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Thread: Post-processing for pictures taken under direct sunlight

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    Alis's Avatar
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    Post-processing for pictures taken under direct sunlight

    Hi everyone,

    I recently took a lot of pictures of an event that was held around noon time in a very sunny day. I did not use a UV filter, I do not own one actually. Now most of the pictures look very dull and flat, I have tried different things on them but did not like the result.

    What are the things you guys would do to make them look better. I mean in general. Something to simulate the effect of a polarizer filter perhaps?

    Thanks!

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    Re: Post-processing for pictures taken under direct sunlight

    Could you post a 'straight from camera' example for people to have a play around with and see what results they can produce.

    Off the top of my head, without seeing the image: The simple answer is to carefully use Curves and a little saturation boost; but a lot more can be achieved by getting technical. For instance, create a duplicate image layer and adjust the merge mode to suit. Possibly try Multiply mode and adjust the opacity as required; possibly also use a partial mask to put the colour boost exactly where it is most required.

    Simply using an Unsharp Mask of say 0.3 radius and 300 pixels can help to add to the 'density' of a photo.

    But there are many ways of tweaking an image and they will vary from one photo to another.

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    Re: Post-processing for pictures taken under direct sunlight

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff F View Post
    Simply using an Unsharp Mask of say 0.3 radius and 300 pixels can help to add to the 'density' of a photo.
    Are you meaning 300 percent Geoff?

    In essence, 0.3/300 is for capture sharpening - if the image is still at full resolution then the results of applying an USM or 300/0.3 will only be visable when viewed around 100%. It can make a difference to down-sampled images (ie of a size more typical of what you'd display on the web), but you have to be careful as the radius gets hyper-critical depending on the frequency of the image and the actual pixel dimensions (ie you might need more than 0.3 or 0.3 might be too much (producing frosting, with a subsequent need to reduce the amount (ie 300% -> 100% etc) (reducing the radius below 0.3 generally results in no sharpening).

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    Re: Post-processing for pictures taken under direct sunlight

    Thanks, Geoff,

    Here is an example. Directly converted from the original RAW with only resizing. This one I chose for a reason (for political reasons, they did not want me to post their close ups on internet):

    Post-processing for pictures taken under direct sunlight

    Hope it is useful. I probably can find a better one.

    And I have never used any of those blending modes and don't really know that much about them. I guess that is my assignment for the weekend


    Cheers!
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 10th July 2009 at 09:58 PM.

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    Re: Post-processing for pictures taken under direct sunlight

    Yes, Colin, I meant 0.3 x 300% or thereabouts. I often find that this has an impact on the saturation of a photo and when, too often, I forget to do Capture Sharpening until I have already used a few Adjustment Layers and then do it part way through editing, I have to reset the saturation /curves layers a bit lower after sharpening.

    Alis, I don't see a lot wrong with that photo. You have strong highlights, but not blown, and good shadows.

    If you have a bit of time to spare you could try to lighten up the shadow areas of some faces. Perhaps try a duplicate layer then add a hide all mask. Work on the duplicate layer, but leave the original layer visible and paint over the dark areas with a low opacity soft brush, set to remove the masked area. Eventually this will leave the duplicate layer with only the dark areas visible. Use Curves (or Layers) to lighten these dark areas.

    You can vary the opacity of this layer if required and change the Merge Mode. Sometimes using Screen Mode can work well to lighten an image. I would try this before using Curves etc.

    There are several different options available here which will vary depending on your editing software.

    But the first thing I would do with that photo is to crop it to landscape orientation so as to remove that dull dark building and concentrate on the people.

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    Re: Post-processing for pictures taken under direct sunlight

    test photo adjusted.jpg

    Not sure if this is correct as I only have a cheap monitor on my internet computer. What I tried was to crop to 5 x 4 ratio then do a tiny tweak with Curves to lighten the shadow areas, but keeping the black point. Then a little bit of Saturation.

    Working on individual shadow areas, as I mentioned, might produce a better result but will take time.

    test-photo-adjusted.jpg
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 13th July 2009 at 06:42 AM. Reason: Add image inline

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    Re: Post-processing for pictures taken under direct sunlight

    If it's any help I sometimes do a photo filter too depending on the light. I do this as living in UK I find the light is usually unflattering as at midday it's too strong and harsh where as either side of midday it tends to be overcast. Obviously you cannot change the time of capture and comeback at sunset to take pics like this one but I find a gentle warming filter has pretty much the same effect, effectively a gentle colour cast (but desirable one). You can get similar effect by tweaking white balance but I wouldn't do that route as some steps will over saturate the colour cast so I'd set the white balance to technically perfect white instead.

