How I Edited It – 31+ Days To Better Photography

Yesterday’s Topic: Moon Photos

In the last post, pretend it was yesterday, I gave you a glimpse of what goes on in my mind when setting up a shot. Today I want to show you how I then took that shot through Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3.0 to bring out what you see here. Incidentally, these images were taken on St. Patrick’s Day in 2010, a far cry from my St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, six years previous.

Let’s start at the start: Manual Exposure Mode, Canon 7D, Canon 28-300mm L lens, ISO 100, 135mm, f/5.6, 1/160 second, no flash.

Not a bad start. It was hard to balance the brightness of that one spot of sun with the rest of the image. A graduated neutral density filter would have helped. First step, was to sync this image with a standard number of changes I make to most images, as a starting point.

Why did I pick those settings? They gave the rest of the images in this trip to Africa a certain feel I liked. Blue Saturation was also upped by +43. I knew in taking this photo I likely wasn’t going to use the entire frame. And honestly, I didn’t frame it well enough to start with. I should have tried harder to get a the best angle. I can make up excuses, like fear of being eaten by lions as the sun went down. Let’s stick with that excuse for now. So it’s time to crop the image.

Next up is using Highlight Recovery to try to tone down the burnt area of the sun. I’ll show a before and after zoom. If I went much above this setting, the clouds looked too unnatural. The total Highlight Recovery is now +38. (click to zoom both)

Nothing drastic, but a bit more detail comes out.

This next series is, in order:

  • Adjust Blacks up +5 to +10 to darken things a bit
  • Move Contrast +12 to +47 as I tend to like contrast
  • Fill Light +11 because things were just a bit too dark, but I don’t want the highlights to get any brighter

The sun is still bugging me. Grabbing a trick from the days of sucking fumes in a darkroom eons ago, I decided to use some selective burning. Burning is the process of allowing extra light to hit an area of the image while it is being projected onto the print paper. This made the image in that one spot to show up more (as the paper is white to start with, the more light projected onto it from the enlarger, the more exposed it becomes). I use the Adjustment Brush in this case (pictured at left). My standard setting when first using this brush is to set the exposure at +2 so things will be very over exposed, helping me to see what I’m painting. The painted area is indicated in red in this image.

I then take this area and lower the exposure to -1.18

Here’s a zoom, again, of before and after this effect is applied. (click to zoom)

Looking closely, you can see an error in my edit. I didn’t smooth out the left side enough and there is a band of light where there shouldn’t be. When we finish this post I’ll go back and change that.

The next three changes are more subtle:

  • Orange Saturation Shift +46
  • Purple Saturation Shift +40
  • Magenta Saturation Shift +54, but then I realized that made too much of an awkward line in the sky. I brought it back to just +23.

Here’s where we are at. All those changes added just a bit of saturation to the sky.

This next edit is a big personal preference. My normal M.O. is to increase Clarity, which increases sharpening at midtones. I decided to take this the other direction as I wasn’t happy with the look of the sun spot. It was too harsh. To lighten it up a bit I took Clarity to -64.

Just about done, I took a 100% zoom and didn’t like the noise I saw in the purple cloud detail. Even shot at ISO 100, noise can crop up in shadows. (click to zoom)

I increased the Luminance Smoothing to +32 and Color Noise Reduction to +19. (click to zoom)

The last step, before calling it a day, is to walk away. Go stare out the window, at the dogs (who probably could use a walk), at the toaster, at a book. Something, anything, to get away from the screen and refresh your eyes. Coming back, I decided the image could use just a touch more overall Saturation for punch, moving it to +20.

This last image is close to what I remember the scene being like a year ago. I made the initial edits 10 months after the trip so the image is a partial representation of what I remember mixed with a bit of ‘feel’.

Whew. Ok. I don’t know if that helps a ton. It’s not meant to be a “You do things exactly this way and the riches of the world, and all the bunnies you can hug, will come your way” type of post. It’s meant to show you what goes on under the hood and how the original capture is typically toned down so as to have more latitude in post processing to bring about the image in my head. And that image is never a perfect match of reality in that flash of a second of pressing the shutter release, because we’re all human. The best we can do is try to present our vision of life and beauty given the tools we have.

Next Up: Choosing A Lens

31+ Days To Better Photography is a series written by professional photographer Peter West Carey on The Carey Adventures.Com. The series is designed to unravel the mysteries of photography so you can take better pictures. Subscribe here to receive all the updates and bonus material. Your comments are always welcome.

10 Replies to “How I Edited It – 31+ Days To Better Photography”

  1. George Maciver

    A lot to digest here but I’m on it. Been trying to find spare time to get out and motion blurrr too . . .

  2. Terrance Smith

    So I started the 31 day to better photofraphy on the 8th.. Today is the 29th, now is it me or is something missing because I’m done.
    Where are your other 8 days? lol On my screen they are lessons 23 – 30, They are shaded out. Is something wrong on my end?

    Want to let you know this is some good stuff.

    52 yrs old and last month I got my first DLSR Nikon D5100. I have been taking pictures with a point and shoot and have over 25,000 photos. Started in 1999. Mostly of my family.

    I have spend the last year learning photoshop cs5 on
    I know I am going on and on but just wanted to give you a feel where I’m at. I will be asking questions.

    Have a great day
    DeLand FL USA

    • Peter West Carey Post author

      You are partially correct. When I originally wrote the series in March, I included the items you see items under Gear Ideas, those counted to the 31. And yes, if you count, there are only 30. I am going to be pushing the others out before March to complete the series and then craft a cheaply priced ebook out of them all for easy consumption (while also leaving the website up for those who like the free version).

  3. Pingback: Welcome To 31+ Days To Better Photography | The Carey Adventures

  4. Pingback: Photography Experiment–Editing | Gaining Life Experience

  5. Steve Griffiths

    Just found this series and this post is the most useful to me so far. I am lucky enough to have some stunning sunsets from my back garden so will use the tips you have given.
    I’m interested to in the standard import settings you use with Lightroom as I’ve just started a move over to it. Do you use these standard settings for all photos that you import or do you have others?


    • Peter West Carey Post author

      Hi Steve,
      I have a preset I created which is used on most imports (or just after in the case I forget to click the box). It is set to adjust the Lens Correction and Chromatic Aberration and that is about it. I like to have things basic when I start to edit and not to stylized at the beginning.


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