I am often asked how much post production work goes into my photographs so here is an example.
Not all photographs need this much attention and some may receive more but the important thing to remember is that no picture is translated from light to image without some form of manipulation.
Even if you just post your pictures as they appear from the camera, that image has been processed according to the parameters set down in a camera designers studio. The big question is who should be in control of your images? Should it be the camera or the photographer?
Here we see the image as it emerges from the camera. A raw file with no tonal corrections made in the raw processing software. By default I have applied some noise reduction and mild input sharpening.
It’s a bit light because I over exposed it slightly to pull detail up out of the shadows.
Brought into PhotoShop from Lightroom Adjustments under process 2003: Custom White Balence set. Exposure +0.80, Recovery 69, Fill light 5, Blacks 17, Brightness +18, Contrast +28, Clarity +50, Vibrance +50 and an S curve applied to improve the contrast.
Midtone contrast added with a High Pass filtered layer set to Overlay blend mode. (Applied with action.)
Layer then masked to reduce contrast at edge of rocks.
Two Soft Light Graduation layers.
Add layer, set to Soft Light and then add “Black to Transparent” graduation.
The top graduation is masked from the rocks with a layer mask.
The brightest spray is then darkened using a curve layer, masked out with a black mask and then brushed in where needed with a soft white brush at 25% opacity.
Stamped to a flat copy layer, converted to smart object and then given a Shadows/Highlights Smart adjustment and a brush applied curve to reduce some highlights near the edge.
An Edge Burn applied using a Soft Light Graduation layer as above.
Another Soft Light Graduation applied to the sky, masked from the rocks again.
A much stronger burn in now , again applied with a soft Light layer and the graduation tool but masked from the sky.
A curve added, masked with black and applied to the rocks with a soft white brush at 25% opacity.
Neat trick this one. Apply a Black and White conversion layer, set the blend mode to Luminosity and then you can adjust the luminosity of specific colours up or down.
A curve layer applied over all to give a bit more weight.
Stamped to a flat layer, converted to a Smart Object and then a Shadows/Highligh Smart adjustment, masked to black and applied with a soft white brush at 25% opacity to lift some texture from the waves.
A final Graduation layer in the sky area, masked from the rocks to give the image better balance overall.
And then a touch of output sharpening to finish the job.
As you can see there is a world of difference between the raw file and the finished result but which is more honest.
For me the finished result conveys more of what it felt like to stand at the edge of the sea taking that shot. The conditions were dark and wild so that is how I have portrayed it.
As you can see, I have not added or taken anything away, I have done nothing more than I would have done to produce a print in my old darkroom.
I can almost hear some of you muttering “Cheat” but at least I am honest enough to show my work while others will not.
If you believe that great images can be produced without at least some post production work behind the scenes, then good luck to you and I hope you enjoy what Father Christmas brings you.
Post Script: In 2012, Adobe Camera Raw, the Raw converter behind Lightroom and Photoshop went through a major redesign.
This new version was produced from a conversion from the new 2012 process and illustrates how changes and advances in software constantly open up new possibilities even from old files.
Here is the new conversion as sent to Photoshop.
And the new final edit.