Behind The Shot - Asulkan Awakening Part II

Behind The Shot - Asulkan Awakening Part II

Welcome back to the second part of my Behind the Shot post for Asulkan Awakening!  Please note, if you are reading this in your email broswer, the before and after images may not appear correctly, so please read this blog on my website by going to the link here.  In this post I will dive a little deeper into how I post process my photos using Lightroom and Photoshop.  I don't intend for this blog to be a how to guide in editing photos (I will be launching another platform for those that want to learn in 2019).  I had started to type out a long post about honesty and integrity in editing photos for this post, but I think I will save you the details of that for a future post.  For this post I want to show you how I process images that are almost right in camera, and just need a little boosting in Lightroom and Photoshop to achieve my artistic vision.

So let's start with how the image appears straight out of the camera:


The RAW image

The RAW image

Because I shoot in RAW, the camera just records all the information present in the scene, and doesn't apply any of the processing that shooting in JPEG would.  As such, the image is quite dull, lifeless, and doesn't accurately reflect how I saw the scene while shooting it (although you could argue that because this is a really long exposure I didn't see the scene as it wound up being anyways!).  So let's jump into Lightroom and start processing this image.

The image in Lightroom with no adjustments

The image in Lightroom with no adjustments

So first of all, what I liked about this image.  I was happy with my composition, so I didn't need to make any adjustments there, nor did I need to straighten the image either as I got that right in camera.  I liked the colour of the sky, but I wanted to boost that quite a bit, and add more contrast into the image to give it a bit more punch.  To start with, the image is a bit overexposed, so I brought down the exposure by one stop.  I then started making some global contrast adjustments, by lowering the highlights and raising the shadows.  I also warmed up the image using the colour temperature slider, then I increased the global contrast.  Then I used the clarity slider to increase the contrast in the midtones, added some vibrance to enhance the colours, but I dropped the saturation slightly as I knew more would be added with the adjustments I am going to make in Photoshop.  Finally, for this image I applied the correct profile for the lens I used to remove any distortion, and used the remove chromatic abberations tab to fix any fringing.

That's looking better, but can still be improved in Photoshop.  So lets head over there.

Unfortunately it looks like I've flattened all my Photoshop layers so I can't show you exactly the adjustments I made, however I tend to make the same adjustments for all my images so we'll try to recreate it as accurately as possible.

The first thing I do in Photoshop is define where I want my whites and blacks to be.  I use the levels adjustment for that.  By bringing in the blacks and whites sliders I add some more contrast to the photo and define what should be black and what should be white. 

Next I make a selection of midtones in the image and I apply some more contrast using a curves layer.  By selecting the midtones, I don't affect any of the extreme ranges of the image, and I'm able to boost the contrast and saturation more selectively.

I wanted to darken the sky a bit more, so I added a burn layer, and using a very light brush I darkened the sky.

To add the dream-like feel of the image, I used a filter called Gaussian Blur.  This filter blurs the image entirely, so I needed to reduce the opacity of the layer to keep some of the details.

Finally, to sharpen the image and to bring back some more details, I add a high pass layer.  Using a soft light blending mode and reducing the opacity of the layer allowed me to emphasize some of the details in the image, while still keeping the dreamy feel.

Finally, I saved the image in Photoshop.  I then returned to Lightroom, where I removed a dark spot in the sky from some dust on my sensor, and used Lightroom's noise reduction to reduce some noise that was introduced into the image from all the processing I did.  

Asulkan Sunrise.jpg

That is a pretty good rundown of how I edit my images that I get mostly right in camera, and don't require me to blend multiple images together or make any major alterations to the image.  In a future blog post I'll discuss my thoughts on the ethics of post processing in today's "photoshopped" world, and I'll give you a look into how I create some of my other more processed images in the next segment of Behind the Shot.  I hope you enjoyed reading!