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The First Stage of Post-Processing - part 1 of 1 2 3 4 5 6

by Mike McNamee Published 01/04/2015


Make sure that you have the up-to-date processing engine for the Raw file being used. This legacy Nikon D300 file opens by default with the 2010 engine. Clicking on the 're-process to 1012 engine' button (arrowed) creates a radically different rendering AND changes the available sliders - Recovery and Fill are replaced with Highlights and Shadows, for example. Ed.

Part 2: Michael Pilkington discusses post-production of the landscape image, concentrating on the inital adjustments.

In my last article I spoke of the need to post process your images. This time around I am going to look at some key techniques that you should really consider when post-processing. Post-processing is divided into two key stages. The first stage is the initial processing of the RAW file using Adobe Camera Raw or the Develop Module in Lightroom to apply generic actions to improve the exposure and lights and darks in the image. The second stage is solely achieved in Photoshop where we address individual components of the image. Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) comes as a plug-in for Photoshop and Lightroom. If you open a RAW file from Adobe Bridge it will automatically launch the ACR plug-in for you. The develop module of Lightroom is exactly the same in terms of functionality and capability as ACR but presented as an integrated module within the Lightroom package. It is fair to say that the interface is a little more user friendly and pretty!

There are a few key objectives that we want to address in the first stage of post-processing:

Get the correct white balance
Establish a good tonal range in the image
Make corrections for lens limitations
Perform some pre-sharpening of the RAW file

Essentially we are creating a good foundation for applying the postprocessing in stage two.


Image as shot on Cloudy white balance.

Getting the correct white balance
I have the white balance on my camera permanently set to cloudy. I do this for a few reasons. Firstly I want predictability and consistency across all the shots I take (in fact every setting on my camera is set to manual). Secondly, I find that the settings in the main do not render correctly anyway (especially for long exposures) and lastly it is so easy to adjust it in post-processing. The slider we are looking for is Temperature. There are pre-sets available in ACR/LR but as for the camera I don't find these very useful. They are worth clicking to get a sense of where you want to be and then adjust the slide manually for the look you are after - to the left to make it cooler and to the right to make it warmer.

This particular image was taken as a long exposure so shifted to the blue end of the spectrum. It is worth noting at this time that during this process you will be making a lot of judgements around tonality and colour so it is imperative that you have your monitor properly calibrated.

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1st Published 01/04/2015
last update 18/07/2022 16:31:47

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Updated 18/07/2022 16:31:47 Last Modified: Monday, 18 July 2022