Once the camera is done, an image is placed on film or a memory card. But this is not the end of the process. To draw out the vision I had when pressing the shutter further manipulation is required.
When I get a picture in my head it is either usually about forms or subdued tones. When I process to match this I feel like I’m taking the image closer to my true intention. This conflicts with modern trends of maximum sharpness and contrast whilst vomiting colours. But since I can get away with calling it art I’ll use that as an excuse (and stick to it).
Here is the general process I go through…
Aperture imports all the images into a file-system structure that keeps the images organised by date. I avoid the Aperture library as it hides the images into a structured container. The reason for this is so that I can use other tools like DxO Optics if I want to push the images a bit harder.
Speaking of which, if I do want to use the features of DxO for distortion correction, fake HDR, film renderings, noise removal or maximum detail, I’ll get DxO to export a TIFF into the same directory. I’ll the import this into Aperture.
At this stage there may be a few images that stand out as really bad, so I’ll delete them.
Now that the complete set of images is under the control of Aperture, I’ll fill in as much of their common locations, GPS co-ordinates (if I can), keywords, faces and initial ratings. This give me a quick scan through the images (esp. whilst rating) so a few more may get deleted in the process.
Key wording is a pet hate. I could do much better in this area but I just stick to keeping it simple at the moment. I tend to only take key wording seriously just before I export images out for a specific purpose.
This part can get tedious really quick. I start by picking a middle-of-the-road image and setting the following settings on it (using a preset):
- Black Level: 1.0
- Saturation: 0.92
- Vibrancy: 0.33
- Definition: 20
- Shadows: 20
There is no specific reason for these settings other than I’ve noticed that I do this on 90% of everything. So as a starting point this is likely to be better than nothing.
I then lift-and-stamp these settings across all of the images that have been imported.
Now I’ll focus in a little more on the highest rated images or the ones that catch my eye. I am looking to do just enough to tell he story of the shoot anything else is noise. So now I take each image, one by one, and process them in the way I think/feel they should be processed. Most of the time this could go one of two ways; colour or monochrome.
Regardless of which tinting path I will follow, I’ll first get the image to a point where the shadows and high-lights are looking the way I like. I’ll also work out the level of detail I want to see as well as work on noise if needed. At this point I now have a generic looking colour image (like it’s a JPEG straight out of camera).
Usually I know (from memory of the shoot and also image content) if it is going to be monochrome or not. But sometimes I end up sitting on the fence. If that is the case I’ll first to a monochrome (Aperture makes a copy of the image anyway) and then work on the colour.
I tell Aperture to edit this image using Silver Efex Pro and it renders a TIFF alongside the raw file with all of my settings applied. This is opened up in Silver Efex and I start fiddling with the look.
First I check to see if the orange, red or yellow filters improve the look of the image. Then I start at the top and move my way down. I tend to focus on structure sliders the most. I love it how one can choose to add/remove structure to highlights, mid tones and shadows. Adjusting the fine details slider in the negative can be great for people shots too.
Once I am happy with the tonality of my image I hit the save button which brings me back to Aperture with a new monochrome image. From here I add a subtle blur and increase the mid-contrast a little.
The only thing I usually do here is to shift the hue of the various colours to make a more pleasant rendering (to my eyes).
Sometime I may decide to bring out specific details in a certain element of the picture. I this case I will brush on various effects to that area.
Now that I have the images the way I like them it is time for exporting and uploading to where I want to present them.