The image on the left is the raw file that came out of a Canon 6D camera. The image on the right is my final shot, as I pre-visualized it, when I snapped the shutter, and after conducting my Fundamental Edits List.
As you can see- the basic tenor of the photograph has remained the same.
It seems logical, at this point, to mention some examples of what Fundamental Editing IS NOT- (in my opinion anyway)
- It isn’t HDR
- It isn’t converting to black and white (or any monochrome tone)
- It isn’t high contrast
- It isn’t super-saturated color
- It isn’t muted color
- It isn’t selective color
- It isn’t adding textures
- It isn’t applying any funky filters or apps
It’s about restoring the raw file to a digital photograph that more closely resembles what your eyes saw and your memory recalls.
Now, let’s go back to workflow.
Having a Fundamental Editing List really requires a “workflow” to have predictable results.
If you’re an aspiring pro, or just have the desire to create the best possible images that you’re capable of- then you must take post-processing workflow seriously.
Completing a Fundamental Editing List in an established pattern will create predictable results.
What can happen if you go about applying fundamental post-processing steps in a willy-nilly manner?
- You can increase the noise
- You can create destructive edits that can’t be reversed
- You can blow out your highlights
- You can turn your black tones into inky blobs or grayish muck
- You can throw your color off
- You can over-sharpen and create ugly artifacts
Let’s take a peek at the items on my Fundamental Edits List:
- Opening the image (How- you open the image can have significance)
- Noise Reduction
- Global Exposure Adjustment
- Clipping on the Shadow End – Black Point
- Clipping on the Highlight End – White Point
- Color Temperature
- Color Tint
- Efex – Vignette (optional)
- Efex – DeHaze
- Localized Exposure Adjustments
with the Adjustment Brush
- Localized Sharpening with the Adjustment Brush
- Global Sharpening (always- last)
I can’t cover the “how to” on each of these edits here. Quite frankly, it’s too much information to fit into a blog post. (Which is why I wrote a whole book about it)
However, let me give you some highlights.
Opening the image can have a significant impact on how you’re going to work on the file. It can also have an impact on how you will find the image at a later date. Depending on which program you’re using, it can affect images that you open up “after” a particular image. A key phrase here is workflow. Develop a pattern as to how you’re going to open your images. Complete the same steps every time. Those steps may vary depending on the editing software that you’re using. The steps for Photoshop won’t be the same as they are for Lightroom or Adobe Elements.
Crop in a non-destructive manner, this means in the ACR camera raw window or directly in Lightroom.
Do noise reduction early in the Fundamental Edits List. I do it right after my cropping. The reason for this is that the noise reduction process might affect some of the other steps. My noise reduction policy is to try and get it done outside of Photoshop or Elements (in the ACR camera raw processing window).
Use a very light hand in any global exposure adjustment. If you wish to become a real pro at post-processing, you need to master the Adjustment Brush. Professional use of the Adjustment brush will help you to eliminate sweeping global changes across your images that are the hallmark of amateur photography.
Clipping is a term that Adobe adopted to indicate lost image detail. In order to understand clipping, you need to have a working knowledge of the Histogram. It would also help you to study up on the Zone System. Clipping on the shadow end means that you’ve lost details in your black areas. If you look at your photographs, and the deep black areas tend to look like black blobs (with no detail); you’re likely clipping the shadows. On the reverse end is highlight clipping. If your highlight areas look like white blobs (with no visible detail) this means you’re likely clipping the highlights.
Clipping is a problem that I see all the time with photographs on the Internet.
Many of you digital photographers probably don’t remember Dean Collins. Dean was one of the original Photography Instructor Gurus. He was a true master of the photographic medium.
I took one of his workshops many years ago.
It was there, that I first truly learned that in a photograph there is “white” and then there is “WHITE”. The perception of “white” varies widely. When a bride is wearing a white dress, the dress should look “white” but not “WHITE”.
Do you get what I’m saying?
There should be texture and tone to the white dress. If it looks “WHITE”, (if it’s a white blob), then your highlights are clipped.
The reverse is true with shadows. A black cat on a black silk scarf should look “black” not “BLACK”. There should be tonal variations in the shadows. Those tonal variations should include texture and detail. If you can’t see that in your photograph, you have shadow clipping.
I’m not going to delve deeply into the Histogram and the concept of tonal range. However, it might help you to know this…
The number 255 on the Histogram is “WHITE”. Any number from 254 to approximately 230 is somewhere on the scale of “white” (with tone and texture).
The number 0 on the Histogram is “BLACK”. Any number from 1 to approximately 30 is somewhere on the scale of “black” (with tone and texture).