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Editing and Post-Processing of Cyclocross Images

Lesson 32 from: Advanced Lighting for Adventure Photography

Michael Clark

Editing and Post-Processing of Cyclocross Images

Lesson 32 from: Advanced Lighting for Adventure Photography

Michael Clark

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Lesson Info

32. Editing and Post-Processing of Cyclocross Images


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Evolution with Lighting


Why Use Artificial Lighting?


Pre-Production and Pre-Visualizing


Equipment: Overview of the Gear


Equipment: Selecting the Right Gear


Strobes vs. Speedlights


Lighting 101: Flash Sync Speeds


Lesson Info

Editing and Post-Processing of Cyclocross Images

Let's cruise into post-processing. And I may or may not have time to work up both images here, but I'll at least start with one of the cycling images, and, alright, we've already switched over to the laptop, so you can see this as it came into the computer. There's several issues going on here. You can see there's this shadow in the foreground, and some of the students actually noticed this shadow on the computer, and that's my shadow sitting in front of the light. And with that exact lighting setup, there's not a whole lot of ways I could have taken that shadow out unless we just completely moved the lights around farther. But, I saw that on the computer when somebody pointed out to me. It's in this lower left third of the image. It looks like a little mountain shadow, and realized, you know what, we can take that out with a little dodging and burning so easily, and you'll never even know it's there that I didn't even mess with it. But right off the bat, I'm gonna come over here. But ...

