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Processing “The Last Supper”

January 17, 2012  |  Apps Technique Workflow


Pedro Alves asked in a comment on today’s photo if I could explain the processing.  So I thought I’d give it a quick try.
The original raw photo was shot at f/10 at ISO 100 and a shutter speed of 1/100 of a second, using a polarizing filter to darken up the sky a bit.  After importing to Lightroom, I pre-sharpened and adjusted the white balance, giving me this:
Not very exciting, eh?  I decided to tone map it to bring out the shadow and highlights detail in a sort-of “faux” HDR process.  Since I hadn’t shot multiple bracketed exposures, which would be necessary to do true HDR, I faked it, relying on the pure dynamic range that shooting RAW affords a photographer.
In Lightroom, I created four virtual copies of the photo, giving me five copies altogether, including the original.  I left the original’s exposure value at 0, then set the others at values of +1, +2, -1 and -2 respectively, imitating the bracketed exposures I’d get with a “real” HDR shot.  I then exported these to Photomatix to do the tone mapping, which resulted in this image:
This gave me great detail in the shadows, but killed the sky.  I didn’t really care, though, because I still had work to do.  I imported the original photo with the dark sky I liked and the tone-mapped photo I’d created in Photomatix into Photoshop for further work.
First step was to copy the tone-mapped version into a new layer over the original.  I then created a layer mask which allowed me to use a black paintbrush to “punch through” the tone-mapped layer to the original photo below.  I used a brush with an opacity set to roughly 50% to slowly bring the original sky into the tone-mapped layer.  Once I was satisfied, I applied the layer mask, resulting in a photo that had tone-mapped statues and mountains, but original dark sky.  I then used Topaz Adjust to bring out a bit of detail in the mountains and statues, because I feel like the tone-mapping process leaves the photos looking a bit flat detail-wise.
My next step was to convert to black and white.  For this, I used Nik Software’s excellent Silver Efex Pro 2.  I started with the built-in “high structure” preset, then added a bit of extra structure and a little bit more contrast, while dropping the exposure down a notch or two.  Then, I used Silver Efex’s control points feature to darken up the sky just a bit more while leaving the mountains and statues unaffected. Once this was done, I saved back to Lightroom, did some final noise reduction and a bit of sharpening and posted it to the site.
Here’s a before/after:

before
after



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