Post-processing: looking for help!

nicolasnico

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hi everyone,
I'm working on some of my pictures (post-processing). And I'm struggling (getting lost with all the tools, not reaching a satisfying result...). I've posted some pictures on that forum and it's helpful. But would anyone be willing to discuss through the post-processing process directly with me as we work through some of my pictures? (Skype? or other tools?). I could upload my pictures somewhere.
Thanks for any suggestion, help...
 

Derrel

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Right now it is 10:46 PM on the west coast of the USA, and so it is 1:46 AM along the eastern parts of the USA. Most people in the US are getting ready for bed, or are asleep right now, at this time of the day.

I looked through your people galleries, and you have some amazing subject matter in your photos! Really neat stuff,with the horses, and the beautifulk scenery there in Central Asia.
 

Ysarex

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hi everyone,
I'm working on some of my pictures (post-processing). And I'm struggling (getting lost with all the tools, not reaching a satisfying result...). I've posted some pictures on that forum and it's helpful. But would anyone be willing to discuss through the post-processing process directly with me as we work through some of my pictures? (Skype? or other tools?). I could upload my pictures somewhere.
Thanks for any suggestion, help...

Are you processing CR2 files or camera JPEGs?

Joe
 
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nicolasnico

nicolasnico

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hi everyone,
I'm working on some of my pictures (post-processing). And I'm struggling (getting lost with all the tools, not reaching a satisfying result...). I've posted some pictures on that forum and it's helpful. But would anyone be willing to discuss through the post-processing process directly with me as we work through some of my pictures? (Skype? or other tools?). I could upload my pictures somewhere.
Thanks for any suggestion, help...

Are you processing CR2 files or camera JPEGs?

Joe

Hi Joe, thanks for asking! I process RAW files (CR2).
(By the way, Joe, I left a note on your profile to ask if you were still willing to give me advice on post-processing some of my pictures, as you had offered once on a previous post (underexposed yellow flowers picture). But please, feel free! :). I could put some pics on a Dropbox folder but would need your email address to give you an invit'?)
 

Ysarex

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hi everyone,
I'm working on some of my pictures (post-processing). And I'm struggling (getting lost with all the tools, not reaching a satisfying result...). I've posted some pictures on that forum and it's helpful. But would anyone be willing to discuss through the post-processing process directly with me as we work through some of my pictures? (Skype? or other tools?). I could upload my pictures somewhere.
Thanks for any suggestion, help...

Are you processing CR2 files or camera JPEGs?

Joe

Hi Joe, thanks for asking! I process RAW files (CR2).
(By the way, Joe, I left a note on your profile to ask if you were still willing to give me advice on post-processing some of my pictures, as you had offered once on a previous post (underexposed yellow flowers picture). But please, feel free! :). I could put some pics on a Dropbox folder but would need your email address to give you an invit'?)

You have some very wonderful photos. If you have CR2 originals then you should be able to process them well in LR. I'd be happy to help as I can. You can make CR2 files available by setting up a free Dropbox account. Here's an example:

_MG_0671.CR2

That's a link to a Dropbox raw file. And since you're using LR to process files here's a link to an XMP file that will allow you to see all the processing work:

icon_spacer-vflN3BYt2.gif

_MG_0671.xmp

You can download both files and place them together in the same folder and LR will open the CR2 file and read the XMP to show you the processing. Here's a quick walk through for that image:

reelfoot_camera.jpg


That's the camera generated JPEG above. I make no effort to get an improved JPEG from the camera. I don't save them and I consider any time spent even thinking about them as wasted.

reelfoot_adobe.jpg


And that's Adobe's default open of the CR2 file -- only a little better.

Here's the processed final image:

reelfoot.jpg


I selected this image because you've got a lot of landscapes and this one required extensive processing so it shows what's possible in LR.

I don't keep a copy of LR on my home computer (I use other software) but I'm very familiar with LR (I teach it) and I do have a copy of Photoshop so I processed the file in ACR which shares most of LR's functionality and is XMP compatible.

First big change: white balance. The As Shot values for white balance were temp: 5550 tint 18. Those values left me with a cyan sky. It was early morning and the color temp would have been lower. I adjusted the temp to 5000 and the tint to 26 until I got an appropriate sky color.

Second big change: tone response. The Adobe default open is flat. Here's the histogram of the Adobe default open:

hist_adobe.jpg


The failure of the histogram to reach the right corner is a major error. The photo does not have an appropriate white clipping point. To set both black and white clipping points hold down the alt/option key and adjust the white and black sliders. With that done the photo looks a lot better but the sky ends up too bright. So I used a gradient pulled over the sky to darken it -- two gradients in fact, one top down and the other in from the left corner -- they overlap. Further adjustments to Highlights (-90) and Shadows (+65) and Contrast (+25) get the photo fairly close to what you see above.

