BEFORE AND AFTER
What’s Possible With Post Processing
By Ian Robert Knight
That two-word phrase can either excite you, or scare you. That likely depends on just how long you’ve been doing said phrase. If you’re like me, you love editing photos – it’s all part of the fun of digital photography. But if the very thought of opening up Lightroom (or Capture 1, or Luminar, or PhotoShop, etc.) gives you shivers, then this post if for you.
With this post, we are going to start an ongoing regular column where we will show some ‘before and after’ samples of photos. These photos would be the type of images that you would think have no hope. The images where you thought “aww, great shot, shame about the exposure”. Well, think that no more! We’ll take a photo, supplied by YOU, and show you what can be done with it. Think of it as a “Your Photos, Our Edits” type of thing.
We’ll take your photo, put it through our magic wizardry of image editing software, and show you just what is possible. We’ll get you to start believing that it’s possible to get life back into those photos you abandoned. Of course, not every photo is salvageable, but most are. We’ll give you instructions how to submit your photo at the end of this post.
But first, let me show you an example of what I mean by this. Here is a photo that I shot at the beautiful Railay Beach in the southern Thailand province of Krabi. It’s really one of the nicest beaches in the country, and well-deserving of a good photo. But sometimes, it’s really difficult to properly show the entire scene, except perhaps with HDR styling. That’s what happened with this scene.
You can see that the lighting just isn’t right — anywhere. It’s too dark for the foreground (you can barely make out the people). And it’s too bright for the background (you can barely make out the people). If I shot ONLY the bright beach part, or ONLY the dark foreground part, then the photo wouldn’t have the same appeal. So how do I save this photo? Enter the magic of image editing software.
I won’t go into too many details here, because I don’t want to give away ALL my secrets in the first edition of this column. Each additional time we do this, we can expand on some of the editing tools used. But for now, I’ll just briefly state what I did with the photo to improve it.
Basic stuff that I do with every image – apply lens correction, apply a colour profile. If the image is not level, or has distortion, I’d level it too. I also adjust white balance, if needed. This particular image didn’t need any adjustments.
Then the bigger adjustments begin. Primarily, this image was suffering from deep shadows and bright background highlights. There are several ways this can he handled, but in this case I was able to retrieve most of the losses by using the shadows, highlights, dehaze (etc) sliders.
I added a gradient adjustment on the sky, which is something I often do. And I applied some spot colour adjustments on the fellow with the bright orange skin, using the HSL adjustment tool. And finally, I sharpened the image a little at the end.
Here’s a before and after slider of the image, which shows you just what’s possible.
Now It’s Your Turn
So, if you’ve got one of those images, where you love the photo, but don’t love the exposure, send it to us. Let us show you what’s possible through post processing. All you need to do is send us an email to submissions (at) photoworkshopadventures (dot) com, along with some of the backstory about the photo, and what you think you’d like done with it. Then send us the original image file (RAW if you have it) using the free version of WeTransfer. When you use that website, just use the same email address in the “send to” section. This way we can easily accept RAW files, no matter how big they are. If you’re so inclined, you can also send us your version of the final edit. Please don’t submit more than one image for us to work on in each submission.
We’ll select photos to work on, on a regular basis. Maybe you’ll see a few edits from different PWA photographers. But we’ll create a new post with your original image and our edits, and explain what we did. One thing though – don’t send us photos if you don’t want them published on our blog. This is a lesson for everyone. And one last thing — we may not be able to work on every image that comes our way. But we’ll do what we can.
OK, the floodgates are open. Send away!