“Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships.”
– Ansel Adams
Ansel Adams embraced post processing in the dark room by dodging and burning (making adjustment in exposure) areas of the image for impact. The lesson that we learned from him is that post processing is just as important as the photo taking process, and shouldn’t be looked down upon as a lesser art form. Ansel Adams sometimes spent entire days locked up in his darkroom creating his prints. They didn’t come out of the camera that way. And that is just as true today. When we shoot with care taking into consideration composition, exposure and the histogram of the image, we can effectively create what we saw in digital form.Some of the tools we now use in Lightroom and Photoshop allow us to take “artistic license” to create the artist’s vision. However, as the photographer goes through the learning process, they start to “see” differently, and recognize beginner mistakes that can elevate the quality of their images. This article will point out some of the most common mistakes.
Over Processed ImagesThe key to learning post process is to learn your sliders and what leeway you will have in using them. Here are a few tips that will help.
Don’t over do Your Saturation Slider
One of the most common mistakes a beginner photographer makes when first learning post processing is over saturating their images. It seems that when you spend hours on an image, you don’t actually give yourself the option to really “see” what you have created.
A good rule of thumb is to try the vibrance slider first. Vibrance is a smart-tool which only increases the intensity of the more muted colors and leaves the already well-saturated colors alone. It’s sort of like fill light, but for colors. Vibrance also prevents skin tones from becoming overly saturated and unnatural. Then use your saturation slider sparingly, watching for over saturation in skin tones.Another tip would be to step away from your image for a few minutes. Look out the window or look at a different image and come back to the original. One of my favorite features of Lightroom is to use the Snapshot view in the Develop module.
The snapshot view in Lightroom allows you to work on an image and save a digital facsimile. Lightroom is basically saving just the adjustments and not taking up any disk space. If you would like to create a virtual copy of this image to show up in the Lightroom Library module, you can do this as well. The snapshots will only show up for a singular image and will only show when you click on that snapshot within the image’s loupe view in Lightroom.
Many times, I will save a version in a snapshot and create a whole new image or save just pieces of the previous edit. Then I will create a new version of the edit, save it as a snapshot, and then compare the two. Quite frequently, the version that I thought was the best I could do, looks lack luster next to the newer version.
Don’t Overdo the Shadow SliderOne of the best ways to edit a landscape image is to bring down the highlights and bring up the shadows in Lightroom. But watch out when using the shadow slider. It can leave your image looking flat if you use too much. This can be a dance between using the shadow, highlight and exposure slider, balancing each so that your image looks its best. The Dehaze FilterThe dehaze filter is a useful tool that should be used sparingly. This filter can give you a dramatic look in the sky of your landscape image, but if over used, it will affect the sky negatively by adding a strange greenish blue cast. This filter is best used sparingly or with the local adjustment brush so you can control the effect. You can also use a selective filter to add more blues back in the sky by decreasing the color temperature to the cooler blue side and bring back the natural color of the sky.
Over-sharpeningOver-sharpening is one of most common mistakes of the beginning photo editor. Sharpening is essential for a correctly edited digital image, but you need to get a handle on the settings that work for your camera. For my camera, I tend to set my sharpening to about 100, my radius to 1.2-1.4 and my detail to 25. You can push these settings higher, but watch for halos and glows around the edges of the image. Also be careful of sharpening if you have cropped your image. If you are sharpening an image based on the full resolution size, it will easily look over sharpened when cropped.
In addition to all of these recommendations, over-processed images occur when we get too close to the work and don’t give ourselves some space and time to actually “see” what we have created. Hopefully, the tips suggested and a little dedicated screen break from time to time will help us to stop spoiling the pictures we worked so hard to make.
If you would like some help with your photographic vision or your grasp on photo editing, join us at Jansen Photo Expeditions for one of our private or group workshops in California, Oregon, Wyoming, Iceland, or the destination of your choice. You will have an enriching learning experience and go home with a camera full of prized photographs.
We offer private and group workshops in Lightroom and Photoshop. Or join one of our upcoming in-person Lightroom weekend seminars in Camarillo, CA.
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