A photograph, from end to end

In our usual Sunday afternoon walk, I had the chance to further play with my brand new 35mm lens. It was an enjoyable experience, as always when trying a new toy. I see this lens as a tool to dive into street photography which is something I don’t always feel very at ease with.

Since I am quite happy with one of the pictures of the day and it required a few tricks in post-processing, I decided to do an “end-to-end” entry. I think all the aspects of this process have been dealt with before; this is just to give a sens of “how it all comes together”.

Picking the image

Since it was only a couple of hours of shooting and the question of having enough memory cards was non-existent, I shot in RAW. Now that RawStudio has version 0.7 out, it is starting to be really usable – you can review your images, do all the needed basic adjustments (curves, color temperature, crop and straighten), delete the non-interesting ones and batch-process the others (in JPEG or TIFF, including 16bits). And all of that is really fast. Way to go, RawStudio!

So out of about 40 shots, this one was my favorite of the day:

endtoend_rawstudio.jpg

What to do with the image – and a quick and dirty first version

The image is not very contrasted and the histogram is well inside the boundaries of the sensor’s dynamic range, so the image doesn’t require especially tricky highlight retrieval steps. Post-processing should be quite straightforward – although the image is a bit underexposed, the noise that can appear in the dark areas of the image isn’t too worrying since the image will be converted to B&W.

I started with straightening the image and cropping accordingly.

To me, street photography means B&W unless there is a good reason to keep the colors. In this case, B&W allows to keep the emphasis on the couple while keeping the colors would more of a distraction. So I simply pulled the saturation cursor to 0. The result was a bit flat and I like to have as much contrast as reasonable for B&W. So I played a bit with the curves and got that result, which I exported in JPEG:

endtoend_quickrs.jpg

Now this image’s main problem is that the sky is quite light while the couple (the main subject) is relatively dark. So adding contrast to the sky (making the curve steep in the highlights) darkens the couple beyond reasonable while adding contrast (and a bit of lightness) to the couple makes the sky washed out.

The high-quality post-processing will involve processing the RAW file twice, once for the sky and once for the couple. The two versions will then be blended between the mountains and the water.

Creating two files in RawStudio

So I created a first version with high contrast in the sky without any thought on the couple which was exported to 16bits TIFF:

endtoend_sky.jpg

Same thing for the couple, keeping it dark but adding a bit of contrast to it – another TIFF file:

endtoend_couple.jpg

Blending in CinePaint

I opened the two files in CinePaint – since RawStudio doesn’t adjust gamma to 16bits output, I started with pushing the gamma to 1.5 for the couple file and 2.0 for the sky file. I then created a new layer in the couple file and copied and pasted the sky file in it. Basic setup ready.

I created a third layer then a gradient from black to transparent and made it horizontal, between the mountains top and the beginning of the lake. In the layer dialog, right click and chose “add layer mask” (using layer’s alpha channel) and “mask to selection”.

You have a selection which you can pick from the sky layer and copy to a new layer. Adjust the layer’s visibility (hide all of them except this last one and the couple layer) and here is what the layer dialog looks like:

endtoend_layers.jpg

Check how much transparency you need for the top (sky) layer until your are satisfied 8) It is then time to remove the hidden layers and flatten the image.

Final touch-up: micro-contrast adjustment and cloning

The last touch-ups are

  1. pushing micro-contrast a tad – using the unsharp mask with radius 30 and amount 0.30. It takes for ever to process but the result is nice.
  2. clone out a plane that had the curious idea to fly near Geneva airport as well as one of the buoys that was really distracting and very close to the couple’s heads.

So here is the final version of the image, the file I will archive along the PEF (Pentax RAW) file. It has been developed from RAW and post-processed in 16bits all along, which is especially important for B&W:

endtoend_final.jpg

Printing

From then, printing would just be a question of cropping the file to the right format (2850×2000 pixels) which is equivalent to: 2590×1818 pixels due to the initial cropping.

It would also be necessary to add a tad of “real unsharp” mask with a radius of 1.0 and a amount of 0.40. Since this is a B&W image and my printer has a dedicated cartridge, there is no need to convert the image to a printer ICC profile. Printing in A4 B&W, leaving to dry for 24 hours, matting and framing.

I haven’t decided if the image is worth printing, though…

10 Responses to A photograph, from end to end

  1. Jon Leighton says:

    Good stuff. I am a new reader of your blog and finding it really useful🙂 I’d also be inclined to clone out the distracting plane trail on the right hand side of the sky…

  2. Jon Leighton says:

    Also, does RawStudio still have the low-quality demosaicing algorithm you talked about in your original post about it?

  3. Jon Leighton says:

    Actually, I’ve found the answer to my question: http://rawstudio.org/pipermail/rawstudio-dev/2008-January/000469.html

    Sorry for the triple post!

  4. jcornuz says:

    Hi Jon,

    Thanks for your commentS🙂

    I gave some thoughts about the plane trail and decided to leave it as is since it mimicks a skilift ensnowed track in the mountain… maybe it doesn’t work too well.

    I think RawStudio is the most promising tool for RAW treatment on Linux due to its speed, simplicity and output quality. Check out version 0.7 if not already done.

    Take care,

    Joel

  5. nabla says:

    Hi,

    I just want to use this nice posting to say what an amazing blog this is. Thanks a lot!

  6. Xavier says:

    This RawStudio seems quite interesting. I shall sort out my WiFi access under ubuntu in order to download it and give it a try.
    Thanks for this post, always good to see how you handle your post processing.

  7. jcornuz says:

    Hi there,

    Nabla, thanks for your comment🙂

    Xavier, make sure you use the 0.7 version. The 0.6 available by default in *buntu has a weak interpolation algorithm – so it is not really usable.

    Take care,

    Joel

  8. neri says:

    Hi Joel,

    I compiled rawstudio on my box, however, I don’t see the sharpen slider I saw in your screenshots. Do you have an idea which software has to be installed to get this functionality? I didn’t see anything on rawstudio’s web site

  9. jcornuz says:

    Hi there,

    It may be a feature from CVS that didn’t make it to 0.7. I never tried using it, to be honest with you.

    Take care,

    Joël

  10. Mar says:

    Hello,

    Man, I gotta tell you that this article has really blown me away. I couldn’t believe when I first checked it out, highly recommended reading ! Keep up the good work. Thanks for the high-quality information.

    MASTODI REPORT

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