View of the Drew | Andrew Halpern Photography

Post-Processing Technique

Dynamic Range

IMG_4019-3

1/200″ / F6.3/ iso100 / 55mm (88mm equiv)

Manhattan View from Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass

Dynamic range sounds like something complicated. It isn’t. Basically, it refers to the ratio of light intensities the camera is able to capture. The human eye is usually quite adept at rapid adjustments and the brain puts the image together. We “see” the scene in all its glory, from the brightest bits to the darkest details in the shadows.

The camera isn’t as clever. You’ll often find the dynamic range of a scene exceeds your camera’s ability to capture it. You’ll try to shoot a particular scene and straight of the camera, either the shadows will be too dark, or the highlights will be blown out.

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My Bridge Tippeth Over

IMG_4048IMG_4048-2

1/125″ /F7.1 / iso100 / 18mm

Lovely architecture, but why is it falling over?

There’s a problem you will often see when you’re shooting buildings or bridges. Everything looks fine through the viewfinder and in person, but after you take the shot, you’ll notice that the building looks like it’s tipping over. This is known as the Keystone Effect. No, this has nothing to do with the controversial pipeline that might run through Canada.

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The Selfie

1/200" / F8 / iso 100/ 55mm (88mm equiv)

Girl on Brooklyn Bridge

1/200″ / F8 / iso 100/ 55mm (88mm equiv)

I don’t do it. Nor should you. —

Just kidding. There is nothing wrong with “the selfie.” I’m actually not sure why people disparage it so much. This actually isn’t a new thing, people taking photographs of themselves. People have always done this. Always.

1920s dudes taking a selfie. Click the pic to go to Gothamist.

The only reason it’s increased so much is that every new phone camera comes with a front-facing camera.  And phone cameras have gotten quite good.

Back to the shot. This photograph is actually a very tight crop of a much larger shot. What’s interesting is how much resolution I’m able to get from this small crop. The original shots out of my camera weigh in at 18 megapixels, while this crop uses only about 30% of those pixels. But that’s still 5.4 megapixels and that’s nothing to sneeze at.  Despite all the whinging about the uselessness of high pixel counts, they still can make a difference.

If I had to do it again, I would have used a longer lens, and a shallower depth of field. But we don’t always have time to pick the exact settings on grab-shots like this. Since the subject wasn’t very isolated, I chose to add a small amount of whitish , post-crop vignette around the shot to emphasize the girl.

If you are using Lightroom, there are actually two types of vignetting you can play with. The first type is pre-crop vignetting which applies to the entire shot. This is usually used to correct lens issues but it can be used to achieve a post-processing effect. The second type of vignetting is called post-crop, and this type is usually the one we use to achieve special effects. You’ll often see the white version in wedding photography. There are also different settings for the post-crop vignetting, but I’ll leave that discussion for another day.

Selective Color in Lightroom

1/800 . f/5.6 . ISO 160 . 55 mm

Here’s another of the Roosevelt Island Tram. I thought it’d be cool to put everything in the shot in black and white and just leave the tram a nice bright red.  It looks nice right?

Normally, something like this calls for Photoshop, but believe it or not, it is actually not so hard to do in Lightroom.

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Romeo + Juliet

romeo and juliet

1/125 . f/5.6 . ISO 800 . 60 mm

This shot is of a Romeo and Juliet sculpture in Central Park near the Delecorte Theatre. The theatre shows free Shakespeare plays in the summer. I thought looked particularly nice in black and white.

The vignetting effect on this shot was done using the Post-Crop vignetting panel in lightroom. There are actually two areas that control vignetting in lightroom. The first is under Lens Corrections. This area is more designed to correct for natural vignetting that occurs from lens imperfections. This type of imperfection will of course only show on the corners of your shot, and will disappear if you crop off the corners. Therefore, if you crop your shot, these lens correction vignetting adjustments will not “travel” with your crop.

Because people started using vignetting as an artistic effect, Adobe added the Post-Crop Vignetting panel under Effects. Like the name says, the vignetting here will be maintained on any crop of your photo. There are various styles of vignetting that you can do here and you can experiment with them yourself.

Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

Sun setting on a city church

1/500s . f/4 . ISO 100 . 50 mm

Not too long ago (before 2008), in order to get this shot with an SLR, one had to look through the glass viewfinder. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t enjoy looking directly at the sun, it’s not so good for your eyes.

If I’m shooting directly (or semi-directly) at the sun like this, I’ll try to use the LCD to compose my shot to avoid looking at the sun.

Another tip for these shots is that usually the sun will make the shot very hazy, but that is just the nature of the beast. In order to rectify this, I use high contrast and the blacks slider in Lightroom.

DUMBO view

Enjoying the day by the water in DUMBO... Brooklyn.

DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass), Brooklyn -- 1/80s . f/5.6 . ISO 100 . 18 mm

Some photos work in black and white, some don’t.  My friend James, has a philosophy that if the color isn’t contributing anything, he just removes it.

Personally, (and this is just my opinion) , that’s too extreme for me. My default is to keep my photos in color and only go to black and white on two occasions.  (1) if my shot really works in b&w or (2) if the color is very distracting and doesn’t work in the shot.

In Lightroom, you can get to black and white quickly by pressing the letter “V.”  This will give the photo a default b&w mix. You’ll then need to tweak how each color responds to grayscale treatment.  For shots with lots of sky, it helps to force the cyan and blue to be dark grey or even black because this will make the clouds pop out of the sky.

Other settings to play with are the white balance, fill light, blacks, and exposure. When I get something nice, I often add this as a preset so I can apply the same b&w mix to similar shots.  For information on how to have even greater control over your black and whites in Photoshop, please see this article by James Maher.

7 Train

7 Train

1/400s . f/7.1 . ISO 200 . 250 mm

This is a shot I took in Queens of the 7 train. In the original (before post-processing), the driver was obscured in darkness. I used Lightroom’s local adjustment feature to brushes to lighten (dodge) that area so we can make out his face. I highly recommend the local adjustment brushes, it can save you time in Photoshop.

Perspective Correction

Original shot perspective distorted

Original shot: distorted perspective

Perspective is fixed, the shot looks straight on

The Vertical Lens Correction slider is one of my my favorite features in Adobe Lightroom. This sign I photographed from below because it was about 15 feet above me.

To correct perspective, I first straighten the image using the straighten tool in the Crop Overlay area (press “R” to get to it quickly). When that is done, I scroll all the way down the Develop module until I find the “Lens Corrections” panel. I then use the vertical slider until the image looks correct. It’s very quick to fix distortion this way.

Lucerne Skyline

Lucerne, Switzerland skyline

1/400s . f/10.0 . ISO 200 . 79 mm

Here is a skyline of Lucerne, Switzerland.  What I like most about this shot is the many layers all smashed together in by my telephoto lens.

It’s important to close-down the aperture for such a shot in order to maintain sharpness throughout the whole image.  As you can probably tell, in order to get the shading exactly right, this shot had to be highly post-processed.  The nice thing is that I was able to do the entire thing within Lightroom using the adjustment brush functionality along with the gradient filter effects.

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