When I am working on the post production of a photograph I go through several different options looking for the right one that expresses the image as I see it in my mind. I find this takes several passes through possible treatments of the image. The way I work is to start with the original RAW file in Adobe Lightroom 5. I do some general cropping and possible exposure and white balance correction. My theory is to start with the very best capture of an image, then correct any capture issues and after that begin the process of image deconstruction. I know a lot of people shoot lomo or use lenses like the Lensbaby to create the look they want, but I feel all that can be done in the post processing of an image. That allows me the maximum flexibility while searching for the best representation of the photograph I see in my mind.
When I talk about deconstruction I don’t mean degradation. There is a wide palette of possibilities that include color correction, conversion to B&W, creation of a HDR image, focus manipulation, and so on. In fact the possibilities are so endless that I feel I must try several options before I’m sure I have it right. Below is a photograph I took a few years back in Key West, Florida. That’s right, I shot this a few years ago and I’m just now doing the post work on it. It just took that long for it to “cook” in my brain. I’d look at the original image and just know it wasn’t time to start work on it. I love film but with the tools we have today vs. film workflow I feel I can spend my time much more productively editing rather than worrying about chemical temperatures or air bubbles in the developing tank.
After the Lightroom adjustments are made I take the image into Photoshop to clean up, remove, and prepare the image for editing. Even when I’m working on a shot of an old building or abandoned hallway, I want to remove distracting elements like dangling wires, paint imperfections, damage, etc. You can see by looking at the original image I did do a lot of editing to prepare the photograph for creating the different treatments. This included removal of wires, removing of shadows, elimination of paint imperfections that bothered me and recreating parts of the building lost to time.
Once all this editing is done (about 1 to 2 hours of work) I go back into Lightroom and select filters (like Perfect Photo Suite 8, DxO filters or any one of a number of standalone applications) to get a starting point. I’ll build up layers of different kinds to achieve that “treatment” I’m looking for. I find that “canned” filter settings just don’t get me there. I have to tweak and add and remove stuff until I get what I’m looking for. This process can take another 1 to 2 hours and sometime more. At the end of the process I usually have anywhere from 2 to 5 hours in on an image before I call it done.
Below is the original RAW image as shot, followed by my treatment. I have added two possible B&W treatments and an optional color treatment. I passed through all of these, getting to the final one. Now you can be the judge. Did I get it right or is one of the alternate treatments better?
This is the original image.
My Original Treatment
One possible B&W Treatment (#1)
Another B&W Treatment (#2)
Another Color Treatment (#3)