Experimenting in Post

After badly screwing up some initial image captures, I sometimes  save these types of files specifically to do some experimenting in post later on. After all… if I mess up the files even more in post I really haven’t lost anything. The upside is that I may learn something useable by experimenting in post with them.

The photographs of swallows in flight featured in this article were captured handheld back in late April of this year. I don’t recall the details of how and why I screwed up my initial image captures. But, I do remember coming within a hair’s breadth of deleting the entire batch of files. I hate working in post and usually don’t spend more than about 3 minutes or so with any individual file, including computer processing time.

For the past 5 months this batch of RAW files sat in limbo on one of my computer hard drives. Yesterday I started experimenting in post with them. I initially began using some typical approaches… without much success. I kept focused on my experimenting. This led to the creation of a new Custom Preset and rethinking how I use my collection of software.

I ended up streamlining part of my standard process in post by removing the use of the Nik Collection for these particular photographs. I doubt that I will completely discontinue the use of the Nik Collection for all of my photography. But… I may reduce its use when processing images of birds-in-flight.

Let’s start this article by having a look at two of my screwed up initial captures… along with corresponding processed jpegs that illustrate where the RAW files ended up after experimenting in post.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H, full frame capture, out-of-camera jpeg, subject distance 10.5 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4109 pixels on the width, subject distance 10.5 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-1250, Pro Capture H, full frame capture, out-of-camera jpeg, subject distance 10.4 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-1250, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3790 pixels on the width, subject distance 10.4 metres

My existing Custom Presets in DxO PhotoLab are camera and lens specific, and can also be focused on subject matter and lighting. The new one I created incorporated just some bare essentials. These included DxO auto lens corrections based on the camera/body combination used, and DeepPRIME noise reduction to a value of 15. I also included some minor sharpening to global and detail settings. That was it.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 2658 pixels on the width, subject distance 13.3 metres

After I applied this Custom Preset, I then used the DxO Smart Lighting Spot Weighted adjustment much more aggressively than I typically had in the past. Rather than have any Selective Tone adjustments in my Custom Preset, I adjusted these for each image individually.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3754 pixels on the width, subject distance 13.3 metres

I also adjusted the overall exposure manually and added Microcontrast using the Auto tool. I spent marginally more time using DxO PhotoLab than I would have in the past. I then exported a DNG file into PhotoShop as is my standard practice.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3229 pixels on the width, subject distance 13 metres

After opening up the DNG file in PhotoShop I made adjustments as needed with the basic sliders. Depending on the needs of each image I also used the Brightness/Contrast or Levels functions. This is in keeping with my standard practice.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3444 pixels on the width, subject distance 10.3 metres

Finally, on some images I reduced the Yellow saturation to correct some visible colour caste which was likely caused when lightening the shadow areas of the underexposed images.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4212 pixels on the width, subject distance 10.5 metres

I used PhotoShop to crop my images, as well as its Lasso tool to remove any visual distractions as needed.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3840 pixels on the width, subject distance 13.2 metres

In the past, at this point I would have typically used some functions in the Nik Collection to increase edge acuity and bring out a bit more detail in my files. Then I would finish my files with Topaz Denoise AI.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-1250, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3840 pixels on the width, subject distance 10.4 metres

While I had been getting very good results with Topaz DeNoise AI at the end of my process, I never really had much success using Topaz Sharpen AI. Experimenting in post led me to conclude that while some of the functions in the Nik Collection worked very well with Topaz Denoise AI, Nik didn’t seem to play as nicely with Topaz Sharpen AI.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-1250, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3276 pixels on the width, subject distance 10.2 metres

So, I decided to stop using the Nik Collection with these swallows-in-flight images, and switched from Topaz Denoise AI to Topaz Sharpen AI at the end of my process.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-1250, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3180 pixels on the width, subject distance 10.3 metres

I did trade-off some noise reduction performance with the elimination of Topaz DeNoise AI for these photographs. On the positive side Topaz Sharpen AI worked quite well.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-1600, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4468 pixels on the width, subject distance 10.4 metres

