Brian Auer | 03/08/2008 | Venice Beach, CA | 105mm * f/2.8 * 1/1000s * ISO200
[See it at Flickr]
I’ve been so tied up with film lately, so I wanted to take a look back at a digital photo that had quite a bit of post-processing done to it. This photo was taken at the graffiti walls in Venice Beach, California. I’ve always been attracted to graffiti as an art form, and being able to capture one of these artists at work was a treat. This area is designated for graffiti artists, so there’s no vandalism happening here.
I wanted this image to really pop with color and intensity, while having an “edgy” look to enhance the mood. The photo was shot in RAW and processed entirely through the Adobe Camera Raw software (so no Photoshop). Here’s the process:
The RAW file looks pretty bad. It’s too cold, the contrast sucks, and the colors are dull.
First things first, I corrected the white balance issue. The camera was set to “Auto WB”, but it made a really bad decision. So I bumped the temperature from 5500 to 7500 and the tint from +3 to +10 by setting the image to the “Shade” preset (since this was taken in the shade).
I set the exposure to -.20, recovery to 36, fill light to 24, blacks to 17, brightness to +59, and contrast to +34. Not a huge change in the appearance of the photo, but it got my tones and histogram where I wanted them.
I set the clarity to +85, vibrance to +33, and saturation to +11. Again, not a huge difference in the appearance of the photo, but these changes would be amplified in the next step.
I set the point curve to “strong contrast” and the values of the parametric curve as: highlights +32, lights +43, darks -49, and shadows -8. This really super-saturated the image and boosted the contrast way up. This wasn’t a linear one shot adjustment either — there was a lot of back and forth between the curves and the exposure/saturation values.
I added some lens vignette with an amount of -75 and a midpoint of 60. This darkened the near and far edges while toning down the super-saturation — which helps to draw attention to the center portion of the photo.
This may be a bit extreme for your tastes, but I wanted to push the photo until it was alive with color.
This was shot using all natural light (it was in the shade on a very sunny day) and the camera was handheld with a 50mm lens. This plant caught my attention as I walked the canals of Venice, California — it was along the sidewalk behind the houses. The pattern was so very strong, and the colors so deep that I couldn’t pass it up. The water droplets on the plant were just icing on the cake.
Straight out of the camera — untouched.
I did a few basic adjustments to get the white balance correct and to bring up the contrast and saturation. Nothing very extreme though.
I found this beautiful lady in Venice Beach. She didn’t say much, but I think she was into me. Don’t let her distant stare fool you, she had quite the personality. Underneath of her “I’m sexy and I know it” facade, she’s screaming for attention. Because she is, after all… abused and ignored.
There you have it, straight out of the camera.
Minimal processing for white balance and exposure (using the “Auto” setting in ACR).
I used the technique from my “Redscale Process” described some weeks ago. After adjusting the curves, the blend mode was set to “color”.
Again, from the mentioned Photoshop technique. Opacity set to 20% and blend mode to “color”.
Added some contrast to make it a little more punchy. Blend mode was set to “luminosity” to preserve previous color adjustments.
Now if I could figure out how to create the same effect in ACR I’d be pretty clever.