midtones, darks and lights to bring out detail and saturation.
  • Vibrance masks to saturate green grass and blue clouds.
  • Nik Remask to select light house for local adjustments.
  • Local desaturation and exposure adjustment on lighthouse. 
  • Color balance to bring out the red in the lighthouse door.
  • Nik Color Efex Pro Contrast (What would I do without it).
  • High Pass Filter on Soft Light blend mode to sharpen entire image.
  • Radial Blur Filter on clouds to make the lighthouse pop off the screen.
  • Nik Define for locale denoise.
  • Save as Jpeg.



Before the Magic

The Final Product
A Night at the Fairmont


Processing Technique for the Picture Above:

Lightroom 4:
  • Minor white balance and contrast adjustment.
  • Sharpen Slider.

Photomatix:
  • Process 7 exposures in -3EV to 3 EV.

Photoshop 5:
  • Blend Photomatix layer with 7 exposures -3EV to 3EV to bring out dynamic range.
  • Lumonsity Masks on midtones, darks and lights to bring out detail and saturation.
  • Nik Remask to select multiple different regions of the picture.
  • Color balance and vibrance/saturation adjustment on locally masked areas.
  • Nik Color Efex Pro Contrast (Do you ever not use this?).
  • Global Vibrance boost.
  • High Pass Filter on Soft Light blend mode to sharpen entire image.
  • Nik Define for locale denoise.
  • Save as Jpeg.



Before the Magic

The Final Product
The Hive

Processing Technique for the Picture Above:

Lightroom 4:
  • Minor white balance and contrast adjustment.

Photomatix:
  • Process 7 exposures in -3EV to 3 EV.

Photoshop 6:
  • Blend Photomatix layer with 7 exposures -3EV to 3EV to bring out dynamic range.
  • Duplicate image layer.
  • Apply Nik Silver Efex Pro to one of the layers.
  • Selectively mask in colored and black and white layers. 
  • Color balance and vibrance/saturation adjustment on locally masked areas.
  • Nik Color Efex Pro Contrast.
  • Minor local desaturation and contrast adjustments.
  • High Pass Filter on Soft Light blend mode to sharpen entire image.
  • Nik Define for locale denoise.
  • Save as Jpeg.


Before the Magic

The Final Product
Dear New York

Processing Technique for the Picture Above:

Lightroom 4:
  • Contrast sliders.
  • Highlights, shadows, lights & blacks slider adjustments.
  • Saturation and luminosity BIG-time on yellows & blues.

Photomatix:
  • NONE, I repeat, NONE

Photoshop 6:
  • Lumonsity Masks on midtones, darks and lights to bring out detail and saturation.
  • Color balance and vibrance/saturation adjustment on locally masked areas.
  • Nik Color Efex Pro Contrast.
  • Global Vibrance boost and local saturation"painting".
  • High Pass Filter on Soft Light blend mode to sharpen entire image.
  • Save as Jpeg.

Before the Magic


The Final Product
Old Friend

Processing Technique for the Picture Above:

Lightroom 4:
  • Minor white balance and contrast adjustment.
  • Clarity and Sharpen Sliders.
  • Minor Saturation boost.
  • Export 7 exposures + 1 extra slightly adjusted exposure for the sky only.

Photomatix:
  • Process 7 exposures in -3EV to 3 EV.

Photoshop 6:
  • Blend Photomatix layer with 7 exposures -3EV to 3EV to bring out dynamic range.
  • Mask sky layer into current base layer. 
  • Lumonsity Masks on midtones, darks and lights to bring out detail and saturation.
  • Vibrance masks and saturation "painting" on the clouds and sky.
  • Local desaturation on reds/oranges.
  • Nik Color Efex Pro Contrast.
  • High Pass Filter on Soft Light blend mode to sharpen entire image, minus the water.
  • A secret patented trick on the water to make it move.
  • Nik Define for locale denoise.
  • Save as Jpeg.

Before the Magic

The Final Product
from www.DaveMorrowPhotography.com

Processing Technique for the Picture Above:

Pick up my Star Photography Post Processing Video Tutorial to watch me process one of my Milky Way pictures from start to finish. I also provide full commentary, tips, tricks and skill sets throughout the tutorial. 

Lightroom 4:
  • White balance adjustment
  • Export two separate TIFF files, both from the same RAW file one adjusting sky and the other for the foreground.

Photoshop 6:
  • Use secret magic and trademarked secrets to blend two TIFF files into 1 nicely exposed PSD.
  •  Use Tony Kuypers Luminosity Masking Actions & Techniques on midtones, darks and lights to bring out full detail contained in the file. Especially the stars
  • Color balance for RED channel and BLUE channels.
  • High Pass Filter on Soft Light blend mode to sharpen entire image for stars only.
  • Nik Define for local denoise in dark regions only.
  • Final luminosity mask adjustments
  • Add slight Vignette using OnOne Perfect Photo Suite
  • Save as Jpeg.

22 comments:

  1. That's some nice tutorial Dave, one quick question, when you mention "process X exposures" under Photomatix, did you mean you use one single raw image to produce different ones (by adjusting the exposures)? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello,

    Thanks really glad you like it. Depending on the dynamic light or range of light I am shooting at I will select anywhere from 9(broad range of light) to 3 exposures. My cameras then shoots them all in a row. Once I get home I import these into Photomatix. You could adjust using just one RAW file as well, but the results will not be anywhere near as good. With moving objects it is sometimes necesssary to produce an HDR image from just one file none the less.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I've been doing HDR for a while now and find it challenging because taking the brackets and making the magic happen on the computer is something not everyone can do. I recognize it takes skill to know how to use lightroom and photoshop but also how to properly mask, set sliders right, the proper opacity and a technique which each person develops over time. Looking at your steps I do most of those but find I use different tools. I'll share one technique that I found helps a lot of beginners. This helps out if there is movement in a picture like cars, people walking etc, after creating the HDR image in photomatix, I will then pic one of the more light balanced bracket raw files, apply the same hdr preset to it in photomatix, import it to photoshop along with the full bracketed hdr and blend in the images. Reason being and one of the biggest challenges when blending in layers via masking is the exposure. If you blend in 2 images with same hdr preset than you dont have to balance the exposure, you can simply mask in the areas that need fixing. This is where I find the real artist and skills like your pictures, shine, they show you have mastered how to blend in layers properly, you recognize halos and dark grey skies and you mask them out. Your images have no ghosting or artifacts, they are clean, also there are no noise dots, something thats classically seen after using photomatix.