I always have my histogram visible, 'cause unless we're in a fog or something like that, what I'm trying to do is stretch this histogram out and show a full range of tones without clipping highlights or shadows, so I'm gonna skip white balance. I'm gonna open up the exposure just a little bit here. Might have to come back and change that. I'm gonna pull down holding the option key to see where the highlights are, somewhere in there, and it's mostly back behind those trees. Shadows here, pull those out, pretty massively. I'm holding the option key just to see what affect that's having, but I'm not gonna go too far. I might pull this out farther and actually pull back my exposure a little bit just so I can open up the shadows in those trees. And so, essentially, like I said yesterday, I'm trying to basically massage the tones in the image to force my viewer's eye to go to the cyclist first, so this is gonna get worse before it gets better, just so you understand it looked better here before I started working on it than it does right now because I'm actually removing contrast in this first part of the processing just to equalize all the tones out. So, whites, I don't really wanna pull, I could pull the whites out. I mean, the sky, you could do that fully blown-out, and that would be totally fine, but since they're not blown-out to start, I'll just leave it like that. I've got a little bit of blacks blown out, and because I'm going to Photoshop and I know I'm going to Photoshop this at the levels, I'm just gonna pull the blacks out. If I wasn't going to Photoshop, I would just adjust the blacks however I wanted over here, so that's one little caveat of my work-flow. And I know lots of photographers who don't really go to Photoshop with their images. There's just a few things I like to do to finish off the image in Photoshop. Again, clarity. You know, we can go super crazy with it, and get a really gritty, stylized image, but I'm gonna back it off quite a bit. If I zoom in there, I can see what affect it's having on his face. The interesting thing with clarity, is it's basically, I don't think there's time to show you, it's an unsharp mask where, instead of what's actually happening is it's unsharp mask being applied to your image, but only in the mid-tones. And it's unsharp mask where it's a low amount, in a huge radius. So if you tried this out in Photoshop, I don't have time to show it here, you know, you do a low radius of 15 to 20, and then you pull the amount out to four or five hundred, you're gonna see the whole image get really crispy fast. But then, if you just apply that to your midtones, and not to the entire image, you'll see it's very similar to clarity, here. So it's basically adding contrast to the edges, but as I pull it out, you can see his face. Those hot spots on his face are getting brighter as I do, so you have to be very careful about your endpoints if you start adding a ton of clarity. Somewhere in there seems good. Just turned it off, turned it on. So we're just getting a little snappier. And, whoops. I'm gonna go back. Zoom out in here and adjust the vibrance. So I'm gonna bring that up a fair bit. I have to be really careful here, though, because look at this shirt he's wearing. He's wearing a red and orange shirt, and this orange is, it could be a very tricky color if we're gonna change color spaces too much. So, I don't wanna get too crazy saturated with this right now, 'cause if I really saturate this, something like that, that's not going to translate well onto somebody else's monitor, or even into a different color space like sRGB. So, I'll leave it a little less saturated at this point, than I might want to. In terms of the white balance, I'm going to do my little pendulum trick that I talked about yesterday. It was not bad where we started, wherever that was. Hit command Z. I think that's fine. The other thing I will say here, is if, test yourself to see if you're colorblind. The odds are that one person in this room, there's at least one person that's colorblind, maybe two. So, go to a website that can do a little green red test and see. Green and red are the two colors that most, that I think 80% of people that are colorblind, it's a green red issue, just so you know. And then you can overcome that when you're processing the image, or at least be aware of it. I know there are some pro-photographers that are very well-known that are colorblind. And actually, they have a really cool, unique style because of that colorblindness. So, it's not to say that you can't work up images if you have some color issues, but even if you don't, it's taken years for me to develop my own eyes to see slight, subtle tones and slight, subtle color casts, and especially for me, I almost tend to err on the green side, which, that's pretty green, but I have to force myself to pull the temps slighter, maybe a little bit more toward the pinks here than the green because I don't see the green color-shifts as well as I do some of the other color-shifts like the blue yellow up here. I'm gonna do my fancy little midtone contrast adjustment here. You'll notice I haven't touched the contrast slider up here. This is kind of like a blunt hammer to me. I think it's much more precise to adjust the contrasts in the image using these sliders. I mean, if I want contrast, I can amp the highlights up and put the shadows down, and that's doing the exact same thing as the contrast slider. It's just doing it with a lot more precision. So, quickly there, I might come back and touch the saturation illuminates a little bit. We shot at ISO 31, so there shouldn't be any noise in the image. Not really any that we're worried about. It's not gonna touch that. The sharpening as it is here in Lightroom is fine. As usual, I'm gonna touch the remove chromatic aberration thing, and I'm gonna go in and look in the corners here and see, okay, there you go. Giant chromatic aberration, and this is, what lens is this? Let's go over here and see. This is my 14-24, I think. It shows-- Yeah, right there. So, we're getting some pretty good chromatic aberration in the corners. If it's there, it's probably over here. There you go, giant fringing. It may not show up down here. Got a little bit of green fringing there. I'm sure we've got some over here as well, then. Well, not too bad, actually. A little bit. So I'm gonna click on that, and then I'm