Post Processing Tutorial – Part 1


This blog’s previous posts on workflow looked at end-to-end Digital Image Workflow. I began with Image Capture and ended with Image Organization. Check the Table of Contents. After getting images organized, post processing (PP) is the usual next workflow step. This is the first of a series of PP articles where we examine every element of post-processing workflow from start to finish.
My goal for this PP series is a post every 2-3 days for as long as it takes. Please hold me to it. Questions are encouraged & welcome – it keeps me honest and helps me learn.
Read this post for an explanation what PP software is used in this tutorial and why. Even if you use different PP software, please give this a look. You may get some ideas unless you’re already an expert.
Posts in this series –

If you’re unfamiliar with color, reading this primer before proceeding may help – or jump to the bottom of this post.
This post, Part 1, will provide a PP overview by showing the progression of an image from the opening of a RAW file to the completion of a basic JPEG, i.e. typical RAW conversion steps.
Here’s the PP journey we’re about to take. The 1st image is our starting point. The 2nd is an example of one possible result. We’ll take a look at the typical steps to achieve this result. In this case the steps, in order, were –

  1. White Balance adjust – not really needed in this image, but for illustration….
  2. Shadow/Highlight recovery – this image has dark areas which reflect the fact that it was dark, cloudy and raining buckets; conversely there are some bright areas in the foreground rocks and leaves that reflect the fact that I wasn’t using a polarizer (a rain issue again).
  3. Improved Color Contrast – this is, IMO, a fundamental requirement of almost every digital image
  4. Improved Tonal Contrast – ditto above
  5. Slight lightening of center and darkening of edges – to focus the viewer & reduce the eye’s tendency to stray to/beyond the frame edge (this isn’t a fundamental RAW conversion step or issue – just something that I usually do as a finishing step)
  6. As I mentioned above, every PP program worth its salt can do each of the above five steps. Our goal in this series is not to learn HOW to do them in every conceivable program but, rather, to see what each step does and why it’s needed for most images.

In the next several posts we’ll look each of the above steps. Beyond that, future posts will examine them individually in detail. Posts on the nitty-gritty detail will also explore alternative techniques within a single specific program to accomplish the same objective (or, as they say, there’s more than one way to skin a cat). Further, where useful, as part of the nitty-gritty I’ll illustrate how several different programs approach the same problem and compare results.
A side note before continuing. Color related terminology in photography and art may be confusing to the “layperson”. You should be familiar with the basic terminology.
For example, red is not a color – it’s a HUE, one of an infinite number of hues. And – when you see the word tone, it refers to how light or dark a hue is (the word tone is more often called VALUE in the art world – no less confusing to the layperson).
A color is described by three separate parts and when we refer to a color we are implicitly stating “values” for all three – knowingly or not. Those three parts are –

Bottom line – keep these terms and distinctions in mind. Remind yourself “Red is NOT a color”, “PINK is not a TONE”, ………

2 thoughts on “Post Processing Tutorial – Part 1”

  1. Looking forward to part 2. Would be great to see how you do each of those steps with NX2 and Efex Pro. Efex Pro makes certain things really easy, like the Darken/Lighten Center Step. Am curious to know how you do steps 3 and 4 — with native NX2 or with Efex Pro.

  2. Great image and good walkthrough. I also use NX2, but not Efex Pro. I’m not sure how to lighten the center and darken the edges, so I’m interested in reading your second part…

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