    Question to you: why do you use photomatix when you seem to be heavy on the Nik software tools? why not use hdr efex 2.0? also one big frustration I have with photomatix is once you use it, it strips most of the EXIF from the file, whereas with hdr efex, it keeps allt he exif data intact, have you noticed this when using photomatix? notice it removes exposure vias, lens, metering mode and many other fields. I've written to photomatix to complain about this issue, all i get in reply is they are aware of it and working on it.

    I enjoy your pictures a lot and they inspire me to do better post work as this is where the genius of the work makes an image shine. Anyone can tonemap an image using photomatix but not everyone can make the hdr subtlety beautiful like you do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It does take a lot of time to get to a point where your pictures start to look good, personally I still learn something new with each shot I process. There is no right or wrong way to process these shots that being said, there are no right or wrong tools either. Whatever makes the final outcome look great works just fine in my opinion. I use a technique similar to yours, but I normally dont put the single file into Photomatix. After shooting my standard bracketed shots. I will wait til the moment is right and capture my "movement" shot. After blending my Photomatix shot with the remaining bracketed shots(In PS6) I used to make it. I will then blend in my remaining "movement" shot. After this I proceed as noted above in the example pics. You may not see alot of the common HDR mistakes due to the fact that I make sure to remove them. Shooting at the right exposure with your brackets will ensure there is no noise as well:)

      I think Photomatix is the best HDR software out there. Thats why I use it. If you blend back in with your bracketed exposures in Photoshop all the EXIF data will remain. I have never had that issue. So not really sure what is going on. But I bet they will fix the issue.

      Thanks for stoping by, hopefully I gave you some good answers to work with. I know I am still looking for answers on how to improve each day!

      Delete
  4. Dave, the problem with the HDR software is that the results typically look unduly loud and garish, not like a real photo. Lots of people like this explosion of color and brightness, especially novices, but usually more experienced photographers move away from this stuff in due time. Manual exposure blending, if necessary to increase dynamic range, provides far superior results. It is done by manually blending a different exposure layers in photoshop using layer masks to achieve a natural look, like a real photo. Though taste is personal, I'm sure in time, you'll agree.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mr. Anon, sure why don't you show your face & your website and provide the material to teach me or at least show me the examples of your great pictures where you do this? Anyways, I currently use a processing technique that works with manual blending. You would see that if you read the post:)

      Delete
  5. Mr. Anon, sure why don't you show your face & your website and
    provide the material to teach me or at least show me the examples of
    your great pictures where you do this? Anyways, I currently use a
    processing technique that works with manual blending. You would see that
    if you read the post:)

    ReplyDelete
  6. It does take a lot of time to get to a point where your pictures start
    to look good, personally I still learn something new with each shot I
    process. There is no right or wrong way to process these shots that
    being said, there are no right or wrong tools either. Whatever makes the
    final outcome look great works just fine in my opinion. I use a
    technique similar to yours, but I normally dont put the single file into
    Photomatix. After shooting my standard bracketed shots. I will wait til
    the moment is right and capture my "movement" shot. After blending my
    Photomatix shot with the remaining bracketed shots(In PS6) I used to
    make it. I will then blend in my remaining "movement" shot. After this I
    proceed as noted above in the example pics. You may not see alot of the
    common HDR mistakes due to the fact that I make sure to remove them.
    Shooting at the right exposure with your brackets will ensure there is
    no noise as well:)

    I think Photomatix is the best HDR software
    out there. Thats why I use it. If you blend back in with your bracketed
    exposures in Photoshop all the EXIF data will remain. I have never had
    that issue. So not really sure what is going on. But I bet they will fix
    the issue.

    Thanks for stoping by, hopefully I gave you some good
    answers to work with. I know I am still looking for answers on how to
    improve each day!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hello,

    Thanks really glad you like it. Depending on the dynamic
    light or range of light I am shooting at I will select anywhere from
    9(broad range of light) to 3 exposures. My cameras then shoots them all
    in a row. Once I get home I import these into Photomatix. You could
    adjust using just one RAW file as well, but the results will not be
    anywhere near as good. With moving objects it is sometimes necesssary to
    produce an HDR image from just one file none the less.

    ReplyDelete
  8. these are a show stopper !! amazing how they change with a little magic

    ReplyDelete
  9. @google-047849cca7cec5307f8bce9fa630e81e:disqus yes it really is amazing how Photoshop has the ability to bring out all the data a RAW file contains:)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Those pictures looked way better "before the magic" in my opinion. They are way too flashy and bright: it makes the whole thing look tacky and unnatural. Too bad because the initial pictures are really great and don't need the extra fluff.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Incredible!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Kind of eye-opening, how you respond to criticism here...

    ReplyDelete
  13. I always say what I think... it makes my life easier:)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thank you for taking some of your time to write this amazing useful article and share your knowledge with other photographers.

    ReplyDelete
  15. no problem @Ramy Mahdy, glad you enjoyed it!

    ReplyDelete

Other Interesting Posts