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Post-Processing a Band Photograph


Some friends of mine asked me to shoot a quick band photograph of them recently without any preparation or planning. Luckily, the location was pretty nice (we were at a hostel) and the weather was a bit cloudy so there wasn’t harsh sunlight.

I won’t really go into composition or posing the subjects in the photo… Just try to make it interesting and to have all the elements in the photograph “flow” nicely together. That’s a bit abstract, but oh well. Let’s talk about post-processing now. I used Adobe Camera RAW 5.5 (bundled with Photoshop CS4), but you’ll find the same tools in many programs (even online programs now).

Here’s what the original untouched photo looked like straight out of the camera:

What I wanted to do was have the photo “pop” (something you hear a lot, right?), with the slightly surreal look that you see sometimes in band or TV show cast photographs.

A lot of the “popping” is achieved through basic edits: warm up the photo a bit by boosting the temperature. After dealing with highlight and shadow clipping with the Recovery, Fill Light, and Blacks sliders, I dragged both the Contrast and Clarity sliders to max (+100). The Contrast slider will make it “pop” while the Clarity slider will provide a surreal, HDR-esque look.

Here’s what the photograph looks like after these edits (hover your mouse over it to compare it with the original):

Next I tweaked the color a tiny bit using split toning to give it a slight sepia tone feel, and added some strong vignetting to finish the look:

Here’s the final product (hover to compare):

You can also hover over this link to compare the photo to the original, unprocessed version.