About every second day i’m receiving messages on Flickr, DeviantArt or by E-mail from people, aksing questions about my processing or some other of my photo techniques. Especially “colors” and “sharpness” are always very popular topics but i would really say that’s no rocket science and sometimes we’re going much more difficult roads than necessary. Another point is, that many photographers are overprocessing their photos especially in the beginning and then they realize that the other photographers’ pictures are looking way more natural. You should know one thing: I’m in the same situation very often! I’m looking at pictures of other photographers and i think “damn, how did they achieve these great colors?” or “I’d love to make such composition too!”. But it’s really fatal to compare yourself to others because every photographer is creating unique pictures in his very own way and you will always think, that others are “better” than you.
Anyway it’s reall important to get new inspiration permanently. Also keep looking for new tutorials and tips to improve your skills. I also learned all techniques by doing research on the internet. I watched tutorials and videos and (very important): I asked other photographers. Usually you won’t be bite when you’re asking a photographer for a special technique. Most of them are very communicative and will try to help you, some others prefer to keep their secrets and you should respect that too. I’m also trying to communicate a lot with others because i’d say that i’m still in a beginners-phase and i’m doing a lot of trial and error. I still haven’t found the perfect way for my processing (and maybe i never will) but i learned so many things in last months.
You can find some of the things i learned in the tutorials that i’ve already written for you.You can find them in “Blog – Tutorials” (more tutorials to follow!). But it’s a fact, that every picture needs it’s very own processing and it’s really rare that you can copy your processing steps 1:1 from one photo to another. So this time i decided to give you one of my PSDs (Photoshop File) for download. But before we’re talking about the PSD, let’s talk about sharpness, a topic that’s very popular.
“Sharpness” is a very subjective “measure”. When some people say “perfect sharp”, others say “oversharpened” and when someone says “sharpness is missing” then some others might say “it’s very authentic and honest”. So it’s the photographers choice, how sharp a picture should be.
The most important point to get a sharp picture in the end, is a good out-of-cam result. There’s no way around that. If you’re sharpening an unsharp photo five times, you will only get heavy noise and artefacts. Choosing the right lens can do most of the work for you. My Canon 50mm 1.4 and my Sigma 30mm 1.4 are very sharp lenses! But shooting with an open aperture can be hard sometimes so i’m using manual focus whenever it’s possible. If you have a camera with liveview, i can only recommend the following things: Switch your lens to manual focus, go into liveview, zomm in, focus and shoot! That’s the best way to achieve the maximum ammount of sharpness.
My Photoshop-Steps are very simple most of the time. Usually one “unsharp mask”-filter with a radius about 1-2px and 100% intensity is enough. If not, i’m also using the highpass-filter with bleding mode “soft light” or “hard light”. I save my photos with the “save for web” function and choose “bicubic sharper”. Usually my photos have a size about 1200px, which is really enough for the web and it’s also a good point to let your pictures look sharper because of their size.
Like i promised, you get one of my PSDs for free download now. It’s out of the series “Bokeh Dreamland”. I shot that photo on a small festival and due to the light conditions, the out-of-cam looked very good. It had some nice contrasts (typical for night-shots) so the processing was pretty simple hear. I reached the final picture with only some simple steps!
Some of the work was done in camera raw, so please take a look at this screenshot with my camera raw adjustments.
I had to do a manual white balance because my camera and camera raw weren’t able to handle these colors correctly. Moreover i used a little trick: I pushed the brightness to the very right (usually +150) and adjusted the exposure to get a correct exposed photo. This trick will recover some of your lights because both of the adjustments are working a little bit differently. Anyway it was necessary to use the recovery slider because i had a huge dynamic range in the photo and some of the light where still blown out (and the middle part in the upper third stayed that way).
When you take a look at my PSD, you fill see that my processing is no rocket-science. I made a duplicate of the background layer, set it to the layer mode “Screen” and used some curves to push the contrasts up. After that i used a green-blue fill layer in layer mode exclusion to soften the contrast and achieve some special tones. The vanilla-colored fill layer helped me to get the tone, i was looking for. At the end i added a little vignette and sharpened the whole picture with the “unsharp mask” tool, radius 2px, intensity 100%. That’s it!
This PSD is a good overview about my processing. For sure i don’t do it the same way all the time and i always try some new things. But with these steps you can achieve a nice result, if you know how to adapt the layers to your very own photo.
I hope i could help you a little bit with this PSD. And to use some words of a great man as my final words:
Stay hungry, stay foolish!
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