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Thread: Post-Processing Workflow - Thank You Colin...

  1. #1
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Post-Processing Workflow - Thank You Colin...

    Colin, you saved the day for me and I appreciate it!

    I have just returned from a two week trip to China where I shot thousands of images using my 30D with 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens and my 40D with a 70-200mm f/4L IS lens. I was terribly disappointed with my imagery... The shots were not a sharp as I am used to and there was too much muddy noise.

    The days in China were bleak and grey. That combined with the ever present smog cast a pall over the entire area. Shanghai was the worst. We literally could not see the city of Pudong across the river. It was just a cloud of dirty grey. I have one shot of a Chinese boy and girl with Pudong in the background. It looks like I did the shot against a grey canvas.

    At first I thought that my monitor was off, causing the lack of sharpness and I adjusted the monitor which helped a bit - just a tiny bit. I tested both cameras and lenses and they were fine in my sunny and clear Southern California environment. I realized that it must have been my post processing that was the culprit.

    I opened the RAW imagery with Adobe Bridge and tweaked my exposure and color balance. I then increased the clarity slider a long way to get some snap into the images. I also increased the vibrance and saturation. After opening the image in Photoshop CS3, I cropped it and used Topaz Labs Adjust-3 to calm down the noise I generated. I then usually had to select "smart sharpen" once or sometimes even twice. The result was a muddy, noisy, usually over-sharpened image.

    I couldn't understand what was happening. Obviously, the cameras and lenses were not at fault because they worked fine before the trip and just fine after. ISO 400 should not have been the villain; I have frequently shot with that ISO and higher with no great noise problems.

    I remembered that Colin Southern had posted an entry regarding two stage post processing. I decided to try it. I followed directions and added a few steps of my own and the results are great. I no longer am sick to my stomach about messing up a set of images I had waited a long time to obtain. Here is my post processing workflow.

    1. Open RAW image using Adobe Bridge CS3
    2 Tweak exposure and color balance - if necessary
    3. Increase vibrance and saturation a bit (usually 10 or less) to cope with the colorless grey days
    4. Open image in Photoshop CS3
    5. Local corrections as needed
    6. Sharpen image using unsharp mask (250%, radius 0.3, threshold 0)
    7. Reduce noise using the Topaz Adjust-3 noise reduction capability. I will occasionally also tweak exposure using Topaz Adjust-3. The tweaking is usually hard to detect but, often improves the image.
    8. Crop and size
    9. Final sharpening using unsharp mask (120%, radius 4-6, threshold 0)
    10. Save

    The results are pretty amazing considering what I have been working with over the last two weeks or so. I just wish I had remembered Colin's advice before I did a lousy job post processing hundreds of images. On the other hand I am happy that I still have the RAW images ready for the second go at post processing. It's a LOT MORE FUN post processing when you are happy with the results.

    BTW: My China images (with original post processing which I will be changing as time allows) are on http://rpcrowe.smugmug.com/
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 28th April 2010 at 04:24 AM.

  2. #2

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    Re: Thank You Colin...

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    Colin, you saved the day for me and I appreciate it!
    You're very welcome - it's nice to know what we're doing here is making a real-world difference

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    Re: Thank You Colin...

    let me also use this post for thanking COLIN for making this site very helpful for a beginner like me in dlsr photography...
    cheers...

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    arith's Avatar
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    Re: Thank You Colin...

    As regards haze or smog you might like to try duplicating a layer and setting blending to 'multiply'; after a bit of fiddling with layer opacity and curves you might get some more detail.

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    Re: Thank You Colin...

    Quote Originally Posted by belong View Post
    let me also use this post for thanking COLIN for making this site very helpful for a beginner like me in dlsr photography...
    cheers...
    Thanks Isabelo, but I'm really only one thick plank in a big timber building

  6. #6

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    Re: Thank You Colin...

    Quote Originally Posted by arith View Post
    As regards haze or smog you might like to try duplicating a layer and setting blending to 'multiply'; after a bit of fiddling with layer opacity and curves you might get some more detail.
    In LAB mode, adding a curves layer and then steepening the slope of the "L" channel helps a lot too.

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Thank You Colin...

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    ~
    5. Local corrections as needed
    6. Sharpen image using unsharp mask (250%, radius 0.3, threshold 0)
    7. Reduce noise using the Topaz Adjust-3 noise reduction capability. I will occasionally also tweak exposure using Topaz Adjust-3. The tweaking is usually hard to detect but, often improves the image.
    8. Crop and size
    ~
    Hi Richard,

    The only small thing I have found for my images, is that I would swap the order of steps 6 and 7.
    The way it is now, you will be capture sharpening any noise (especially with a threshold of 0).

    That said, I don't use Topaz as I have Neat Image.

    Given that you also tweak exposure in Topaz, it may add another step reversing 6 and 7, so maybe give step 6 a threshold of 2 and leave them in the order they are.

    Cheers,

  8. #8
    arith's Avatar
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    Re: Thank You Colin...

    That is an interesting workflow richard. Mine depends on what I have to do.

    Ordinary pic.
    1 Open Raw in ACR adjust fill light,recovery, temperature, tint, brightness, exposure. Nothing else

    2 Open in PSE and use Topaz Denoise 3 and then Topaz Detail

    3 Save as 16 bit tiff

    4 Open in Helicon filter to adjust perspective, cropping, cloning and maybe a soft wipe over the sky all in 16 bit.

    5 Save 100% jpeg or tiff 16 bit

    6 Open in PSE and scale and sharpen for this place.

    But it all depends really; this is what I normally do. A bit like yours Richard except for the order and extra sharpening.

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    Re: Thank You Colin...

    in ACR, what exactly does "recovery" do?
    i observed that when sliding to the right it darkens a little bit...

  10. #10

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    Re: Thank You Colin...

    Quote Originally Posted by belong View Post
    in ACR, what exactly does "recovery" do?
    i observed that when sliding to the right it darkens a little bit...
    Hi Isabelo,

    It's used to try and recover detail in areas of blown (or near to blown) highlights.

  11. #11

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    Re: Thank You Colin...

    thanks again colin...
    cheers

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