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.
I was wondering if I wanted to share this picture at all. Then I remembered the “After and Before forum” is a place to share how we get the wow in out images and this one took a long time and a lot of false starts and back tracking. Here though is the final walkthrough fixing issues that were created when I shot the picture.
I have always been a firm believer that you can’t turn crap into gold. If the picture is bad out of camera, it won’t be made much better by editing. I was out in the afternoon while it was snowing and I knew the light was fading fast. It was about 15.00 and sunset is at about 15:45/16:00 at the moment. It would have been in that precious golden hour if not for the overcast/snowy sky. I loved that fact that the snow was falling, there were droplets of water on the tree that were freezing and the whole colour palette was cold. Because of the extreme defuse and muted light I had to bump up my ISO. With macro work 800 ISO is my limit that I hate to break, at this ISO I can reduce noise without reducing the quality of the small details. However I broke my self-imposed limit and was shooting at 1250 ISO with my pop up flash, because I left my speed lite at home. I knew I had got the shot of a frozen water droplet on the end of a pine needle and I knew the droplet was sharp, while chimpping I also knew that the exposure was slightly under. Of course looking on the back of the screen and looking at the picture on the computer are two different things.
On the computer I saw that the second needle had some crud on it, great more work. Noise always hides in the shadows and where there is a lack of detail. By brightening these dark smooth areas makes the noise more obvious.
First tasks had to be, reducing the noise but not sacrificing the detail in the frozen droplet. I tried a few different things going backwards and forwards, but settled on exporting the image to Photoshop from Lightroom as a smart object. I applied Define 2 first, a Niksoft noise reduction filter, to reduce the noise, Next I applied the Shake reduction filter (as capture sharpening) to preserve the sharp details I had, also it counteracted the softening from the noise reduction. Finally I removed the crud from the other pine needle, using a mixture clone and the patch tool.
I usually only apply one set of colour adjustments, but I wanted the colours to be bold on the needle and soft in the background not just a washed out grey. I applied my Kodachrome 64 preset, which is applied through the HSL panel and then my porta esq preset, which is applied through the curves. This brought out the soft magentas and greens in the washed out grey adding some depth to the background, while giving a nice bold green in the pine needle.
I also increased the exposure slightly, still afraid of creating more noise. Lowered the highlights and increased the shadows.
The flash created light stops on the pine needle; using the spot removal tool I exchanged them for less bright tones.
I applied local adjustments to enhance the detail in the frozen droplet and reduce the highlight areas in the pine needle.
There was a lot of chromatic aberration especially in the greens and purples on the pine needle and the frozen droplet. I used the eyedropper to select the aberration and removed it.
The final touch was using a radial adjustment. I increased the noise reduction and decreased the sharpness and increased the moiré and defringe. This was all done to smooth out the softer details and reduce noise more. I also reduced the exposure for the same reason but also to create a soft vignette to bring the eye to the frozen droplet.
After all the hard work I think the image is good, not the best but a good job. Things I would do differently would be to have the speed lite to add more light to the scene and lower the ISO and get the right exposure. I quite like the mix of Define 2 and Shake Reduction as an opening step for noisy images and it was great to discover this combination.
Stacy asked me if I could put together a slide show showing the transformation of the image.
I would be really interested to know what you think, you can let me know in the comment box below.
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