Because I darkened the sky with a gradient the white clipping point in the photo changes. Constantly through the processing I go back and check and re-adjust the clipping points. The rule is to get a full histogram spread from black to white. This is the histogram of my final image. Note that it extends corner to corner. There are exceptions to every rule of course, but always assume the rule first before trying to justify and exception. I start every photo by setting the clipping points and I end every photo by verifying the clipping points.

hist_final.jpg


Subtle adjustments: Slight clarity increase. A slight vignette. An HSL color change to the reds and oranges to make them more yellow. Two very minor Adjustment Brush burn/dodge adjustments in the water.

Standard adjustments: Applied lens profile and removed CA. Slight noise reduction. Spot removal.

I don't know how you feel about making any of your CR2 originals available but if you want we can do the same with some of your files if that would help.

Joe

 
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nicolasnico

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Hi Joe, hey thanks, it sounds good!! Mmh, I'm fine having you access my RAW files, but I'm a bit nervous to have my RAW file available to anyone on a forum if the wrong person pass by... What about DNGs?
 

Ysarex

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Hi Joe, hey thanks, it sounds good!! Mmh, I'm fine having you access my RAW files, but I'm a bit nervous to have my RAW file available to anyone on a forum if the wrong person pass by... What about DNGs?

DNGs are raw files they have the same content as your CR2s.

Joe
 

Ysarex

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For now, let me send you one of my original files I've been trying to work on:
Dropbox - IMG_0725.CR2

That's a amazing photo; that is not the planet earth I know.

First a comment about what you did behind the camera. You set a -1 exposure comp when you took the photo. That did a lot of harm. You had already notched up the ISO and that -1 EC is just like raising the ISO another stop up. So your raw file is underexposed and a bit noisy. Let's look at that issue a bit more using the camera JPEG.

horses_camera.jpg


That's the camera JPEG with an inset histogram. Notice how far the histogram is from the right corner. The camera JPEG is both underexposed and flat. You had the camera picture controls zeroed out and the camera set to Faithful.

I put the CR2 file into DPP which permits making a new JPEG simulating the camera picture controls. I changed the setting from Faithful to Landscape, removed the -1 EC, and increased the contrast setting to +3 -- Here's that JPEG:

horses_dpp.jpg


It's better but the histogram indicates blown highlights. Both the blue and red channels are blown in the JPEG. But I'll bet the CR2 file would have been OK and with the added exposure in fact much better. Shooting for raw files is like playing a game of chicken. The more exposure the sensor gets the better the raw file gets as long as you don't clip the sensor's threshold. In this case if you wanted to hedge your bet (chicken) a -.3 EC would have more than sufficed. It's hard to make a recommendation about the best way to go here. You're taking photos that you can't re-stage and take again and the problem with playing chicken is eventually you're going to lose.

So here's my take on your photo using Adobe:

horses.jpg


Histogram:

hist_final.jpg


And here's the processing for you to examine:

IMG_0725.xmp

Copy the XMP file into the folder with your CR2 file and LR will show you what I did. Have to give my wife some credit for this. She was likewise amazed by the photo and the first thing she said was, "Wow! National Geographic." Then as I was adjusting it she said, "You're going cartoon on it -- leave it alone." And that reaction I'm sure tempered me a bit.

Some notes: First problem was white balance. You had the camera set to daylight. There's nothing in the photo that can be used as a white balance reference and I have no idea what color that landscape really was but there is a clear blue sky and my understanding of geography tells me you're higher up than sea level. So I set the temp value to 5700, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was really up above 6000. Then I adjusted the tint value until I got blue sky. This I did by the numbers. The final photo for internet publication is assigned the sRGB color space and in the sRGB color space daylight blue sky has a hue value of 211. So I set white balance to reach that target. Otherwise the daylight white balance setting left the sky horribly cyan.

No harm in letting Adobe take a crack at the tone response so I went ahead and clicked on auto to get started. One thing Adobe will do in that case is get pretty close with the white and black clipping points but Adobe always overshoots the exposure value. So I pulled back the exposure and manually fine tuned the clipping points. Throughout the process then I keep going back to the white/black clipping points and re-adjusting as needed after making other changes. The last step as always was to re-check the clipping points.

