Master post-production ….or perish

You can’t expect to be competitive as a professional travel photographer unless you’re drawing from a broad repertoire of advanced post-production techniques (ie pre-sets, layer blending, dodging and burning, masking and coloring etc).

Such is the curse of modern photography that you not only have to master what you shoot, and how you shoot it, but you need to be able to draw from a raft of post-production techniques to enhance your photo once it’s captured.

That said, while it’s important to have a broad suite of options to choose from, let me rush to add that it’s equally critical to know when not to use them (ah, if I had a dollar for every “overcooked” photo I’ve seen).

Before (Raw File). After (Processed Pic)

I probably spent about 15 minutes on the computer getting this photograph (above) to where I think it needed to be for my client.

As you can see from the Raw File (swipe right), there was always going to be a bit of work to do to cover the extremes in light – from the brightness outside, to the darkness inside. But I liked the shot and I was confident there was enough information in the file.

For those who may not be aware, it’s important to shoot your pic as a Raw File if you’re expecting to work on it as it captures the greatest amount of information (otherwise, your camera can do the thinking for you and produce a pretty reasonable j-peg). But you need to know what to do with the Raw File in post production as it’s likely to be a long way from what you hope to end up with (as you can see from the “before” and “after” shots).

While I could have quickly lifted the details out of the shadows and brought down the highlights in Lightroom with a simple “S” curve, I wanted a more subtle effect so I used the graduated filter and the radial tools to get closer to what I wanted. Then I imported the image to Photoshop and finished it off with some dodging, blending and sharpening.

It’s because of the amount of “back-end” work involved in providing photographs to this standard, that I charge an extra day for post-production back at the studio at the end of each assignment.

In the version below, I played with one of my pre-sets to give the pic a warmer, more editorial look which appears to be trendy in travel magazines at the moment.

Later – a warmed version

(By the way, that’s Peter Myer in the photo, Fraser Island’s resident photographer and tour guide. You can see some of my other photos from Fraser – and maybe recognise some of the post-production work I’ve done – by clicking on the following link):

In the meantime, here’s a couple of finished pics – the first from Karijini Gorge in Western Australia, the second from Ethiopia – both of which required s bit more “back-end work” to reach what I think are acceptable commercial standards. To arrive here I used exposure correction and colouring, the radial exposure tool, layering, masking, dodging, and selective sharpening.

Both pics required work in post-production

David’s personal blog

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A successful promotional photograph starts with knowing what you want it to say and who you want it to appeal to - before you even bring the camera to your eye.




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