How to Make Your Travel Photos Look Great for MilePoint

Discussion in 'Travel Technology' started by PTravel, Mar 3, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. PTravel
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    PTravel Silver Member

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    MilePoint is rapidly evolving into THE place for fantastic travel photography. There are some really beautiful shots here. I've noticed, however, a lot of potentially great shots that, for want of a little work in a photo editing program, just look kind of blah. I thought I'd offer a simple primer on how to tweak photographs. These tips apply to any digital photo, whether taken with expensive DSLRs or cellphone cameras, and everything in between. I'll be referring to Adobe Photoshop, but these procedures will work in with any photo editing program.

    #1 Saturation and Color Balance

    Lots of potentially good shots on MilePoint look washed out. Here's how to make them POP.

    First, here's the "before" shot, taken at Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas:


    DSCN1806-small.jpg

    This is a nice enough shot, but it looks washed out. To give it punch, I'll use the saturation tool to make it more colorful. Think of saturation as the "color" knob on a television. Here's the result:

    DSCN1806-small-saturation.jpg

    Okay, looking better but now there's an obvious blue cast. This is because the day was a little hazy, which is why the original shot was washed out in the first place. To fix it, I'm going to adjust the color balance. There are lots of ways to do this, but the easiest color balance tool to use provides three sliders that let you vary between cyan/red, magenta/green and yellow/blue. I'm going to move the color balance towards red and yellow. Here's the result:

    DSCN1806-small-color balance.jpg

    Now that's looking better. Compare this shot, which has had only two simple adjustments applied to it, with the original shot at the top of this post.

    More later.
     
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  2. PTravel
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    PTravel Silver Member

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    #2 Gamma

    Now I'd like to add a little drama to this shot. To do this I'm going to adjust the gamma. This is a little harder to explain. All photos have a range of brightness from very dark to very light. Gamma controls let you do two things. first, they let you determine the dynamic range of the photo, i.e. the difference between the brightest portions and darkest portions. The greater the range between most bright and most dark, the punchier the photo will look. Next, gamma controls let you decide where the mid-point between light and dark should be -- if you want a darker, more brooding look, you can set the mid-point towards the darker end.

    Here's the original again:

    [​IMG]

    Now, here's the same shot after adjusting saturation, color balance and gamma:

    DSCN1806-small-gamma.jpg

    Quite a difference, right? Look at the depth created between the near and far mountains, and how the far mountain picks up the glow of the setting sun. Just for comparison, here's the shot before the gamma adjustment:

    [​IMG]

    You can see the effect of gamma adjustment most by looking at the section of the photo where the two mountains overlap.

    These three tools, saturation, color adjustment and gamma adjustment can fix a wide range of maladies. They don't have to be used in this particular order, and I often go back and forth between the three, tweaking a little bit each time, until I get the photo exactly the way I want it.

    More tools next time.
     
  3. wiredboy
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    wiredboy Silver Member

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    Something I run into every day is varying brightness/contrast/color settings on people's screens. If you've got your screen set for doing spreadsheets or word processing it's possible that it's very bright and contrasty. Then if you adjust things to look perfect on it, lots of others will see very flat photos. Take a look at PTravel's shots. They're rich with no overall color cast. If they don't look that way on your screen then something is off.
     
  4. edog22
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    edog22 Silver Member

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    Those are good tips to correct photos that already exist. You can make post-processing a bit easier by using a polarizer filter when you are taking the shots - the results can be dramatic, especially with shots of water. They are easy to find for SLR-style, and are available for some of the smaller cameras as well.
     
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  5. Tivoboy
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    Tivoboy Milepoint Guide

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    Just try to shoot RAW if you can, everything can then be done post shooting.
     
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  6. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Sure, if you want to spend the time. I prefer to aim for better photos when I press the shutter release and just bin them if I don't like how they came out in the end. If I have to spend an hour fidling with the photo to make it look good then I probably just didn't take that nice a picture to begin with.
     
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  7. cheepneezy
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    cheepneezy Gold Member

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    I'd rather take an extra few seconds to actually look at the picture I just shot and fiddle with the exposure on multiple shots to get something that I'm happy with. My goal is to do as little post processing as possible.
     
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  8. Tiki
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    Tiki Silver Member

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    Thanks for the tips! I haven't played around too much in CS5 yet, just made composite shots like my avatar but what a difference you made!
     
  9. Mark.Dragon
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    Mark.Dragon Silver Member

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    Thanks to PTravel for his Tips and also showing the difference on a "example picture"!
    Good explanation and easy to understand...

    Untill now i never try to "tune up" my pictures but maybe i should give it a try?
    So i wait for the next part of your "school of pictureworking"... [​IMG]

    Greetings Mark
     
  10. Gargoyle
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    Gargoyle Milepoint Guide

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    It helps to understand file formats. JPG is a "lossy" format. That means that the compression method it uses to reduce file size "loses" data from the image. If you save a picture as a jpg, then save it a second time as a jpg without changing anything, the second iteration will still be lower quality than the first.

    Therefore, first make sure you save your original; that's your archival copy, so don't overwrite it with an edited copy. Then, when editing, save your changes to a "lossless" format such as raw (if you shot in raw) or tif. Only when you have the final ready for uploading to you save it once as a jpg.

    With very rare exceptions, there is no reason to save a file for milepoint at larger than 800px wide. Try to keep the pix that you post under about 150k, so that you don't overwhelm the downloads of people with limited bandwidth.
     
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  11. Mangy
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    Mangy Gold Member

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    Thanks for the tips
     
  12. Jaimito Cartero
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    Jaimito Cartero Silver Member

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    Nice tips, PT. I've used PS for years, but mostly for mid to low quality copy reproductions for mailers, so have never gotten into much in the way of color editing.
     
  13. toddreg
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    toddreg Silver Member

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    How do you upload a photo to MP?
     
  14. pjoalfa
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    pjoalfa Silver Member

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    Stupid question: Which one of those is how it actually looked when you saw it through your eyes?
    I'm all for cosmetic touches when needed for glare or too blue, or what have you, but if you dramatically change the actual way it looks isn't it then more about the photography and less about the travel?
    Maybe this is why many things look rather blah in real life as compared to the postcard. :)

    Thanks for the tips though, I'll certainly try them.
     
  15. PTravel
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    I'm not sure there's really a way to answer your question. Photography doesn't see the way the human eye sees. The human brain corrects for all sorts of deficiencies, such as haze and color cast, and has a much greater dynamic range than any kind of artificial photo receptor, whether chemical film or digital sensor. Finally, there is issue that results from rendering a three-dimensional scene to two dimensions. Accordingly, every photograph is going to be an impression of the original -- it can never be identical to the original. What I strive for in my photographs is re-creating the personal impression that the subject made on me. So, yes, the final photograph accurately captures my impression of the scene. Whether that's the way the scene actually looked, I can't say.
     
  16. cheepneezy
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  17. jason8612
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    Excellent tips!
     
  18. Tenmoc
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    Be aware that many cameras can shoot in RAW+jpeg. So you get one of each. Uses more memory, but this way you have both to work with.

    Also, the tips about improving your shot before you take it are great. Learning this will help improve your shots regardless of the type of camera you're using.
     

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