Most of us have had situations where we’ve captured an interesting set of action images but the exposure of the series was less than ideal. This article features a set of surfing images and discusses working with a surfer wiping out in post.
This series of images was captured hand-held with a Nikon 1 V3 fitted with a 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 zoom lens. I shot in Manual using a shutter speed of 1/2500, f/5.6, with an AutoISO setting. ISOs varied from ISO-360 to ISO-200 depending on the frame (ISOs decreased as the series progressed). The images were captured at 300 mm, an equivalent field-of-view of 810 mm. I used Continuous Auto-Focus with Subject Tracking, shooting at 10 frames per second.
All images are shown as 100% captures without any cropping. You’ll notice that I did not correct the horizon as this tended to take some of the action details out of the frame.
Let’s have a look at some comparison images… an out-of-camera jpeg. An uncorrected jpeg made from the RAW file. A jpeg made from the RAW file using standard DxO auto corrections. And finally, a jpeg made from the RAW file after a series of corrections were done in post.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
Let’s state up front that I’m not claiming that the results I achieved were the ‘best possible’ with this series of images. I spent about 3 minutes on each image in post (including computer processing time) as I usually do. From a continuity standpoint I made all of the same corrections to each image in the series. The objective of the article is simply to demonstrate how some basic adjustments can bring an image into a usable state.
Looking at the out-of-camera jpeg I think most of us would agree it would be a bit disappointing to view that result on the back screen of our cameras immediately after capturing an action series.
Viewing an out-of-camera jpeg can indicate the basic strategy that we should use in post processing. When examining the out-of-camera jpeg above we can see that the image looks flat and dull, with muted colours, and a lack of detail in the water. This indicates that much of the work in post will be to draw out the opposing factors in the image i.e. shadows versus highlights, white versus black, and dealing with low contrast issues.
Since there is a person in the image, I used Vibrance rather than Saturation to bump up the muted colours. Vibrance prevents skin tones from becoming overly saturated and looking unnatural.
Here’s a quick summary of what I did to the images in post.
- I enabled DxO PhotoLab auto corrections and used one of my Nikon 1 V3 presets.
- I applied an auto correction for microcontrast in DxO PhotoLab, then exported a DNG file into CS6.
- In CS6 I took Highlights to -50, Shadows to +70, White to +45, Black to -40, and Vibrance to +15.
- I opened Viveza2 in the Nik Collection and applied 6 to Contrast and 20 to Structure.
- I then opened Color Efex Pro 4 in the Nik Collection and used the Pro Contrast Control, taking both Correct Contrast and Dynamic Contrast to 10%.
- My final correction was back in CS6, taking Brightness to +8.
Again, the final results may not have been the ‘best possible’. The adjustments were done to demonstrate how a few, quick changes in post can bring an image into a usable state.
Here is the complete series of photographs of a surfer wiping out…
Before starting any work in post it is important to examine an out-of-camera jpeg or your base RAW file so you can determine an appropriate game plan. Diving right in and making adjustments without having a game plan can often lead to high levels of frustration and image ‘do-overs’.
All photographs in this article were captured hand-held in available light using Nikon 1 gear as outlined in the article. Most of the images were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO PhotoLab, CS6 and the Nik Collection.
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