April 29, 2008

Amy and Nick are one of my couples whose wedding I am photographing later this year.  They met up with me in Bryant Park in Manhattan this past weekend, and course we had to get photographs of them going for a ride on the carousel.

Every time they went by me on the carousel, I would fire off a series of images. The carousel presented a lighting problem in that towards the outside, it was brightly lit by clouded sun .. and towards the inside, it would be much more shaded.  Usually I will try to control the contrast of a scene by using fill-flash of some kind.  But in this situation with the carousel, and given the scope of this kind of shoot, getting a perfect photo in-camera would be impossible.

Simple on-camera fill-flash would not help here because there are parts of the carousel in the way.  Also, as they swung by me, Nick would be much closer to me and the fill-flash would be of no help whatsoever in getting more light onto Amy.

Therefore, because of the wide range in exposure from the outside of the carousel to the interior, the images I took here needed some additional work in Photoshop to achieve the final result I envisioned for my couple.

For comparison, here is the image straight out of camera.  The basic exposure is good, but of course the scene is very unevenly lit.  The white balance is off too.

I started off by editing the RAW file mainly for exposure, contrast, and white balance.  But I also changed the vibrancy, brightness, recovery and clarity.  This got me to a basic image that looked good.  I then converted this edited RAW file as the first of a series of JPGs.

I continued the editing process by adjusting the exposure slider on the RAW image.  I then generated a second JPG  which now had the exposure lifted a little bit to bring up the detail in the shaded interior of the carousel.

The third JPG that I created from the edited raw file had the exposure pulled down a lot to bring back detail in the outer areas.

I then layered all three of these images in Photoshop and used layer masks to blend various parts of the layers into the final image.  I also burnt in the bright area on the pony in the front.  And in this way I created an image which has even exposure across the relevant parts of the scene.

Finally, I felt that this image could use a little bit of snap, and
for this I used one of Doug Boutwell’s Totally Rad Actions again.
And here is the resulting image.

You can order the Totally Rad action sets, or other goodies offered, via this affiliate link:


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{ 5 comments. } Add a Comment

1 Mark Mortensen April 29, 2008 at 10:15 pm

Very nice post processing Neil. I’ve always wondered how you get your images to pop and now I see. I’m looking for some good Photoshop plugins to help automate my workflow as well and will check out the Totally Rad Actions. There seems to be so many plugins and I never know which ones are worth the money.


2 Christopher Luk May 4, 2008 at 12:54 am

Thanks for another helpful walk through of your digital workflow, Neil. I just tried the three samples from Totally Rad Actions and the “Magic Glasses” action is quickly becoming my favourite.

This might not be a “good” question, but do you believe that the “Active D-Lighting” systems found in the Nikon D3 or D300 would have helped save you some post-processing time in scenarios such as this? I haven’t had a chance to try these systems first-hand yet.


3 Neil May 5, 2008 at 3:26 am

Christopher …

I doubt that the Active-D Lighting would’ve helped me, since (as far as I know), those settings don’t affect the raw file when you edit it in software other than Nikon’s.

Since I do my editing mostly in Bridge / ACR, I have different defaults and settings. Nikon Capture and Nikon NX are simply too slow for a workflow involving hundreds or even thousands of images.

Neil vN.


4 Robert Woudenberg May 14, 2008 at 4:56 pm

Hello Niel,
Just rediscovered you website and made excellent use of radio slaves at an event this weekend by following your recomendations. Just noticed the comment about the D300 above and and active d lighting and would like to say that it works very well but does not bring up background highlights like the one in your carousel image. It does light up the shadows great however. I am currentlly shooting with the Fuji S5 and D300 and prefer the S5 when using flash and the D300 with availble light. It is tough to get flash to balance color correctly with D300 and easy beyond belief with the S5. Thanks for the inspiration!!


5 Angelo November 15, 2012 at 3:32 am

Hi Neil

Big fan of your work and I have learnt so much. I have also modelled my workflow on your posts which has vastly improved the quality of my images. However, today, after attending my local printing lab, all my images were far too red in skin tones.
I shoot in RAW and edit as per your ACR presets in a previous tangent. My adjustments are usually a tweak here or there.
The photos I speak about were of a local pre school (approx 70 children) , manual manual flash, fixed positions.
All images were batched processed as mentioned with a WB of 5600k.
My MACs are calibrated via SYDER 3 ELITE. And to be honest, they look very “smick” (not sure if you use this term in the USA).
Smick down under means sweet.
Cameras are Canon 1DSMk3 and 1DX, all with a profile of sRGB. Used a 50mm f1.2 all day.
I use this lab all the time and have never experienced this problem.
Any suggestions.




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