Antarctic Photo Editing Tips In Photoshop and Lightroom with Julieanne Kost
by Lex van den Berghe
posted on 02-14-2017
Travel presents an incredible opportunity to flex your photography muscles, and no one delivers the goods quite like our own Julieanne Kost. Longtime Photoshop and Lightroom Evangelist, Julieanne recently had the opportunity to spend a few days in Antarctica, and she returned with an impressive portfolio featuring the chilly landscape.
On her approach to photography, Julieanne says, “It’s important to know what you can do in post when shooting. While we aspire to capture all of the key elements to make a successful image in camera (light, gesture, composition etc.), post processing is another tool that can be used to craft and refine your vision, and if you can pre-visualize what an image can become, you have an advantage.” Like many photographers, Julieanne uses Lightroom and Photoshop to reinforce her visual narrative, and today we’re lucky to have Julieanne give us a true behind-the-scenes look at her editing process and share a few of her secrets. I’ll let Julieanne take it from here in her own words. Be sure to follow the links for more in-depth tutorials.
Creating Color Contrast with Local Adjustments
- In the Lens correction panel, I began my editing by enabling both the Remove Chromatic Aberration and Enable Profile Correction options to remove any distortion and vignetting caused by the lens.
- Then, I cropped and straightened the image to better balance the composition (and remove the distracting ice on the left side of the frame.)
- Because of the cloud cover, the original capture was flat and lacking in contrast. I used the Whites and Blacks sliders in the Basic Panel to extend the dynamic range of the photograph across the entire histogram. I also increased the Contrast slider and decreased the Highlights slider to retain detail in the brighter area of the ice.
- I adjusted the white balance of the image to neutralize the ice in the foreground by moving the Temperature slider towards blue and the Tint slider slightly towards magenta.
- As a result, the sky lost its yellow color so I painted in the sky area with yellow using the Adjustment Brush to add depth and create color contrast between the foreground and background.
- I added local contrast and clarity by painting with the Adjustment Brush, helping to make the icicles pop and boost edge definition.
- Finally, I used the Spot Removal tool to remove the darker shadow on the left as well as some distracting imperfections and drips in the ice.
Adding Light After-the-Fact
In a perfect world, we would have the time and equipment necessary to light our subject exactly the way that we want to, but in the field, there are often obstacles like time constraints, weight restrictions for equipment, small spaces etc. In these less-than-ideal situations, we move forward doing what we can with what we have, confident we can still shape and form our vision in post-processing.
- Here I followed the same workflow as the previous image: enabling the lens correction options, cropping, and making global tonal and color corrections in the Basic panel.
- Then, I used the Adjustment Brush to dodge (lighten the exposure on) the ice, making sure that I also adjusted the reflection. When using the Adjustment brush, I lowered the Flow amount, used a large soft-edged brush, and painted several times over an area to slowly “build” up the effect in a more natural looking way. I used a second adjustment to burn (darken) other areas.
- To draw attention to the splashing drops of water, I used the Adjustment Brush to add contrast and increase exposure.
Pre-Visualizing a Photo for Post
Lightroom and Photoshop allow me more freedom with my photography. Even when I know an image isn’t going to be perfect straight out of the camera, I can pre-visualize what I can create after-the-fact.
- While it’s always my intent to make as many corrections to tone and color as possible with the raw photograph in Lightroom, when it’s time for heavier retouching, making complex selections, and compositing multiple images together, I move to Photoshop to do the heavy lifting
- In this example, I really liked the shape of the iceberg, but the algae bloom and the small pieces of ice in the water were too distracting. In addition, there isn’t’ enough space around the iceberg (tight spaces lead to tension, and I wanted this image to have a peaceful feeling). So, I opened the file in Photoshop and added some canvas size.
- I then opened a second photo of a small iceberg that had a clean background. I didn’t want to spend hours trying to use the healing brush or patch tools because there weren’t many clean areas to sample from. And although you might be tempted to simply fill the background with a solid color, the lack of color and tonal variance and noise would be a dead give-away that I composited the file when printed large.
- I placed the photograph that I was going to use as the “clean” water as a layer above the original iceberg image, added a layer mask and filled it with black to hide the contents of the layer. Then, I painted with the brush and the foreground color set to white, in the layer mask to reveal the clean water in the desired areas.
- To match the color and tone of the new water with the original, I added a Curves adjustment layer (limiting its effect to the clean water layer by creating a Clipping Mask,) set a point in the dark area of the curve, and dragged it downward to darken the image.
Prepping for Compositing while Shooting
When shooting, if I see a problem I want to fix in a landscape, I always try to capture the element that I will use to fix it. For example, in this image, I thought I might want to bring focus to the iceberg by removing the mountains. With this in mind, I took several additional photographs of the sky (with the same direction and quality of light) to use as my source material to cover the mountains. Because the mountains are a relatively large area, if I had tried to copy info from the original file, you might see repeating patterns. Or, if I had scaled the sky from the original image to cover the mountains, the difference in size and structure of the noise would have been a telltale sign of manipulation.
- I toned the image in the Basic panel, then added a Graduated filter across the sky area set to an increased amount of Dehaze and decreased Saturation to enhance the contrast.
- I opened the image in Photoshop to remove smaller, distracting pieces of ice and creating a clearer path between the larger pieces of flat ice.
- Then, I used the sky from another image to cover the mountains.
- To place more emphasis on the iceberg, I selected it using the Quick Select tool, added a Curves adjustment layer, and increased the brightness of the composite (RGB) channel. Then, I selected the blue channel, added a point in the shadow area of the curve, and dragged it up to add a creative color adjustment (making the selected area more blue).
Compositing an Image in Photoshop
One of the images that I was really looking forward to making was an over/under shot in the water. However, the algal bloom made the water too murky to see through so I created my own interpretation by compositing multiple images together.
- Starting with the iceberg, I removed all distracting elements using the Clone Stamp tool and the Healing Brush.
- Then, I added a photo of the edge of a glass barrier (to create my version of the “transition” of the water line) and used Free > Transform > Warp to add the curve to the glass edge.
- I then added the photo of the clouds, positioned them below the glass layer, chose Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal, and repositioned the clouds at the bottom of the canvas. I used the Lasso tool to select the area below the glass divide and added a layer mask to the clouds in order to mask them to only appear below the glass divide.
- Next, I added additional clouds to the top of the image, compositing them together by setting the layer to the Multiply blend mode and decreasing the opacity of the cloud layer to 30%. I added a layer mask and dragged a gradient to slowly reveal the clouds at the top of the image.
- Finally, I added a Gradient Map adjustment layer at the top of the layer stack to help unify the different color elements. I created a custom gradient that transitioned from black to blue, then to gold, then to white, and lowered the opacity of the layer to allow some of the original color to show.
Using Boundary Warp in Lightroom
- In this case, I knew that I wanted to print this image large, so instead of taking only one exposure, I took several in order to create a panorama. To maintain the quality, I stitched the exposures together using PhotoMerge in Lightroom.
- In Lightroom’s Develop module, I enabled both the Remove Chromatic Aberration and Enable Profile Correction options to all of the images in the sequence.
- Then, with all of the images in the sequence selected, I chose Photo > PhotoMerge. In this case, the Cylindricle Projection worked the best.
- Because the boat was moving while I was capturing the multiple exposures, the resulting panorama had very uneven edges. Using PhotoMerge’s Boundary Warp feature I was able to distort the resulting panorama to fit the rectangular area, while keeping the image a raw file for maximum flexibility and quality when editing.
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