Categories of Development
All right, this final section is on developing your photographs, and this is about as close as you will ever get to John teaching a software class. That's just not the thing I'm going to do. I don't, I have taught a couple in the past, but I don't wanna be the Photoshop guy. I don't wanna be the Lightroom guy, or whatever other system is out there, there's some other very smart people that'll teach you how to use these programs. But all of us do need to know how to use these things, and what we need to do. And I have a friend who went to one of my classes, and he says, you know, I'm not so interested in how to do it, I wanna know why to do it. Why do I need to increase contrast? Why do I need to play with the highlights? When should I do that? And that's what this section is more about. So there are a lot of different programs out there, if you want to edit your images. And they all have their own little advantages and disadvantages, and I am definitely not gonna go through all of thes...
e. And there is definitely more than these out there, but these are a number of the more popular ones out there. Some of these are really designed for photo editing, you wanna take an image and you wanna manipulate it. And generally what that means is it does two things. You can select the thing, and you can do a thing. I'm gonna select this thing and I'm gonna do this thing to 'em, I'm gonna add in this color, I'm gonna delete it, I'm gonna reverse it, I'm gonna do something to it. And that would be a program like Photoshop. Lightroom is more of a program where you can organize stuff and you can create all these folders and data directories, and things like that, but you can also work on your images. And you can work on quite extensively, not as extensively as in a program like Photoshop. Photoshop is more of a graphics program that happens to be of interest to a lot of photographers. To be honest with you, if somebody was just getting into photography and they said, I don't wanna download all of these and try 'em, which one should I get into? I would say get the Lightroom from Adobe. It's what most people are using, there's a lot of classes, there's a lot of books, there's a lot of people who teach on it, so there's a lot of information out there. It's really common. Are there other things that are better? Maybe, depending on your needs. And there's a lot of these other competitors that are out there. Adobe's kind of the king of the hill, and when I do my classes and I ask what people use, it's usually around 70 to 80% of the people use Adobe Lightroom. And so that's how common it is. And so some people are drawn to the masses, 'cause it's kind of safe there. Some people wanna look for different things, and that's perfectly fine as well. So there's different categories of development, of things that you can do to your photograph, and this isn't necessarily in order, but kind of in order as far as what you're gonna go through. And so we're gonna talk about adjusting the color, there's technical corrections, which are a lot of different things that we're gonna talk about, lens corrections and noise, things that you didn't really do wrong, but it's part of the equipment process that might've gone imperfectly. Dealing with exposure and distractions, and then cropping it. So these are different areas that we're gonna deal with in this section. So, color I have found to be pretty easy to deal with. I had mentioned that auto-white balance does a pretty good job most of the time, and in Lightroom, which is what we're gonna be looking at, their controls here, but a lot of the other programs will have very similar controls, will have a temperature and tint slider that you can just slide back and forth into seeing what looks better. There's also an ink dropper, which you can drop onto something that is neutral in color. Now, how should you move these sliders back and forth? 'Cause I know some people are like no, no, no, I don't know, where should these be? Basically, grab one slider and just try to go back and forth until you find where it looks the best that it can at that point. And grab the other one, go back and forth, until it kind of wavers back down. Go back to the first one and try that again, and everything should kind of settle in to where you think it looks good. If you do have an area to use the ink dropper, that could be a good, quick starting place. And so look for images that have a serious color-cast to them that might seem a little bit stronger than you remember when you shot them. And so this is a little bit too strong of a blue cast in the morning, and so I'm gonna correct for that. And if we take a look at the difference here, what I did is I basically went over to the temperature slider and I took off some of the blue, and I slid it a little bit more over to the yellow side in this case. And I don't know why my camera got it wrong, it just got it wrong, it doesn't really matter why it's wrong, but it just looks a little bit more natural here. Next up, one of the tricks for getting correct color is take the saturation slider, which we will talk more about in a moment, and drag the saturation slider, get