Thursday, January 08, 2009

After and before

By now, you've probably figured out my modus operandi when it comes to photography - "If there's a way to do it cheaper, why not?" I spent most of last year taking photos with a $200 point and shoot digital camera to see if that camera could compete on an image quality level with the big guns. It can, to a point, but I think that point is pretty high on the quality scale.

Getting more serious about my photography later in the year caused me to collide with the limits of that camera, so I made the jump to a digital SLR. I've used the dSLR for four months and I'm already colliding with the limits of that camera. But that's another story.

Half of digital photography is taking the picture and the other half is making the picture in a photo editing program. IMHO very few digital pictures come right out of the camera ready to be displayed to the world. So which photo editing program do I use? Refer to my modus operandi. I use Adobe Photoshop Elements 6, a $79 package that does a lot of the things that its more robust (and expensive) cousin, Photoshop Creative Suite (minus all the other graphics/design programs that come with it) can do. Or at least that's what I'm trying to prove this year.

I shot a number of images on snowy days over the past couple of weeks, in which I discovered the limits of my dSLR, namely, it doesn't do so well in high-contrast situations, like, oh, let's see ... snowy days. The images that come out of the camera need help. In some cases, the images are beyond help (read purple fringing). Hello, recycle bin.

Anyhoo, over the next several days, I'm going to highlight some of those snowy photos, the good, bad and ugly and some of the actions I took in PSE to adjust those photos, featuring them side by side, "after" image first, then the original "before" image as it emerged from the camera.

Anyone who is not into post processing or does not own PSE can stop reading now. Everyone else, here is how the above image was processed: The image was opened, Select/All (ctrl+A) and copied (ctrl+C). I then went to the Effects menu and chose High Pass (the little gray apple picture if you're using the visual menu), applied it and slid the adjustment slider all the way to the right and clicked OK. I then selected Paste (ctrl+P), which placed the original copied image on a layer on top of the picture I just adjusted. I went to the Layers menu box, clicked on the bar that said "Normal" and selected "Soft Light." Clicking on the two right facing triangles on the right side of the Layers bar brings up a menu. I selected Flatten Image to merge the two layers into a single image.

I then selected Enhance/Adjust Color/Adjust Hue and Saturation and slid the saturation slider to about +35% then hit OK. Then I selected Filter/Adjustments/Photo Filter and selected the violet filter and set the slider to 35% then hit OK.

The photo was pretty much finished at this point, but I played with the levels (Enhance/Adjust Lighting/Levels) a bit, then added the lens flare as an accent (Filter/Render/Lens Flare - 35mm Prime at 50% and moved the crosshair into position and clicked OK).

Working with layers is what set Photoshop apart from the crowd back in the days when digital photo editing was in its infancy. Getting the most out of PSE requires some facility with the Layers menu. So copy and paste some layers in your pictures and play around to see what happens.

Photographs © 2009 James Jordan.

10 comments:

Dona said...

Wow, James -- thanks for this information. My husband surprised* me with a Nikon D60 for Christmas and I really want to learn to use it and fix up the photos I take.

*Not that I didn't hint a lot...

Dave said...

I love reading about how you edit photos. This photo looks great, and your PS techniques are completely opposite/different than mine. There is more than one way to skin a cat. Your methods work great.

Kim said...

Thanks for the great info. I tried it on a photo this morning and it did wonders.

May I also ask how you like your Nikon D60? I am in the market for a DSLR and am also looking at a Canon Rebel or Nikon D90 (I don't need video though, so I'm not sure the D90 is worth the added money).

James said...

Dona, if your camera came with an introductory DVD, I'd advise viewing it - it covers all the basics and should get you going right away.

Dave, my ultimate goal is to produce HDR via Photoshop Elements - I've played around with it and I think I'm getting close. Stay tuned.

Kim, the D60 was a huge step up from the Fuji, so I can't complain, occasional purple fringing problems aside. With a 50mm 1.8 lens on it, this camera rocks.

I'm not up on Canon cameras, so I'm afraid I can't offer any insightful comparisons. I've heard that the Nikon D70 is a solid camera as well and I actually considered getting one, but got such a good deal on the D60 that I went that route.

SD at "Addicted to The Click" said...

Gorgeous images...

Thanks much for sharing the info.

Dona said...

Thanks James -- I did get two DVDs with the camera and watched part of one. It was overwhelming and I need to take it in small doses

Kim -- my neighbor has the D90 and loves it. She's just learning too -- so we're learning about our cameras together.

Wanda said...

I'm a novice.... I only come to enjoy your work. Is that OK.

Me....at this point in my life, I point, shoot, upload and tell a story on my blog. It works for me, but how I love to listen to people like you and your friends who are so intelligent and masters of the art!

LOL:Wanda

James said...

Wanda, Glad to have you here. Consider the tech talk as a peek behind the scenery!

James said...

Dona, the video Understanding Digital Photography was a help to me. I can see how you might want to take one section at a time and try out some techniques before moving to the next one.

I already knew how to accomplish most of those techniques with a film camera and only needed to know how to find the appropriate controls on the digital camera.

Wanda said...

Thanks Jim....

(A member of your Fan Club)