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.


  1. Nice tutorial!

  2. 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”…

  3. George Osborne says:

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

  4. Michael Preston says:

    Nicely done, Jeff.

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

  6. 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.


  1. Worth a look: Making Something From Nothing #bw #imageprocessing #lightroom

  2. Booom says:

    Making Something From Nothing: Have you ever taken a shot and then just dumped it in the trash with… #Photography

  3. RT @scottwyden Worth a look: Making Something From Nothing #bw #imageprocessing #lightroom

  4. Besimo says:

    RT @phototube: RT @scottwyden Worth a look: Making Something From Nothing #bw #imageprocessing #lightroom

  5. Making Something From Nothing Photography.alltop

  6. Jeff Revell says:

    Today's blog post: Making Something From Nothing

  7. RT @Photowalkpro: Making Something From Nothing Sometimes "delete" is not the only option. Great tutorial!

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