Workflow Process #1 - Rising Moon over Laguna

 

I’m going to do something that I’ve always been super wary to do: show you my workflow when it comes to editing. I will admit that my photos look very different after the initial capture. I feel like the editing done by a photographer is what CREATES the style and feel of a photographer. I’ve developed a style over my time editing and I'm sure that it will continue to develop. For this post, I’ll show you how I got this photo:

 

Technically speaking, I would have NEVER been able to get this photo 6 months ago. I didn’t have the tools and skills in my arsenal that would have allowed this photo to look how it does today. The technique I used in order to get this photo is something called image blending using layer masks in Photoshop. Believe it or not, this photo is created by FOUR separate photos.  

Cameras have definitely come a long way but they still have limitations. Where you will see these limitations often is in high contrast scenes. In this particular photo, if I would have taken only a single exposure, it would have become either one of two things. A photo that was exposed for the shadows, meaning the sky would be way too bright but you will get detail in the rocks OR the sky would be perfect but the rocks and water would be too dark. As a photographer, the goal for me is always to get it right in the camera but sometimes it isn’t possible without super expensive filters so you do the next best thing: image blending.

I blended the best parts of four photos using layer masks in Photoshop to create this photo.

The four photos used to create my final photo. From left to right; First photo used to regain detail in the sky. Second photo is the base. Third photo used for the currents in the water. Fourth photo used to get detail in the rocks and other dark parts. 

 

If you notice, the far right photo is the brightest with some detail in the rocks and the far left image is the darkest but with an appealing and visible color in the sky. The 2nd photo is used as my “base” image that is applied different appealing aspects of all of the images. Using layer masks to target either the brightest or darkest part of my images, I blended the pleasing aspects of each image that would create a clean image that has detail in the shadows and in the sky. The final product, after blending: 

The image created after blending all four exposures that has a significant amount of data within it. This means shadows and highlights in the photo can be pushed to retrieve data. 

 

Some of the values pulled from the Lightroom panel. Highlights and Shadows were retrieved, Contrast was added, some color was added using Vibrance, and the temp was toyed around with. 

Some of the values pulled from the Lightroom panel. Highlights and Shadows were retrieved, Contrast was added, some color was added using Vibrance, and the temp was toyed around with. 

The photo may look the same but it actually is a far cry from the other photos because it holds a ton of data within the photo. With this photo, I then imported it to Lightroom and adjusted the contrast, clarity, sharpness, vibrance, etc. I also did some dodge and burning with a local adjustment brush which is just brightening and darkening certain aspects of the photo. I used the local adjustment brush to brighten up the bottom left rock. This helped the flow of the photo by pushing focus on the rock and then letting the eyes wander until they are pulled to the top right of the photo which is where the moon is. When it comes to the editing, it is your job as a photographer to best portray the mood that YOU felt when capturing the scene. Allow yourself to experiment and figure what looks best to you. It is your work, so you should own it. A tip I’d give to photographers is to edit a photo and then leave it alone. Don't post it. A day or two after, go back to it and see if you still feel the same way about the edit. I have stopped myself from posting photos that were seriously over processed or too dull using this method.

 

Before & After the Lightroom edits made.

 

Although I didn’t really go over EVERYTHING , I did show you some of my workflow and the beginning product compared to the finished product. I put a lot of work into the editing process. I really enjoy the editing process and think it’s one of the most important and defining skills to have as a landscape photographer. Hopefully you enjoyed this little write up and gained some insight!

If you have any questions, feel free to drop a comment below or contact me with a question on my contact page. Cheers.