an audio clip of this, I want you to drag the saturation slider to 100%! That's not what I would normally recommend in a photograph, but for color correcting, what you can do is you can slide it to 100%. Look at the histogram, and you can see which way the colors are shifting much more easily then. And so you can see these colors over here are skewed to the blue side because that blue channel is really sticking out on the right-hand side there. And so if you slide the saturation slider up to 100%, you'll see the colors as easily as they can possibly be seen, and then you go back to the tint sliders and temperature sliders, and you adjust them so that these peaks are very close together if your subject is a relatively neutral subject like this. And so it's a neat little trick that'll work on many different types of images. Just remember to go back to the saturation slider, and bring it back down to zero until you decide to actually make that change on it. And so you can see those different color peaks are thrown off, which means we're getting a colored photograph, and here they're more lined up right in the middle. We can also control the color intensity with the vibrance and the saturation slider. I think vibrance is kind of unique to Lightroom. I'm sure some other programs have a similar system, but goes under a different name. And saturation is probably the more common one, and that is the intensity of the colors. And what happens when you drag the saturation slider to increase it is it takes any pixel, and it increases the saturation of that particular pixel. With vibrance, it looks a little bit more smartly at things and says, well, if it's already got a lot of saturation, let's not add very much more to it. And it's also very good about working around skin tones. So if we have a situation with our raw image that doesn't' have much color to it, we can add some, and we can add too much. Now, I suppose we should kind of pause here for just a half a moment and talk about raw images come back a little bit flat, and they do need a little bit of development. And anyone who says I shoot original images and I never touch them in any way, is kind of baloney. Everybody adjusts their images to some degree. Now, people who don't know about photography can point their finger at me and say, you adjusted your images! Yeah, I took the photo. That means I adjusted the image. I adjusted the shutter speed and the aperture and the ISO, and then I developed it and I made it look like the way I thought look good and correct, and adjusted it. And so all images are going to be adjusted. How much should you or should you not adjust an image? And that was a big debate, and it still is a big question that you need to ask yourself. And photography is an art form, and so there are no rules. You can drag your saturation slider to 101, all the time on every photograph you take, and you can have that perfect right and ability on every image you shoot. But one thing I have noticed in photography, is that reputations are hard to shake. And if you're the type of person who goes into Photoshop, and you perform all sorts of manipulation with your images, and then you decide to be a documentary photographer, and I shoot everything real-world and I never Photoshop anything, people are gonna be kind of questioning, wait a minute, you like faked everything, and now you're saying you're doing this? I don't know if I can believe you. And so if you're gonna pick a style, it's kind of hard to switch that style to some degree. And so if you're the person who's unethical at one point, people are kinda hard to believe that you're ethical someplace else. Now, I'm not saying that Photoshopping your images is unethical, because it's absolutely necessary in a lot of types of photography. And it's just part of the business that you have to do. And so it's not being unethical at all, it just depends on the type of photographs that you're doing. I tend to, I come from a photo-journalism background, and so my photographs, I like the challenge of capturing something in the field as it is, and presenting it as it is. There are other photographers who come up with a crazy idea in their brain, and they're like, how do I get this into a photograph? I'm gonna manipulate this, this, this, and everything. And they're trying to accomplish a final vision. And there is not one of those two ideas that is better than the other, they're just different ways of using photography to be creative, and that's perfectly fine. And so the advice that I'm giving you here is with a fairly light touch on the post-production. And so, if you think this picture on the right meets your desire of what a photograph should look like, I'm not telling you you're wrong. But I'm gonna tell you that most people are gonna think that's a little bit much, and there is going beyond the norms and standards. And so, you gotta be careful about over-saturating your images. It doesn't have a great look. All right, the vibrance slider in Lightroom can affect the colors as well. If we increase the vibrance versus the saturation, notice what happens to the skin tones. The skin tones really change quite a bit, and with