Workflow Friday: Rob Jones
This week we welcome another exceptional photographer to our Workflow Fridays series, Rob Jones. Rob and his wife Rose run Towner Jones Photography based in Gainesville, VA.
Thanks for sharing with us today, Rob!
When I first started preparing for my edition of “Workflow Fridays,” I was quite excited. I had, on my schedule, a perfect photo shoot lined up which I thought would provide some excellent shots to put through my workflow. The plan was to hike into Shenandoah National Park, here in Virginia, and capture images of the waterfalls in Whiteoak Canyon. However, when I got up the morning of the shoot, there was no hot water in the house. I did get to see a waterfall that day – unfortunately it was coming from the hot water heater in the basement. Oh the life of a great adventurer…
Why am I sharing this story with you, you might ask? I’m sharing it because, I did manage to find a “waterfall” picture in my collection to work over for you, but it’s a tad smaller than the eighty-six footer I had planned on shooting.
Just imagine the splendor of what could have been in your mind’s eye, and we’ll get started.
So here’s our “waterfall” shot. It was taken early in the morning, also in Shenandoah National Park, back in October. For those of you that are interested in the image specs, it was taken with my Nikon D90 using Nikon’s 18-200mm lens. The exposure is 6 seconds, at f/20 (ISO 100). (On a side note, the D90 has become a beloved addition to my gear for situations when carrying the D3 with its big, heavy glass just won’t do)
Now for all intents and purposes, I think this is a pretty decent shot – though a little underexposed. My goal, however, is to bring back the color, vibrance, and “pop” that the early morning sun cast on this little corner of the park.
For a little background, I’m a Lightroom convert. I used to post-process all of my images in Photoshop. Since Lightroom hit the scene, I’d estimate less than 10% actually make the trip out of Lightroom over to Adobe’s flagship application. For me, the decision is all about efficiency, and that’s the name of the game in Lightroom. The steps I’m about to outline, took me a little less than a minute from start to finish. The order of these steps sometimes varies, but these are the “basics” I do to almost all of my “keepers”.
Step 1: Correct White Balance
I’ve read a great deal of discussion regarding “correct” vs. “incorrect” white balance. For those of you that read my blog, you’ve heard me say that I believe “correct” is always in the eyes of the photographer. For me, finding the right color temperature involves using the WB tool in Lightroom to sample a number of target grays and finding the one that, I feel, reflects the mood that I’m trying to convey in the photograph. In this particular picture, I wanted a little more warmth than what the camera captured, which I found in the gray at the center of the rock in the upper left corner.
Step 2: Exposure Adjustment
As I mentioned earlier, I felt that this image was a little underexposed from what I remembered, so I bumped up the overall exposure about three-quarters of a stop.
Step 3: Tone Curve – Contrast Adjustment
In Lightroom, the Tone Curve sliders give quick and easy access to adjusting ranges of tones. At this point, I wanted to bring the water from the waterfall and the rock on the bottom of the stream up a little relative to the shadows and mossy undersides of the rocks, so I bumped up the “Highlights” and “Lights” a bit. I didn’t, however, want to dramatically change the overall relative contrast too much, so I brought the low-to-mid range “Darks” up a hair as well.
Step 4: More Exposure “Tweaking”
I often do a little dance back and forth between steps 3 and 4 to get the proper balance of exposure and contrast. Here in step four, using Lightroom’s “Fill Light” and “Blacks” sliders bring out a little more of the detail (particularly in the moss) that I didn’t achieve using the Tone Curve adjustments.
Step 5: Adding Pop
Consider this step optional, and let me take a slight mental detour. Lightroom offers three “Presence” sliders, which we all know and love… Clarity, Vibrance, and Saturation. These guys have the power to dramatically affect a photos representation of “reality” – and I, for one, am NOT ashamed to use them. In this step, I’ve added some “pop” to the image by bumping up Clarity and Vibrance. Generally speaking, I use these two to add a little flavor, and Saturation to mellow things down if I go overboard.
Step 6: Fine Tuning Color
Some of my favorite tools in Lightroom are the Detailed Color Adjustment sliders. Here I’ve continued to “tweak” the image to achieve the vibrancy of colors I remembered from that morning. My other favorite use for these sliders is eliminating color cast that I’ve introduced by pushing other adjustments in Lightroom.
Step 7: Finishing Touches
The finishing touches most common for all of my work are Sharpening and Vignetting. Zooming in on the moss, I applied an appropriate boost of sharpening to bring out edge detail while minimizing edge artifacts. When it comes to vignetting, I want to personally thank the folks at Adobe that added “Post-Crop” vignetting in Lightroom 2. I’ve used a slight post-crop vignette to bring the viewers focus in on the waterfall at the center of the scene.
And last but not least… the final shot.
I’ll note that I’ve left off a number of the other cool things (Adjustment Brush, Graduated Filters, etc.) that Lightroom makes available. Though I love them, I’ve personally found that the amount of time I spend “messing with” my photos goes up exponentially if I’m not careful to use them sparingly. As a result, I follow the basic process I’ve outlined here for most of my pictures, and save the more advanced tools for the shots I want to give some extra attention.
One closing thought about developing your own workflow. Make sure that the end of your workflow involves sharing your photos with others. It doesn’t matter if you’re a novice or a pro, sharing your photos with others will provide healthy criticism and (if you choose your audience well) positive affirmation – both of which will help you continue to grow as a photographer. And with that, thank you, sincerely, for the opportunity to share my work with you.
All the best, Rob
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