Are You Over Processing Your Images?

“Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships.”  – Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams embraced post-processing in the darkroom by dodging and burning (making adjustments that affect both light and dark areas of the image). The lesson that we learned from him is that post-processing is just as important as actually taking the picture. Ansel Adams would spend entire days locked up in his darkroom creating his masterful prints. They didn’t come out of the camera that way, but he had a vision in mind when he took the picture.

And that is just as true today. When we shoot with care taking into consideration composition, exposure and the histogram of the image, we can effectively create what we saw in digital form. It is also important to think about what kind of post-processing adjustments you might make to the image.

Some of the tools we now use in Lightroom and Photoshop allow us to make creative decisions in order to fulfill the artist’s vision. However, as the photographer goes through the learning process, they start to “see” their images differently, and recognize beginner mistakes that can elevate the quality of their images. This article will point out some of the most common mistakes.

 

Over Processed Images

The key to learning post-processing in Lightroom is to memorize what all the sliders do and what leeway you will have in using them. You don’t want to overdo a slider and have an adverse effect on your image. Here are a few tips that will help.

Don’t Overdo Your Saturation Slider

One of the most common mistakes a beginner photographer makes when first learning post processing is over saturating their images. It seems that when you spend hours on an image, you don’t actually give yourself the option to really “see” what you have created.
A good rule of thumb is to try the vibrance slider first before adding saturation. Vibrance is a smart-tool which only increases the intensity of the more muted colors and leaves the already well-saturated colors alone. It’s sort of like fill light, but for colors. Vibrance also prevents skin tones from becoming overly saturated and unnatural. Then use your saturation slider sparingly, watching for over-saturation in skin tones as well as blown out reds and greens.

Another tip would be to look away from your image for a few minutes. Look out the window or look at a different image and come back to the original.

One of my favorite features of Lightroom is to use the Snapshot view in the Develop module. This will easily give you a way to create another version of the same picture and compare the two.

 

The Snapshot

The snapshot view in Lightroom gives you the unique ability to work on an image and save a digital facsimile. Lightroom saves just the image adjustments in the catalog and does not take up any additional disk space. If you would like to create a virtual copy of an image to show up separately in the Lightroom Library module, you can do this as well. The snapshots will only show up for a singular image in the Develop module in Lightroom.

You can save a version in a snapshot and create a whole new image or save just pieces of the previous edit by copying the adjustments and pasting only selective adjustments into the new version. After I have made the new adjustment, I save it as a snapshot and then compare the two. Quite frequently, the version that I thought was the best I could do, looks lackluster next to the newer, more creative version.

Don’t Overdo the Shadow Slider

One of the best ways to edit a landscape image is to bring down the highlights and bring up the shadows in Lightroom. But watch out when using the shadow slider. It can leave your image looking flat if you use too much. This can be a dance between using the shadow, highlight and exposure slider, balancing each so that your image looks its best.

The Dehaze Filter

The dehaze filter is a useful tool that should be used sparingly. This filter can give you a dramatic look in the sky of your landscape image, but if overused, it will affect the sky negatively by adding a strange greenish blue cast. This filter is best used sparingly or with the local adjustment brush so you can control the effect. You can also use a selective filter to add more blues back in the sky by decreasing the color temperature to the cooler blue side and bring back the natural color of the sky.

Over-sharpening

Over-sharpening is one of most common mistakes of the beginning photo editor. Sharpening is essential for a correctly edited digital image, but you need to get a handle on the settings that work for your camera. For my camera, I tend to set my sharpening to about 100, my radius to 1.2-1.4 and my detail to 25. You can push these settings higher, but watch for halos and glows around the edges of the image. Also be careful of sharpening if you have cropped your image. If you are sharpening an image based on the full resolution size, it will easily look over sharpened when cropped.

The highlighted area showing the halo is over sharpened.

In addition to all of these recommendations, over-processed images occur when we get too close to the work and don’t give ourselves some space and time to actually “see” what we have created. Hopefully, the tips suggested and a little dedicated screen break from time to time will help us to stop spoiling the pictures we worked so hard to make.