the vibrance slider in Lightroom, it really protects the skin tones, and it gives you a little bit more color in the surrounding subjects, but it protects those skin tones. And so I've found that the vibrance slider is a much easier slider to work with, it's much more forgiving, and you won't go quite as far, and in many cases, I don't even touch the saturation slider unless I really need to. And I will generally never touch it with humans as part of the photograph. One of the concepts that's hard to deal with, as we were just talking about, is how far do I push an image in any one category? And the obvious answer is until it looks good. Sometimes it's hard to come up with the definition of what looks good, so I'm gonna give you one other key that I think works in a lot of cases, and it's One Third Too Far. So let me explain what this means. We have an image, you know the raw image is a little bit on the flat side, and so we need to add a little bit of color to this. So if we take this saturation up, we take it up as far as we can, until we go whoa, okay, hold it, that is too much right there. Note what that number is, and when you come back, set it to about 1/3 of that number. It could be half, it could be a quarter of that, but when you go to someplace and you go, okay, that's clearly too much, you wanna come notably back off of it so that it's just a light touch on that photograph. And so anything that has a number, basically, use those numbers to talk about where you are. Let's do saturation in this image. Or excuse me, vibrance. We'll bring vibrance up to 90, and it's just a little too intense on this case, and so if we're at 90, we'll bring it back to 30 here, and that looks a little bit more natural and right, and so 1/3 of too far. If you wanna control the contrast, there is an actual contrast slider. There is also a number of other sliders that control specific areas of contrast. Now, the problem with contrast on its own is what it does is it makes the darks darker and the lights lighter all at the same time in the same amount. And it's kind of indiscriminate. It just tells everybody you're this way, you're this way, and sometimes you need to be a little bit more particular about things. But if you have a picture where the histogram is mostly in the middle of the frame, like this image here, we're not pushing the edges of brightness and darkness in that histogram on the left. We can take that contrast, and we can increase the contrast and we're getting a little bit better saturation in our subject, we're getting a little bit better color in that. And so if your images are not pushing the edges of that histogram, the contrast is not the worst thing to do in the world. Be careful about working with it too much. There's going to be a little bit more fine-tune controls that we have here in a little bit. So the blacks control the darkest pixels in the collection right here. And so this particular image needed to have the blacks dragged down to the left-hand side to increase the density of those blacks. One of the things when we look at a photograph like this is we're gonna be judging its sharpness on how dark the darkest point is in that photograph. And if there is an area of pure blackness, we wanna have it as pure black in the final photograph. And so sometimes making your images pop a little bit crisper is having a little bit more contrast can simply be had by taking those blacks and taking them down a little bit. And what we're doing is we're taking a little bit of white, like right here in between the grill, and we're making it darker, and we're making it black so we can't see anything, and you know what, there is nothing to see in there to begin with. And so we're just setting the range of brightness for this image here. And so that's a very common thing to do in photographs is to take those blacks and just drag them down just a little bit to the left-hand side there. So, when you're working with black and white images, they typically need to have much more contrast, because we don't have any colors to work with, we have just the color, or the tonality of light to dark to work with. It typically works best when we have an image that spans that full range of brightness to darks. And so here we could be using the contrast slider, and each of the highlight, shadows, whites and blacks, to control different sections of that histogram. And so as we take it from a color to a standard black and white, and then we start giving it more contrast, we make those whites a little bit whiter and we make those blacks a little bit blacker, and we have a larger range that those blacks come over. And so anytime you take an image from colored to black and white, adding contrast is probably one of the first things that you're gonna have to do to that image to give it a good look when it's in black and white. Originally it's gonna capture a bit of a flat image, and if we look at the right side of this, on the left photo, if we look at the right side of the histogram we see we have a spike of white. That can get a little bit brighter and still see detail in there, and so we're gonna use the whites here, bringing them over to the