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I have had a lot of PM's over the last few months from people asking how I process my images. The following represents pretty much what I do for all of my work, the HDR stage being the exception, sometimes I don't feel the image needs it. This seems a lot to follow, but usually takes me around 15 - 20mins max. Hopefully somebody will get something from it, like I say though, this is the way I do things, not necessarily the best way!
1. Export the chosen RAW file with anything up to 5 exposures approx 1 stop apart.
2. Generate HDR image from the multiple files in Photomatix or similar.
3. Tone map HDR image in above program paying particular attention to haloing and noise.
4. Bring Tonemapped image into CS3
5. Clone/Heal dustbunnies and check the horizon using the measure tool (under the eyedropper) rotate abituray and crop levelled image.
6. Duplicate layer and adjust the curves to bring out the detail in the foreground - adjust the opacity to soften the effect.
7. Create a new layer and hold down the Alt key whilst selecting merge vsible to create a hybrid layer from the bottom two.
8. Duplicate original layer and move it to top - adjust curves to darken and add mood to the sky - fade opacity and repeat merge process.
9. Delete all but the top and original layer to reduce file size.
10. Finalize any curves tweaks on top layer
11. Duplicate layer and selctively dodge to bring out the highlights - fade opacity to soften effect to suit - repeat merge process.
12. Duplicate layer and burn the dark areas - fade and merge as above.
13. Duplicate top layer add a hard curve making very dark layer select eliptical marque - feather 150 pixels delete to create vignette - fade to suit and merge as above.
14. Delete all but top and bottom layer
15. Adjust colour to suit using colour balance and channel mixer (velvia action is worth a try, but go easy!)
16. Finally adjust the opacity to reveal a hint of the original to lessen any "overcooked areas"
17. New layer, Alt + Merge,
18. Duplicate New layer
19. Delete all but top two new layers
20. Select top layer sharpen a few times(will look awful, don't panic!) then resize to 1000pixels on the longets edge(looks much better now!) sparingly use smart sharpen.
21. Add a layer mask and paint out the sky revealing the softer version below whilst keeping a sharp foreground.
22. New layer, Alt + Merge, add border and title
23. For a less saturted look, rather than just desaturating, I sometimes like to duplicate the final layer, covert to black & white using the red filter preset, then fade the opacity to let a minimal amount of colour through from the colour layer below.
24. Save for web - upload!
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So Paul, How long does all this work take ? . Its mind blowing to me. No wonder your images jump out from the page at me.
I prefer to get it right in the camera first time
thanks for doing that, its very generous of you to do this
Quote: So Paul, How long does all this work take ? . Its mind blowing to me.
Thats why Pauls images do so well, excellent information Paul
Anyone who says they like to get it right in camera, well yes and I'm sure Pauls images are - he just extracts whats there already. As was done "in the good old days" with alchemy and clever dark room work.
I'm sure once you have a technique that works, it won't take too long as once your happy a number of the processes will be recorded as actions.
Quote: This seems a lot to follow, but usually takes me around 15 - 20mins max
from the first paragraph,
Wonderful set of directions, thank you.
Thanks Paul, very interesting to see how others do it. I shall revisit some of my shots and have a go.
Quote: I prefer to get it right in the camera first time
I think virtually all professionals and many others would disagree.
Quote: I think virtually all professionals and many others would disagree.
Ok let me explain my poor attempt at humour. I wrote that because one look at Paul's work should tell you his images are not possible (for me at least) to get right in the camera, a look at my PF would also support that view. I appreciate that Paul has put an awful lot of work into the image in PP................ hence the winking smiley.
Perhaps Pete will allow a tongue in cheek smiley in the future.
I took it tongue in cheek the way it was meant Graham - no need to explain.
I will just add that obviously you do have to get the composition and exposure pretty much right in camera, the rest is up to individual taste on how much or little to process an image to a desired result. I personally like to convey mood and atmosphere rather than creating a true record of a scene - more like digital art than a photograph really.
Sorry! I didn't mean to bring down the tone, of course I agree that the camera work is paramount.
Paul, I have just printed out and read through your workflow in detail. Some really interesting techniques involved. I can see hours of fun ahead. Thanks again.
Thanks for posting this Paul - really interesting stuff. I would love to see it as an article with lots of screenshots showing each stage. Have you thought about doing that and submitting it as an article?
Quote: 1. Export the chosen RAW file with anything up to 5 exposures approx 1 stop apart.
I assume this is 5 images taken on location, or do you mean one RAW file that is used to create five new tiffs?
Quote: I assume this is 5 images taken on location, or do you mean one RAW file that is used to create five new tiffs?
I shoot a lot of seascapes Mike, which plays havoc with the water if you try bracketing the shots. That's why I use just one RAW file and export that same one file as five different "Virtual" exposures.
Quote: plays havoc with the water if you try bracketing the shots.
Makes sense. Thanks
I don't really understand all the 'merging to a new layer' and duplicating layers malarkey. By doing this, you are effectively freezing all changes made up to this point, meaning you can't go back and change things later. I keep all my layers active and make heavy use of layer masks as I frequently have a change of heart at a later date. Seems to me to be a more flexible way of working.
Besides, I prefer a more natural look to my images - not the over-worked, gone-mad-with-the-dodge-&-burn-tools look that seems to be so popular round here. But then I haven't got any ECs and you have so maybe you're right and I'm wrong....
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