Updated: May 7
Last winter in February, before the lockdown, Outdoorschicks.org had an event together with Elan skis. Elan has created a new line of skis specifically suited for female riders. Outdoorchicks are one of the largest, (if not the largest) female outdoor communities around Innsbruck. I had the chance to take a few shots of girls who were riding on Ripstick skis last season.
Weather conditions were... well just meh. Cloudy with no sun in sight. The camera's viewfinder was a white mess from all the snow around and the heavy clouds. I knew that chances of a typical bluebird skiing shot were very low. Unfortunately I didn't have a flash with me either. I could only rely on editing the photos later in post production. I was hoping that I could at least make some colors pop since everything looked just so white.
Here are the edited photos:
And here are the same photos before the edit:
Every photo was taken in .RAW format, as I knew I had some heavy lifting to do in the post production. I thought I could increase overall brightness and to make those colors pop while still keeping details in the sky. To do that with a JPEG format wouldn't be possible. Colors would break apart and the photo would have too much digital noise all over.
To achieve this, I had to underexpose most photos. Underexposing means to decrease the Exposure settings before the photo is taken (or Light / Brightness in simpler terms). This is done with exposure compensation adjustment. In this case I did -0.7 and -1 EV.
If you do this you have to accept that his will sacrifice some details in the shadows. I also had to consider that Increasing shadows in post sometimes changes the skin color of portraits. But since they are wearing helmets and goggles, this was not a problem. It's always helpful to keep such details in mind while shooting.
When I edit, I follow the three editing steps. I start with the Light, continue with the Color and finish with the Effects.
Exposure +2.15 I did this to bring back colors and details. However, value+2.15 is an extreme exposure change. I wouldn't do this if the photo wasn't intentionally underexposed. .RAW photo files have a great amount of information hidden inside them and it really shows in this example.
Contrast -15 I do not prefer to increase Contrast through a global "Contrast" slider. Value -15 will give me more freedom for my own contrast adjustments.
Whites +32 This serves to set my base white point on the clouds. Again, the photo was underexposed, so I've increased the value to see the white point in the previously Grey clouds.
Highlights -100 Value -100 is an extreme decrease to bring back more details in skies. But even this value doesn't break the photo.
Shadows +80 If I could, I would have increased Shadows all the way up to +100, but the photo has it's limits. Remember, I've already increased exposure by +2.15 globally before, which also includes the photo's shadows. Value+100 would have brought up only noise but no detail.
Blacks - 65 To counter all the previous Light increase adjustments, such as Exposure and Shadows. I also do this to bring back Contrast.
Point Curve - I added a slight S Curve adjustment to Increase the dark black levels and to lcoally add more contrast. Bringing down the Shadow parts of the Point Curve and increasing the Highlight parts will do just that. (If you're unfamiliar with Point Curve, Check out the previous post with explanation of Point Curves here)
Here's the edit before and after the Light adjustments.
White Balance "As Shot" Left unchanged.
Tint +0 Left unchanged.
Vibrance +30 To bring back life to muted colors. There's plenty of those here due to photo being intentionally underexposed.
Saturation -30 Photo looks surreal with colors so saturated in such weather environment. I must decrease overall Saturation and chose only specific colors to pop. Also I don't need the blurred out peaks in the background to to be any more colorful nor to bring more attention.
Color Mixer Saturation The global Saturation decrease from previous adjustment muted every color, which was of course intentional. I want the Saturation to be more increased for Orange, Purple and Yellow color but less so for Blue and Aqua. I also increased Red and Orange to bring back color in their faces.
Color Mixer Luminance Decreased Orange luminance is for even more pronounced skin tones. Increase in Yellow for the reflective goggles on the right and increase in Blue for the goggles on the left.
Color Mixer Hue was Left unchanged.
Here's the edit before and after Color adjustments.
Masking +92 I've taken these photos with a 50mm f/1,8 lens at f/2,8 aperture. The so called "nifty fifty" lens from Sony is great value for the money with great center sharpness. But less so on the sides and corners of the image. I need to increase the sharpness there a bit, but at the same time Mask out the blurred background. Masking +92 makes sure, that only the edges of the in focus areas of photo are sharpened
Noise Reduction +11
Color Noise Reduction +20 Are reasonable values to bring back down the noise from increasing brightness of the photo.
Texture +11 This increases detail and contrast in micro textures of hair and logos.
Clarity +20 To bring back contrast in midtones / shadows.
Dehaze +20 To get rid of the light gray haze in the photo created by the increase of overall brightness and by the clouded sky.
Grain +20 My personal preference to make the photo appear more natural. +20 value with 50 Roughness is barely noticeable.
Here's the edit before and after Effects adjustments.
I was shocked by how much I could change the original photo. At the beginning I thought I would make a fool out of myself with these photos, as the conditions were not good at all and I didn't bring a flash. But this really shows how powerful modern cameras are and how much can be done in post processing with tool such as Adobe Lightroom. I can highly recommend Sony system cameras, as their sensor technology is just amazing. Especially if you choose the .RAW format. This wouldn't have been possible with any smartphone.
TIP 1: If possible, bring a flash, diffusor or reflector. And not only for bad weather. It makes a world of difference.
TIP 2: If not possible, underexpose the photos by -0,7 or even -1 EV. But don't forget to shoot in .RAW.
TIP 3: Press and hold "Alt" key during the "Exposure" adjustment. This will alert you if you're already burning / clipping details in the sky by overexposing (Whites clipping). The same works for Blacks (Blacks clipping). This Lightroom feature is however only available on Desktop version. Watch the .gif animation to see it in use.
Thanks to everyone involved. This would not have been possible without Outdoorchicks.org, Elan skis and as always Zuzig. Check them out here:
Elan skis: https://www.instagram.com/elanskis
Here's every step visualized: