Overprocessing in Lightroom: I'm guilty!

March 13, 2015  •  1 Comment

Last night after a very long day, I got home and I watched Gerry from Wildeye's Q&A video on Lightroom. Go check the video here, trust me you will learn a lot!

I'd like to think of myself as a fairly advanced Lightroom user. Years of editing video, means I have probably a head start on colour correction than most. However last night whilst watching Gerry's video I had an A-Ha moment. You know one of those moments when the alarm bells start ringing. Everything he said about the application of Lightroom, I do. The whole philosophy of trying to keep it natural, I am on the same page. My workflow is simple. I use Lightroom 99.9% of the time on my RAW files. Then I occasionally use Photoshop Elements (I only have use for Elements, not the full version). I use Photoshop Elements in very VERY occasional circumstances to clone out small distractions on the boarders of the frame that I could not remove via cropping without compromising my composition....and I only do that if I will be printing that image.

Watching Gerry treat images, that A-Ha moment came. What was it? I had fallen into a trap since my last trip. I had started to over process my images. You see Gerry started out just as I do. First look at the image from a composition standpoint and how the image resonates with the viewer i.e. cropping for effect. He went to the black and the white adjustments first. Then he adjusted shadows and highlights on an add needed basis only. Then balanced exposure and contrast if needed, and finally clarity, vibrance, and saturation. Then the A-Ha moment. He stopped!

The Italian's say "Basta"!

I am guilty. That was my A-Ha moment!

I am guilty of trying to push the image too far. After doing all that, I am then trying to add another couple of steps to take my image to another level. 

Now...let my pause. 

It wasn't always like this. 

Up until my last trip in November last year, I was treating my images with care and getting them to look natural. I was also starting to correct the colour slightly using HSL (Hue, Saturation and Luminance) to create mood and selected colour adjustments....always useful for things like Leopards, and Giraffe's where you want to just make the yellow's and orange's stand out a little more than the other colours. And these localised adjustments were working really well, especially for images I had shot last April in Madikwe.

But like a good thing....I got hooked on the HSL adjustments, amongst others. And I'd taken things too far as I continued to go through my catalogue of images from Ngala and Sabi Sands. I should have known this because I had a series of young Giraffe images that were sitting there that I was having a hard time with. I hadn't done anything with these images because something inside me was telling me something was not right.

Regular readers of the blog will know I share my experiences and as such I have no issues in holding my hands up and saying "I got it wrong" in the spirit of sharing what I learnt and how I eventually got it right. I feel strongly about this...(a slight tangent)....with social media, blogs and so on, so often we are just bombarded with "perfect images"....few photographers get it right first time all of the time, and few share when what they learnt when they got it wrong. I think it takes a brave photographer to share their experiences when they didn't get it right, learn from it and move on (end of tangent)....as Gerry said in the video at 20'10 "Wildlife Photography is not always perfect". So true. 

So here is the image I struggled with: 

So what are the issues? The tree the Giraffe is grazing from has young green shoots and leaves, but they are over saturated. They look like they are fluorescent glow-in-the dark green. Not cool! Then there is the Giraffe. I used the special adjustment brush in an attempt to make the subject pop. But it's overdone. It's overdone because it almost looks like the Giraffe has a halo. Add to that the general colour of the greens in the background, the reason this image didn't sit comfortably with me is it just didn't look natural.

Right, so "A-Ha" moment learnt! Thanks Gerry :-)

TIME TO GO BACK TO BASICS!

If you have fallen into this trap, like me, then hit the RESET button in Lightroom. Go back to the beginning. Now I applied the basics: white and black adjustments, shadows and highlights, a little bit of contrast and pulled back the saturation. Then I stopped. Basta.

The result:

The new version is less nuclear. That's right, I have no other way to describe it, but my first attempt pushed things so much it was like the subjects and elements were glowing....RIDICULOUS. Now its all scaled back but in the right way. And the thing is, I just did what I always did. The difference was knowing when to STOP!

Now here's the thing. Because I thought of myself as an advance Lightroom user, I almost didn't watch Gerry's video. But I am glad I did. Point being, you never stop learning. Getting perspectives from other photographers who get out in the field more than yourself can only add valuable insights into your workflow from camera to final image. Remember that in Lightroom, LESS IS MORE!

I now have two other Giraffe images from that sighting that I was "stuck" with. I corrected, exported, and now have great looking natural additions to my catalogue:

Cheers Jon


Comments

Oscar Fernandez(non-registered)
Superb pictures. I love these
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