How Do I Process My Images? Here’s One Example…

Wall, Seaholm Power Plant, Austin, TX

This is another post in response to the questions I got on flickr regarding these images of graffiti in the Seaholm Power Plant.  What I’m about to describe is certainly not the way I process all images — especially portraiture and the like — but it is typically the way I start with images like this one.  The image I’ll use as an example here is another one I never intended to post but again, it works well as a quick example of part of my processing.  There are lots of things which make this a lousy image but hopefully you can get past those for this illustration.

Here’s the original image with no edits:

Seaholm No Edits

Seaholm No Edits

I began by adding a slight s-curve in a curves adjustment layer (result is shown after the layers/curves snapshots).  Note that I masked out the red sign so that this curve didn’t affect it.  The blend mode is “normal” which results in additional saturation in the image.  The result is shown below the curve diagram.

S-curve

S-curve

After s-curve

Next I added a curve to adjust what the red sign (and a bit of the dark corners) looked like.  This curve was in “luminosity” blend mode to avoid changing the saturation.  Note the odd curve — since I was masking out most of the image I used a curve which only effects the part of the histogram related to the sign.  That curve would really wack out the image without the masking of course.  The end result is that the lettering stands out much more than in the previous image.

Sign curve

Sign curve

Sign-adjusted with curves

My final curves adjustment layer is what really gives the image a bit of pop.  The sign is masked out and I partially masked the dark corner to reduce the effect there.  The blend mode is “hard light”.  How did I pick that?  Trial and error — tried modes and curve shapes until I got an effect that I liked.  The final image is shown at the top of the post.  It was processed only with three curves layers — no sharpening, no saturation or vibrance adjustments, no Topaz Adjust, etc.  I call this kind of processing “a la Chromasia” (go check out his work and his tutorials — great stuff).

Final layers

The "dramatic" curve

That’s a typical start for me when I process an image like this.  Curves adjustments constitute 80%+ of my processing in general.  I certainly do play with saturation, vibrance, levels, sharpening, etc. but not until I’ve gotten most of the way to the final result using curves and masks.

If you subscribe to David Nightingale’s (chromasia) tutorials you’ll be able to go through some great teaching on how to approach the creative process.  He works his way through images and describes what he sees, how/why he wants to alter parts of the frame, etc.  My simple example in this post touches on maybe the first 0.5% of that…check out the tutorials.

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One response

  1. Pingback: Shattered Reflections…and Curves Adjustment Layers « Michael Tuuk Photography

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