Today, I had some time and a new computer I wanted to try out, so I went looking for a photo to reprocess. Take a close look at the two images below. The differences aren’t as obvious in these smaller versions, so if you click on them, you can go to Flickr and look at large resolution versions of each so you can see the changes in detail.
Nikon D80 @ ISO 100, Nikon 70 – 300 lens @ 260mm, f/5.6, 1/320 sec.
I made this photo back in April of 2007 in the bird rookery at the St. Augustine Alligator farm. The version above is “straight out of the camera (converted to JPG with Lightroom 2.5). It has potential, but the blown sky is bad and the levels and sharpening need work.
The version below was processed in CaptureNX2 for levels and curves. I also created a version that was sharpened, and a third version that adjusted the sky. I then opened all three in Photoshop and used layer masks to choose the portions of each that I wanted in the final photo. After saving the result, I imported it into Lightroom, tweaked clarity and vibrance, and cropped it slightly before once again exporting this JPG.
Same, photo: re-processed and slightly cropped.
I guess you can tell I’m not a straight out of the camera, photo journalist type photographer. I like the second version much better than the original. Do you?
The interesting thing to me is that almost 3 years after I made the photograph, I can go back and reprocess it with better software and better techniques. Since I captured it in RAW, I have much more flexibility in what I can change. Processing RAW is like having the original light and framing fixed, but being able to tweak the camera settings. Do I need Photoshop, CaptureNX2, and Lightroom? No, but each has strengths and I believe that if you want the best image you can get, you need to have SW and understand how to use it.
Or at least shoot in RAW so that when you do get the software and techniques, you can go back and have another go at things.
©2009, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.