After and Before Forum; Fallen on Bad Days

The After and Before forum is organised by Stacy Fischer, it is a place where amateurs as well as seasoned photographers explain the wow and how about their photo and editing decision.You can read more here about how to take part.

Wk33 before benjamin Rowe


This week for the “After and Before Forum” I am editing in black and white.
While out with my macro lens I came across this run down building. I had been here before a few years ago and the building actually looked less abandoned than now. The city I live in is an interesting city; Lodz was scared by the Second World War with one of the largest and longest surviving Jewish ghettos in Poland and a third of its population being killed, its infrastructure and buildings survived the war intact. It was after the fall of communism when all the manufacturing left the city (textile manufacturing was the main industry of the city and the Soviet Union its main exporter) that buildings began to decline rapidly. Although in the last 6 years I have lived here, there have been big renovations as well as a huge rejuvenation project, and it is not uncommon to see buildings in such a state like this.

I didn’t use my macro lens but by 15mm wide angle lens to capture this shot. I photographed the building at one stop intervals +/- 3 stops. I also decided to experiment with a warming filter to warm up the scene; the day was overcast and there was a hint of fog in the air. Using Photoshop CC I merged my exposures together to create a 32 bit HDR, if you want to know more you can read about it here. I rested my camera on a wall as I didn’t have a tripod causing the bottom left og the frame to have part of the wall in the composition. I used a combination of content aware fill and the clone stamp tool to remove this. I then imported the image into Lightroom.




I first made some basic adjustments to get a general tone that I wanted to work with.


I then converted my photo to black and white using my 3200 ISO Ilford preset. I love this preset, because it has high contrast and the tones are quite nice for architectural work. The contrast for this preset is strong but I was planning to tone it down a bit anyway.


I adjusted the contrast with a combination of clarity, contrast and setting the white point of the image.
The bricks of the building felt too bright, using the black and white panel I toned down the intensity with the targeted adjustment tool. This reduced only the yellow and orange tones.


I sharpened the image and reduced the noise that came through the HDR process.


I try to equate the next steps to the dodging and burning I would do in the dark room. With a good base image I just want to highlight and darken areas to emphasis areas and add some wow.

I added a gradient at the top of the image which reduced highlights to make the sky less intense and bring back a little detail.


I added an adjustment brush to increase the contrast and open up the shadows of the building.


I added a gradient at the bottom of the picture to darken this area. The idea being it would help draw the eye up to the building which is the focus of the image.


In the middle of the image I used another adjustment brush to add highlights. This is to also help bring focus to the building with the eye leaving the dark area, coming to something brighter and then settling on the contrasted tones of the building.
I also added contrast to the trees in the background to act as a barrier to bring the eyes back to the building.


After all these adjustments, I tweaked the basic adjustments a little to bring harmony to the overall tone of the photo.


For a final touch I added a slight vignette to bring the picture together.

fallen on bad days



I really like the tones of this image and I think it has the feel of a real black and white shot. If I was to do anything different it would be having a tripod with me, not having to rely on the wall and the subsequent work of removing the wall from the picture.

I would be really interested to know what you think, you can let me know in the comment box below.

Also please head over to Stacy’s blog to see the other participant’s entries into this weeks forum

Remember if you liked this post to; like, share and subscribe.

If you wish to get notifications when I post on my blog, you can follow me on Twitter@apertureF64, on or alternatively be emailed by subscribing below. All images are the Copyright of Benjamin Rowe , ALL RIGHTS Reserved unless credited to another photographer. For more information please read my Copyright Statement

34 thoughts on “After and Before Forum; Fallen on Bad Days

  1. Excellent walkthrough of a great bit of processing! You have certainly added life and interest to what was, let’s face it, a rather bland image. There’s hope for some of my stuff yet, if I can be as dedicated as you at the post processiing!

    • Hi Sue, If I had left the image after basic adjustments it would have been lacking. I think it is all the local adjustments that bring it to life. Maybe a little bit of just brightening or darkening in one or two areas of your pictures may give them a lift as well.

      • Thanks, Ben….basically, I am lazy when it comes to post-processing! Time is of the essence, and I’m running out of essence…

  2. Good morning, Ben. AMAZING!!! Thank you for taking us through your process. Is there a good way to come back to this post later other than bookmark the page? Helen

  3. Lovely final result Ben ! I too appreciate the step by step processes you’ve taken the time to show . If I glean just one little bit for future ‘try outs’ on my own way of working I’ll be very happy .Thanks 😉

  4. Very successful and good process explanation. Impressive. I like strong contrasts too but have recently realised that sometimes reducing contrast opens up detail. My iso 3200 preset is also one of my favourites but often i dial back the grain.

    • Ok wordpress has failed again and more of my comments have disappeared.
      Anyway, hi Andrew I love applying contrast twice adding some in curves and then reducing it on the basic panel. I have removed all the grain from my presets as I am not a fan of fake grain.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment, it is really appreciated.

  5. I love your final results, you work shows what can be done. with subtle changes. I like that your summary, and changes that you would do differently. I was wondering if you take the image knowing the final image and the processing you want to do?

    • Hi, I would say a lot of the time I have an idea of what I am going to do to the image, sometimes to edit a picture you need to take them in a certain way. I think a lot about lighting, perspective and exposure, especially if I am going to convert it to Black and White.
      Thanks for the great question.

  6. Really great, gritty image! I love the tone of the whole picture, little details like the graffiti standing out and the way the trees frame the subject. Thanks for explaining how you achieved your look, you put a lot of thought and time into your images and it really pays off.

  7. You are easily convincing me to let up on my heavy-handed processing. You did a lot of work here but it doesn’t show itself. It just makes the image more interesting! Thanks, Ben. My next few scheduled posts will more closely follow your example.

    • Well Emilio I will admit that I can be heavy handed if the image needs it. To sound like a cliché; editing is like making love and how you do this depends on your partner and mood. Some images need a more heavy handed approach while others need a bit more of a delicate touch.

      • I am reminded of a local Italian restaurant here who’s motto is ““Dining Sicilian Style is almost like making love; you must take the time to enjoy it!”. And then what do they do but bring our dinner to us less than 5 minutes after we order!

  8. Ben, I love when you use Lightroom because, and I’ve probably said this before, I can understand everything you do. And I found your choice of local adjustments to be ones I might have taken had the image been my own. Well, perhaps all except adding contrast to the trees – brilliant. I really do love black and white and find that it often works with a photo that otherwise suffers from lack of light and shadows. I don’t know why that is. But if the subject matter and composition are strong, but the colors aren’t, I will usually end up processing it in black and white. Thanks for the reminder, by the way, that you can use the targeted adjustment tool to change color saturation even in a B&W image. I tend to forget that.

    One request – I’d love to see all these photos in a slideshow to watch the picture morph with each change. I’m taking a page from Emilio’s and Loré’s playbook this week as they did that and it was fun 🙂 Thanks, Ben, for a great post.

    • Hi Stacy, I will try and fore fill your request of a slideshow of the evolution of the picture. I can understand why you wouldn’t add contrast to the trees that is more a personal quirk of mine. It was about a year ago that I was watching a talk about editing and speaker said to create the overall tone and use local adjustments to add depth and develop the image. This is something that I have been trying to do ever since.

Let Me Know Your Thoughts, I Know You Have Some

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s