Changing Focus and Luminescence Post-Capture

By Paul Schranz Back to

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I just took my first trip to Point Lobos on California’s west coast since I transitioned to digital several years ago. Before that I had always shot with a medium- or large-format camera. With digital tools at my disposal, I decided to produce a photograph using the extended depth-of-field capability of Photoshop CS4.

I selected a relatively small image, with sufficient distance between the rocks in the foreground and the wet glossy plateau on the rock at the back of the image. I made three exposures, each focused differently, and imported the resulting images into Lightroom, which I use as my initial software for all non-montage work (Figure 1).

In Lightroom, I selected the three images, did global corrections on the first one, then synched it with the other two. From Lightroom I went to Edit > Open as Layers in Photoshop. Selecting all three layers, I ran Auto Align then Auto Blend on the three focus layers (Figure 2). I then flattened the layers and saved the file; it was automatically moved into Lightroom. I now had my base image with extended depth of field.

The wet rocks had a luminescence that permeated to the outside rather than to the inside, and I wanted to reverse this. Selecting Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush tool, I drew a mask around the perimeter of my image and then lowered the brightness in that area (Figure 3).

I next created another mask for the low center rock and again decreased the brightness. I added an additional mask to the bottom rocks to darken them further. I added a f inal Adjustment Brush mask to the center, and then set it to lighten the middle of the image. At this point, I decided that most of my general corrections were complete.

I exported the file as a 16-bit Adobe RGB file into Photoshop for further tweaking (Figure 4). Once in Photoshop, I cropped the image a little tighter on the top and bottom to help define the lower right rock and give a smooth edge to the top.

I created a new blank layer and set the Blending mode to Soft Light. This isn’t so much image correction as it is finessing an image’s interpretation. I used a white brush of 15% opacity and lightened the wet areas of the rock to emphasize the luminance values. I changed the brush to black at 15% and darkened the light flat rock on top of the foreground boulder that I felt was competing with the luminance areas. I then lightened the wet areas of the rock and darkened the flat light portion of the bottom rock.

While I could have sharpened in Lightroom, my habit is to sharpen at the very end of the process. I used Smart Sharpen in Photoshop (See final image). I use a formula for determining optimum radius and sharpening. I take the ppi value of the output file and divide it by 200; thus, the optimum radius of this image is 1.5. I then adjust the sharpening amount as needed.

The final result had the aesthetic weight in the section of the image where I wanted it, and the eye easily moves through the image the way I wanted it to.


About the Author

Paul Schranz
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Paul Schranz is a photographer and a photographic educator. He holds a BFA in photography from Ohio University, Athens, OH and an MFA in photography from Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL. He is Professor of Art Emeritus, Governors State University, University Park, IL, where he taught photography and digital imaging. He exhibits nationally and has received grants for documentary projects from the Illinois Arts Council. He is the former Editor of photo technique and Director of Mesilla Digital Imaging Workshops. Schranz is currently a faculty member at Dona Ana Community College, Las Cruces, NM, where he teaches advanced digital imaging, photographic composition, digital printing, image enhancement and manipulation.