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Steve Foss

My post-processing regimen for Web display

21 posts in this topic

Michael Cary and a couple others have asked for this type of info, so I thought I'd spend a bit of time detailing what I typically do to an image after capture to get it ready for showing online. Be aware there are some differences in the post-processing regimen for prints, and this is my routine for Web.

This one was shot in RAW. All images throughout the process here have been resized and saved for Web, which in a typical image would not happen until the end of my flow.

I should also point out that my routine has adapted over time as new techniques and new perspectives change the way I look at things. There are many other ways out there to produce wonderful images for online viewing.

First, the capture of this gray jay was with the Canon 20D, Canon 400 f5.6, iso400, 1/2500 at f5.6, monopod. Because the lens is very sharp, less sharpening is needed overall, and that helps final image quality because sharpening (and adding saturation and contrast) accentuates digital noise.

I used Photoshop CS2 for processing this image. Comments go with the image above the comment.

3087155901_b3ddd91344_o.jpg

Untouched, just resized and saved for Web. (nothing at all done on the RAW converter screen, because highlights were not blown out and exposure was just right).

3087992532_5c248c82d6_o.jpg

Cropped, nothing else. Crop chosen because bird is looking down and to the right, so I left a little extra space in those directions.

3087155391_683462368d_o.jpg

Cloned. Two dust specks to right of bird's head removed with brush tool.

3087156093_8531b26f1e_o.jpg

Here's where the real work starts. I used shadows/highlights to lighten and add detail in shadows, with shadow brightening set at 34% and highlight set to 0. I could have added highlight detail, but when you use both too much, halos will form. A sharp eye will note a slight halo along the upper right side of the bird's head as it is. Then I closely lassoed the bird and perch and ran unsharp mask on it, with USM settings of 223% at .7 pixels and a threshold of 0. Then I selected inverse, and ran Noise Ninja (using the auto profiled settings) on the background. Then I ran a light gaussian blur on the background, with a setting of 1 pixel. You have to watch out during this process. I run gaussian blur to further smooth backgrounds, but because you've sharpened everything inside the lasso and blurred everything outside it, if you overdo either you'll get a distinct border around the subject where you can see the sharp transition from smooth on one side to sharply pixelated on the other. This is especially easy to see on the extra sharp LCD monitors. Lassoing the subject closely and carefully helps in this regard, too. If you want to add contrast, avoid using the contrast adjuster. It is a blunt tool that can easily block shadows and blow out highlights. I use levels again if I need that (this image does not) by brightening mid-range levels until the image looks a bit washed out and then darkening shadow levels, which also drags the mid-range back a bit darker. With experimentation this can add plenty of contrast without touching any of the highlights.

3087155247_32610ee127_o.jpg

Next I lassoed the eye and bill and lightened them using levels by brightening up mid-range levels on the slider. Then I ran a light sharpening on them, 55% at .7 pixel with threshold of 0. Now it's almost ready.

3087155769_8e63296e82_o.jpg

The finished product. Resized the finished TIFF file to 500 pixels across, increased overall saturation, darkened mid-range levels, added copyright, saved for Web. The saturation and darkening of levels are what I have to tweak to make it look right when posting. On my screen when these steps are done, it looks a little too saturated and a little too dark but looks good after posting. If you made your capture using sRGB color space, you're good to go because that's what is used online. If your capture was in AdobeRGB or another color space, before tweaking and saving for Web, use the drag-down menu on top and click under "edit" and drag down to "convert to profile" and select sRGB for your color space.

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Thank you for that tutorial! That is one of the backgrounds I found so stunning. And background noise is one of my biggest frustrations right now. X ran through an e-mail tutorial on highlights and shadows on an image the other day, which has really been helpful. With that and an earlier comment you made, I am finally finding the eyes on my chickadees and cardinals. Perhaps there is hope afterall. Hope you don't mind if I print off your work flow.

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Print away, Birdsong! That's what this is here for. gringrin

One very important thing to remember in getting a good background right at the capture stage (if smooth and buttery is what you want), is to position yourself as close as possible to the bird and get the background as far as possible away from the bird.

