Making Something From Nothing

Have you ever taken a shot and then just dumped it in the trash without ever really processing it? I have to admit that I do it all the time. But every now and then I will refrain from hitting the delete key and start playing with the image just to see if I can make it better. It’s really just an exercise in post-processing but sometimes I really do find a better image hiding within.

Here’s an example. I took this shot at Nags Head and, at the time, thought it would be a cool shot with the waves and wind pounding against the stilted home. Then I downloaded it to the computer and found this.

Pretty blah, isn’t it? Let’s see if we can’t make it look a little more pleasing by going to the Develop module in Lightroom and making some adjustments to the Basic panel. First I adjusted the white balance and exposure, then I grabbed hold of the Blacks slider. There really aren’t any blacks in the image so I had to slide the Blacks all the way to 68 to start making things pop. I also adjusted the Clarity slider pretty heavily (+47) to get some more contrast into the mid-tones.

Here’s the result from those adjustments.

It’s better but far from good. Maybe some contrast adjustments to the Tonal Curve will help add some pop.

That’s a little better but now it’s time to do something a bit more drastic, like maybe turn it into a black and white. It’s pretty obvious that the colors in this image will never look more than flat but a nice B&W conversion might just do the trick.

I’m liking it more but the cropping of the image just isn’t doing it for me. Maybe a more pano look will be more interesting.

Now we are getting somewhere. I still wish that there was more definition in the waves so I’m going to use the Adjustment Brush to paint in Clarity at 100%.

And while I’m at it, I think it’s time for some split-toning. I tried several different looks but a blue color-cast seemed to be most fitting.

Now for a little more crop adjusting and some sharpening and I get this as my final result.

Here’s the starting image again, just as a refresher.

Now with all the adjustments and a nice mat to finish things off and we get something completely different than we started with. (click on the image to see a larger view)

You certainly won’t be able to resurrect every image that you take but sometimes it’s a good exercise to try and see if you can’t pull something out of nothing.

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  • http://www.photopoly.net Photopoly

    Nice tutorial!

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  • http://www.biodiversityinfocus.com/blog Morgan Jackson

    Quite an eye opener with regards to hidden potential in photos! Now I’ll have to go back and take a second look at some of my “rejects”…

  • George Osborne

    Excellent tutorial. It has given me some food for thought of images I took a while back of a foggy Ha Long Bay Hanoi

  • Michael Preston

    Nicely done, Jeff.

  • http://www.photographyupdate.co.uk/category/blog/ Mark Fenwick

    Many thanks for a useful tutorial. It’s amazing how just changing a photograph from colour to black and white can transform an image.

  • Brian

    Very nice article Jeff! I really enjoyed the thought provoking look at how to look at something from another viewpoint and how to use your creativity to create an new image.

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