If you would like some help with your grasp on photo editing, join us at for our next Lightroom Quick Start for an enriching learning experience right here on BPSOP.

In this class, I cover the basic tools to use Lightroom as your go-to editing and organizational tool. This 4-week class covers the basics that will get you up and running quickly in an efficient way. Try our next Lightroom class and learn to use the essential program for editing and organization.

BPSOP Instructor – Holly Higbee-Jansen

HollyHolly Higbee-Jansen is photographer, trainer, blogger, and landscape photography workshop leader who enjoys teaching and the creative process. Her passions include teaching photography workshops in beautiful locations in California, Iceland, Costa Rica and the American West with her husband Mark. Holly also teaches online classes on Lightroom, Photoshop and photographic technique. Get Holly’s Free E-Book on “Landscape Photography and the Light and find out about her newest workshops at Jansen Photo Expeditions.com.

Reach Holly by email at hhjphoto@gmail.com and read her blog at JansenPhotoExpeditions.com/Blog

Holly Teaches:

Lightroom Quickstart

Lightroom

Do you want to learn to create images that show the beauty of the scene you saw when you took the photograph? Do you want to learn the other essential side of digital photography, photo editing and get up to speed quickly?

This course is designed to get you up and running FAST in this incredibly powerful program. In this two week information packed class, you will learn how to import, organize and perform simple and effective editing processes that will let you produce beautiful adjustments to your pictures.

iPhone Photography
Skagafoss-1
In this class, we will introduce you to the magic of iPhone photography using several shooting and editing apps that will give you the ability to make your pictures sing in a fun and easy way. You will learn how to crop, change saturation, brightness and affect the overall look of your pictures with HDR, drama and grunge filters and other techniques. You will be amazed at the simple and effective methods.

 

 

Quick Photo Tip: Light, A Little Dab Will Do Ya

I love the light, plain and simple, and I’m a firm believer in one of my favorite phrases, “You find the light and you’ll find the shot”. I’ve been following this self-appointed rule for as long as I can remember and it has served me well.

One of my favorite ways to shoot is to find a little dab of sunlight somewhere, usually hidden between larger areas of shadow and or color, and place or see an object or subject in it. When I expose for only the area in light, I can make the shadow area ever more dramatic and interesting…and colorful.

In my online class with the BPSOP, and in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind”workshops I conduct around the planet, I’m always telling my fellow photographers that one of the best ways to take their photography what I refer to as “up a notch”, is to “see past first impressions”. I usually follow this with a quote by Henry David Thoreau who once said, “It’s not what you look at, it’s what you see”.

What I mean in this context is when you find yourself at some location, look for areas that have a small amount of light hitting somewhere. This is easier to find when the light is dappled, but harder to find when the majority of the scene is in shadow. When you see it, think of ways to utilize it. I can promise you there’s a chance to walk away with one of those illusive “Keepers” we all strive for but sometimes have a hard time creating.

There are people out there that think this is not a good idea and will tell you that you need more light to take good photos. All I can tell you is to run away as fast as you can because they will only beat you up with bad advice and drag you down to their level.

In the above photo taken during my Springtime in Berlin workshop, I was walking down the street and saw a crowd of people standing in line. I’m always attracted to this becauseof the possibility that something going on.

What the people were doing is waiting for this restaurant to open, so I walked up to the front to see what it looked like. I’m really curious about everything, especially when I have a camera in my hand…which is most of the time.

There, right in front of my eyes was this chair being lit by the sun coming through a small hole in the red fabric. Needless to say, I was all over it like a tight fitting Lassie costume.!!!

Using exposure compensation

This is an excerpt from Photography Essentials, taught by Brit Hammer.

What is exposure?

Having the “correct” exposure means your image is neither too light nor too dark.

When shooting in aperture priority mode the camera chooses the settings to create the correct exposure. This means the camera sets shutter speed and ISO.

How does a camera know how dark or light an image should be? A camera will try to make the image a medium level of brightness, not knowing anything about what you’re photographing or how it’s supposed to look. That means your image might turn out darker or lighter than how the scene looks in reality.

