THE DESERT, THE SUN AND THE MODEL… POSTPROCESSING OF OUTDOOR PICTURE

How to postprocess outdoor pictures

January 5, 2014   3197 views

And Profoto Acute 600 battery pack and me too!

In this article I would like to show you one example of the type of post processing steps I usually go through with my pictures. You know, there are two absolutely different pictures: before post processing and after, and so that you can understand how I retouch my pictures, I want to show you an example. Of course it is only example, not exact manual of what you need to do.

But at first about preconditions. I was in Dubai to host photography workshop and while I was there I had a great opportunity to take pictures in the Dubai desert. With real camels, high dunes, torrid sand and hot hot hot hot sun! We had just 2-3 hours for the shoot and I had to work very fast and effectively! Using Profoto Acute 600 battery pack I achieved a “like-the-sun” very hard light with umbrella reflector pointed directly at the model.

Outdoor photography postprocessing retouching location model RAW

This is the last picture of the series, with the model lying on the sand, unable to go any further. I was aiming for that very dramatic style of picture where you don’t see what the surrounding conditions are like, The weather and time of day simply doesn’t show in the image and I had in mind already that I wanted very saturated colors, with unnatural tones that would make that pictures more fantastic, dramatic and hyper real!

RAW FILE

Outdoor photography postprocessing retouching

You can see the original RAW without changes to any of the settings. You notice that the picture is not contrasty at all, in fact its ia bit flat and little uninteresting. Of course you never use RAW file with original settings so lets look at the first step of retouching:

FIRST CHANGES IN RAW CONVERTER>

I start by changing some of the default settings in the RAW converter. Here you see what settings I have used:
- I thought that slight green tint would be great for this picture, so I dragged the tint slider to the left.
- I dramatically increased contrast of the image. Up to 100 points, the highest level I could get.
- To make it even more contrasty, I increased lights and decreased shadows in curves.
- To get more detail in the shadows I changed Fill Light to 40 points, the middle level of this setting.
- And slightly increased Clarity.
So here is the image I got (Raw1 layer):

Outdoor photography postprocessing retouching

Outdoor photography post  processing retouching Outdoor photography post  processing retouching

ADDITIONAL IMAGES FROM RAW

I worked on a few more version of the images with my RAW converter to get different contrast, brightness and skin color. For example, in this image I wanted to get brighter sand. I changed the exposure in RAW converter and got this image (Raw 2 layer, below):

Outdoor photography post  processing retouching

I wanted to get a more natural color of the models skin, so I simply changed Color Temperature and Tint to get this version of the image (Raw 3 layer):

Outdoor photography post  processing retouching

And in this version to remove overexposed areas of the models skin, I moved the Exposure slider to more left position in RAW converter. (Raw 4 layer, below):

Outdoor photography post  processing retouching

THE PHOTOSHOP PROJECT

Then I collected all these images in one Photoshop project. I created masks for every layer and filled it with black and then painted areas I wanted to be revealed with white brush. I added one additional layer (Raw 3) at 30% opacity to make whole picture more warm and natural. Look at the pictures below:

Outdoor photography post  processing retouching

Outdoor photography post  processing retouching

Having flattened all this layers into one, this is what I ended up with:

Outdoor photography post  processing retouching

LIQUIFY

The next step was liquify. You can see changes on the model’s legs in the picture below:

Outdoor photography post  processing retouching

BRIGHT SAND

I increased the brightness of the sand around the model using curves. I added a mask filled with black and then painted with a soft white brush to reveal the brighter sand. Here it is:

Outdoor photography post  processing retouching

SOFT LIGHT

The next step is color management. I added a layer of solid color and changed the blending mode of the layer to Soft Light. You can see the picture now have a blue tint.

Outdoor photography post  processing retouching

Outdoor photography post  processing retouching Outdoor photography post  processing retouching

LIGHTEN

More radical colour management was done with a new Solid Color layer with Lighten blending mode. You see that the shadows now have a bright blue color.

Outdoor photography post  processing retouching

Outdoor photography post  processing retouching Outdoor photography post  processing retouching

MORE BRIGHT SAND

The next step was to make some parts of sand brighter. Just with curves and mask.

Outdoor photography post  processing retouching

THE LAST STEP. CONTRAST OF WHOLE PICTURE

And the last step is to make whole picture more contrasty and bright! Here it is! Done!

Outdoor photography post  processing retouching

Lighting: Profoto Acute 600 with open umbrella reflector
Camera: Canon 5D Mark II
Lens: Canon 24-105 4.0 IS
Focal length: 24 mm
Shutter: 1/200 sec
Aperture: f/22
ISO 100

Good Luck!