Post Processing Revisited: Realizing a Vision

January 15, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

My original blog post on this web site is called "Post Processing: A Must in the Digital World", published in September, 2013, which can be found here:  As its name suggests, that particular entry dealt with the essential world of post processing in the digital age of photography.  A year and a half later my skill at post processing images only scratches the surface of what is possible in software like Adobe's Photoshop and Lightroom.  Processing files can be exhausting, intimidating, frustrating, and time consuming.  Yet, in today's world, it is essential to your workflow and when your vision becomes reality, the time spent is well worth it. 

Last night I posted an image on Facebook that was liked by a lot of people, so I thought I'd share a little of the story behind it.  Ironically, I had discarded, left for dead, the image because I couldn't quite process it with the desired look I had in my mind.  So I gave up.  The next day I decided to give it a go again, holding on to a sliver of hope that I could get the file to match the vision I was going for.

Here's the original file, a RAW file converted to a JPEG in Lightroom and then saved:

Some of the densest fog I have ever experienced created a dreamy, ethereal atmosphere on this night.  I felt like I was in a winter wonderland.  I couldn't wait to get home and upload the photos.  Surely I had captured the surreal feeling to the night, right?  Nope.  I was disappointed, deflated to say the least when I looked at the files.  I couldn't believe it and I was immediately discouraged.  I spent some time editing the files, but quickly gave up, convinced that I had squandered the opportunity.  The next day I had some renewed hope, for some reason.  I re-opened the files, determined that I could salvage and be content with at least one image.  After some playing around in Lightroom, this is what I was left with:

To get the image above, I made the following edits in Lightroom:

1. boosted contrast

2. recovered highlights in the bottom left of the image due to a sidewalk lamp that cast uneven light

3. cooled the white balance to 2100K to get rid of the overly red hue

4. reduced noise in the gray areas around the tree

5. cropped the image to get a tighter crop around the tree; the original ratio (2:3) was maintained

6. sharpened the image

7. added a slight vignette

8. simple conversion to black and white

Not completely done, I added an action in Photoshop.  Since I can't edit my RAW files in Photoshop, I often add an action to a JPEG once I have saved it from Lightroom.  This practice is NOT recommended because editing a JPEG file results in a degraded image.  More on that topic in this blog entry here:  Nevertheless, I was closer to where I wanted the image to be and I applied one of my favorite black and white Photoshop actions to the JPEG, but tweaked its effect on the image to maximize the quality.  Here's the final result, the image I posted on Facebook:

I also post a lot of my images on Instagram, which automatically crops an image to a square format.  Here's the square version:

The lesson learned from this whole experience is rather cliche: never give up.  I had on the file above, but with some patience, persistence, and vision I developed a file I am pretty happy with.  Let me know if you've had similar experiences...I'd love to hear about them. 



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