right, to get this not to the very edge of the frame, but closer to the edge of the frame, where we can still see some detail and it's right on that edge of where we can see detail in the highlights. In the shadows one of the more common adjustments I make, and I think a lot of other photographers make, is in the shadow region. We do wanna see information that is lost in the shadows in the original photograph, and so this has been adjusted in several different ways, but one of the big ways is I had to raise up the shadows. And what it's doing there is it's looking at this area that is in the shadows and it's raising that level so that you can see it more easily. And so in this image here, I'm just increasing the blacks, and so that there is a few more pixels that are dark, and I'm stretching this histogram out a little bit more so this picture is taking up a little bit more range on the tonal spectrum from top to bottom. Another thing that you can have fun with when you turn an image into black and white is playing with the color channels. Back in the days of film, we had all these colored filters that we would use that would affect the way that our black and white images looked, and now we have this control after the fact in post-production. And this can be really helpful, especially when you're shooting blue skies. If you want those blue skies to be a little bit darker to offset those clouds, you'll go to the blue channel, and you can make those blues darker. Now, you can't see the blues, but it's making everything that is originally blue darker, and now those clouds are gonna stand out on that blue sky much more easily. You can also kind of play around in pseudo black and white areas with toning, and so if you want to add a little bit of tone to your images, you can go into the highlights and shadows. You can choose a color. Lightroom has a lot of presets, if you wanna get started in this, but you can certainly create your own in here. And so you can add a little bit of toning to add, to create more of an aged photograph look to things. And so those are some of the key things that you might wanna do with a black and white image. For technical corrections, there is a lot of potential problems that aren't your fault, it's the fault of the equipment out there. Lenses and cameras and sensors and all sorts of other problems that really isn't your fault, it's just the limitations of the equipment out there, and so this is kind of a quick tour of some of the problems you'll encounter and things that you can do to fix those problems. Noise is caused, usually, by high ISO settings, and so any time you're in a dark environment, you're needing faster shutter speeds, you have that higher ISO, you're gonna have this problem. It can also be experienced, to some degree, with long exposure. So if you do 10, 15, 30 second exposures at night or longer you might get noise even though you're using the best ISO setting of ISO 100. And so in the details section, there's going to be a noise reduction option down here. We're not going to go through the details of all of these controls, 'cause it varies from manufacturer to manufacturer of software, but shooting at a high ISO of 51,000, you are gonna get a lot of noise. And one of the problems in here is all these pixels are turning colors in here, and so we have these random pixels. They don't know what color to become, and so they become these blue and green and red ones in there, and so by grabbing the color slider and moving that over, at least in Lightroom, that's gonna take that all down to a neutral color, so you don't have the color problem. It really hasn't fixed the noise problem, but it's fixed the color noise. And you don't have to slide it very far, and the key with this is slide it far enough, but no further than necessary. So just get the job done, and then stop. When it comes to just standard noise, we're gonna have this picture at 12,800. As we zoom in, we're gonna see that we have lots of noise in here. And so the first thing that we can do is we can get rid of the color, and then we can go up to the luminance channel, and we can slide that slider across, and reduce the amount of noise. Now, the more you slide this luminance channel, what it does is it kinda just blurs the problem, and that helps out to a point, and then it makes the picture actually worse. And so there's a careful balance of going too far on this luminance channel. And in this case, I had to go about a third of the way after I did my color. But first do your color, and then do your luminance channel. After that, there'll be a couple other ones you can play with to tweak it a little bit further. You can get a little bit of noise. This one might be hard to see on screen even if I enlarge it, but doing a 30 second exposure at ISO 100, it's still possible to get noise on your image. And so you can go into the luminance channel to help reduce that noise. It's not a major problem. One of the things I do recommend with my Fast Start Camera classes is turning off the long exposure noise reduction. The cameras will just take twice as long to process the image, and prevent you from shooting photos out in the field, and