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Alex Hare Photography

Lightroom and Photoshop Processing Skills
Post Production & Digital Imaging Techniques

Nov 16th 2016

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In this blog post I wanted to show you a quick ‘before’ and ‘after’ shot that I worked on during a Post Production one to one workshop recently.

The images are reproduced with Alan’s kind permission.

On a recent trip to the Outer Hebrides with my colleague Lizzie Shepherd on a Tripod Travels photo workshop, Alan had shot this scene in stormy light.  Alan understands the histogram enough to know that he was looking to ensure he had not over exposed or under exposed his highlights and shadows.

Indeed, the RAW file confirmed this but what Alan wanted help with was extracting that information to get the RAW file (and in particular the finished TIFF or JPEG) to show the true tones in the scene, especially the sky.  “Where has all that brooding cloud gone’, Alan said, ‘if it’s in the RAW file, how do I get it out?!”

On looking at the RAW file, it seems over exposed, flat and lacking in contrast.  I would say 75% of all my RAW files look the same!  And with good reason; the ‘look’ of the RAW is not important.  What is important is the tones it has captured as indicated by the histogram.  In Alan’s case, his Nikon has excellent capability in recording a broad range of tones and although the RAW looks too bright, the data is all there and it just needs to be extracted in Lightroom or any other RAW processing software.

Here’s the after shot:

There’s quite a difference.  I can assure you there is no merging of separate files/exposures or stripping in of skies from other unrelated images.  All the tones you see are there in the original RAW.

The way we processed this file was to first use Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) to apply some simple adjustments to the overall shot, mainly for contrast but also to maximise the ‘look’ of the landscape; greens in the grass, exposure of the building, exposure of the rivers and mountains.  We didn’t worry at this stage about the sky.

We then used the highlights slider to adjust the sky.  This brought many of the tones we see in the final shot. 

Another method is to open the file as processed for the landscape in Photoshop and then re process the same RAW file for the sky (basically pulling the highlights and/or exposure slider back to bring back the sky tones) and opening this in PS as a layer on top of the first file and blending them together via masks.

Either way, the result is much the same but if you can do it all on the same RAW file with the various adjustment sliders available in Lightroom or ACR then it is a faster workflow and somewhat easier than doing it via layers and masks.

We practiced both methods on this image and found that the finer control offered via blending with the layer mask produced the better result but at a cost of time and more understanding of Photoshop.

That said, the result is really pleasing and what was an initially un remarkable looking RAW file has come through post production looking really dramatic, evocative and engaging.  I applied the crop because the space top and bottom didn't add much to the image and would be more useful for commercial reproduction where they often place text or logos in areas like this.  for a stand alone image, I felt the crop focussed more on the main subject of the building as the beautiful, heavy skies swirled menacingly above.

If you would like to know more about post production in Lightroom or Photoshop why not contact me about any help you may need.

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