Most of the time it works just fine for the camera to guess the correct exposure. That’s because the things we usually photograph in everyday life are made up of a mix of dark and light elements. But sometimes the camera guesses wrong, and you need to tell the camera to go brighter or darker…

 

What the camera thinks is a correct exposure is not always right

In the example at top left, this is what the camera chose for the exposure, but this was not how it looked in reality. The camera does not know that these sand dunes and white clouds look very bright in reality. It just makes the image a medium level of brightness.

This is why you sometimes have to help the camera and tell it to brighten or darken things. You do this by using exposure compensation.

In the image at top right I used exposure compensation to make it look more natural.

 

What is exposure compensation?

Exposure compensation is a setting that tells the camera to go slightly brighter or darker than what it thinks is correct.

Just like aperture, exposure compensation is expressed in stops. A stop means simply to halve or double the amount of light. Most cameras have an exposure compensation range from -2 to +2 stops.

Negative values make the image darker, and positive values make the image brighter. Behind the value, you’ll often see “EV”, which stands for exposure value.

 

Where to find exposure compensation on your camera

Depending on your camera, exposure compensation might be easily accessible or not. If your camera doesn’t have a designated exposure compensation dial (left image), then it’s worth digging through your manual to see if you can assign this function to one of the buttons or dials on your camera so it’s handy.

On most cameras, exposure compensation is adjustable in increments of one-third of a stop. One-third stops are expressed in decimal numbers: one-third is 0.3 and two-thirds is 0.7. Your camera’s current setting is visible on the LCD display, such as shown in the above right image set to ±0.0 (i.e. no exposure compensation).

 

When to use exposure compensation

There are two typical situations in which the camera will make a wrong judgment of the exposure:

  1. Almost everything in the frame is light. (Left image) In this case the camera will make the image too dark. Correct this by using positive exposure compensation.
  2. Almost everything in the frame is dark. (Right image) In this case the camera will make the image too light. Correct this by using negative exposure compensation.

 

Photographing a light scene

In each image above, almost everything is white. Because the camera doesn’t know what’s being photographed, it made the exposure a medium brightness. That resulted in images that look too dark when compared to reality.

I used an exposure compensation of +1 EV (left) and +0.7 EV (right) to brighten the images to make them look like more natural.

 

Photographing a dark scene

Because the camera will always try to create a medium bright image, it will make images of night scenes lighter than in reality. That means when photographing night scenes you have to tell the camera to make the image darker so it results in a natural looking image.

The above two images were taken with the exposure compensation set to -1.7 EV. That’s one and two-thirds stops darker than what the camera chose for the exposure.

 

Photographing a scene with medium brightness

It’s not just extremely light or dark scenes that benefit from some exposure compensation.

The image on the left shows what the camera chose as the exposure for this scene. On average, this exposure might be fine, but the detailed texture in the bright white flower is almost invisible. That’s why I used an exposure compensation of -0.7 EV to make it a bit darker.

The lesson here is to always ask yourself, would this image look better if it were a bit lighter or darker? Take a shot using what the camera thinks the exposure should be (i.e. 0 EV) and another using exposure compensation. You can choose which looks best when you compare images side by side on your computer.

 

 

Exposure compensation as a creative tool

Sometimes you might deviate from the “correct” exposure for creative reasons.

Like aperture, exposure compensation can be used as a creative tool. You can create an atmosphere or mood with a little (or a lot) of exposure compensation.

At first this might seem like yet another thing to think of when you’re shooting, but after playing with it for a while it will become second nature to ask yourself before pressing the shutter, “What if I applied a bit of exposure compensation?”

 

You can use exposure compensation to over-expose or under-expose for creative purposes.

Learn more when you sign up for Photography Essentials.)

 

Instructor: Brit Hammer

In Photography Essentials you’ll learn the techniques Brit uses so you can arrive at your own great images quickly and easily. With a bit of practice, they will become second nature to you!

Everything is explained simply and clearly.