gonna go in close and check. And Lightroom has done a really good job, I gotta say, on this corner at least, taking that out. Did an excellent job there. Any lens can show chromatic aberration. It doesn't have to be a fisheye. It doesn't have to be a wide angle. I've had my 70-200 show pretty excessive chromatic aberration, and that's where different colors are being focused to different places on the sensor, so there's a split in the prism there. I check the corners, typically, 'cause that's where you find it. Looks pretty good, so Lightroom did a great job correcting that. There's also, just since we're here, defringing is different than chromatic aberration. Color fringing is different than chromatic aberration because it can happen on high-contrast edges. It's usually a purple color, and it's a combination of green and red, I guess, to create the purple fringing, and typically, if you have a bright sky behind your subject, you're gonna get color fringing, not chromatic aberration anywhere in the image, so just be aware of that. That's why I typically always zoom in like I just did, and look at that really closely, 'cause if you don't take that out, what happens is, when somebody prints the image and sharpens it, it stands out way more than it does to your eye, because they're sharpening that color fringing, which then, is big as day. And if you wear glasses like I do, I mean, I can basically look off the edge of my glasses and see color fringing through my single lens glasses, so it's really easy to tell if it's happening through your camera, cause you can see, if I'm seeing it here, then it's gonna see it, and that's typically why you see it in wide angle lenses, because when it goes through those lenses, it's a thicker pane of glass than it is straight on through the lens. And that's why you see it on the edges of the frame. There's a much longer explanation. As a physicist, I can say how it works, (laughing) but that was the down and dirty and not very well-explained version of it. In my mind, I'm just like, "Oh, man. "That was horrible in terms of an explanation." So in here, I'm gonna go do my standard vignette thing that's not really a vignette, but it's just very slight vignette. You'll notice I haven't taken out this little mountain in the foreground. Let's see where we're at. That's where we started, that's where we're at. The color balance looks off to me. Yeah, that was at negative five, so let's leave it where it's at. So, you've seen that I've just darkened the foreground a little bit, and that might be a little excessive on that. There. Let's see before and after. Ah, maybe that wasn't excessive. I just looked at the before when I did that. So, before, after. So, let me go back. Now we're gonna start doing some localized adjustment. First thing is that mountains kind of really annoy me, so I'm gonna have to take that out. I'm gonna do a super huge exposure there, or maybe I'll just do, show the mask, and I'm gonna start painting kinda roughly where it's at. And I'll change my brush size here, so I can be a little more accurate. You'll also see that I'm using a very, if I scroll down here, this is feathered all the way out, so a little bit of forgiveness there. See how that looks once we adjust it. I could do this in Photoshop. I don't necessarily have to do this in Lightroom. And I actually wanna open it up. I remember actually doing this and working on it in the, woo, we can go past it a little too much there. So it's just a matter of matching that. You can also see that I missed some of it right here, so I can clean that up, and. It's close. It's not quite perfect. I maybe would draw another one and go there, and adjust my exposure. Let me turn these other guys off here. Just darken down that little spot. Looked a little weird there. And that is. Let me zoom in. It's hard to even see that spot 'cause my point is covering it. Yeah, so there's what we wanted to adjust. Looks like somebody's footprint or something there. Probably mine. So, you get the idea. Going in and just adjusting that, it probably woulda been a lot easier to deal with that in Photoshop, but I can still go in there in Photoshop and dodge and burn a little bit more to make that look better. So, now I'm gonna start drawing some graduated filters, and what I'm seeing is that these trees over here are looking really dark. So, I'm not gonna draw an exposure. I'm gonna open up the shadows over there, and just even this out for a second. I'm gonna draw another one from here down and open up those shadows. There's gonna be quite a few graduated filters here. And I draw another one. Bring it in, and do a little bit more work just to even out these trees over here, and I might even do an adjustment brush on the trees. How we doin' on time? Bring another one from up here, so I'm in love with these graduated filters because they really allow me to tone the image in a way that's very specialized and really help the viewer get to the cyclist faster. I'll probably do another one here just to darken that up a little bit and open up those shadows even more. So if I turn these on and off, you can tell I'm really getting, I'm massaging the tones so that your eye, instead of going to this section right here, which is where my eye tends to go, or to his helmet, or to the sky, it doesn't go to that section as much, and maybe I should pull this out just a little bit more. It goes to the rider. So, I'm making him essentially the brightest thing in the image. Let me go in and quickly, and zoom in and do a little adjustment on the skin tones here. I brightened up the face, but I just wanna tone that down a hair. And that, wow. Let's tone that way back. Just something like that. So that's a tiny little adjustment on his face. I mean, barely noticeable. Just dropped the skin tones a little bit there. Let me zoom out. Close this. I think I'd also like to go in and do a new adjustment brush here, and really just work on the trees for a second. And, wow, that didn't work well at all. So, delete that guy. Don't you love how that thing vaporizes when you hit delete? That's a cute little effect for Lightroom. And let me actually go over here. Hello, pen. And go to a one to two, so I'm zoomed out just a little bit. Not quite so close in. Whoa, what happened? I think I accidentally added, there we go, an extra effect. So, these trees, and I'm just gonna