This post is about post-processing photos and it’s a long post.
I often speak of post-processing. For the uninitiated, that’s taking a photo as shot (as it comes out of the camera) and tweaking it to hopefully make it more pleasing to view.
For instance, this next photo . . .
. . . comes from this original . . .
That’s shot like that because it’s easier to “bring out” details from areas that are underexposed than it is to recover details from areas that are overexposed.
Here’s another of the same area with the original right after it . . .
You’ll notice that the post-processing is not significant. These are the kind of adjustments that can be quickly and easily done in Lightroom.
This next shot requires a bit more work . . .
Again, not a lot of processing. I need to straighten the photo and tweak the brightness and contrast a bit to give it some punch.
All of the above are easy tweaks because the lighting was pretty good even if a little dark on the sides and with a sky too bright. Again, as long as I expose the photo by including some of the sky, I’ll have something easily manageable.
However, some photos require a lot of tweaking and I have a number of fairly powerful tools that help me with that. But, all of them cost to buy. Some less than others, but you generally get what you pay for . . . except for the Nik Collection.
You can read some of the history HERE but since few will click that, let me summarize. The original collection of powerful tools were priced at $500. Google then bought the software and began selling it at $150. Then, in March of this year, they announced they would no longer update or support it . . . but they made it FREE. That’s right. You can get what is an impressive set of tools for free. Here’s what you get:
Normally, you see “free” and think to yourself . . . TANSTAAFL!! Must be crap!
Au contraire, mes lecteurs. These are powerful tools used even by pros. Do a search for it and you’ll get a number of reviews of the package. If you take photos and if you post photos anywhere, you should download the package while it’s still available.
I’m going to show a little of what you can do with the package using some of the photos from the Tracy Arm leg of our 2012 Alaska Cruise. The sky was overcast and the landscape a bit of a challenge because of the dark cliffs, the occasional piece of ice and the reflecting water.
I had resolved to shoot three bracketed photos for each scene I wanted to capture; one underexposed, one at a normal exposure, and one overexposed. The idea was to use the HDR capability in Photoshop or in HDR Express (another software I own) and combine them into one nice photo.
Let me show you what the three photos looked like . . . no, wait. One more thing. My choice would have been to take five photos, two on each side of the exposure. Unfortunately, the D7000 is not a pro camera and only brackets three photos. The new version of the camera remedies that. Just to give you the difference, my D100 and D200 cameras bracket nine photos.
Anyway, here are three of the photos.
Neither Photoshop HDR nor HDR Express gave me anything I could use and I ended up using one photo from each group and tweaking them for THIS POST. Warning to them with bladder control issues . . . that’s a long post.
However, I wanted to see what I could do with just the Nik Collection. It’s not a fair comparison because I’ve not used the tool and I started by jumping in and using the three photos and combining them into an HDR image (something I could not do very well with the tools I had back then). In the future, I’ll do a more head-to-head comparison. Anyway, here’s the output from the HDR Efex Pro 2 module with a few additional tweaks using the Color Efex Pro 2 module.
This was the first time I used the modules and I didn’t know what I was doing. For instance, I don’t like the clouds (although in the original post they have a similar color), but as far as bringing out details of both the light and dark areas, it did great. It also easily handled the ghosting that plagued me in the other programs. Ghosting comes from the fact that the boat was moving and I hand-held the camera as opposed to using a tripod. That results? Each photo is slightly different and when you combine the photos, the images don’t line up exactly and you see “ghosting” artifacts from the misalignment.
That HDR wasn’t bad, but it’s fairly grainy. I could’ve used the other module to remove noise, but frankly, I was mainly interested in the overall look. Still, if you want to see the details, the finished products for each set is in THIS SmugMug Gallery.
I should mention the Nik modules have many adjustments and canned settings but at the basic level, you can easily apply simple tweaks. I could have spent more time playing with it, but I did all of these fairly quick (I’m old and I don’t know how much longer I have on this rock – I don’t want to spend all my time tweaking photos).
These three photos . . .
Gave me this . . .
There are color casts there that I could have tweaked but, again, short lifespan. Plus, I was just learning stuff. (Note: for me, the best way to learn is to play with the sliders and try stuff to see what it does.) And, I had only three photos instead of five or even nine which would give the program more data to play with.
I think I got better as I went along, but you be the judge. Oh, by the way . . . this is a long post.
So, from these next three photos . . .
. . . I got this HDR version . . .
This looks a bit soft because I forgot the rest of the processing, namely, sharpening and contrast.
Now, each of the following photos come from combining three photos and then maybe using Color Efx 2 for some additional tweaks. I won’t put all the originals here but they are in the gallery at the bottom of the post (for them who care to see them).
Here’s a different shot of the above that I think is a bit better.
This next HDR merger comes from very poorly lit originals (it was overcast and occasionally very overcast) . . .
That’s how it came out of the HDR module. I then tweaked it with the Color Efx 2 module.
As usual, WP renders photo less than optimally . . . click the photo to see it in its own window and larger.
Note that the second one is slightly “warmer” and a bit more saturated and has a bit more contrast . . . plus some other little tweaks here and there.
By the way, the Nik software uses U-Point technology. You can click on areas of the photos and manipulate the settings for just those specific areas. You can set them all the same or adjust them individually. If you want to see it in action, there are YouTube videos you can watch. Search for “Nik collection control points” and you’ll get videos like this one.
That’s the other thing . . . lots of tutorials out there for this collection of tools. Powerful tools that are — I repeat — free.
Because I was playing around and wasn’t planning to write this post, I didn’t use the Control Points. Were I serious, I could have really tweaked these photos and make them even better.
Here’s an example of an HDR combination that I could not quite get to what I wanted . . .
I tried Color Efx 2 but after a while, I stopped with this . . .
I should have spent more time on it, but just to show you what I did for the original post . . .
Well, now you’re thinking that the Nik collection is crap . . . nope. Let me show you another from the original post . . .
By the way, that annotation is part of the narrative for the original post. It may not seem like it here, out of context, but that was some funny stuff there. Again, if you plan to read that post, make sure you empty your bladder.
So, here are a few shots combining three shots in the HDR module for the same area as the above shot . . .
Tweak that a bit and we get . . .
Again, these look better larger.
Another final product . . .
. . . and another . . .
. . . and another . . .
Here’s one of a glacier in Juno as it came out of HDR Efx Pro . . .
. . . and after Color Efx 2 . . .
Now, there are other modules, and I’ve not played with them a whole lot.
The Silver Efx 2 Pro does a good job at conversions to B&W. It has some canned presets that are pretty good. So good that I ran all of the photos through various presets. Let me show you a few and the rest will be in the Gallery below.
See? I told you I was no good; I just have better tools than most people. BUT . . . now, you too can have top-notch tools and they are — did I mention it? — FREE!
A few pointers . . . these tools run either as stand-alone or you can call them up from within Photoshop and Lightroom and I assume other photo packages.
If you run it as a stand-alone and you load a photo or a group of photos, when you save, it won’t ask to save under a new name (at least not for multiple photos). Make sure you’re working on a copy of the original because it will be overwritten. I create a separate folder and copy the photos I want to edit in the folder and then I’m assured I won’t mess up the originals.
Here is the color Gallery. For the HDR shots, I have the original three photos and then the combined HDR photos:
Here are the better B&W photos in a random order:
That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.
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