Post Hoc

My name is Rob, and my work is done after the fact. Most of my time taking pictures for fun recently has been spent in front of a computer screen.

When I first ventured into the world of photography, I took a position 180 degrees from the person who sparked my interest. She took pictures specifically for the intent of editing them in photoshop to create fantastical works of art that don't exist in the real world. I took pictures with the intent that they should come out exactly how I wanted straight out of the camera. I was of the mindset that if you had to monkey with a picture after it's taken, you did something wrong.

To some extent, this holds true. In the course of my day job, it is my responsibility to make sure that the photographs that come out of my camera don't need any editing. The exposure has to be spot on, the focus has to be where I want it, and the framing needs to be just so. If a photo I take needs to be edited, in a lot of cases, I wasn't doing my job.

However, say you want a picture of a field in December in Alabama, and want vibrant green grass. By and large, that just isn't going to happen. Sometimes you have to work with what you've got and mother nature isn't going to cooperate. Fortunately for me, I have a team of editors at my disposal to make sure that the grass is green and the sky is blue for the ads that we produce.

When taking photographs in a more artsy-fartsy scenario, I've found semi-recently that getting the image that I have in my head straight off the camera is what we like to refer to as "impossible".

A few days ago, my lady-friend and I put up a Christmas Tree in her living room. It was the first time in a long while that I've had a real tree, and I wanted photographic evidence. Cell-phone instragram nonsense wasn't gonna cut it, either.

So, I got out my camera and my tripod and I took one 30 second exposure of the tree and the chair that sits next to it.

This is what came off my camera:


As you can probably see, that picture pretty much sucks. And that's ok, because if you zoom in you can see the sun-stars emanating from the lights on the tree. That's all I was after as far as starting points are concerned.

It was time to fix it, and here's what I did.

I took the RAW file, opened it in Lightroom, and created 2 virtual copies, adjusting white balance along the way. These two copies were set at +2 and -2 stops of exposure. Then I exported all three copies to Photomatix Pro to create an HDR photo. The HDR photo was then re-imported into Lightroom where I cropped out the speakers on the right, and the end table on the left while maintaining the 2:3 aspect ratio. I then adjusted the tone-curve to darken the shadows just a hair. The clarity, vibrance, and and saturation were all amped up to bring out the reds and greens, as well as the yellow from the lights. Next the image was sharpened a little, and the noise reduced.

All of those steps led to the finished product:



The final image is a good bit different than what I started with, by design. I knew that the limitations of my camera's sensor was going to hold me back from producing the picture that I had in my noggin. Multiple images, and digital manipulation would be required to produce what I wanted.

That picture above, still fairly realistic looking, is almost a complete fabrication that took place on my PC. This is what it took to let you see my vision, and I'll use every tool at my disposal in order to be able to show you.