February 11, 2014

Walt Disney World Part IV: Post Pocessing in China

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When setting out to do this Walt Disney World series, I wanted to not only showcase photos, but also provide some insight into my workflow. "Tips and Tricks" if you will. I realized that I had not really done that yet and decided to delay the Hollywood Studios post to focus on how I processed the image above from EPCOT. This will also show how I process some of my Fisheye photos to give them a more natural look by correcting for distoriton in Lightroom. I have been wanting to do this for some time and including it as part of this series worked out nicely. Correcting for distortion in Lightroom is different from using de-fishing software and this technique does not fully correct for bent lines. In the end, cropping is needed, however I found that in most cases this has been sufficient for my needs.

Unedited RAW
So before I get into talking about post processing, how (and why) was this photo taken in the first place? As my partner and I were leaving the park after the IllumiNations show one night I noticed that the China exhibit was completely DEAD. Not a soul in sight. I saw this as a great opportunity and decided I was going to try and capture the tranquil scene. I haven't had the desire to lug around a tripod into the parks so I found the nearest trash can to serve it's purpose (see here and here for articles on tripod alternatives). You can see it in the bottom section of the photo above, but I knew before hand it would likely be cropped out when I corrected for distortion so it being there did not concern me.

100% center crop
Working with the third party fisheye, I shot this wide open at f/3.5 and use the magnify function on the EM5 to ensure I was focused on the building. I then enabled the EM5's live bulb mode and did a couple of test shots to gauge where my exposure needed to be. [As a digression] This is a good trick if you do not have a remote shutter release. In order to minimize the movements from pressing, holding and releasing the shutter, you simply do some test shots using this method, set your camera to shoot with a 2 sec delay and use the info gained from shooting in live bulb mode to set a concrete exposure level... I hope this makes sense. For this photo, I chose a 4 sec exposure at the camera's lowest "gain", iso200 at the time (since then a firmware update has enabled "iso 100" on the EM5). 

Correct for distortion and crop
My next step was to correct for distortion and crop the photo. The distortion slider can be found under the "Lens Corrections" tab under the "Manual" heading. I pulled the slider all the way to 100 and took the trash (bottom) can and bent railing post (left) out of the equation.

I use a correction profile specific to the EM5 before I begin to process anything that has to do with color or dynamic range. The EM5 has great JPEG color processing so using the profile is just an attempt at mimicking the way Olympus processes color info. Using the profile is something that I have come into the habit of doing (and incorporated into all my presets), but differences are subtle so if you do not have a correction profile don't fret. If you are interested, huelight's profiles can be found here (discussion) and are only $10 so getting them shouldn't break the bank.

Dynamic range
Once I have chosen the color profile (comes in Low, Standard and High contrast), I adjust White Balance, Tone, and Presence using the sliders provided in LR4. The original photo had a green-orange cast to it which I tried to correct for using the dropper tool under the WB heading. I used the dropper on the wall close to the center of the photo and it got me close, but I made finer adjustments to my liking after. Overall, the photo was dark so I increased the "Shadows" and "Blacks" sliders to brighten it up a bit. To make up for the blown highlights that resulted, I decreased the "Highlights" slider and zoomed in to make sure I could still make out detail in the building's highlights. I then increased clarity, vibrance and saturation a bit for good measure. Overall I am trying to optimize how the building looks since it is my main subject.

Next I adjusted the color sliders to my liking. I wanted to get rid of the remaining yellow cast and make the building more vibrant. I did this by reducing "yellow's" saturation, and increasing the "red" and "orange" channels. I also played with the luminance of each of the colors which brightens or darkens each of them. I darkened the blue channel in hopes of darkening the sky and overall, the resultant photo has a cooler tone. There is really no right or wrong way to do this, it is based on persona taste. Again, I am trying to make the building stand out as much as possible.

The foreground in the photo was kind of dark so I use the Adjustment Brush to "burn" or lighten it. To do this I simply pulled the "Shadows" slider to the right and then added a bit of contrast and clarity. I also de-saturated the area completely, and added a beige cast to neutralize the entire foreground. The red you see above is just a preview of everywhere this effect will take place.

Next, I dodge (or darken) the sky be decreasing the exposure slider to -2.5. In order to not get rid of the few stars I captured and to make sure I don't darken the building I set the highlights slider to 100. Here are the results before and after dodging and burning:

Overall, I am now happy with the image and all that is left to do is some housekeeping. To do this I go to the "Details" tab in light room. 

When you import an .ORF image into lightroom it automatically applies sharpening and color noise reduction. ON TOP of this I slightly increase my luminance noise reduction and more importantly, add a mask to sharpening. In my opinion masking should be done to all your photos so that you only sharpen the important bits of a photo. On a PC if you hold down your "ALT" key while moving the masking slider a preview of the mask is displayed. In the example above, everything that is white will be sharpened and everything that is black will not be. Masking can help to avoid sharpening empty space which can lead to distracting artifacts in your image. 

The final step to adding my signature to this image involves split toning. I usually do this to offshore images in which I want to add a subtle golden cast to. I decided this image could benefit from this because the foreground was too "gray" and I wanted to bring out the ivory in the hand railing. To do this I go to the "Split Toning" tab and type in "50" for hue, and "50" for saturation under "Highlights". The difference is barely noticeable, but this is one of my favorite and most used split toning combinations. 

Looking at the comparison between the original and final image, you can see that a little work in Lightroom can go a long way. I do not usually do this extensive editing on my images unless I can see a lot of potential in them. Usually my workflow consists of using presets that I and others have some up with. I would guess that only 30% of the images I process have some sort of dodging and burning applied to them but here it was pretty crucial in making the foreground stand out. I am self-taught in Lightroom so if you have any suggestions they would be received with open arms. Also, if you have any questions about this images' workflow (or any others you see on this blog) feel free to drop me a line. Next up in this Disney series is Hollywood Studios!

Sam D.

Walt Disney World Series:

Part I: Introduction
Part II: Animal Kingdom
Part IV: Post Processing in China
Part V: Hollywood Studios

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