it does not do as good a job as post-production software. Granted, you do have to work with it later, but at least you have the opportunity to continue to shoot in the field, which is the most important thing. And so it's not something that's real helpful on your camera so turn noise reduction in your cameras off. Distortion is a problem that I hope you don't have, but we all have because we almost all shoot with wide-angle lenses from time to time. And so you're gonna get this with wide-angle lenses, it's typically a barrel distortion problem. And with Adobe, they have a checkbox where you can have it done automatically, or you can go in and manually fix it if you don't like the job they did or you're shooting with a lens that they don't recognize or know about. And so this image here, you wouldn't know it at first that there's a lot of distortion going on, but let's go back and forth between a corrected image and the original image. And you'll notice that it is dark along the edges, so there is some vignetting going on, but there's also some line-bending that has gone on. And in order to get this fixed, I just simply went in and checked the Enable Profile Correction, and it picked up what lens I was shooting with, and automatically applied a fix for that particular lens when it comes to the distortion and the vignetting on that case. So for any lenses that are registered, that's super easy. But if you wanna do it on your own, there is a manual box that you can go into and have a couple of sliders to fix those same items. Chromatic aberrations we talked about, I think, earlier on at one point. This is gonna happen with light backgrounds and light coming around that dark subject and not landing in the right place on the sensor. We will once again have either a profile option where Lightroom can automatically fix it, or you can go in and you can choose which color you're trying to reduce, and how much you wanna reduce it. Here's an example of a photo I shot, and it has really bad chromatic aberration, and you'll see this very easily as we enlarge this. This is naturally coming out of my very expensive camera. Not good light, but it's very, very easy to fix. One is you can just go into the profile, check it off, or two, choose how much you wanna fix it and exactly what colors along those edges do you want it to fix. And this can range anywhere from this kind of purple-red color to a aqua-blue color that you might see depending on the factors of how it exists. Vignetting is darkening of the corners, and this will happen with fast lenses, it will happen with wide-angle lenses, and sometimes I like it and sometimes I don't like it. Depends on the type of shot. And so using a very fast 50 millimeter 1.4 lens, I got a lot of darkening of the sky, and I if I don't want that, I can go in and check off the profile corrections, or I can once again go in manually and fix it. One of the things I found is that on more of my landscape shots, I tend to want to correct for it. I want nice, even skies across the top of the frame, but when I shoot with portraits, I often like darkening the corners a little bit. It draws the eyes into the subject, and lets 'em kind of not go off to the edges of the frame as much. And so in this case, I can just add a bit of post-crop vignetting, which is one of my favorite things to use in Lightroom. This is under the Effects, and back in the days of the dark room, we used to just kind of burn the corners in a little bit, used to burn and dodge and just give a little extra light to the corners around the edge, keep your eyes coming to the brightest part of the subject, brightest part of the photograph. Parallax is something we talked a little bit about with tilt-shift lenses, and as I mentioned, you don't have to buy a tilt-shift lens to correct for buildings that are appearing to fall backwards. You can go in and you can once again you can automatically have Lightroom or other programs fix it for you, or you can go in and move the sliders around to fix things up yourself. And so when you're photographing a building, it's gonna be taller than you, most likely. And it's gonna appear to be narrower on the top, and you can correct for that. One thing to remember is to shoot wide enough so that you have room to make those corrections. If you shoot those corners really tight, you won't have the room to do that. And so there is a vertical level option, there is also a full and an auto option, I'm not gonna get into the differences of all of these, it's more Lightroom-specific, but you can also get in here manually and adjust that whole look to the image. Another example of parallax problem, and if you wanna correct for this, what's gonna happen in it's gonna stretch the image, and you're gonna lose some of the corner down here. And so don't expect to get the whole corner, and this is why you need to shoot with space around your subject so that it can accommodate this sort of parallax and squeezing of the image a little bit. And there's a number of times I have found myself trying to shoot a subject as straight on as I could, and then I throw it through its little automatic fix, and I find that I wasn't shooting as