Saturday, August 21, 2010

How to Save an Image

Tobi and Bruce on Candlewood Lake, CT, last weekend. So how did I make this image?

This is what I started with. Normally, I would say, if you don't get the image right in camera, reshoot it. Considering the ease that one can shoot digitally nowadays, combined with the ability to chimp the LCD immediately after shooting, there really is no excuse to not get it right in camera. Well, bullshit. Sometimes your best image looks fine on the LCD and you get back home and put it on the big screen and WHOA, it looks like crap. Now what?

Well, the first thing to look at is the histogram. If you haven't blown out your highlights, there may be hope. Maybe. The first thing I tried with this image was to manipulate the curves and levels in Nik Capture NX. I also tried a similar solution in Photoshop. (Yes, I am still using Photoshop 7... until I can afford the latest CS5 or someone drops a copy into my lap).

The second edit happened in Photoshop, using Nik Silver Efex Pro. For me, this program is like having my old darkroom back, minus the smells and red safelight. When I see digital black and white images where the only thing the photographer did was desaturate the image, I cringe. The least one can do is to work with selective color channels. I prefer the hands-on approach that Nik Silver Efex Pro allows for.

  • For those of you paying attention, notice the change in Tobi's neckline and the changes to her skin. Part of this was due to using a red filter in Nik Silver Efex Pro. Additionally, I made minor touch-ups in Photoshop, first with the cloning tool and finally with the Liquify filter. I figure if I can't afford a makeup assistant, (or learn to do that myself) then I need to be able to help with minor retouching.

Now, if you want more information on this process, or a more detailed tutorial, let me know. I am going to be trying to bring more technical information, along with more dialogue about the Why of what I am doing, into my blog. Questions lead to more discussion. Have at it!


  1. Nice photo. I love Silver Efex Pro and use it whenever I want to convert to black and white. I never agreed with the "if you don't get it right in the camera" attitude. I have saved many crappy photos with post processing. Another attitude that makes me laugh are the people who say that you have to choose your shots wisely when using film because there aren't an unlimited amount of shots on a roll. They think having only 30 or so shots on a roll of film is an advantage over digital. Why not take photos with one arm tied beind your back? Then you will really have earned your photo.

  2. I like the idea of one arm tied behind one's back. Heck, how about shooting with the lens cap tied to the lens, so it occasionally flops into the frame. That always helps!

    Sometimes when I am shooting, I don't see all the possibilities till I am home and can really review the images. Then if I can, I'll reshoot. When I read Kirk Tuck's blog I find myself in awe of his work. Not only the physical end product, but his ability to be such a top notch professional. He knows how to be patient and persistent in getting an image. That part I am still working on. I have a clue, but by no means certainty. Probably comes from shooting for decades as he has.

    Thanks for posting Lenny.