Post-Processing Technique No. 1 (OLD VERSION)
Daily Walks Post-Processing Technique
NOTE: The latest version of Adobe Photoshop has new tools to streamline the steps below but they can still be done as instructed.
All images are shot in camera raw and brought into Photoshop CS4. With the camera raw tools, I adjust the photo so that the exposure is fairly dark knowing that I can lighten the image later (this can lend itself to dramatic lighting). I adjust the other options such as the brightness, shadows, etc. so that the photo feels balanced. The saturation is left as it was shot, again knowing that I can adjust this later if desired.
1). Adjust Lights & Darks
Duplicate the image. On the duplicated layer, adjust the lights and darks using either Exposure (Image > Adjustments > Exposure) or Shadow/Highlights (Image > Adjustments > Shadow/Highlights). Generally, the idea with this step is to bring out the lighter areas of the image without making the darker areas too dark.
2). Adjust Curves
With the Curves Adjustment Layer Mask, the lights and darks are adjusted to bring out the contrast making the image "pop" more.
NOTE: All Adjustment Layers can be found at the bottom of your layers palette by clicking on the black and white circled icon.
3). Make Image B/W
This can done in various ways but the two primary ones that I use are with Channel Mixer Adjustments Layer Mask or the Gradient Adjustments Layer Mask. Both of these work well. An excellent book that gives you many ways to make an image B/W along with tons more excellent techniques is Jack Davis' book "How To Wow: Photoshop for Photography".
4). Solid Color Overlay
Create a Solid Color Fill Adjustments Layer and make this layer a "Color" blend (found in layers palette at top drop-down menu).
This is where the creativity begins and things get exciting! The color that you choose will create the muted feeling of your image. So, explore different colors to get the overall feeling of the image that you want.
5). Duplicate Your Original Color Image
Duplicate the layer that you created in Step 1. Move this layer to the top of your layers palette. Make this layer a Color Blend (found in layers palette at top drop-down menu).
Now, decrease the opacity of this layer so that it just gives a hint of the original color.
6). Dodging and Burning with Layers (KEY STEP!)
This step is the one that can make things look sharper by creating contrast (for example... in water drops) and can also create dramatic lighting effects. Rather than trying to explain how this works, I'm going to send you to a WONDERFUL QuickTime tutorial by Russell Brown. The tutorial is called Soft Light Dodging and Burning. Once you have viewed this, come back for the final touches.
7). Stamp Layers
The advantage to this technique is that you have merged all your layers into one but the original layers remain. Here are the steps:
1. Select all the layers in your layers palette.
2. Press Ctrl+Alt+E (Windows) or Command+Option+E (Mac OS).
You will now have all your layers merged into one that will appear at the top of your layers palette.
8). Reducing Noise on the Stamped Layer
Using your merged/stamped layer, you are going to reduce the noise if necessary. There are many ways to do this. I use Neat Image http://www.neatimage.com. The idea is to make your image look smooth without reducing the details too much. (NOTE: You can create an Adjustments Layer and remove some of the softness in areas if you wish.)
9). Final Color, Curve and Sharpening Adjustments
I call this step the "tweaking" one which I personally can spend hours on, adjusting the colors, curves and sharpening until it is "perfect" (which we all know is never possible). I will also sometimes add effect filters at this time as well. Here are some of my favorites which are listed on my About page as well: • Nik Pro Filters (great set!)
http://www.niksoftware.com/colorefexpro/usa/entry.php• PhotoKit Color 1
http://www.pixelgenius.com/photokit/index.html• PhotoKit Color 2
• PhotoKit Sharpener