A Cozumel Seascape, Before and After

I thought this would be interesting to some folks. Especially those who have yet to plunge into the wide and wacky world of post-processing their images.

What comes out of the camera is really just the first step in photography, as you will see in my example.

Caveat: If you are just shooting JPEGs and you have your menu selections dialed in on your camera, it is possible to get good images straight out o’ the camera without doing any further work. For example, setting your White Balance to, say, “Warm” instead of “Auto” will generally give things a warmer look. You may also have something like a “Creative Style” setting in which you can select, say, “Vivid” which will enhance contrast and saturation.

The problem is, you don’t have any control over the process as it is all done automatically in the camera. To ALL your photos.

Recommendation: Shoot RAW and do your own post-processing if you really want to tweak a photograph to your personal taste.

To wit:

Here is an example of what my raw file looked like straight out of the camera with no manipulation. And here I must insert an important comment on exposure: I have my LCD display set to show me the histogram (which is based on your JPEG picture selections, by the way). When I look at the LCD, I check two things…first, basic composition. But, more importantly, I look at the histogram to make sure I haven’t totally blown important highlights and, ideally, the shadows aren’t smashed against the left wall either.

In this case, the darker tones in the histogram were just a hair’s width off of the left wall. On the right, I did have a tiny collection of highlights climbing the right wall–but only that area you see around the Sun and the Sun’s disc, which I thought was fine:

El Mirador, #15 (Original file). Cozumel, Mexico, 2017
El Mirador, #15 (Original file). Cozumel, Mexico, 2017


Pretty blah, eh? Now, if you had selected some fired up JPEG camera settings in your machine (mine are set at neutral) you might get a JPEG to come out a bit better, but this is difficult light. Note the dark shadows. Other problems…note the lack of contrast and the very minimal saturation of colors. And, yes, there is the slightly crooked horizon and the trash in the algae beds.

This, of course, is not what I was “seeing” in my mind’s hairy eyeball, so I took it into Lightroom, then Photoshop, for various adjustments…to make it match my “personal vision” as they say.

Here is the result:

El Mirador, #15. Cozumel, Mexico, 2017
El Mirador, #15. Cozumel, Mexico, 2017


What did I do? In brief…

–Some basic sharpening, and I clicked on the boxes to improve chromatic aberration and to make the standard lens corrections

–Used the Shadows slider to bring out detail in the dark areas of the foreground

–Straightened the horizon

–Cloned out the trash and the many dust spots from my dirty sensor

–Added a bit of contrast and saturation

–Ran it through one of my Tonal Contrast filters from Google Color Efex Pro

–Did a slight bit of burning and dodging here and there

That is a very condensed summary of what I did–all in about 15 minutes–to make the picture look much better.

Finally, know that I don’t particularly like post-processing and don’t consider myself very good at it. A true Photoshop guru would say my methods are sloppy and incomplete–in fact, they are just plain awful.

Point being, if I can do this, so can you. (And, yes, I plan on constantly improving my skills as time goes on!)

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