    When opening raw you could bring up the fill light a reasonable amount then as recommended by others capture and creative sharpening, curves (strong) and vibrancy up a bit if needs be (note: curves adjust will add some) and sponge tool set to saturate if need be to bring out particular bits. If still flat a wide radius low % creative usm sharpening if need be to add a bit more contrast. Then photo filter, warming one (either an existing preset or your own custom colour, something around sunset yellow to ochre should do) to a degree that looks right which will take the harshness off the highlights.

    Prob not the best way but hope it's useful in some way.

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    Re: Post-processing for pictures taken under direct sunlight

    Geoff, Alis, et al,

    I don't usually get all deep and meaningful about an image, but here's a thought.

    The original tall, as shot composition told me these things;
    i) The protest was a temporary occurence when compared to the 'establishment' represented by the buildings behind and the ground they are standing upon.
    ii) They felt safe enough to make their point and even to "cross the boundary" by stepping off the pavement/sidewalk and into the road/highway itself.

    In the second, cropped example, we've lost all that and the only thing that remains, which was still visible in the original, is that behind them, life goes on as normal for the ordinary folk; buying papers from the stand.

    Aside from that, it is unfortunate that the combination of wind and exposure has made it quite difficult to work out what 'the cause' is; they could almost be at a carnival, although I fear their point is more serious than that. No dis-respect intended let me hasten to add.

    All this studying 'what the image says' is something new to me that I have only recently learnt here at CiC.

    Anyone agree, dis-agree, or like me, has not given it much thought until now?

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    Re: Post-processing for pictures taken under direct sunlight

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff F View Post
    test photo adjusted.jpg

    Not sure if this is correct as I only have a cheap monitor on my internet computer. What I tried was to crop to 5 x 4 ratio then do a tiny tweak with Curves to lighten the shadow areas, but keeping the black point. Then a little bit of Saturation.

    Working on individual shadow areas, as I mentioned, might produce a better result but will take time.

    test-photo-adjusted.jpg

    the image is too bright...the whites are way too bright...on my monitor...which is calibrated...just fyi....

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    Re: Post-processing for pictures taken under direct sunlight

    Quote Originally Posted by kevinbythebeach View Post
    the image is too bright...the whites are way too bright...on my monitor...which is calibrated...just fyi....
    Small point of difference Kevin, but I believe your screen has been profiled, not calibrated. (Calibration is manually setting black & white points - and colour temperature using monitor controls, whereas profiling is when you create a profile to make further adjustments in software).

    It's a good idea to do calibration first, so you don't chew up so much of the available number of levels in profile adjustments, which can lead to posterization & banding.

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    Re: Post-processing for pictures taken under direct sunlight

    I didn't alter the highlights, just lightened the shadows slightly to remove the shadow harshness, so I'm afraid that what is bright now was equally bright on the original. But toning down the overall image would be easy to adjust although the blown highlights will obviously remain blown unless some improvement can be made to the original RAW image.

    I did wonder about cropping dimensions but went for a 'standard' ratio although a square crop might work better.

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    Re: Post-processing for pictures taken under direct sunlight

    The highlights look OK to me - possibly blown in a couple of small areas, but often you have to do that to get enough contrast in the rest of the image anyway.

  13. #13

    Re: Post-processing for pictures taken under direct sunlight

    The highlights are fine for that picture. If in doubt, check the info palette.

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    Re: Post-processing for pictures taken under direct sunlight

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff F View Post
    test photo adjusted.jpg

    Not sure if this is correct as I only have a cheap monitor on my internet computer. What I tried was to crop to 5 x 4 ratio then do a tiny tweak with Curves to lighten the shadow areas, but keeping the black point. Then a little bit of Saturation.

    Working on individual shadow areas, as I mentioned, might produce a better result but will take time.

    test-photo-adjusted.jpg
    Thanks, Geof,

    It definitely looks better in terms of highlights but it still does not look like what I have seen. I have to look for a good example and post here. I see all these journalists shoot in any condition and yet their pictures are always very nice and high contrast. There should be something they do that I do not know

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