Quick post to talk about what I'm doing right now before I head to work; post production. I did a shoot last week, and the result was nearly 400 captured images. Since my prices include post production, I will give the client a DVD with all of the unedited images (in this case they downloaded the images at the shoot onto their hard drive), and a DVD with the edited images. Sometimes people think "editing" is a bad word. I have had people look at my work and make a dismissive remark that "...its all Photo Shop."
The fact is, the iconic Ansel Adams spent masses of time in the darkroom after his shoots, editing his plates and negatives with techniques such as dodging and burning to get the results he was after. Editing, while being a time-consuming process, may range from 5 minutes per image to much, much more depending on what is being done. Most photographers--myself included--will at the very least, make tiny corrections to exposure, color saturation, contrast, sharpness and often composition itself, tended to by cropping.
With current software, the trend is moving quickly towards HDR, or High Dynamic Range photography. Essentially, the photographer takes three exposures of a scene which has variable light. The exposures are taken on a tripod, so as little of the scene as possible changes between the shots. The photographer adjusts the exposure of each shot, so that the dark foreground, the moderate mid-ground and the bright background are properly exposed across three images. Then, in post-production, the images are blended to create one image where all aspects are perfectly exposed.
There are some really good HDR images out there, but the human eye is a dynamic mechanism, so as we look at a scene, our pupils dilate and contract to admit more or less light for the eye to process the image. We get used to processing a scene based on our eyes' abilities to deal with varying light.
Cameras are fixed mechanisms; when taking a picture, the operator tried to expose for the largest area of light in the image. Even so, there will be over and under exposed areas, and an HDR image is often a striking result, because it produces in one image a panoply of proper exposure, causing the view to really look into the image and enjoy all the separate details, as opposed to glancing at it quickly. However, it is a time-consuming process (right now) in order to get a decent result.
I find that using filters--specifically graduated filters--works best for me these days. These are small rectangles of glass or plastic which have half tinted in neutral density grey (so that they darken the scene without affecting color) and the other half is clear. Mounted on the camera lens, the operator can have the grassy foreground nicely exposed so all the color and detail is evident, while the darker upper half of the filter tames the bright light of the horizon/sunset, to provide a balanced result.
Results of this can be seen at this blog, http://singhray.blogspot.com/ My filters are all Singh-Ray. They just seem to work better for me than any others I've used. This isn't a paid endorsement. I just like the product, it works well, and the range of filters available means you can manage bright and harsh light at shoots with a variety of filters.
The photo at the left here is one I shot using SR filters. By metering for the light of the foreground, I was able to capture all of the detail of the grass, the rails, the rocks. The colors are rich and separate, all as a result of proper exposure. Without a graduated filter, the longer exposure needed for the foreground would have resulted in the bright sunset blowing out the back ground. The filter calms that bright light, nicely darkens the difficult-to-see clouds, and results in a balanced picture. A few tweaks in Photo Shop Elements to adjust exposure and color saturation, and the result is there.
If shooting with graduated filters sounds like a way to get better landscape shots, post your questions and we can discuss.
Otherwise, stay safe and stay out there
Chris Kiez, a hardcore photographer since the 80's, learned to take a picture before the age of selfies and cell phone photography, training on mechanical cameras and film. After years of taking photos of all manner of subjects and people, he did over a 10 year stint as a crime scene photographer on two continents. Now, he does portrait and landscape photos, and is currently distressing the world with his relentlessly, excruciatingly boring blogging. To buy what you see on this site, click here!