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