Travel Photography: The Family Cabin
Illustration by

Travel Photography: The Family Cabin

with Ben Long

Video: Doing some post work on the old photos

Once you start digging into old family prints, you're going to inevitably run Again, I'm not expecting to get these into full, vibrant, new, glorious color.

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Watch the Online Video Course Travel Photography: The Family Cabin
56m 50s Intermediate Mar 14, 2014

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Do you and your family have a favorite travel destination that you've always gone to for rest and relaxation? Or did you grow up with fond memories of family getaways like these? Maybe you're starting the tradition with your own kids. These places become touchstones in our lives, filled with memories and impressions that grow and change as the years go by.

There are several layers to photographing trips to memorable destinations: you want to capture accurate depictions of the place and its surroundings, but you also want your photos to convey the notions of tradition and the passing of time. In this course, author and photographer Ben Long visits his family's New Mexico cabin. He shows how to create photos that not only capture the essence of the place and its surroundings, but also convey its significance as the backdrop for shared family experiences and traditions. Along the way, he shows how to recreate old photos to capture what has changed, shoot details that haven't been documented before, and explore the surrounding area, to capture the full essence of the place.

Ben Long

Doing some post work on the old photos

Once you start digging into old family prints, you're going to inevitably run into the photos that are discolored and faded and generally old looking. If you want to take these and mix them in with shots that you're shooting with your current camera, you're probably going to want to do a little correction to them. I'm not going to be able to correct these back to the full level of color that I'm used to from a newer shot. Allot of color information in here has simply been lost over time, but there are some things that I can do to make them look better. I've digitized these. I've got them here in Photoshop.

I'm going to a couple of very simple correction things here. I'm doing this in Photoshop using the levels control, and I've chosen to do it that way because almost any worthwhile image editing program is going to have a levels control. And so you should be able to do this no matter what is it your wherever it is you normally edit your images. So, I'm going to open this first one up in Photoshop. Again, I'm not expecting to get these into full, vibrant, new, glorious color. But there are some things I can do to improve them. First thing I'm going to do here in Photoshop is add a levels adjustment layer.

Now all color images are composed of separate red, green and blue channels. One reason I have a bad color shift here is one of those channels has lost some information. On paper of course, it's not red, green and blue, it's cyan, magenta and yellow. But still, there, there's a correspondence. One of them is loss of information. So I need to edit those red, green, and blue channels separately. I want to get them kind of more back into registration with each other. So here in Levels, I'm going to swap the Channel menu over to Red, and I'm simply going to move the black point slider over to the left most part of the data that I see here in the histogram.

And I'm going to move the white points liner over to the right most part. As I'm doing this you should be seeing the image change. Still doesn't look quite right. I'm not done yet. I'm going to go onto the green channel and do the same thing here. Now what I'm doing is very similar to what auto levels does. But I find that auto levels never quite well, I shouldn't say never, very often doesn't quite go far enough. So, I typically find I get better results by just doing this manually. Once I've dragged all these into place, let me give you a before and after.

Here's before. Here's after. Really bad red cast through the whole thing. Red turning into more of a pink in the sky. These green plants don't look green at all. I've got a lot green back. I've got more variation here on the red ground. This gray over here is more differentiated than it was before, as you can see here. I put some blue back in the sky, and also my clouds have gone from pinkish back to a true white. So, right away, I'm doing much better. I think there's still one more thing I can do.

I'm going to add another levels adjustment layer, and this time I'm just going to have levels automatically set a few points for me. I'm going to click the white point slider and click on something in the image that's supposed to be white. And, actually, I don't like that adjustment, I lost too much in the sky here. So I'm going to undo that. I'm going to then take the midpoint slider and click on something that is supposed to be grey. There may not be anything in the image that's supposed to be grey, but I'm pretty sure that some of this old worn out grass over here works pretty well.

Now that's blued up the image a little bit, I'm going to undo that. This may not be an edit that I need to do, I just want to look into it. The chain might be grey, that looks, that looks a little bit better. Let's then go into the red channel and boost the reds back a little bit by adjusting the midtones there. That's looking pretty good. Again, it's not back to what looks like a full modern image, but it looks much better. Now you may think, well I've, I've got those edits on one image, I can just copy those to the others because they're all shot at the same time. They haven't necessarily all faded the same amount.

One might have been sitting on top of the stack and exposed to more sunlight or something like that. So, I actually do have to do this separately with every image, and again, it's just about going into the individual channels in levels dialog, and adjusting the white and black points to match the edge of this data. You can try auto levels that might give you a good one click solution. I can do this so quickly I often find it's better just to go ahead and take the full manual control. I'm going to go ahead and try that gamma adjustment here by adding another levels adjustment, grabbing this gray point slider that is supposed to be gray.

And what I'm looking at is this white here, seeing if it is, yes, here it is before, it's still a little red after the adjustment. It's maybe a tiny bit green or blue, but it looks more white to me. So I think that's looking pretty good. One to go, which is very different than the others. It does not have that hideous red cast. It's more blue overall. And I can actually see some green in here. It's low contrast though, so it still needs an overall adjustment. One thing that's cool about this color fix that I'm doing is I am oops, I just added a curves layer, is that it also gets my total value set properly.

So it gives me that contrast adjustment that I need automatically. So I'm just going to do the same thing here, and see where this image ends up when I'm done. The sky is totally blown out in the original. I don't think I'm going to recover anything there. It's funny when you're used to shooting with new images you're used to being able to recover skies and things that keep getting, aah. I just recover these highlights, but they're, they're 30 years gone. So before, after. That's really punched up the contrast. I think that looks pretty good. Let's go ahead and try that midpoint adjustment in another levels adjustment layer.

It looks like I got some gray right here on the side of the outhouse. This is a use of the outhouse that I never foresaw. Okay I think that looks better. Here's before, here's after. Took out a little bit, the last of that red cast and got my Images back to normal. Otherwise these images are in good shape. They don't have tears in them, they don't have moth eaten holes in them or anything like that. If they did, I could try and fix those with the healing brush, or the clone tool, I'm usually not so concern about that kind of thing, its the color and tone that I want right. Its a very easy quick way to get that color in your old images back to normal.

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