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Applying New Skills to Older Photos

  ...APAW - Week #01 - Tarmac

Published in Kitchens' Sink by Kevin L. Kitchens on January 09, 2009 10:57

I frequent the DPChallenge.com site and one of the features there in the forums are the side challenges (similar to the soon to be completed Thematics here). This year they've started an Archive Photo A Week (APAW), which basically involves going through the scads of photos on your hard drive(s) and processing them now using skills you didn't have when you took it. In some cases, this will be salvaging the previously unsalvagable. In others, simply finding that diamond in the rough.

Since we're supposed to share the steps we took in processing the photo, I thought it would be good to post these in parallel here -- and stimulate me to set aside time to post in this journal.

So with that, here's my Week #01 Entry entitled Tarmac...

This is the original as shot image from July 2006. I escorted my minor nieces to the airport and was able to accompany them to the gate, so I killed some time taking shots of the planes. This was taken using my old Panasonic FZ-30 in JPG mode, BTW.

Then I took it through Lightroom 2.0. Set White point.
Increased exposure to +0.50. Contrast +18, Clarity +20, Vibrance +21. Vibrance increases the non-saturated colors so you don't over saturate. That's typically all I do in Lightroom. And this is on a JPG starting image.

That produced this...

Then I took it into Photoshop CS4...

  • Noiseware with default settings just to clean things up.
  • Shadows/highlights at 10% each. Toggle preview repeatedly to see if I like the new version better. :)
  • Levels layer, moved sliders to just the edges of the histogram and increased the brightness overall.
  • Merge down.
  • Convert to LAB color.
  • Apply Image using softlight and "A" or "B" channel. Sorry forgot which. Again, use the preview toggle to see which is best and if there is an improvement. The goal here is to get the colors to really pop.
  • Copy background to new layer.
  • Channels tab, click the lightness channel (still in LAB), run an unsharp mask on this channel only. This helps to sharpen without altering the color (thus less chance of halos).
  • Click on the Lab channel to bring back the color version, then click back on the Layers tab.
  • Added a black layer mask (Alt-click the layer mask button). This hides all the sharpening. Then with a white brush painted on the areas I wanted to be sharpened.
  • Merge down.
  • Convert to RGB (hate when I forget this step!)
  • Added a dodge/burn layer (my own Action), basically a new layer filled with mid-grey and set to 25% opacity. You can then paint with a soft brush in white to dodge and black to burn. You can adjust the opacity of your brush as well to reduce effect (I like to use this on teeth/eyes in portraits). In this image, I only did the rear tires to make them a little brighter.
  • Levels layer, no changes, set to Multiply... this darkens the image big time. Then I used the marquee, selected the sky as a rectangle and used the gradient fill (black to white smooth) on the layer mask to make the sky a nice gradient. I did this with a slight angle so as to not look too uniform.
  • Next I masked the tarmac the same way and applied the gradient fill to the layer mask to make the baggage lighter and the right side darker.
  • Finally, using a black brush, I went over the plane to make sure it was not affected by the gradients.
  • Added another levels layer, set to multiply. Then using the marquee tool, I selected the entire image with about a 50 pixel border. I feathered this selection by 120 and filled with black (alt-backspace, black as foreground color). This creates a nice vignette, but was a little too pronounced for my taste on this image. So I feathered the current selection again and filled a second time.
  • Resized to 1024 on the long side.
  • Added a new blank layer. Select all, Edit|Stroke and did 12px black. Edit|Stroke and did 11px white. Leaves a nice thin black line to offset the photo from the white border.

And here is the final image...

I hope you enjoy the final results and reading about how I did it. I will try to post these here each week and share what and how I did it all. I look forward to your feedback and suggestions (and criticisms).

Keywords: sink  photoshop  digital darkroom  apaw  lightroom  
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Kathy Pazaryna commented on January 14, 2009 06:28:
Wow great transformation how long did all this take from start to finish ?
Kevin L. Kitchens commented on January 15, 2009 18:33:
Not too long at all, really. About 5-10 minutes. I highly recommend Scott Kelby's 7 step method book. It gets you thinking about what a photo needs and helps you learn how to get it there.
Kathy Pazaryna commented on January 17, 2009 04:49:
Arumugam Ganesan commented on January 28, 2009 14:17:
Lovely article. Very nicely demostrates how to use photo editing tools. Looking forward to see upcoming artilces like this one.
Patrice Cigallio Wesa commented on January 28, 2009 16:39:
Wow, this is quite a transformation from the original with very effective & impressive touches. Was grateful for all your comments on how you got there, Kevin. I do not own these more sophisticated editing programs but stick to the basics and try hard to shoot in the best conditions I can out of camera.

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