Yessiree, boys and girls! Step right up as I try sounding like I know what I’m talking about!
OK, I kid . . . I have no idea what I’m talking about, and I’m not about to pretend I do. I can, however, talk about what I, in ignorance, do after I snap a photo and before it appears on this blog. Specifically, cropping and post-processing.
In case anyone wonders why I’m sharing my lack of expertise, it’s because I recently came across a post on cropping, and it struck me how different people see things. Also, I’ve noticed a number of blogs posting photos that to my tired, old, and myopic eyes looked as if they could have used a tad more brightness or a bump in exposure.
There be nuthin’ I like me better than suggestin’ stuff to people . . . this despite 99.9% of the people 1) don’t want no suggestin’, and 2) promptly forget any offered suggestin’.
That don’t faze me none . . . here we go.
This is a photo of a Kestrel. Shot with a long zoom and against the light, it was taken a few days before my Woodland Park job and I parted company. Perhaps the photo was an omen of dark things to come . . .
. . . but, no . . . out of darkness one can find something bright.
So, heavily cropped, but what else happened? Here’s the original photo’s histogram:
Notice it’s skewed to the dark side with a huge spike from the sky. Here are the Lightroom adjustments I made to the raw file:
I played with a lot of stuff. I made the effort to illustrate what it takes; I would not normally process this type of shot because there is no chance anything good will come from it. But, since I did make the effort for this post, I went ahead and did the other half of the processing. I’m not including those settings because they are tweaks in onOne’s Perfect Effects. Here’s the result that comes back into Lightroom.
That is not exactly what I got back from onOne . . . I did me a few more adjustments on the processed photo once it got back to Lightroom:
I sharpened the photo after I post-processed everything. I find it gives me a cleaner image.
After all that, the histogram is a bit more balanced.
Oh, I did one more thing; I used a local adjustment to make the eye and face of the bird a little brighter. Here are the local brush settings:
Those adjustments are just for the face, carefully applied so they don’t spill over onto the surrounding sky where they would be readily visible in contrast to the rest of the sky.
This next photo was my first attempt at cropping:
I did not like the extra bits of tree standing there, at the bottom, all by their lonesome.
This next trio looks like the same photo, but it’s not; it’s the next one in the series. The original, the cropped and adjusted version, and the final product with the same processing applied.
Like I said; I would never go through all this effort for these shots because of the poor quality of the end-product.
Because new readers might be unfamiliar with my peculiar form of sarcasm and/or irony-filled banter, know I’m perfectly happy with those results. It’s just that they take more effort to achieve.
Cropping is something I do for many if not most of my photographs. There are photographers who take pride on never cropping; they compose the end product right off the bat.
I don’t have a bat, plus there’s another reason I crop. The norm when I shoot is for the focus point to be in the center. Lenses work better on center, the focusing works better on center, the metering works better on center . . . but mostly, it’s laziness. I could move the focus point, but that introduces another variable into an already complicated process.
Plus, if I move it and then forget to set it back, I screw up the next photos I take (that has happened a few times). So, center it is.
However, when I can I also try to line things up. What do I mean? In this case, it’s an imaginary line from the beak to the corner of the photo.
It’s probably not something anyone would notice. Or maybe they do. Here’s the finished product.
Notice I brought out more of the texture, both in the subject and the foreground.
By the way, I’m listening to this:
Carrying that concept a bit further, here’s another example of rules of thirds combined with flow lines and post-processing. Here’s the original.
And here’s two possible crops with the Lightroom prep before sending them to onOne.
Now, there is no rule saying lines have to lead to corners. I just prefer them so. Take note of the eyes of the bird . . .
How about that; you can see them a bit better in the final product . . . again, I lightened the eye and surrounding area to “bring them out”.
There is another concept at play here; leaving some room in the direction of motion.
Let me illustrate with this horse:
I don’t like all that stuff around the horse so I will crop down to it.
The thing is, I did not leave much room in front of it. The indicated motion will seem cramped because of it. Here’s the final product.