The sky was too light and hazy in the distance. I used a gradient to adjust that and both darkened the sky and raised contrast. The sky lightens and shifts color to the left corner. I used a 2nd gradient to suppress that. I applied a slight vignette.

I raised the contrast of the entire image, and pulled back on both highlights and shadows some.

This is a photo of the horses. But they are in shadow and the bright sun on the middle ground in front of them takes away the attention they should receive. Got to fix that. So you'll find 3 different adjustment brush masks in the foreground of the photo. One suppresses that bright sunlit section. Another lightens the horses and lightens the dust clouds they're kicking up. The 3rd reduces saturation over the foreground. I raised the contrast in the photo a lot which helps with the distant haze but increasing contrast increases saturation and the foreground was starting to go overboard. There is also a gradient on the foreground right at the bottom to darken the bottom edge.

I made changes in the HSL panel. I further darkened and saturated the blue sky and the foreground yellows had a green tint that I didn't like so I shifted that a little.

And finally I applied a little noise reduction.

A last thought: because there's a bit of noise from the underexposure another technique that I often use that works well is to add some simulated grain and it's worth trying that in place of the noise reduction.

Joe
 
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limr

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Wow! I'm super impressed with the picture itself and with Joe's edit and explanation (even if I can't quite follow it all ;) )
 
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nicolasnico

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Hi Joe, thank you SO MUCH for your help and all the detailed explanations! That underexposure problem with my pictures is confirmed again! (it allows me to capture better the real colors as I see them on shooting site, but then as you and others said, it brings other issues like noise. I'm learning!).
Regarding the "camera controls zeroed out", sorry, what do you mean? (is that in Lightroom?)
White balance: interesting to hear! Second time I hear (and discover!) about two days in a row! (that shows how much I have to learn...). Regarding the sky, it might have been something in between the color on the RAW file, and the first transformations you did to the picture.
Tone response: where is that option for Adobe "auto"?
Simulated grain: where is that option?
sorry, many questions. But appreciated answers, thanks once more!
 

Ysarex

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Hi Joe, thank you SO MUCH for your help and all the detailed explanations! That underexposure problem with my pictures is confirmed again! (it allows me to capture better the real colors as I see them on shooting site, but then as you and others said, it brings other issues like noise. I'm learning!).

If you're examining the photos on the shooting site I have to assume you're looking at the camera JPEGs on the camera LCD. That can be very misleading especially in outdoor bright light -- bad idea. Your -1 EC was a compensation for the condition of viewing the camera LCD outdoors? If you're really going to use the camera raw files and hope to get the best result from them then you should test your camera's exposure system and make exposure choices based on the result of that testing and not on what you see on the LCD.

We test raw file exposures with this software: RawDigger.

raw_hist.jpg


Above is a RawDigger histogram for your CR2 file. Notice the scale marked -5, -4, -3, -2, -1, EV0, 1, 2, 3. Diffuse highlights in your file (green channel) just slightly reach beyond EV 1 on that scale. We'd like to see them much closer to EV 2 and in fact slightly beyond EV 2. Depends somewhat on the specific camera but that's why we do tests -- find the limits and work to shoot close to those limits.

Regarding the "camera controls zeroed out", sorry, what do you mean? (is that in Lightroom?)

Not Lightroom. I'm referring to the adjustments on the camera itself that allow you to modify the JPEG output. You can select processing profiles (Faithful, Portrait, Landscape, etc.) as well as values for contrast, saturation and sharpness. You had your camera set to Faithful and the other adjustments set to zero. The result is a very flat JPEG.

White balance: interesting to hear! Second time I hear (and discover!) about two days in a row! (that shows how much I have to learn...). Regarding the sky, it might have been something in between the color on the RAW file, and the first transformations you did to the picture.

Your camera has three white balance options.
1. Auto white balance (bad idea).
2. White balance preset which is what you did (consistent but typically not accurate).
3. Custom white balance which you can set from a reference card.

When shooting raw files you can shoot a reference card after taking the photos (what I do) and then set the white balance from the card when processing. Here's some reading: White Balance
How to take accurate picture of leaf/plant with true color

Tone response: where is that option for Adobe "auto"?

In the Lightroom Basic panel right above the Exposure slider you see the word Auto. Adobe won't get the photo right but you'll get the clipping points close. The exposure is typically way too much (cut it in half) but it's a starting point.

Simulated grain: where is that option?
sorry, many questions. But appreciated answers, thanks once more!

Grain simulation is under the Effects panel. It's a good alternative when you have some noise in the photo.

Joe
 

Derrel

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Good picture, and a fine edit by Ysarex!
 

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