Taking a Photograph From Drab to Fab

Recently, I’ve been going through my older photo files, and I’ve found a number of images that I didn’t quite know what to do with at the time but that have enough potential to revisit. Here’s how I revamped one of my cemetery photos that I worked on earlier, yet was never really happy with. My revamp began with the PSD file I had already done; however, here’s what the initial RAW file looked like:

RAW file of "Pointing Angel"
RAW file of “Pointing Angel”

The exposure is okay, although the statue’s face is way too dark. I like the puffy clouds, so I wouldn’t want to up the overall exposure and blow them out. Normally, I don’t retouch cemetery images much, but the tree tops at the bottom of the frame are distracting and don’t add any interest. And while I really wanted some vivid blue sky showing through, haziness makes it pretty dull. So when I originally worked on this image, I decided to convert it to black and white, with this being the result of my efforts:

Black and white version of "Pointing Angel," done a couple of years ago
Black and white version of “Pointing Angel,” done a couple of years ago

Although it’s a lot better than the original, it still lacks the sense of drama and excitement that I wanted to achieve. When I unearthed this file, I knew that I could make it a much better black and white image in Silver Efex Pro. What I really wanted, though, was color in the sky and the clouds. The first thing I did was to remove the black and white layer from the PSD file, which gave me this:

"Pointing Angel" PSD, stripped of black and white layer
“Pointing Angel” PSD, stripped of black and white layer

My second step was attempting to boost colors in Lightroom 5; however, it didn’t do much. (It’s possible that I didn’t save the color PSD correctly for Lightroom adjustments, since I’m a Lightroom newbie and I almost always start out with RAW files.) Since that didn’t work, I opened the file up in Viveza. Happily, Viveza allowed me to bump up the colors to this:

Viveza adjustments on "Pointing Angel"
Viveza adjustments on “Pointing Angel”

Now we’re getting somewhere! Finally some blue sky. The lovely pink tinge in the clouds surprised me and made me wonder if I could make this look like a sunset shot, even though I took it in mid-afternoon. I saved my Viveza edits and opened the file up in Color Efex Pro. I experimented with lots of different filters, ending up with a combo of Brilliance/Warmth, Darken/Lighten Center, Pro Contrast, Skylight Filter, and Reflector Efex. I love the final effect, which far surpasses my wildest dreams of what I could do with this photograph:

Pointing Angel
Final version of “Pointing Angel”

Want this as a fine art print, phone case, or greeting card? Head over to my Fine Art America premier site to buy your own “Pointing Angel.”

By the way, if you’re not familiar with Silver Efex Pro, Viveza, or Color Efex Pro, they’re all part of the Nik Collection, which I highly recommend. It’s available for Lightroom, Photoshop, and Aperture. You can only use it in one of those programs per computer, though, so choose carefully. The Photoshop version allows you to adjust your edits later if you do them on a SmartFilter layer. Not so in Lightroom, although you can save your set of filters as a Recipe to use later (but you’ll lose your control points). I’ve never used Aperture, so I don’t know how it works there. In any case, Nik’s software provides great tools to help you bring your creative vision to life.

© 2014, Karen Joslin

6 thoughts on “Taking a Photograph From Drab to Fab

  1. I admit, I also am more of a purist when it comes to photos. Yet I like really like this feeling – it is as a Rennaissance painting 🙂 – I also find it sometimes surprsing how I have felt about images that just did not scream out ‘at least 4 stars immediately’, yet upon revisiting – either they were not as quiet I as I originally had assesed, or a little creative attention served to boost the voice! You need not kill your children as Helmut Newton recommended – you can Keep letting your photos speak to you :)- perhaps it just is not teir time to shine ;- ) – (in my humble opinion).

    1. Yes, and it’s true no matter how accomplished a photographer is. I just read an interview with John Sexton in Professional Photographer magazine, and he talked about one of his images that he worked on and worked on, but was never satisfied with. Finally, years later, he had a revelation and got the print he wanted.

Comments are closed.