Save trees and money for Earth Day! Get up to 60% off memberships for a limited time Upgrade now

"Before-After" Digital Post Processing

Published February 5th, 2012

In digital photography era, post processing is very important to enhance your photos. We could improve our RAW file to much more stunning with several steps.

For my own workflow, I start from Nikon Capture NX or Adobe Camera Raw in order to convert from RAW --> TIFF file. This step is very vital in keeping as much as dynamic range of the shot. Moreover, we could easily enhance shadow/highlight and white balance. In Photoshop, we need to decrease colour cast in both shadow and highlight by using CURVE tools. Then, I still add brightness to mid-tone, and a little bit to overall photo. I prefer bright photo to dim photo.

In order to enhance the sky, I increase red-yellow colour from Hue/Saturation. We mush make sure that colour is not over saturated by noticing the details in the photo, especially details in red and yellow. When you want a vivid photo, you should gradually increase colour layer by layer. For example, I increase yellow colour first with +10 Saturation in yellow channel. Then, I repeat this step for another 2-3 times before doing another channel, that is red.

After finishing boosting colour, I usually concentrate on reducing overall noise and dust in the photo. Blur filter is used here, then layer mask will be employed to mask a specific area from the effect.

Finally, I sharpen the photo with smart sharpen. I usually over sharpen the high resolution photo. Then, when I reduce photo size (e.g., from 4000px --> 900px), the result will be satisfied. No over sharp left in the final output.

With this post, I attached an example of my recent photo: "G'moring the first sunshine". Please feel free to post comment or question. I will try to answer those questions as much as possible. Thank for your visit : )





Login or sign up to comment.

Aslinah Safar (inactive)  over 5 years ago

Thank you for sharing your experience.
I have question, do you use a Luminosity Masks?
Thank you. :)

Amr Tahtawi  almost 5 years ago

I would like to know the answer to this same question Lina.

Long Hoang Xuan  over 5 years ago

it is very useful:) Thanks. Can you help me?.
1. In photoshop i don't know how to add brightness to midtone?
2. I use Nik color and when i used sky light filter, some magneta was added. I don't know how to mask or delete it?
Finally thank you so much:)

Julia Meister  over 5 years ago

Thanks for all your experience!
Do you do any colour correction with Lab?

Carlos M. Almagro  about 6 years ago

Thanks for all this info.

Francesco Pandolfo  about 6 years ago

Thank you so much Atomic Zen :) It is so useful for me!!!! my compliments!!!

Paul Bellinger  about 6 years ago

Great info here, thanks for sharing.

Carl Parow  about 6 years ago

It's called Pocket Light Meter.

Carl Parow  about 6 years ago

Now all I need is an iPhone app that will remotely trigger and time my shutter release. That would really be useful.

Carl Parow  about 6 years ago

What a wonderful useful app. Just what I wanted. Thanks for that :-) Another interesting iPhone app is Light Meter. Seems to work well and saves buying a handheld light meter.

AtomicZen : )  about 6 years ago

For you iPhone, I recommend "Longtime Exposure Calculator." It is superb!! Hope you like it : )

Carl Parow  about 6 years ago

Thanks for your experienced advice. My colour cast is so severe it doesn't seem to work setting it before taking the shot because it also needs big tint adjustment. It still looks terrible at any setting. I find it much easier to do after. But I will persevere with custom white balance. Next time I am out will try the exposure timing. The iPhone stopwatch app comes in handy for that also. I might need a hand held light meter which might be more useful rather then doing it in camera because it's a pain to unscrew my big stopper too many times. Really need a Lee slide-in filter holder :-) There is an iPhone app for light metering which might work well. Just point the phone at the scene. We are getting there...

AtomicZen : )  about 6 years ago

Hi Carl, thank for your drop in and your personal working process : ) Great! I plan to share some of my techniques about digital post-processing and shooting tips in the near future. I will let you know ASAP.

According to your questions, these are the answers from my direct experience.

Q: How could we determine the exposure time when using big stopper 10 stops?
A: I have some tips to share in this question. First, I manually count the speed shutter. Big stopper of LEE could reduce the light by 9-1/2 to 10-1/2 stops depending on each piece of the filter. My LEE big stopper can reduce about 10-1/2 stops. Hence, without remote control, I try to manipulate all measure (before placing the filter) that will ends up at 1/30 seconds. I usually push ISO from 200 to 320 or 400 if it is necessary. After that, I place the LEE big stopper and adjust the speed shutter to 30s! and push the ISO for another 1/2 stop. This is my quick setting in all situation. If I cannot manage the original exposure at 1/30s (in very dark ambient light --> sunset or sunrise), I will compensate the exposure from that formula. For example, if it is 1/15s --> it will be 1 minute, if it is 1/8s --> it will be about 2.15 minute, if it is 1/4s --> it will be about 4.30 minute, and if it is 1/2s --> it should be about 9.30 minutes after using Lee Big stopper!! Yeap, I still apply the reciprocity law in digital SLR camera.

In addition, it will be more complicate if you use big stopper in sunset and sunrise. We need to compensate differently in these two situations. For sunrise, I reduce 1 stops when I capture more than 5 minutes, and for sunset, I increase another 1 stop. It is worth to note here that, if the sky is so beautiful, or dramatic, Big stopper shouldn't be applied as a normal shot make much more beautiful than long exposure shot!!

Q: How could I correct the colour cast?
A: I usually set the white balance to 10,000 Kelvin in the camera before taking the shot with Lee Big Stopper. The outcome is quite natural. A little bit (very little, I meant) blue colour cast appearing in shadows area that is easily to eliminate it later in Photoshop.

Last but not least, don't waste your money in the middle way as Lee filter is worth to invest than any other brand. Some of my friends decided to sell those other brands later when they encounter some problems about reddish - magenta - or pink colour cast in their valuable photos. I recommend you have Lee Soft GND 0.6 and 0.9 only if you are a landscape or seascape photography lover.

Have a nice day : )

Carl Parow  about 6 years ago

Thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge. You are a good man to do that. I put all my images into Apple's
Aperture and do most of the post processing there. If there needs to be more done I open in Nik Software, either SilverEfex Pro or ColorEfex Pro. If there is any obvious lens distortion I open it first in PT Lens to correct that. You do a great job of your post processing. The important thing is not to overdo it. My big questions were about the purchase and use of ND grads and ND filters and holders. Thanks to you and a few others and watching the videos at the Lee Filters wed page I am now confident enough to start.

I decided that the Lee system is the best, but very expensive. So I decided to make my own big stopper from welding glass and buy a Cokin P series for the other filters. About $1000 for Lee and $177 for Cokin. Maybe later I will buy a Lee system.

My remaining questions are...

1. What method do you use to determine the exposure time when using ND filters? At the moment I am using the old trial and error method. In fast changing light as in dawn and dusk, this must be difficult with long exposures and you could miss the moment.

2. How do you correct for the colour cast when you use a big stopper? Do you adjust white balance after in computer or do you do a custom white balance before you take the photo. Carrying a grey card to do a custom white balance in the field would be the ideal way but not practical standing knee-high in a pounding surf. I guess if the cast is not too strong then afterwards is easier.

There might be more questions later. Thanks again for your friendly advice. More photographers should be so willing to share their experiences like you. "G'morning the first sunshine" is a great image. I still think that's a shark swimming towards you by the handrail :-)