Progression | Before and After Photo Editing
2017 Austin, TX
In my 2017 Year in Review post I mentioned that one of my resolutions is to write a blog post a week. While I haven’t been off to the best start I plan to correct that moving forward. So I’m jumping on board by discussing what I know best… photo editing.
In my new blog series Progression, I’ll be focusing on the photo editing process by sharing before and after examples. I’ll walk you through the assessment, global adjustments, retouching, targeted masking and refinement for these images. Featuring photographs from my personal archive, you’ll be able to observe the steps taken to elevate my personal and professional work.
Today’s featured images are from Austin, TX during my 2017 road trip. Both photographs were featured on my Instagram and are two of my favorite images from the trip. For the sake of this instructional post, I’ve already cropped and straightened the image of the graffiti artist. Note: When working on a photograph for a client, I always save cropping till last incase they want it looser or tighter.
The Graffiti Artist – Before and After
Prior to optimizing any image, I start by diagnosing the adjustments each individual photo needs. For example The Graffiti Artist is dark, lacking both contrast and vibrancy. These notes will be the foundation for my global adjustments.
Global Adjustments in Lightroom
- I’ll start by checking Enable Profile Corrections in the Lens Corrections panel to correct distortions, vignetting and perspective issues. You can also click to remove chromatic aberrations. Lightroom will automatically select the Lens Profile (Make, Model and Profile) but feel free to make adjustments if necessary.
- Utilizing the Basic Adjustments panel in Lightroom, I made global adjustments to the photo.
- Made a minor adjustment to the color temperature (added a slight amount of blue and green).
- Brightened the image by adjusting the exposure by approximately one half stop.
- Reduced highlights to retain detail in white wall.
- Increased the White and Black points of the image to add contrast.
- Bumped up the vibrancy so the colors popped like they did in person.
Masking with the Brush and Radial or Graduated Filters in Lightroom
After completing my global adjustments, I took a step back to reevaluate the photo. At this point, I felt the vibrancy was where I wanted it but the photo still seemed flat. The bottom of the image needed a greater white point which would not correlate with the top half of the image. The top required a bit more contrast and I wanted to have the artist pop out a bit more. So, I felt targeted adjustments with the radial and graduated filters was the next step.
- Graduated Filters
- Top half of photo features a graduated filter which reduces exposure and highlights. The filter also opens up the shadows as well as adds contrast with the adjustment of the white and black points.
- Bottom half of the photo utilizes the graduated filter to open the shadows, increase the white point and deepen the black point.
- A radial filter is positioned on the graffiti artist to slightly brighten him as well as to open the shadows. This allows him to naturally stand out from the busy background.
Rain drops from the sky- Before and After
The second image, Rain Drops from the Sky, is more abstract than the Graffiti artist but the steps are similar. Once again, we start by assessing the photo; it lacks contrast and brightness, needs a white and black point, has a magenta shift which requires correcting and features a distracting tree branch on the left side of the frame.
Global Adjustments in Lightroom
Starting with global adjustments, I’ll make the following changes:
- In the Lens Correction Panel I’ll check Enable Lens Corrections and Remove Chromatic Aberrations.
- As I mentioned in my assessment, there is a notable tint of magenta in the RAW file. To fix the color, I added green which reduced the magenta as well as added blue to make the image cooler (it is water after all).
- Increased exposure.
- Reduced highlights to decrease intensity of whites in top of frame.
- Increased white point and decreased black point to add contrast. Adjust highlight reduction as needed.
- Bumped up vibrance slightly to bring out teal in water.
- Increased clarity to emphasize the ripples.
- Added a small amount of sharpening to the image.
Retouch with the Clone and Healing Brush
Although I prefer to retouch in Photoshop CC (you have more control over cloning and the healing brush), I challenged myself to utilize these features in Lightroom CC. For this image, I removed the protruding branch on the left side of the frame.
Masking with the Brush and Filters in Lightroom
Evaluating the current status of the photo, I decide to make a few additional adjustments to really make the image pop. This includes; additional contrast, targeted tonality adjustments and highlighting the water ripples more.
- I applied a Graduated Filter to the top half of the frame. As there is a green hue in the water, I added a small amount of magenta to reduce this. Note: The highlights in the water should be white so I used these to judge my color adjustments. I also increased the white point, decreased the black point and bumped up the clarity (emphasize the ripples).
- Watch your histogram! The histogram represents the tonal information in your image. By touching either edge you will “clip” (lose information) in the blacks or whites of the image. Personally, I clip all of my images to ensure I have high contrast but gear this towards your personal aesthetic.
- Repeated the process for the bottom half of the frame. Adding a deeper black point and brighter white point as well as adding green/yellow to reduce the magenta shift.
- Using the Brush tool in Lightroom, I further increased the drama of the water ripples by painting a few of the ripples with a maximum clarity and contrast adjustment.
At this point, I’m content with my photo editing and can right click the images to export the toned images from Lightroom! Stay tuned for further posts in my Progression series and comment below with your questions!