My daughter and I were on a walk in downtown Austin today and ran across this shattered glass in a door. I snapped a shot of my reflected portrait. I had a mind to see what I could bring out of it using Photoshop’s curves layers. I knew from past experience that curves could do some cool stuff to images like this.
The images at the bottom of the post were taken inside the decommissioned Seaholm Power Plant in Austin (posts about that here and here and here). The blown-out spots in the original image are from bright daylight coming in through windows on the opposite side of the building. Inspired by David Nightingale’s tutorials on creating dramatic images, I experimented with all sorts of wacky curves and masks. With some of those wacky curves adjustments the blown-out spots really created problems so in the end I just cropped them out. The final image is rather abstract — the hand is obvious but the camera, tripod, and my body are there but not completely obvious. There are a few issues (knuckles on the hand for example) but it’s fun nonetheless.
Back to the images at the top of the post. You may already know that curves adjustments can cause a color shift depending on the blend mode of the layer. I took advantage of this to bring out a bunch of color in this image. It would have been nice if I’d been wearing something other than a black jacket but I didn’t exactly plan this in advance. The adjustments on this image were just a strong s-curve and a combination of curves which lightened/darkened the midtones — all in normal blend mode and masked a bit here and there. Some selective sharpening, noise reduction, and a small bit of overall saturation were added.
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:
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.
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.
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).
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.
I shot this shadowy basement scene on a recent HDR Mafia photo trip to the Seaholm Power Plant in Austin, TX. The graffiti was inviting so I joined my friend Van, who was already capturing this general scene with his camera.
I created this image by tonemapping 6 exposures in Photomatix then using several masked curves layers in Photoshop. My intent was to highlight the graffiti itself and simply tried to keep the rest of the scene rather neutral.
The image below was processed in a similar manner. Again, my intent was to amp things up and no attempt was made to match the colors to the image above. In this image I kept most of the curves in “normal” blend mode and allowed the colors to become more saturated throughout the whole frame.
Posting a couple HDRs from the recent HDR Mafia photo shoot at Seaholm Power Plant. This door was at the top of a stairwell where I had hoped to gain access to the crane in the main turbine room. The crane door was locked as was this door which would have provided roof access. Fortunately we had access to the roof via other means but we never did get access to the crane.
Both images were tonemapped in Photomatix (6-7 exposures…don’t remember) then processed mostly via curves in Photoshop. I probably could have used only two exposures and gotten all the image information but I didn’t bother playing with that. The black and white version was simply a matter of adding a B+W adjustment layer to the image and tweaking the red and yellow adjustment. The color image used a series of masked curves, some of which were only applied to the red and/or blue channels. The lighting was actually relatively flat in the original exposures and I used curves to bring out the shadows more. The starburst in the keyhole was obtained by using an aperture of f/22.
I’m not sure whether I like the color or B+W version better.