Over the top Post-processing

Going overboard with post-processing can be educational. How else do you learn what the myriad of options do? It also leads to interesting images.

I’m cleaning up my photo data base (all 254,176 files as of today). In the process, I came across this image which jumped off the screen and caught my eye.

pse sep cep

Hemlock Springs Overlook, Shenandoah National Park

Early spring last year

Made with a point & shoot – weather & footing forced me to ditch the D800E & tripod

5-22-2011 7-31-40 AM

Basic post-process left-to-right:

  • As captured
  • B&W conversion using the Silver Efex Pro 2 Film Noir 1 preset; < 1 minute
  • Blend the B&W with the capture using Photoshop’s luminosity blend mode
  • Total processing time – less than 3 minutes
    • Afterwards used Color Efex Pro’s Lighten/Darken filter to remove the skyline and call more attention to the wildflower; the rest of the image is framing
    • Don’t recall how I did the cracked texture effect :(
  • Get it right in the camera and most of your work is done
    • Certainly the most important part is

The most important part – Composition:

  • Wildflower anchors image and provides foreground interest & depth perspective
  • Mid-ground – A green triangle formed by the steep sloping mountain plus a tree in the form of a dark green ball framing the left side of the image. If you think of a scene as composed of design elements such as shapes, lines & textures – and not grass & trees in this case – your visual design, i.e. composition, becomes easier.
  • Misty woods in background for a third layer – depth, atmosphere, mood
  • Avoiding overlap between the flower & tree is important.

To avoid the common problem of including too much in your image, ask yourself – what attracted me to this scene? Then do all that you can to eliminate everything that doesn’t add to your initial vision and remember – if it doesn’t add then it detracts. You’re done when the next thing you remove from the scene in your viewfinder makes the composition worse – and not before.

  • For example, the flower and tree attracted me but I decided that I didn’t need the whole tree to tell the story. Also I cropped (in camera, nothing was added/removed in post) to leave just enough of the hillside and mist shrouded trees in the background to complete the story of where my flower and tree were.

  • Think hard about what is the best camera orientation. I  recommend always doing both vertical & horizontal – even if one doesn’t seem to make sense. This scene, to my eye, screamed vertical for the composition I wanted, but I’ll bet that most would have made it a landscape oriented shot (force of habit mostly).


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B&W via Infrared

Infrared photography – if you haven’t tried it, think about it. It’s a whole new way of seeing the world around you.

Made with an IR-converted Nikon D300. Post-processing via Silver Efex Pro.
Conversion by Life Pixel, highly regarded, personally recommended

D300_140619_140437__DSC4853-Edit LR-SEP

I like using fences to frame images
Silver Efex Pro Tutorial is here
Here’s a search archive with IR how-to posts I’ve written in the past



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Lemons to Lemonade

When life gives you a lemon, make lemonade” applies to photo-ops

Stuck on this bridge for the better part of an hour. Decided to make good use of the time by making abstract images. Later, Silver Efex Pro aided the lemonade making process by adding some B&W sweetener.

D800E_130326_102813__DSC6886 LR


Hover mouse over image to see the captured version

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D800E_130326_103101__DSC6888 LR-sep

This image alteration is suitable for competition only if the rules state that anything-goes

Silver Efex Pro Tutorial is here


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Frosty Photos – Baby, it’s cold

Looking at the bright side, the endless sub-freezing days do produce interesting photo-ops.

D800E_150228_085949__DSC4525-1-nik


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Nikon D800E, Nikkor 105 2.8 macro at f/8, aperture priority, tripod


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Competition Disqualification: A How-to Example

My previous post discussed post-processing rules for photo competitions. It showed an example of a disqualified image. IMO the judging process wasn’t much better than the photographer’s ethics.

Here’s that example:

2015-02-20_9-46-12            2015-02-20_9-48-35

Image on left was disqualified by World Press Photo for an ethics violation (after first being awarded 3rd place Sports Features, 2010 contest; captured image is at right)

You will never guess why it was disqualified. Find out below…


Here’s the progression from capture to entry (and after the fact disqualification)
2015-02-26_10-10-32The Capture

Come on – this is an embarrassment


2015-02-26_10-11-22The crop: post-processing part 1

No wonder nearly 90% of the capture was removed – embarrassing junk

The circled item is the foot of the person in background


2015-02-26_10-11-50

The competition entry after post-processing part 2

Over the top extreme B&W toning, vignetting, noise addition

AND – the no-no of photojournalism, the foot was removed


This example makes a mockery of photo competitions

  • Photographer ethics as well as the judging process
  • Any resemblance between capture & entry is imaginary

There may be many gray areas when it comes to post-processing, but

  • One absolute 100% agreed upon rule for photo-journalism is nothing shall be added, removed or moved during post-processing

Why the judging process waited until after the awards to compare entries with captures is inexcusable for a world-wide “big-name” competition

  • Besides the foot removal, there were several other disqualifying elements (by the published rules of the competition) but obviously no one checks
  • Since 2010, this has happened more than once in this same competition
  • The lead judge in 2014 was the photo editor for the NYT – not an unknown hack

Inexcusable

  • The only thing worse is the guy who stole some images from my gallery and entered them in several contests as his own
  • I found out when I noticed his “winners” in two contests
  • When I reported him he had the nerve to send me an angry email

Explains why I quit after three years and winning every award available

  • Without cheating
  • A sampling (took up photography in 2002, competed 2003-2006)

D800E_150226_080237__DSC4491-1 D800E_150226_090119__DSC4495-3 D800E_150226_080707__DSC4493-2


SHOOT FOR YOURSELF – DO IT FOR FUN


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256 (50?) Shades of Gray (Grey?)

The question “What is permissible post-processing?” has no clear black & white answer. More like lots of shades of gray.

Gray vs. Grey = American vs British respectively

(Gray is used in technical color standards, e.g. photography and internet browsers)

256 = Number of shades of gray (including B&W) with digital cameras

(50 – well, that’s the book/movie)


The best way to answer the question “What is permissible post-processing?” is to begin by answering this question:

What is the purpose of making the image (i.e., what is its intended use)? Common answers are:

  1. Personal use & sharing
  2. Documentation
  3. Competition
  4. Publication

Typically, different post-processing rules apply to each category:

For example, there are no rules for category #1 – anything goes. Some of the most exacting standards apply to photojournalism (a sub-category of #2).

A final note – these four categories aren’t mutually exclusive. Further, their order follows the expected level of photographic quality and expertise – especially during the image capture phase:

For example, the quality of an image intended for print-media publication (book, magazine, etc.) is expected to be higher than one destined for the family photo album or Instagram.


2015-02-20_9-46-12            2015-02-20_9-48-35

Image on left was disqualified by World Press Photo for an ethics violation (3rd place Sports Features, 2010 contest; captured image is at right)

You will never guess why (read the next post for the reason)


The next post will discuss the various post-processing shades of gray commonly (or arguably) associated with the above categories. The message of today’s post is:

  1. What is and isn’t appropriate post-processing depends on the intended use of the image and not the subject matter or genre
    • An image of the Eiffel Tower might be captured for any of the four categories. Each is subject to different post-processing expectations (also different standards of capture quality)

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