I have decided to write a few words with regards to how I (currently) carry out my photography and the post-processing of images. This is always subject to change, as I am constantly trying to evolve and I try to get a hold of new techniques whenever I can!
The main reason for me to write this Journal Entry is the fact that I am disappointed by how many photographers try to keep their workflow a secret. There are quite a few photographers on DA whose works I truly admire. But when asked about just a little hint on how they edited a particular image in order to create the effect which caught my attention I usually never hear from them again. As if I was trying to steal their knowledge... Well, frankly said, in a sense that is true. I do want to get a little insight in their techniques in order to improve my own photography skills - especially when it comes to post-processing images. But what's the great deal about it!? Everybody started their passion from scratch, right? And I find it terrible that, just because you had to go through hardship yourself while learning the required skills, you now have to make others suffer just as much. What's the reason for this... Jealousy? Is it the fear that others might surpass your own artistic abilities? I just don't get it. To me it expresses a lack of self-confidence.
In order not to appear equally "arrogant" I decided long ago that I would always share my knowledge and that I would always try to answer any questions regarding my photography as elaborate as possible. And this journal entry is my contribution to those who might have had similar experiences with asking others for some insights in their work - so I'll give a brief overview of what I do and how I do it without even being asked for it. Some might just be too afraid to ask.
What I'll describe below may be well known to most of you, but at the same time could be of great support to others. If you want to learn more details, please FEEL FREE TO ASK!
And if you feel like sharing your own approach to post-processing images - be my guest
Here we go:
Since photography as such is so amazingly diversified it is not easy to give general guidelines on how to achieve quality pictures. Therefore, I will focus on my approach to urban night photography. Here are some general rules I follow:
- Use a proper color profile! This should be manually defined in the camera settings. I prefer "sRGB IEC61966-2.1". Before I fixed this I've had quite a few frustrating experiences when uploading images to the web. They turned out having a slighty different appearance than I had intended.
- Shoot in RAW format. The editing possibilities will be so much greater, especially with regards to exposure time and white balance.
- Keep ISO at a minimum. For architecture I use ISO 200 and adapt exposure and aperture based on that setting.
- I recommend using a small aperture (f11 or higher) for shooting architecture, in order to expand the depth of field to a maximum.
- For Panoramas the white balance must be fixed. My preferred color temperature for urban night photography is 3230K with a touch of Magenta.
- Use a STURDY tripod!
- ALWAYS consider the horizon. Everybody will notice if the framing is tilted / not horizontal!
- For Panoramas taking leveled images is essential. Also, avoid taking pictures with a super wide-angle lens (<18mm) and especially from too close to the subject, as this will create significant geometric distortion. No software can handle this properly.
How I edit my pictures largely depends on what I think needs to be done with a particular image in order to achieve the desired effect. So it's all down to case-to-case basis. Most interesting at this point might be which softwares I use. So here is a little overview of my tools and what I use them for:PHOTOSHOP CS5
I love Photoshop, but I am still trying to get a hang of how to edit pictures with it properly (who claims to know it all is usually lying...). I mainly use it for
NIKON CAPTURE NX2
- Applying watermarks (my personal logo, as well as "Digimarc"),
- Cropping images,
- Turning images into Black&White (via the respective Adjustment Layer),
- "Fixing" little things (e.g. Healing Brush),
- Manipulations. However, I don't manipulate my pictures... Whenever I do manipulate you will clearly notice. I would never paste a moon from stock or paint in stars or whatever.
- Stitching Panoramas, but for this I usually prefer "Panorama Maker 5" (see below)
- Creating HDR's, but for this I usually prefer "easyHDR" (see below)
- Sometimes I apply so-called "Luminosity Masks" to my images with Photoshop. These masks are pre-set actions which I acquired from Tony Kuyper, a great landscape photographer. Check out his website to learn more about his Luminosity Masks. But in general, I very much prefer using a software called "Nikon Capture NX2", which offers an amazingly intuitive handling and powerful editing of images. Its "Color Control Points" are made for Dummies and yet the most effective tool I have come across so far.
- It is also good to use the provided plugin-in software called "Camera RAW" for editing the RAW files in Photoshop, before applying further adjustments to an image. However, for this I also prefer Nikon Capture NX2.
I use this surprisingly powerful software for almost anything related to enhancing the overall appearance of my images. The Color Control Points are so effective that clawing your way through the depths of Photoshop is no longer required. Here is a short Demo Movie
.PANORAMA MAKER 5Panorama Maker
is my software of choice for stitching Panoramas. Its handling is very intuitive and also made for Dummies. I strongly believe that a powerful software does not necessarily have to look like the seemingly confusing Photoshop workspace and that great editing results can also be achieved without a PhD in Digital Arts. Check it out! It's a great tool and usually its first "suggestion" for the final result is just right.EASYHDR
I use this little software for creating my HDR images. I have tried many different products, but easyHDR
just managed to convince me. Its first results usually have a much more realistic feel and require much less adaptation than it seemd to be the case for Photomatix and the like. Maybe this is just my personal impression, but I will stick to easyHDR, unless someone convinces me of the opposite. Too bad that it's only for Windows, but this way I get to switch on my virtual machine from time to time for running Windows XP on my Mac. And when I'm done, I enjoy switching it off
This is it for now! Again, if you have any questions or suggestions please do not hesitate to drop me a note. I am always happy to help, if I can!