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Digital Darkroom Processing

I’ve had a few folks ask me about my approach to processing an image after exposure. I’ll take a quick walk through the major elements using a so-so frame from a recent trip down to La Jolla.

La Jolla is a wonderful area and the coastline is a photographer’s dream. However, every once in a while, you get a flat and washed out shot that does nothing to reflect the impact of the scene. Kinda like this one.

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My first step is to clean up any rough spots on the image. In this case, there were a number of bird droppings that I did not think added a lot to the scene. I used the clone brush in Photoshop to remove them. If you look carefully at the lower rocks, you can see the subtle changes.

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The image definitely needs some snap. Or better yet, some contrast. I like using Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro. The contrast filter allows me to deal with levels and color casts quickly and easily.

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I then used Nik’s neutral density filter to bring the image into better balance which also brought out some of the color.

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Another tool from Nik is Viveza. It provides some great color control. Notice the change in color of the rocks and the small three-stemmed plant.

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Back to Nik’s Color Efex Pro. The film effects filter allows me to choose from over 30 different film types. I used that filter and then added some sharpening. And here, the digital darkroom produces the final image.

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Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0

I was catching up on some photography sites today and following the best of 2008 lists. One post that caught my eye was from David Ziser’s Digital ProTalk. He writes that everyone needs to check out Nik’s software Color Efex Pro. And so I did.

Wow.

I took a washed out shot from yesterday’s hike and I put it through Nik’s filters. For a number of reasons, I would usually just delete a shot like this one. Poor exposure, so-so composition and overall just a flat image.

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Using a few filters from Nik, this was the result. Although I am still not keen on the composition, the ability to transform the image is quite impressive. Check out the videos here. Amazing software.

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