A before and after look

May 29, 2012

A question came up regarding what a before and after photo looks like from the time I snap a picture to the exported image.  This question was posed after a conversation related to photos I had taken for a beer tasting that was hosted by a friend.  "It'd be cool to see a before and after photo."  My attempts to find one I had previously done was met with failure as it seems to have sat on the back burner until it burnt up and whisked away.

My workflow consist of the following: Import into Lightroom, adjustments, export.  It is within the adjustment steps where the magic happens.  To keep from erecting a wall of text, there are two extremes when it comes to adjustment; slight and heavy (nice units huh?).  A slight adjustment will typically involve a shift in color temperate towards the warm or cool side or a small increase/decrease in exposure.  A heavy adjustment might involve multiple parameters related to exposure, color temperature, shadows, darks, and saturations.  In extreme cases, a localized adjustment of all the above might also be required in conjunction with what is already performed on the whole image.

Below is an image that was taken during the beer tasting.

Before diving in, what are some issues you see with this image?  The first would be that the auto white balance has put the image on the cool side.  Typically, sunlight falls between 5400K-6500K(elvin).  The camera selected a temperature of around 4700K. The lower the number, the 'cooler' the colors.  Vice versa as you approach 9000K; the higher the Kelvin, the warmer the colors.  Another issue is that the subject is underexposed.  Since this was a beer tasting in someone's house, it's difficult to pack a flash in such a confined space without drawing attention to myself (it defeats the purpose of a candid shot :) ).  A fill-in flash would  have helped light the subject since the sun is behind her.  

This is a slice of the before and after photo after some adjustments.  

Steps applied to image:

  1. Applied lens correction to reduce vignette (dark corners) and lens distortion.
  2. The image color temperature was adjusted to 4900K from 4700K.  This warmed the field not enough for the subject.  
  3. A preset was applied to adjust the shadow and highlight tone curve.
  4. Decreased overall exposure by (-.60).
  5. Applied a mask to the subject.  A mask will allow you to 'paint' an area thereby allowing you to change parameters and limit the change within the mask.
  6. Within the mask, adjusted exposure to +.60 (to brighten the subject) and warmed the color temperature to taste.
  7. Increased saturation to the overall image.

The final product.

I'm pretty happy with how it turned out since the photo opportunity came out of the blue and was taken with nothing but my camera.  While I was able to work a little magic on this photo, I'm usually not as successful especially in environments with mixed lighting casting different tints.  In a future post, I might dive a little deeper into all the fine grain tweaks done on an image.  In the mean time, I hope I was able to satisfy the curiosity of what an untouched photo goes through :).  



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