That's because depth of focus (depth of field or DOF), is much shallower when the subject is close to the lens than when it's far away.

So if you are at f5.6 and the subject is six feet away, your DOF may be less than an inch, whereas if the subject is 100 yards away and you are still at f5.6, DOF will be measured in feet, not inches.

And that has impact on the background. If the bird is 20 feet from your lens and the background is 10 feet behind the bird, you are going to get a very cluttered looking background with quite a lot of detail in it, and that can compete for attention with the bird.

If, however, the bird is on a perch just beyond the minimum focus distance of your lens and the background is 30-40 feet behind the bird, you are going to get that great smooth background. The BG on the gray jay was 40 feet behind the bird. It was a mishmash of crisscrossing brush and tree trunks, but because it was far enough away it dissolved into a wash of burnt umber watercolor that flatters the subject but disappears before the eye when you look for BG detail. That's how I've got my back yard set up, too.

If you want to get elaborate about it, you can get a pop-up blind and set it up so a perch next to your feeder is just past the minimum focus distance (MFD) of your lens and the BG is far enough back, and with the camera on a tripod and the light at your back, as soon as a bird lands on the perch, you've got it.

Well, it's a little more involved than that, but that's the basics. I've been a birder since 1972, and it's hard to find something as fun as sitting in a blind six feet from all the bird species coming to and from your feeder. It's up close and personal and, pics or not, is a ton of fun.

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Thanks. That's why I have been getting all the pics that look like a major cyclone is happening in the background! Distracting is the understatement.

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Good tutorial, steve. I never considered the gaussian blur for BG. Like an old neighbor used to tell me all the time, "we're never too old to learn, as long as we're not too dumb". grin

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Would we have too many stickies if you stickied this one and moved it to the top? For some reason I only get step one when I print it. I had it up on one screen all yesterday afternoon with Photoshop on the other. Sorry if I tied things up too long for anyone! frown Hope there's room for lots of viewers at one time. I hate to think you have to go through a complete other regimen for prints!!! I woke up with a stiff shoulder this morning. I will post one I worked on, as I have a couple questions. Thanks!!

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Birdsong, after awhile I'll merge it with the stickied thread about photography basics and beyond so it'll stay here.

Meanwhile, if you copy and paste it into a Word document, you can print that just fine. It won't show the pics, obviously, but the pics aren't the important part compared with the steps to take.

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Another topic that might be re-posted under Photography Basics would be the blending tutorial you did awhile back. Might be able to just post the link if you don't want to rewrite the whole thing.

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Michael, does that help you at all or was I just shouting into the wilderness? I've done that a time or two. smilesmile

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Meanwhile, if you copy and paste it into a Word document, you can print that just fine. It won't show the pics, obviously, but the pics aren't the important part compared with the steps to take.

Actually, it will show the pics. smile

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Actually, my Word program is at least 10 years old. It's the same one I used when I had Win 98.

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I don't say this enough...or maybe not at all....but sharing information like that is a very generous thing. I know that knowledge has come from hard work...Thank You!!

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Wow I get so blown away by what you all can do, to me the first shot was amazing in itself but what you did to it kinda felt like my heart skipped a few beats, and my jaw dropped...amazing..

Thank you for the tutorial very very helpful.

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Quote:
Wow I get so blown away by what you all can do, to me the first shot was amazing in itself but what you did to it kinda felt like my heart skipped a few beats, and my jaw dropped...amazing..

Steve, I feel the same way! grin

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Thanks, all. That's what the forums are about -- sharing information -- and that just seems to be something I'm hard-wired to do. It's my pleasure.

OK X-T, I cry uncle. You win. It must be operator error because my Word won't print the pics when I do a cut and paste.

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Likewise Steve. I'm quite abit older and way less experinced, but when you put your views in show and tell it works alot better for me. Thanks for the tutorial.

Mic

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I just selected the entire first post, right click copied it and pasted it into Word and it shows the pictures. I can even resize them. First time trying it. This could come in handy!

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