Saturday, 22 March 2014

Post processing story board - from bland to better in 6 steps

We all aim to get it right 'in camera' - to take pictures that will perform well on screen and in print. But sometimes, we don't quite get it right.  Take this dry grass shot at Wisley... it is flat, and frankly bland.  I was shooting Aperture priority and did not think through the impact of the light coloured foliage - I needed to dial in about a stop of exposure compensation.

I use Aperture3 for my post processing work and usually shoot Raw+JPEG.  I was glad of the RAW file on this one - boosting the exposure and contrast brought an immediate improvement.  The image is brighter and with much better definition.  Now it rather defies the dull day on which it was shot.

But when I framed the shot at the end of an early Spring afternoon at RHS Wisley, I was imagining it in black and white.  Aperture 3 has some B&W tools, so I did a quick, standard conversion with medium contrast to see if it might work - but again I was underwhelmed with the result.  Time to roll out the secret weapon - the Nik Software suite.

First I ran the image through Viveza, a delightfully easy plug-in, tweaking brightness, a tad more contrast and pulling in some selective structure on the seed heads.  From there to Silver Efex, a stunning little black and white plug-in with a massive choice of preset options.  Its rare for me not to find one of these providing a great starting point.  In this case, the "Wet Rocks" preset was most pleasing:

A little light tweaking to structure, and adding a very slight 'coffee' tonal change almost completed the job.  I thought there was one final change needed - the crop. But after listing the picture & publishing an early version of this post and discussing it on, I decided it would benefit from a flip.  So... the (current?) final version is below!  Do let me know what you think - and I'd love to hear what you think of the changes - what works, what doesn't for you?

The finished image is available here:

You can find more of my finished work at with opportunities to discuss work in progress a

Thank you
Colin Kemp
Sonning Creatives Ltd