My Top 5 Tips for Landscape Photography Post Processing
My Top 5 Tips for Landscape Photography Post Processing
Post processing an image is a fundamental part of the photographic process. Every digital image you have ever seen has been processed. Even if it’s a ‘straight out of the camera’ JPEG then it has been processed by the cameras software.
How much processing you choose to do is a matter of personal taste, only you can decide what’s right, after all, it’s your art.
These are my top 5 tips to get the most out of post processing.
Tip Number 1. Capture to Process.
When I am on location and setting up my shots I try to consider how the final image is likely to be processed. First of all I always shoot in RAW so that I have the unprocessed file with the maximum amount of information available.
When I compose my images I try to think about the final aspect ratio I will want. Will it stay at 3:2 or would I want something different? 16:9, 8:10 or even 1:1?
When I have a feel for the final aspect ratio I will try to shoot so that I have some space around the final planned image to refine the crop. Not too much, I don’t want to throw away pixels if I don’t have to.
Then the critical exposure.
The objective is not to get an image that looks good on the little screen on the back of the camera. That’s just the camera giving a JPEG preview of what it thinks the image should look like.
I always aim to expose so that I have the maximum amount of information available and that means checking the histogram. I try to get the histogram to cover as much of the tones as possible but I will normally aim to expose as much to the right of the histogram as possible as that captures more data, but avoiding having blown out highlights (the highlights indicator (AKA ‘the blinkies’) is really useful for checking this.
Tip Number 2. Preparation First
When I have selected the image that I intend to process the first thing I do is check that it is of suitable quality. A view at 100% allows me to check that I don’t have any focus issues and that there hasn’t been any loss of sharpness caused by camera shake or other factors.
That done the next thing to do, before I get anywhere near those sliders, is to consider what needs to be done to the image to achieve the effect that I want.
Does the scene want to be dark and contrasty, bright and colourful or soft, subdued and atmospheric? Once I have decided that then it leads me to the steps that I will need to take.
Tip Number 3. The Rule of Halves
The beauty of editing RAW files is that it is a ‘non destructive’ process. The original file isn’t changed at all. So it doesn’t matter if you get it wrong, or what order you do things in, you can always adjust it later.
That said, it is easier to look at an image that has been processed with a light touch and see where it needs more doing, than it is to look at an image that has been processed a lot and see exactly which part of the processing has gone too far.
For that reason I normally employ something I call the Rule of Halves.
When I go to move a slider, say to reduce the highlights, I normally only move it half as far as I think it needs to go. So, if I think it needs to go to minus 100 then I will normally only move it to minus 50 (or thereabouts).
I can always go in later and move it further but I find it easier to go gently to start with.
I do this with global and local adjustments, tweaking each one and then, if necessary going back in and adjusting them a little more (and sometimes a little less).
Tip Number 4. Let It Rest
Once I have the processing finished I like to leave it for a while and them come back and view it with fresh eyes.
Ideally I will leave the image overnight, or even longer, but at least a few hours. Then open it up again and assess how well the processing haas worked out. Sometimes I’m happy with it and the the image is finished. Sometimes I think I have gone too far, or not far enough, and I make a few more adjustments.
Tip Number 5. Save the RAW files
When I have finished processing an image I will normally save it as a high quality TIFF file for my archives. I create temporary JPEGs and PNGs for uploading to websites or sending to agencies but I then tend to delete them.
I also archive the RAW file so I can always go back to it. On occasion I have gone back and re-edited a file for scratch and produced an image that looks very different to the original edit. It can also come in handy to have the original file if someone wants a different version. For example someone recently wanted a B&W version of an image that I had processed in colour. I was able to go back to the RAW file to create the B&W rather than converting the colour version and this meant I could get the best B&W conversion possible.
So, there they are.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this. I’ll be back in my monthly review at the start of March
Category: landscape photography tips
Excellent tips as always.
I think that histograms are a mystery to many and while the scene and the final interpretation will vary, have you ever thought about doing a tutorial to show a series of images and the corresponding histograms that are ideal, over and under?
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