Post Processing Overview
Sitting next to me is my colleague and friend Bly Gillis. Bly wears a lot of hats in my office. Bly in his own right is a very talented photographer, very skilled outdoorsman, can get himself to all of the environments that we work in, but he is also sort of the mastermind behind the scenes of taking our images from straight out of the camera to final delivery to our clients. He is a Photoshop guru as you're about to experience. We call him the Jedi Master of Photoshop in our office. I think he's turning red. He doesn't like that, but you'll see why. So really in this segment, we're gonna set this up in such a way that Bly is going to be doing the heavy lifting. Sometimes that actually takes some time. And so this will be a great opportunity. We got a lot of questions from folks at home or at work on their computers about the last section, the work flow section. Brett Wilhelm, thank you again for that last segment on work flow. Brett is sitting behind the students here. We're still in ...
Truckee, California, in our cabin. If you have, there will be plenty of opportunity to ask questions along the way. If I can answer it, I will. If I can't, Brett will jump in. If it's specific to what Bly is doing, he can pause and answer that question. But really what we're talking about here, we are in segment four at this point, and it is Post Processing and Client Delivery. So it's what do you do with that file once you've done everything that Brett described, which is you shot the image in the field, you downloaded it, you added metadata, you've backed it up, you've done your first round of edits, you've made your selects, you've color coded those images, and maybe you've even interfaced with your client at that point, and your client has then said, "We like image number seven, 37, and 42." It's, "We want final imagery that's ready for print "or ready for the web publication." And that's what we're gonna talk about now. It's what do you do to make that happen? Retouching and post-processing, I like to think of post-processing as that the basics of making an image go from raw to looking good. There's some kind of global things that we'll do. We're adjusting color, we're adjusting contrast, we're adjusting saturation, and when I say "global" that means we're working with the entire rectangle. When we get into retouching that means we're really starting to get in there and manipulating the photograph. And we cross this line in my mind that we're no longer working in a global fashion, but we're getting pretty specific about we're moving things around, we're changing pixels, we're starting to do a little more dodging and burning, or alteration of the image. So we're gonna kind of touch on both of those things today. I want to show you the three photographs that we're gonna talk about. We were just doing an edit, and this was one of the photographs that I looked at and I said, "Darn it, I know this quickdraw "that was hanging in the frame, it's bothering me right now "while I'm hanging on the rope and capturing the image. "I know I'm gonna hear from Red Bull "when I turn this image in." They don't like that thing hanging in David's face, which is a quickdraw, even though it's part of rock climbing, they weren't gonna like it. And there's a storytelling component to having that quickdraw out of the frame, which is David was not using that quickdraw when he actually ascended the route. So here's the final image. If you remember from segment three, there was a quickdraw in the frame. We removed that quickdraw. We've done a fair amount of sort of global adjustment to change the look of this photograph. We've dodged, we've burned, and we've done a very light bit of retouching or compositing. One thing I want to say on the compositing front, meaning we're doing real retouching, manipulating the frame, it comes back to what Chase and I talked about in segment number one. Be honest, be sincere, be clear about what you're doing. If it's within the ethical guidelines of what your client allows you to do, fantastic. If you're shooting for the New York Times, and you're covering the presidential election, you probably shouldn't be moving people in the audience. But in the world of action sports photography, it depends on your client, it depends on what you're trying to achieve, whether it's editorial or whether it's a commercial use or advertising use in the end. So we're gonna go through the process of retouching this image of David Lama. We are going to... This is from a shoot that I did a year ago. It's on the Dawn Wall with Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson. And I'll give you sort of the teaser to this photograph. Sometimes Photoshop allows you to do things that you cannot capture in-camera, but you can see with your human eye, and this is a great example of that exact situation. The athletes were climbing at night, because they needed really cold temperatures so that they could stick to the wall. They wanted 20, 30 degree temperatures, so that they could actually grab razor-edged holds, razor-sides holds, and stick to it. And so we ended up climbing at night. We would go up there, they had bright headlamps on, and Brett Lowell and I, who were filming and shooting photographs, we used really bright bike lights, light and motion bike lights, to light up the environment so that you had some sense of place. To my eye, because they were beautiful nights, I could see the valley below, and I could see stars in the sky, and I could see Tommy, but you just can't capture that on a camera, right? I'm exposing for this high light, and then this is about 12 stops darker. So because I had the flexibility to do some post-production, I shot two pictures here. I shot a picture of Tommy climbing, and there's this clean line, which is the edge of El Capitan, and then there's this night exposure of the valley below. You just can't do it in one photograph. Maybe you could if you put a stack of graduated ND filters and you did some kind of exposure manipulation, but it would be very, very, very difficult if not impossible in a vertical environment. So knowingly, I shot these two photos in sequence. I shot 25 frames of Tommy trying to climb here with the bike light on him, and then I, without moving the camera, I went down to 15th of a second or an 8th of a second, shot a bunch of bursts, increased my ISO, and shot this image of the valley. And this is the remarkable part. Bly was in Yosemite at this time. He was down in Yosemite Valley staying in a house, managing assets, and shooting during the day from kind of far away angles, and without giving any direction to Bly, that my cards came down off of the wall, went to Bly, and he saw in sequence in Photo Mechanic a bunch of frames of Tommy climbing with the black background, and then he saw right next to it a bunch of frames of the valley floor and the background different exposure, and without any direction he realized, "Oh, I see what he's trying to do. "This is going to be we put them together." And this is a relatively easy frame, because there's this clean black line, which is El Capitan, and so we'll talk about that picture, how to do that in Photoshop. And I think this is a tool and a technique that's used a lot in the Red Bull world, which is I call it a sequence, and I wish I could tell you we did this in-camera, but that's not possible. (laughs) So what this is is I'm shooting many frames, a motor-driven burst of Dane Jackson going over Tomata Falls, and I shot this on an Icon D4. I shoot a master plate, and then we decide, after cutting out all of these images of Dane and the kayak, which of these frames get composited back into the frame, into the master plate. And as you will see in many cases, your camera shoots more pictures than you can actually put into the sequence without actually laying them on top of one another. So three distinct processes that we're gonna go through.