roughly, wow, it's catching quite a few of them there, so command Z. Let me make my brush smaller. There we go, quite a bit smaller. And I'm making a really ugly adjustment right now, but I'll back it off just so I can see what I'm doing here, and not have to turn on, and I would probably go in and do all these trees, 'cause one of those lights is hitting the tree pretty hard. And we could have flagged it, but you'll see, this is gonna be a super subtle adjustment. It's not like I'm trying to tone this down all the way. Computer's having trouble keeping up with, 'cause it's auto-masking at the same time, and that's not a great job of masking, but, since we're in a hurry here, I'll just do a little small adjustment so you can see what I'm doing. And I'm just basically pulling them down a hair so that they match the other trees in the background. So there's quite a bit of work going on in this one, and I'm fixing all kinds of issues that, since we're moving fast, I could have fixed onsite. Flagged off the lights a little bit more, maybe repositioned them a little bit. And, let's go ahead and go from here into Photoshop. So, the one thing yesterday, we had a question by Lucas, which was a great question, when I do dodging and burning, why I do use the flow instead of the opacity. And I looked it up last night, 'cause I knew the answer to this right after we stopped filming, it's always the case, but I couldn't remember it, and then I looked it up, and I'm like, "Oh yeah, "that's why I do it, because I tend to have my pen "on the tablet, and I don't lift it up between each stroke." And I find it's easier for me, no, cancel, I did something there. I find it's easier for me to keep the pen on the tablet while I'm dodging and burning instead of making a single stroke every time I dodge and burn. For me, that just doesn't feel natural. You can do it either way. Someone in here in the audience pointed out that if you pick your pen up every single time to make a stroke while dodging and burning, you create a huge stack of history layers, so it makes it more difficult to go back to before where you started dodging and burning on that layer, and you might have to start over from scratch on the whole image if you're using opacity. That's just my experience, so you can do it both ways, however you wanna do it. You might have seen I built all of those layers. I'm just gonna use my action that I typically use and click there, and then here's pretty much all the layers. So I've created a cleaning folder with my cleaning layer here. And, in this image, I'm probably not gonna go in and clean anything, just because. Maybe I take out the pine cone right next to his wheel. There's lots of stuff on the ground, so I don't know that cleaning up that space, maybe I'd take out this stick right here. And then, the next thing up are these adjustment layers and the levels adjustment. So this one might actually show a pretty significant difference in the levels adjustments, or not, actually, 'cause we're right there on the edge. So, I'm gonna hit the option key on that side, on this one, and then probably not really gonna do much of a levels adjustment. Whoops, nope, didn't go to the next one, so. Three for the output and 252 are my magic numbers just to make sure that we print ink on the entire page so that that white sky doesn't come through as the color of the paper if it is being printed. That's probably all I'm gonna do for the levels, cause they look pretty good straight out of Lightroom. Brightness, I might adjust that here just a hair, but this is gonna be tiny, so three is all I'm doing. Vibrance, and here's the point that I talked about earlier where I didn't wanna touch the vibrance too much in Lightroom, because now I'm in a real world ProPhoto color space. I might even, at this point, wait to add more saturation until I've converted to Adobe RGB, or sRGB, because that'll make those conversions easier. If I add a whole truckload of vibrance here, that may not convert as well as if I left it here, then did it individually for those other color spaces. And that's just because we have a neon shirt. I did have trouble with this, actually, with Ky's red shirt for that main image you've been seeing come up. I had to specifically go in there and mask out the red shirt, then convert it to sRGB, and then reapply vibrance, so there's some colors that digital just has trouble with still, so. Let's see here. Dodging and burning, then, I'll just a quick dodge and burn just to show you what I'm thinking. I'm gonna go back to flow here. I'm gonna go to three percent just so we can go a little faster, and adjust my brush size. Or maybe it's, there we go. So I'm gonna go in here and kinda even out the trail, and I'm doing it really quickly, 'cause we needed to move on here. I still want that trail highlighted, but I wanna even it out a little bit so the lighting looks better. And I might come in here and open this up just a hair, and then I might come back and really work with that. Might even open up this stuff.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Reference Guide
Chapter 2: ABCs of Lighting by Michael Clark
Advanced Lighting Keynote PDF - Day 1
Advanced Lighting Keynote PDF - Day 2

Ratings and Reviews

norah levine

This is a course that I could watch repeatedly and be able to learn something new each time. Michael is a truly an expert in his field and is so generous with his knowledge. This course really breaks down the process of adventure photography, but it's more than that. I don't think you need to even be an adventure sports photographer to get tons out of this course. Michael is really good at breaking down some very complicated technology. Thank you!

a Creativelive Student

Great course that combines the technical aspects of shooting with light in different situations, with the art of making a great image of athletes. Michael is a great teacher and I'm sure his lessons will continue to help guide over and over again!

Jeph DeLorme

Great class with dozens of tips, ideas and lighting strategies for tough outdoor lighting challenges. Advanced class taught in a way that allows even a beginner to get a handle on lighting tough situations. The location videos provide real life examples that make this class a definite must have for my Creative Live collection. Thank you Michael Clark and Creative Live! Jeph DeLorme

Student Work