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Analyzing the project photo

From: Enhancing a Travel Photo with Photoshop and Lightroom

Video: Analyzing the project photo

Throughout this course, we'll work on processing this RAW photo that I shot at dusk on a recent trip to Venice, Italy. This image is typical of the kind of photos that I think many of us shoot on our travels in that it was captured on the fly without pre-planning, but the light was striking, the scene was stunning, and my trip was short, so I took this shot of the scene, and a few others, knowing that I could enhance them in post-processing in Lightroom and Photoshop. Our approach to this photo will be to make basic global adjustments; adjustments that affect the entire photo here in Lightroom. Then we'll take the photo into Photoshop to make local adjustments, and remove some of the clutter in this scene.

Analyzing the project photo

Throughout this course, we'll work on processing this RAW photo that I shot at dusk on a recent trip to Venice, Italy. This image is typical of the kind of photos that I think many of us shoot on our travels in that it was captured on the fly without pre-planning, but the light was striking, the scene was stunning, and my trip was short, so I took this shot of the scene, and a few others, knowing that I could enhance them in post-processing in Lightroom and Photoshop. Our approach to this photo will be to make basic global adjustments; adjustments that affect the entire photo here in Lightroom. Then we'll take the photo into Photoshop to make local adjustments, and remove some of the clutter in this scene.

Now, granted, you could try to do some of that with Lightroom's limited local adjustment tools, but since Photoshop has more precise masking features, and much more powerful content aware retouching tools, I'll often fine tune my favorite travel photos in Photoshop. Before we actually start processing this photo, it's a good idea to take a closer look at a photo to see where it falls short, and strategize about how we might improve it. Just looking at the photo on my screen, I see a bluish color cast that I'd like to try to fix, and some tonal values in the sky that I'd like to bring out more, as well as some distracting elements that I'd like to remove.

But it's difficult to diagnose everything about a photo by just looking at it here. That's where the Histogram panel can be a help. The Histogram panel is over here at the top of the column on the right. If your Histogram panel isn't open then, click its title bar to open it. If you're not familiar with the histogram, it's a bar chart that represents the potential tonal values in a photo, from black on the far left through varying shades of gray, over to white on the far right. The gray mound in the middle of the histogram represents the actual tonal values in this photo, with the tallest parts of the mound indicating where there's the highest frequency of tonal values.

The shape of the mound in this particular photo confirms that this photo has no tones in the brightest highlight areas. If we could pull some of these tonal values over toward the right side of the histogram, adding some highlight values, and expanding the range of tones all the way from dark to light, I bet we could get this photo to look brighter and punchier. So, that's something we'll try to do as we make global adjustments to this photo. There's also some useful diagnostic information underneath the histogram when I move my mouse off of it.

Here you can see some of the camera settings that I used when I took this shot. You can see that my ISO, which controls the camera sensitivity to light, was set to 800. My DSLR often produces more digital noise then I'd like at an ISO of 800 or higher, so this information reminds us that we need to check this photo to see how much noise it has. The shutter speed display here is also useful, particularly when you've shot handheld, as I did with this photo. I'm usually pretty steady shooting with this camera at 1/125th of a second, but that's a slow enough shutter speed to warrant a closer look for camera shake.

You really can't get an accurate read on camera shake, or digital noise, or focus when you're zoomed out to this default fit on screen view, and you can see over here at the top of the Navigator panel that Fit is the current zoom magnification. Zooming in to 1:1, or a 100% view is very simple to do when you're working on a photo here in Lightroom's Develop module. If I want to zoom in, I'll just click on the photo. My cursor automatically changes to a hand tool, so I can click and drag to move the photo around in the document window, so that I check for noise, and camera shake, and focus.

Now, I'm seeing quite a bit of digital noise, especially in the darker and midtone areas of the photo, so we'll sure to try to reduce digital noise as we're processing the photo in this chapter. By the way, I don't see much evidence of camera shake, so I think we're okay there. Now, to zoom back to the fit on screen view, all I have to do is click again in the document window. By the way, you may have noticed that everything looked more clear zoomed in to 1:1 view than it does here in the zoomed out fit on screen view. So, don't be discouraged by a blurry appearance here in fit on screen view; it's the 1:1 view that counts.

Taking the time to analyze a photo as we just did, with the help of information in the Histogram panel, is a great way to develop a road map for what you might do to enhance a photo. With this quick analysis in mind, we'll get started adjusting this photo in the next movie.

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Enhancing a Travel Photo with Photoshop and Lightroom

12 video lessons · 5773 viewers

Jan Kabili
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