Over the past while a number of readers have expressed an interest in seeing more information that deals with post processing. Many readers were looking for some details on how I combine the use of DxO PhotoLab, CS6 and the Nik Collection. While there was insufficient interest to create a dedicated eBook on the subject, we will be producing a few articles to outline the basic post processing approaches we take with various subject matter. This article discusses the various steps I took working with a sample landscape image.
Like all of you, the first thing that I do when reviewing an image is develop a quick game plan in terms of what needs to be done in post. As you can see with the image above there is a reasonable amount of sky details that can be enhanced. The piece of driftwood in the corner provides some interest and depth but to really add value visually some work will need to be done to the shadow areas. Even though they look muted in this uncorrected jpeg, you can see there is a decent colour pallet in the image. This includes oranges, greens, a touch of dark red, and a range of brown shades. To make the most of the pallet I’ll need to make the colours pop as well as accentuate the colour tones.
I typically don’t do that many adjustments when using DxO PhotoLab or OpticsPro. In the jpeg above I allowed PhotoLab to make all of its automatic lens adjustments. I took Highlights to -20 to help thicken up the sky and took Shadows to -20 to begin the process of working in the dark areas of the corner driftwood. I used the auto setting for micro-contrast which resulted in a correction value of 16. I also applied PRIME noise reduction, which is something that I do with all of my images regardless of the ISO at which they were captured.
Before exporting a DNG file from PhotoLab into CS6 I always investigate using the Spot Weighted adjustment with DxO Smart Lighting. For landscape images I typically draw a large box over a good portion of the sky, then draw a second Spot Weighted box over an important element in the image. In this case it was the dark driftwood in the bottom right corner. If you toggle back and forth between images 2 and 3 you will notice some improved details in the sky and the driftwood. At this point I would export a DNG file into CS6 for the next set of corrections.
Since I shot the original image in strong sunlight I knew in advance that I would need to be pretty aggressive with my adjustments in CS6. In the case of this image I took Highlights to -100 and Shadows to +100. As noted in The Little Camera That Could, I often ‘double bump’ the highlights and shadows with my Nikon 1 images as this helps to compensate for the limited dynamic range of 1″ CX sensors. I also took the Black slider to -65 and adjusted Vibrance to +10. Increasing the intensity of the Black helps the colours to pop, as does adding a touch of Vibrance.
I always take a quick peak at the Curves Options in CS6 to see if one of them will help my image or not. In this case I used the Enhance Monochromatic Contrast option. This helped to give the colours a bit more pop and separation.
At this point I move into the Nik Collection for some quick finishing touches. With this particular image I used the Polarization adjustment in Color Efex Pro 4 with a rotation setting of 62, strength at 78, shadows set to 0, and highlights set to 100. Every landscape image is different and requires some tweaking to the Polarization settings to achieve the look desired.
The last adjustment that I often do with a landscape image is in Vivenza2, one of the programs in the Nik Collection. Typically I made minor adjustment with Contrast (often no more than 6) and Structure (often no more than 20). This helps to tweak edge acuity which makes images look a bit sharper. At this point many images are finished. Sometimes I will make two additional very minor adjustments.
The first of these very minor adjustments to to change the Levels setting in CS6. In this case I tweaked it to 0.95 which slightly darkens the overall image.
Depending on the image I may also make a slight adjustment to the Brightness setting in CS6. In this case I moved the Brightness to 8.
Since I’ve broken the adjustments done into quite a few jpegs to show the impact of individual adjustments it may look like this image took a fair amount of time in post. From start to finish it took 3 minutes and 18 seconds, including computer processing time.
No doubt there are many different post processing approaches that can be used with any given image. As long as a photographer can achieve their desired results, I don’t think it makes any difference at all what programs and adjustments someone uses.
Image was captured hand-held using a Nikon 1 J5 and a 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 11mm, f/8, 1/250, ISO-160
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