We’ll work on one essential aspect at a time, broken down into parts like building blocks. By the end of the course the pieces will be put back together again so it all makes sense.

This course is for both beginners as well as experienced photographers desiring consistently great shots.

 


What students say about Brit’s teaching:

“I’ve taken many classes. With the way Brit taught and explained things, I finally said, ‘I get it’. She made me enjoy taking photographs.”

“I have taken quite a few courses offered by BPSOP and learned so much from each one of them. All of your teachers are stellar. Brit Hammer’s class and method of critiquing took me to another level, and I am so appreciative. The video format and her commitment and energy she puts into her students’ work is inspiring and makes you want to work that much harder to utilize her suggestions for improving your photographs.” – Patricia Tedeschi – Galarneau (Celebrate Your Life in Beautiful Images)

Using Selective Adjustments in Adobe Lightroom CC

The secret to a well-edited image is to not only having the exposure, contrast, white balance, and saturation correctly adjusted, it is also to look at your picture it in parts. What parts of the image could be adjusted individually to add more definition, detail, vibrancy, or clarity to your image? 

My favorite tools for this fine-tuning are in the selective adjustment panel in Adobe Lightroom CC. If you click on one of the selective tools such as the graduated filter, the radial filter or the adjustment brush, you will see the basic adjustment panel. Depending on the areas you would like to adjust, select the appropriate tool. To add more drama to a sky, I would use the graduated adjustment tool, to increase or decrease exposure in a particular area, I would use the radial filter, to fine tune smaller areas, I would use the adjustment brush.

On some images, I may have multiple selective adjustment masks (they are called masks because they mask out only certain areas of an image).

In the image below, I have made the preliminary adjustments in exposure and vibrance. You can see by the histogram that this is a balanced image and there is room in the shadows and highlights to enhance it further. I’d like to add more detail and contrast to the sky, enhance the color of the water and add some saturation to the hillsides.

The first thing to do is use the graduated adjustment filter and pull it down from the top of the image to just below the horizon line. (I have ticked the box “show selected mask overlay” so the red mask shows the area being affected by the adjustment.)

Then, add other areas of selected masks with the radial filter. I added a mask to the ocean and a couple of masks to the coastline as shown below and made the adjustments to my liking. I mostly added exposure, saturation, and clarity to pop out the details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you are happy with your selected results, the last thing to do as add sharpening and your watermark and your done!

If you would like more information on how to create amazing images in Lightroom, take my next Lightroom Quick Start class here at BPSOP.

In this class, I cover the basic tools to use Lightroom as your go-to editing and organizational tool. This 4-week class covers the basics that will get you up and running quickly in an efficient way. Try our next Lightroom class and learn to use the essential program for editing and organization.

BPSOP Instructor – Holly Higbee-Jansen

HollyHolly Higbee-Jansen is photographer, trainer, blogger, and landscape photography workshop leader who enjoys teaching and the creative process. Her passions include teaching photography workshops in beautiful locations in California, Iceland, Costa Rica and the American West with her husband Mark. Holly also teaches online classes on Lightroom, Photoshop and photographic technique. Get Holly’s Free E-Book on “Landscape Photography and the Light and find out about her newest workshops at Jansen Photo Expeditions.com.

Reach Holly by email at hhjphoto@gmail.com and read her blog at JansenPhotoExpeditions.com/Blog

Holly Teaches:

Lightroom Quickstart

Lightroom

Do you want to learn to create images that show the beauty of the scene you saw when you took the photograph? Do you want to learn the other essential side of digital photography, photo editing and get up to speed quickly?

This course is designed to get you up and running FAST in this incredibly powerful program. In this two week information packed class, you will learn how to import, organize and perform simple and effective editing processes that will let you produce beautiful adjustments to your pictures.

iPhone Photography
Skagafoss-1
In this class, we will introduce you to the magic of iPhone photography using several shooting and editing apps that will give you the ability to make your pictures sing in a fun and easy way. You will learn how to crop, change saturation, brightness and affect the overall look of your pictures with HDR, drama and grunge filters and other techniques. You will be amazed at the simple and effective methods.

 

 

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