Minimal Post Processing

Pilings In Fog | Black & White Gallery

I enjoy post-processing images. I have photo suites from the likes of Nik and OnOne Software. And I use those plug-ins often to push and pull images to realize my artistic vision. When working the photo above, I gave myself a healthy reminder that not every image needs "extensive" post-processing. Gentle touches can be just as effective. It also reminded me how powerful Aperture is all by itself.

Earlier in the week I posted an image of the San Diego harbor in a thick fog. I knew when I took the photo I would make it a black and white - not a lot of color happening on a gray, foggy morning. My go-to tool for black and white photos is Nik Silver Efex. I gave that photo my usual treatments, selectively adding contrast and structure to the portions of the images I want crisp. Being careful not to harden the silky, etherial water that comes with a long exposure.

A subtle Curve adjustment in Aperture can do wonders.

Yesterday, I processed the photo at the top of this post. But I took a different approach and only used Aperture. When I thought about the adjustments I made with Nik, I figured I could accomplish the same in Aperture. I was right.

After retouching away distractions and dust spots, the processing came down to three main things:

  1. Boost the exposure. I wanted the sky and water to be nearly white. In the screen shot, look at the histogram at the top left. The peaks were more toward the middle straight out of the camera. Increasing the exposure ~1.5 or so did the trick. It also washed away some additional distractions at the horizon. Still present, but your eyes only get hints of them, adding to the mystery of the shot.
  2. A subtle curves adjustment. The exposure got me most of the way, but I lost a little of the darks in the pilings. And I wanted an extra boost on the whites. First, I set a control point above the left-most peak in the whites - I want to protect the highlights. Then, I started with a gentle drag up in the white peaks of the luminosity curve. The control point acts as a pivot, and the curve compensated the darks. I gave the darks an extra nudge with a slight drag downward in the mid tones.
  3. Sharpen and Define. The subject in the shot is the pilings. Brushing in sharpening and definition adjustments makes those pop. I did more sharpening and definition on the pilings themselves, with less emphasis on the reflections in the water. I certainly did not want to sharpen any of the water or sky. That must remain soft and dreamy.

That's the crux of it. The observant will see I also did some Edge Sharpen and Highlights & Shadows, but the effects of those adjustments are subtleties - icing on the cake.

While I still love my Nik and OnOne tools, and will use them again and again, there's a lot that can be done with only a few minor tweaks in Aperture.