Overall, experimenting in post resulted in a somewhat tighter and more efficient image processing approach, and allowed me to salvage some photographs. Specifically saving some poorly captured images for future experimenting in post can be a worthwhile endeavor.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-1600, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3193 pixels on the width, subject distance 10.3 metres

Technical Note:

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard approach in post. Images were resized for web use. I used my typical settings for Pro Capture H with my Pre-Shutter Frames and Frame Limited both set to 15. A small, single auto-focus point was used, along with a frame rate of 60 frames-per-second. This is the 1,210 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3644 pixels on the width, subject distance 10.3 metres

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8 thoughts on “Experimenting in Post”

  1. Hi Thomas,
    I have been following your posts for many years — particularly your reviews and explanations of Nikon V cameras. So very helpful!!! I have used so much information you have provided and had much success using my Nikon V3s during two safari trips to Africa.
    Once Nikon discontinued upgrading the V-type camera I decided to switch to a Nikon Z7. I have been very happy with that camera, even though they have been somewhat slow to produce the mirrorless lenses.
    Now, however, I am getting older, and my upper body strength is getting worse. So, hand-held is getting more difficult. I want to continue to do bird photography and I don’t like carrying a tripod (or a monopod for that matter). Would you suggest the latest Olympus mirrorless camera given my situation? I understand if you are hesitant to do so and, even so, I truly value your advice. Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Kathleen,

      I’m glad that the website has been helpful for you over the past number of years!

      Here are links to a couple of previous articles that you may find of interest:
      https://smallsensorphotography.com/smaller-sensor-birding-equipment-options
      https://smallsensorphotography.com/nikon-1-versus-olympus-for-bird-photography

      I’ve haven’t used or even held the OM-1 so I can’t comment on the camera. Reports seem to indicate that it is a wonderful piece of kit and strikes me as a very good, lightweight option that delivers great technology and performance. If you want to save weight your choice of telephoto lens is where the real weight will be. There is only about 105 grams difference between a Z7 and an OM-1. you didn’t mention which lens you are using with the Nikon Z7.

      When I was shooting with a Nikon D800 I used a Tamron 150-600 for birding. I found it a bit heavy for extended periods of continuous handheld photography. My left arm was usually about done after about 3 hours or so. The D800 with the Tamron 150-600 weighed close to 6.5 lbs. My E-M1X with M.Zuiko 100-400 weighs about 4.8 lbs. I find this difference in weight allows me to shoot all day long with the E-M1X. I also find the full body, double gripped design far more comfortable to shoot for long durations.

      To get all of the performance available with the OM-1 you would need to check on lens compatibility. Here is the current list of compatible lenses that will shoot at 50 fps in continuous auto focus:
      M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-40mm F2.8 PRO
      M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-40mm F2.8 PRO Ⅱ
      M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-100mm F4.0 IS PRO
      M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 40-150mm F2.8 PRO
      M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 150-400mm F4.5 TC 1.25x IS PRO
      M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 300mm F4.0 IS PRO

      You’ll see that the M.Zuiko 100-400 isn’t listed and is limited to 25 fps with continuous auto-focus.

      Hope this has helped.
      Tom

      1. Yes, your comments have helped! As you said, I didn’t say which lens I am using for my bird photography. I am using the Nikkor 500mm PF lens. That lens certainly adds to the weight and difficulty of hand holding the camera steady. However, when I do get a good shot with that lens I love it. I will continue to research my options and, thanks again for helping me with information about my choices.

  2. This was a GREAT post. The way you explain things and show us the results is amazing. Thank you for this post, all provide a great deal of information but this one was hit right out of the park!!

    1. Hi Ron,

      I’m glad you found this article to be of benefit. It’s always tricky to do an article on post processing since people use different software and can take very different approaches in post. From those perspectives it can be a challenge for an article to be relevant to a broad sampling of photographers.

      Tom

      1. I am mainly a landscape and dark sky photographer. I shoot with Canon full frame and. Olympus gear. However, I have learned a lot from your site and have been shooting more wildlife with my Oly gear. I use Topaz Denoise AI, followed by Topaz Sharpen, then finishing up in and/or Photoshop. Because the Topaz software is so good, I now use my Oly gear most of the time for dark sky outings. Keep up the good work!

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