Time for another workflow example. Are you excited?! I know I am. I love putting together these work flows and sharing it with you all. As always, bear in mind, each artist has their own style and an idea of what step is best and when. Not to mention the endless combinations of tweaking and adjustments you can make. This, like my previous, is merely A way of doing it, not THE way to do it. You may change or deviate at any time. Or just say, “RE your a fool… be gone from my eyes.” 😉

For this example, I took some screen shots as I completed one of the Jail House Series photos from my trip to the Historic Cooper County Jail. This piece is called “Cold” and was in my top three favorites, from this shoot. Click on the previous link for a large format viewing of the image.

Now you will see, my black and white pieces are sometimes more time and work intensive than the general HDR format photos I talk about. Here you might be asking, “Why the hell should B/W be more time consuming that something with color?”… well, I’ll be happy to bring some light to that… aside from my own tedious side labors – the dark shadows, hard lights, high texture and the bleakness of the subject opens itself up to Very difficult blowouts and detail loss in the shadows. Also the tight space of the building, will force you into your goody bag of Extreme Wide Angle lenses. This is a must, but due to the wide angle, so is the lens correction step I note below. Plus I like details, and if can attain a bracket series to really push textures and open up shadows… Pshhh… you know I’m gonna try and get the best I can get.

All of this in addition to my goofy OCD nature on the details, leaves a recipe that must be marinated, slow cooked and left teasing the nostrils until its enjoyed the following day. ;^)

Here, we have an original middle exposure. An example displaying the extensive blandness in the original image. Blah, right? Bad angles, a boring lighting structure, mediocre texture and countless other notations of bad photography can be brought up about this. But hey, it was cold, very dark and my battery was dying. Time was of the essence, as was the feeling in my fingers. So piss off! Just kidding, it was seemingly a horrible shot. But this never means its a complete loss. Not a loss in any way. Just make sure your series of shots are stopped far enough apart to get the features you desire.

So I merged 3 bracketed frames into HDR EFex Pro, pulled the proper levers to adjust shadow balance, structure depth, fill light, contrast (pushing those blacks) et cetera, and got this…

Ah, see… now we are getting somewhere. We have textures, true realistic shadows, pleasing colors. Quite the difference, right? We’ve now gotten rid of that bland taste the original images left in the mouth. That hazy tone is removed with some structure, deeply shadowed zones are removed with the almighty pin-point-adjustment system offered in HDR Efex (not available in Photomatix) and now the image has some life breathed into it…. breethed… no, yes breathed…  But…. anyway, we aren’t any where near finished. We have some lens correctin’ to do.

Ok, so my Tokina 11-16mm is very good at keeping the lens barreling to a minimum, but its still a super wide angle lens. As such, these distortions are a just part of the game. But there are great pieces of software out there that help make distortions a second hand correction. Easy-Peasy, Lemon-Squeezie and you get those straight line dimensions on the outside edges you see above. At this point, to get a feel for the miniscule, but important distortion difference… click the example above and use those almighty arrow keys to flippity flap, back and forth, with the previous image. You’ll notice the outside edges correct themselves between the two. Looking at them separately you won’t notice how much this effects the final product. But side by side, you’ll notice… it monumental.

In this case, I used PTLens. I must note, for some lenses, the options out there can be limited. Oddly enough the Tokina is one of these lensesesssess. Soooo… I will likely create my own formula in the coming weeks to use in the Photoshop Lens Correction in-filter-rator-thingy. But for now, PT Lens lent itself to my adjustments like a champ. It ain’t free, but if your interested, head over to ePaperPress for a free 10 image trial.

Update: The new Lightroom 4 update has implemented a new series of Lenses to the auto-correction feature, including the Tokina 11-16mm. So I would highly suggest LR over PT Lens at this point.

Here I have adjusted the rotation on the image. It seemed a tad askeeeeew to me, so I had to remedy this AFTER the lens correction. After After After… I recommend not rotating before fixing the barrel or pin cushion distortion caused by the lens. Its not a rule, but keep in mind that once you rotate the image, your calculations will be off by the same degree as your rotation. This can effect you lens correction software greatly if the distortion is extreme. Some software allows rotation while your attaching a profile fix, but I generally like to blow the photo up on full screen when I adjusting by the degree.

Now that all the technical preparation-nesses are done, you’ll notice my image was overly tone mapped and the structure boosted greatly early on in this work flow. There is a rhyme and reason, I promise. I punched the extremes [Bam] because I knew I would be completing the image as a Black and White, high contrast, photo. This way I can get rid of the distraction, which I feel color creates. To many pops. I want you to see the texture, the lines, the sorrow. Not the purdy colors. Some prefer this, some do not. But me, I believe this helps nail that bleak emotion I had in my minds eye, when taking the shot.

So to Silver Efex Pro… Have you noticed that I am a fan of Nik Software yet? Who can blame an OCD leaned post-processor like myself, for going to Nik over Photomatix or Expose. In the end, the greatest feature is pin-point adjustment. Or rather the primary reason for my use of Nik software. Something ONLY they offer.

To be able to select a single point, adjust the circular affected range and tweak your brightness, structure, contrast and more is simply unequaled. But thats just one man’s opinion and that one man just so happens to be speaking to you… this moment. Or rather, when I typed this, and now as you read this. Anyway, there are no rules, just suggestions for those with similar taste and style. Something I am still trying to flesh out for myself. Ahhhh, style… we all have it, but most of us (myself included) find it difficult to remain constant.

Soooooo, I’m rambling again. Moving on. This is post-Silver Efex. *index finger, pointing upwards*

I have chosen to push the blacks hard, very hard and really darken down the shadows in my contrast settings. I wanted to get that firm black to white ratio. I also greatly adjusted color darkness in the film style settings. I once upon a blue moon choose from the many pre-made film styles that Nik provides to us, but eventually I got a good feel for the individual adjustments and Bammo… some new knowledge for tweaky goodness. This allowed me to really pull out nuances that are otherwise lost in using the bloody “templates.” Now hey, they are wonderful starting points, but once you get it… you won’t mess with em too much. Less you get lazy moments, like me. Its the little things that matter, it really is.

So there you have it, “Cold” has been completed… my rambling can now subside… the tormented souls of Cooper County Jail can rest and I hope this half hour of reading didn’t completely waste your day. Thank you all so much for reading. As always, chip in your comments. I love hearing from you. Hell that’s how we all learn.

Please feel free to let me know what you liked or what you prefer I just shut the hell up about. 😉

Cheers