straight on as I thought I was, and so this can be helpful any time you are really trying to document something like a movie poster or a painting or a door, and you really want it to be fitting in the frame perfectly level and parallel on all the sides. You can sharpen your images after the fact. There is not a lot that you can do to improve images that are out of focus. I remember I was out shooting the hydra races out here in Seattle, and I was at the right place at the right time with the right lens, and I got this great series of photos and I ran home, and I downloaded them, and I started looking at them, and as I got to look at them pretty closely, and as I went through them, I got progressively depressed. Because my camera, not me, certainly not me, my camera misfocused and all of the photos were a little out of focus. And it wasn't worth anything, it was nothing, it was all for naught. You've gotta nail the focus, there is no focus-sharpening that's gonna fix that sort of problem out of the field. And so, unfortunately, those will never see the light of day other than what you should not do. And so when you're sharpening, you wanna be looking at things at 100% of magnification, and you're gonna be looking at edge detail to see if it's sharp. And so, I think we saw this earlier, but it's a good example of what sharpening does, is it adds a little bit of more contrast around the edges of the frame. And as you can see here, it's got a black little curve right here and a dark curve, and it just increased the darkness, and it's increased that brightness right in there to make it look sharper than it originally was. And so one of the problems in the early days of Photoshop is they had a sharpening feature, and people went way overboard sharpening images, and it had a very, we called it a crunchy look. Everything had lots of texture to it, and it was just over-sharpening your images. So, you have to be definitely very careful about doing that with your images. Now, you will have an amount slider, and that's gonna basically do, that's gonna do the job of sharpening the image. Then the masking is the next thing I come down, and what that does is that looks for areas of low-contrast, and it unsharpens all of that area. And so like if you have a big, blue sky, if you crank over the amount of sharpening, it's gonna try to make those pixels in the blue sky different than the one next to it, and it's gonna make the sky look like sand, very grainy. And so by dragging the masking slider over, you'll protect all those open smooth areas. And then if you wanna get into the detail and the radius, that's gonna go in and fine tune about which pixels are being chosen for contrast, how much of a contrast is it looking for? And so I'm not gonna get into full details of sharpening all your images, but basically start with amount, go to masking, and then play a little bit with radius and detail. You're not gonna see a huge difference, but it can slightly improve the image with those adjustments. The other ways that we can improve sharpening is with contrast, blacks, clarity, and texture. And so each of these will add a little bit of sharpness to your photographs. Now, I've had some pictures, let's call 'em 3% off. So they were 3% off the perfect focus. I would go in and I would sharpen 'em, add a little bit of contrast, adjust the black area, and it might just meet my satisfaction level. That's about how much you can miss focusing. But there are a variety of tools for making an image appear a little bit more sharp. All right, so image on the left has our contrast kind of at the standard amount, and if we just simply increase the contrast, notice how the image on the right is just gonna appear sharper. There's just more contrast on that image. Sorry for that going so quickly, we'll take a little more time on this one here. The other way is with the blacks. As we mentioned before, dragging the blacks a little bit to the left, making the darkest pixels a little bit darker, is often gonna make it look just a little bit sharper an image. Another option is the clarity and texture. Now, I have not been a huge fan of the clarity and texture. I know there's a number of photographers that love this, they think it's the greatest thing ever. I use it very, very sparingly. What it does is it adds contrast to the middle. You can see the histogram back and forth in the middle, blinking. This is the difference between no clarity and adding clarity. So it's kind of like, I don't know. It's microcontrast, adding just to the middle of the area. And so let's go ahead and enlarge a portion here, and you'll see that there is a difference when we added some clarity to this. And it's taken the blacks a little bit blacker, or whites a little bit blacker, and it is just a little bit different than your straight contrast lighter. It's a little bit smarter than the contrast lighter, in my mind. And so there's a lot of different things that we can do to improve the sharpening. They really don't correct for out-of-focus images, but if you're really close and they just need a little bit of help, these are the things that will give you a little bit of help in doing that.