I very rarely post before and afters, mostly because its my belief that post processing isn’t the answer and there is a lot that goes into making an image appealing that no amount of “fixing” it in Photoshop will cover. Getting it right in camera is far more important that spending hours in front of a computer. That being said, I wanted to share the series of pictures that I took last night of my son playing his violin with you, to illustrate how I use Photoshop and Lightroom to put the final touches on my vision.
The first photo is straight out of the camera (SOOC), with no editing. Because I photograph in RAW files, my SOOC are flat and unappealing, but you can see that really, not much was changed on the picture, but the editing. Compositionally, I pretty much nailed it right away (this was the third picture I took), and I waited until my subject had the movement in the shot I was looking for – feet placed a certain way, bow up so it caught the light and echoed the lines of the fence, the head of the violin not breaking the line of the fence, leading lines to my subject, subject placed perfectly using rule of the thirds, etc. The only small change I made was the decision to crop it using the golden ratio right where the bow hit the strings to strengthen the viewers eye and my subjects gaze to the same spot.
Let’s take a look.
Yup, see what I mean. Flat and gross. But what did I see in this location that I knew would contribute to the final picture in my head? Tones play a lot in my work, and I love to play with the tonal harmony. I stopped by the road here because I knew the red tones of his hair, his red shoes, and the red bushes in the field, as well as the mahogany in the tree line and the violin would be something that would all help to create the tonal harmony. Truth be told, his shoes were a little too red for me, but they went well with the ripped jeans which gives the subject a little edge. Another big factor for me was the light. It was dusk and the sun was low, but I saw from the way the light hit the fence and wrapped around it that it would be really quite lovely to work with and wrap around my subject the same way.
Edited in Lightroom.
I always do global edits in Lightroom and make the most changes there. Right away, with only a lens correction, white balance, tonal curve, lifting the shadows, and slight changes to the HSL sliders, you can see a big difference. All the tones I saw in my final vision (and in reality that were there) are brought to life in a few seconds of work.
For my finishing touches, I always pull my images into Photoshop where I take off small “flaws” (like all the dog hair I found on his coat!), stray hair fix, a few curves and levels adjustments, skin tone check, a little softening of the tree line in the background, and I took out the body of water barely visible to the left of him because I found it distracting.
There you have it. Most of this wouldn’t have worked if I hadn’t looked for and used elements in the environment or known what to look for in lighting or composition. Editing simply brought out what was already there, and really didn’t take long at all.