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Photography tips

A journey in Photography and sharing of how I go about taking various types of photos. Discussions include software and camera equipment and how to make the most of your equipment in a given situation.

Using Levels

09/15/2007 04:07

Today, when I was going thru a few hundred photos from a recent interstate trip, I was paying particular attention to how I go about processing the RAW file to get the most pleasing image possible from it.

To that end, I picked a photo that had a great composition but sadly lacked almost everything else.

First, the photo I am working on was taken about 1 hour after sunrise of a coastal scene.

Photo #1 - the un-correct image.

The first thing I do is to check the WB (white balance), but in this case the camera was dead on and no adjustment was required.

Next, I looked at the levels (basically the "black" point and "white" point) and set both the black and white point so that none of the colour channels "clipped" - this photo needed the dark point adjusted from 0 up to 17 and the white point moved down from 255 to 196.

Photo #2 - simple Levels adjustment

You can see that there is a vast difference between the 2 photo's

Ok, now that I had the Levels somewhere close I then made some adjustments to both the shadows and Highlight contrast settings. When I did this, it caused a little bit of clipping, so I re-visited the leves and made the black point 16 and the white point 216.

Photo #3 - Levels and Contrast adjustments

Now the photo is really starting to "take shape" and almost completed.

The final adjustments that I made was to increase the Saturation to give the colours a bit of a boost, and then finally adjusted the vibrance to further enhance the image. At this stage, all that was left to do was to apply a bit of sharpening to finsih off the photo.

Photo #4 - the Finished product

Now looking at the 4 photos you see that the original un-processed image was very flat. At each step of the processing, I simply made small adjustments while monitoring the appearance and histograms to get the best possible final image.

When I look at the #1 v's the #4 photo, it is really easy to see that shooting RAW and spending approx 30 seconds processing the image was well worth the effort.

There are a lot of other controls that I could have used and beleive me, I did try a few settings before I was happy with the results. The actual way you process a photo is very dependant on the photo you are processing. Once you become familiar adjusting the Levels, you will be well on the way to getting better results. 

I used RSP (Rawshooter Premium) - a RAW workflow tool that is no longer available to process this image. The steps I took can be done in every single RAW developer and can turn a good image into a great one.

So, go and look at your photos and make a few levels adjustments and see how it goes for you.

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