Not bad, but look at this next example.
Notice, I left more room in front of the horse, giving him a place to run, so to speak. I could have left a bit more, but here’s the final product.
Most people might not notice, at least not consciously.
One quick side note . . . I inadvertently processed all of the photos with a 2013 copyright notice. Some are from 2013, but not all.
How does all this work with landscape shots? Here’s a rather bland shot.
I could process it as is, but . . .
. . . I like this better.
Edited to add: I forgot to mention why this particular crop; one is the rule of thirds (the position of the cliff), but the other reason is maintaining the “S” shape of the edge of the cliff from the upper right to lower left. That’s how the original is was shot, but the grass is out of focus and I thought it distracted from the scene.
Still, not very dynamic. I could go all out and do this . . .
. . . but I’m more likely to scale it back a bit.
Sometimes the dynamic range of a scene makes it difficult to process. Here’s an original shot.
This is how I might crop this shot if I wanted a stronger center element. Those rocks in the upper right are interesting in their own right, but they draw the eye away from the main feature (the vertical ridge).
Notice, I also removed a lot of the foreground distraction on the right side and emphasized the shrubs. Here’s the result of a typical canned processing setting.
I like the strong presence of the rocks and shrubs, but the sky is all funky like. I can scale back the sky a tad, but I lose some of the impact of the rocky face.
A bit of contrast and midrange adjustment brings back the deeper tones of the rocks.
I mentioned there are different options for cropping, and I usually plan for the possibility of multiple crops. Here’s an example.
By the way, I’m listening to a rendition of the theme from Joe Versus the Volcano.
Anyway, I can crop the photo by emphasizing the foreground and removing the boring right-hand side.
There are a few things bugging me about the photo. One is that dark spot (a billboard) along the road and in the distance (it draws the eye). The other is the few pieces of garbage visible in the foreground (wrong color).
I spot-adjust to remove them, and also switch to neutral processing in preparation for onOne processing.
And here’s the final product.
Or, is it?
The other crop I could have done, again removing the offending dark spot.
And here’s this final product.
Some people like sky . . . others like the texture in the foreground. The choice is yours.
Me? In this case, I prefer the one with the foreground (the first crop).
I usually plan for crops. Here are a few examples of original photos and subsequent crops.
Here’s one where the lighting was very bad due to a very overcast sky).
. . . and the final product . . .
I could have shot at a higher ISO, but that would have blown out what little definition of the sky presented itself. It’s easier to recover underexposed features (especially if shooting RAW) as opposed to details in areas that are blown out (over-exposed).
Brightening or increasing the exposure on something might introduce grain, but you can deal with that. When something is blown out, there is little one can do, and whatever you do will usually result in stuff not quite looking right.
One other comment . . . even with the guidelines switched on, I often shoot “slanted”. I mean, not if I’m paying attention, but if I’m engrossed in the scene I end up with photos that sag on the right. Anything with vertical or horizontal lines, such as a horizon, will immediately look wrong. Even when I don’t crop I often have to straighten the photos.
Proceeding, here’s another example. The original:
. . . let me do my crop thing . . .
That’s not bad; the clouds still look ‘natural’. Here’s the finished product.
Now, I mention there are other cropping possibilities . . . here’s another crop from the same photo.
. . . and here’s the final product.
I pushed the processing on this to show what can happen to the clouds; I don’t think they look as good as they did in the first crop. This was on purpose, but sometimes your processing requires a lot of tweaking to keep everything ‘looking natural’.
Before I push for the finish, here’s what I’m listening to now:
OK, I’ve been speaking about cropping and post-processing. Understand that cropping comes into play because we capture rectangular frames and those might not always lend themselves to what we want to capture . . .
. . . but, there are times when they do. Oh, happy days! All I then have to do is use my canned processing. Here are examples of original and post-processed photos, no cropping required.
That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.
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Astute persons might have noticed these doodles, and correctly surmised they hold some significance for me, and perhaps for humanity at large.
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. . . my FP ward . . . chieken shit.