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What Would Ansel Adams Do If He Had Lightroom?

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Ansel Adams is quoted as saying “you don’t take a photograph, you make it.”  I don’t think he ever said you don’t have to start with a method of recording the scene before you.  I hear a lot of people say they want to “get it right in the camera”.  A couple of other quotes by Adams are “Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships.”   One more would be “the negative is the equivalent of the composer’s score, and the print the performance“.  What’s all that got to do with today’s image (or any image for that matter)?  It’s just that today’s image straight out of the camera really doesn’t look much like what you see.  It’s been “developed”.  The “out of camera” image is a RAW file and, as such, lacks tone, contrast, color and any sense of place.  It’s a blah lifeless digital negative.    Ninety nine present of what was done to the image was done in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom (LR),  the “other” percent was done in Adobe Photoshop (PS).  Both were the CC 2015 versions, but only the newest LR was needed.  What was done in PS can be done in just about any version you have on your computer.  To go through the image with me, hit the “Read More”.

The most obvious change from the original is the crop.  As usual I shot tight and the only crop was to get the frame down to more of a two to one aspect ratio.   Side to side there’s basically no crop.  Top to bottom?  Sure.  There’s nothing above or below what you see that adds to the image.  If it “ain’t” helping, get rid of it.

The top of what was left was in bright sunlight.  Rather than a Graduated Filter (in LR) I went to the HSL Panel (Hue Saturation Luminance).  There I brought the Luminance of the Greens down bringing the green of the bank and the green cast of the water in line with the lower area that was mostly in shadow.  Since the rest of the image didn’t have a lot of green it was reasonably easy to balance the two.

The one area that needed the green bumped up a bit was the reeds in the upper left of the image.  They started out in shadow, so removing the green had a larger impact there than in the sun lit area.  The Adjustment Brush, using both Tint and Exposure brought the reeds in line.

Both of the animals were treated individually with the Adjustment Brush.  Bringing up their Exposure, Contrast and Clarity.  Clarity in this case increases the midrange contrast and serves to make the deer stand out. 

Tone, using the color picker in the Adjustment Brush turned the black mud under the right hand deer’s feet to a more pleasing brown mud.  The splash of water was brightened also.

Today’s image was kind of a 50/50 mix of Adjustment Brush work and Radial Filter work.  The Radial Filter was used to create space between the animals and the ground beneath and around them, darkening the ground to put emphasis on the main subject(s). 

Anyone who tells you they take what they get straight from the camera must be (for one thing) shooting JPGs and letting the camera do the finishing.  (Which is not a bad thing, depending on what your objective is.  Shooting a family gathering, a school play, a wedding or similar “events” is a great place for shooting JPGs.)  Shooting when you know you want/need maximum control over the finished image is the spot for shooting RAW.  And that requires post processing.


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