Post-processing: quite a difference

Before

Above you see  the original NEF and the processed JPG of a picture taken in Peru that is submitted to Dreamstime.
After coming home of a very inspiring trip to Peru I was really looking forward to seeing the results on my 27″ iMAC. Of course, I had a first glimp during the trip with the HyperDrive ColorSpace UDMA2, however, this was just to make sure that the backup worked.
Seeing the NEFs, I was quite disappointed. They lacked vibrance, I missed all the nice colors I remembered. Apparently, the very strong, unfiltered sun makes the colors bleak. Luckily, Adobe LightRoom can help.
Here are the steps I used to post-process the picture in Adobe LightRoom 6.1.1 (apologies for the Dutch):
Schermafbeelding 2015-08-23 om 11.36.58

  • Set the White Balance to Daytime
  • Sharpen the picture a bit
  • Set the Lens Correction for the specific lens I used (Nikon 28-300mm); this removes the dark corners which are mainly visible in the blue sky.
  • Reduce Highlights to get more balance between the highlights and the shadows
  • Increase Shadows to open up the dark areas
  • Get more colors by increasing Vibrance and Saturation
  • Increase Contrast to make the picture more vivid
  • Highlight the snow on the mountains by increasing Whites
  • Increase or decrease the Lightning to finalize the picture

Of course, for most of them there is no specific order. You change the settings a bit to get the result you have in mind. Below you see the result.

After

For more pictures of Peru accepted by Dreamstime, click here. Enjoy!
Stock Images

Sacsayhuamán puzzles me

Sacsayhuaman, archeological Inca site
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Despite the advice to take a rest when arriving at Cuzco by airplane because of the altitude (3400 meter), we immediatly went to Sacsayhuamán. It is an impressive archeological Inca site, a little bit above Cuzco. Although I have been there several times, the big carved stone walls remain a puzzle. How were these stones transported, how were they carved (they have many dimensions and there is no space to stick something between them), and how did they survive earthquakes?
While being puzzled I was thinking about taking pictures of a site that has been photographed so often. Here are some of the challenges. At this altitude the sun is really burning also in winter. Wearing a hat to keep your head cool is essential. Also take a lot of water. Walking around on these sites with heavy equipment in a burning sun takes a lot of energy. Furthermore, taking pictures during a tour with family and friends surrounded by other tourists limits the opportunities to extensively explore the sites. And, finally, at 18:00 hours the light goes out rather abruptly. At the same time, all these limitations stimulate creativity.
I was happy I had taken my 28-300mm zoomlens. Without changing lenses (I do not like to change lenses because of the dust in Peru), I could easily change from wide-angle to telezoom. During most of the time there was more than enough light to have a large depth of field without sacrificing the ISO.
Back home, while processing the pictures, I realized that the burning sun made the pictures look a bit bleak. With Lightroom I had to bring the colors I remembered back by adding some contrast,  vibrance, and saturation. Here are the results.

My Workflow: trying to structure the process

Every photographer has his own way of handling pictures and using his own software tools to do so. Here I will describe my workflow.
Ingest  For managing the pictures I use Photomechanic 5. With its IPTC Stationary I fill in the Photographer’s field including copyright,  and I give a short description of the topic and the location. Furthermore,  I change the name of the picture into yyyymmdd_xxxx. The xxxx stand for a four digit counter. I expect not to make more than 9999 pictures per day. They are temporarily stored in the map Workspace with a submap with the date of the ingest.
Backup The next step is to make a copy of the NEF files to an external harddisk using Photomechanic 5. Sync Pro copies all of pictures (NEF and jpg) that are changed the last hour to my NAS.  Once a week a backup from my Synology NAS to Amazon Glacier in Ireland is made.   After the initial backup everything is automated.
GPS If the location of the pictures is important I use my own GPS. Before using it I check the time of the GPS and of the camera (especially in another time zone this is important and saves a lot of time). I then use View NX 2 to determine the location based on time matching between the exposure time and the times of the track. This is done in one command for a whole set of pictures.
5-star scan Depending on the number of pictures and the goal I use different strategies. For a photoshoot or a special trip abroad (a lot of pictures) I tried to identify as quickly as possible the 5-star pictures to submit to Dreamstime. For an album of myself of less important trips the storyline might me more important so I also include some pictures that did not make it to the 5-star category.
First processing scan The first processing is done with View NX 2. For the selected pictures I set  White Balance to the right WB, Sharpening to 3, Color Enhancement to a low value that is appropriate. Although I regularly use this tool, I am not overly enthusiastic because it sometimes freezes while processing a whole batch of pictures.
Second processing scan In the second scan I look at the individual pictures and adjust, for example, Exposure, Contrast etc. For more advanced processing I open Capture NX2, to remove dust spots, brightening/darkening specific parts of the picture, cropping etc. It has many more tools to finetune the picture. Although it does not have the most user-friendly interface, it is a very helpful tool.
Photoshop For very advanced processing, like for pictures of a photoshoot, I use Photoshop to do some magic with layers. It is a perfect tool that can do everything in often too many ways. Most of the time I search Youtube for finding the right tutorial, for example, for brightening the white of the eyes. In this case I use View NX 2 to produce TIFF files, which I then process with Photoshop and let it produce JPG.
Producing JPG With Photomechanic 5 I produce the final jpg files. For pictures that are submitted to Dreamstime I use its FTP-facility for immediately upload.
Galleries For galeries I use jAlbum. It is a very convenient tool for making simple or very advanced galeries. Many skins are available.
Final storage Most pictures are on the internal harddisk of my Apple iMac. Within the map Pictures I make submaps like Trips, Photoshoots, Happenings, Family etc. Within those maps I make submaps with a name and a date (in that order; I like pictures on the same topic to be grouped). Knowing from experience there is no best way to store files, therefore I very much rely on the search facility of Photomechanic 5. A very fast software tool.
Here is an update on this blog.