A couple of behind-the-scenes shots after the Keep Reading link…
The Magic of Photoshop
Of course in a perfect world, all shots we take would be properly exposed, beautiful and completely usable straight from the camera. And perhaps if you’re a professional photographer, with lots of time, an in-depth knowledge of photography and plenty of lighting and assistants, that’s the way it still can be.
But for the rest of us mere mortals, we may not always have the time or ability to get a “perfect” shot straight from the camera. It’s at times like this that a little bit of post-processing can work wonders (or else compensate for equipment or filters we are lacking).
I was pretty happy with the very first shot in this post – I liked the blue skies, the slight distortion due to the lens width, the contrast of the scenery. But that’s not how it looked when I shot it. The original shot looked like this:
Ouch. Not quite so nice, huh? There’s a lot wrong with this picture, starting with the white balance and overall under-exposure. Fortunately, I shot in RAW, so I was able to tweak the white balance and the camera “image mode” to get whiter whites and punchier blues out of it.
Next, I opened the image up in Photoshop, where I tweaked the curves a little bit, and adjusted the shadows/highlights to bring out the details in the areas at the bottom of the image (I should have used a graduated density filter when shooting the scene, but I didn’t have one). Next, I added a photographic cooling filter with a little bit of masking to make the skies a little prettier without altering the colour of the buildings too much, leading to the final image below:
I don’t always shoot in RAW (these images, for example, were shot directly to JPG), but I always do whenever I toss my camera in my bag for random unplanned shots. What it costs in time spent post-processing is made up for by letting me save shots that would otherwise be unusable.
The Magic of Circular Polarizers
If you take a lot of outdoor photographs, the one piece of equipment you absolutely need to have in your bag is a Circular Polarizer. While there’s plenty on the net about what they are and what they do, suffice it to say that it makes your skies a rich, beautiful blue, your greens greener and radically reduces the amount of glare and reflection you get off of surfaces like glass windows or pools of water (if you know how to use it).
The downsides of circular polarizers is that you need to get a high quality one (because it’s another layer in front of your lens and even the most expensive lens in the world is going to shoot like crap if you stick a cheap piece of crap filter in front of it), and like most things in this world, high quality circular polarizers are not cheap. For example, the one I use on my wide angle lens cost somewhere around $140.
I remember being indecisive for weeks when trying to figure out whether to put down that kind of money on what is essentially a round transparent disc. I poured over countless “before and after” shots on the web, trying to decide if the effects really were that dramatic, and whether it was really “worth it” or not. In the end, I did, and I am glad to say it was probably one of the best photographic purchases I’ve ever made. In case you’re in the same boat as I was, here’s a “before and after” to help you make up your mind.
Here is a scene taken without a circular polarizer:
And here is the same scene, only this time with a circular polarizer (set to max effect):
One look at those skies should settle any doubt in your mind.
A couple more from the archives. These are not exact shot-for-shot, time-for-time comparisons, but you should still get the basic idea.
Without the circular polarizer:
With the circular polarizer:
And now you know!
Okay, that’s it for now. If you’re interested, you can find more Sky Worship here (sans circular polarizers):
- Tokyo Blue Skies II (Sky Worship IV)
- Blue Skies over Tokyo (Sky Worship III)
- Delphinium Days (Sky Worship II)
- Sky Worship I
- Bart’s Sky Worship
- Monorail Worship?
Now listening to: Supramental – Kolesa (Radio Edit)