Devils in the Detail

Over the weekend my friend Will popped along to our local airfield to watch a series of displays in honour of those that fought and lost their lives at D-Day in 1944. I was unable to attend the event as I was across town photographing a Chatham Cup football game between two Northern premier teams, Central United vs Glenfield Rovers.

The weather conditions certainly were not favorable for outdoor photography so rain coats and rain covers for our gear was well in order.
Later that evening I received an email from Will showing my one of his photos. This was certainly a rare shot as it’s showing 3 Strike masters in flight, perhaps not seen over the skies of Auckland for probably 30 years, so a very special moment. Will informed me that the photography conditions shooting skyward was hard going due to overcast skies and glare.
 f6.2 ISO100 1/1250 100mm    (Photo By Will Mays)
I was asked to provide some input on how we could improve the shot and lucky for us we had a good CR2 RAW file to work with.

Using Adobe Bridge with ACR plugin and Photoshop I performed the following.

First clicked on Auto to see what ACR wanted to do, and very little it did. A slight adjustment to pull out the darks but apart from that nothing too assist. So I reset the sliders and resorted to manual.

The first thing to correct was the colour shift around the edges. The image had a strong Magenta and Yellow cast. By reducing this effect I would limit any unforgiving “Halo’s” during colour correcting. To do this I used the ACR lens correction pane.
Fixing Chromatic Aberration

Next back to the basic adjustment pane, first I pulled the out the shadows to 100% then reduced the highlights. So as not to lose too much in the highlights I balanced this adjustment using the whites and the darks. The cloud background actually has a lot of detail so I increased the clarity slightly and the contrast to lift the cloud edges, with a slight reduction in the contrast.
Basic Adjustment pane

To gain more control over the lights and darks I used the Tone curve to pull back a few mid/high tones.

Then finally back into Detail pane to add a little bit of sharpness so that the plane details was more evident.
From here I then opened the image into Photoshop for further adjustments.
I duplicated the layer so I could isolate the Planes using masks. Then with a few additional tweaks around the colours, I grabbed the dodge and burn brush using the midtones adjustment option and set the brush opacity to 10%. Just a few light strokes here and there added a bit of flavour to the clouds and provided good contrast.
Digital Tweak done in Photoshop

Being mindful not to overcook the image in Photoshop I decided to do nothing further to the image.
Just goes to show that a RAW image offers a lot of information to work with, get in and have a good look around your image before you flag it as rubbish and commit it to the digital Dustbin forever.


  1. Thanks Lee. One thing I have always wondered about is the difference between adjusting highlights/shadows etc in the normal menu and then what the difference is with adjusting them again using the tone curve. Why would you use one over the other or both?

    1. The Basic Highlight/Shadow sliders effect the whole tonal range across the image, where as the tone curve gives you more control over specific areas of your image. Example, If you just wanted to adjust highlights in the shadows then you would adjust the curve just in the shadow area and leave the lighter areas in tack. The Tonal curve in RAW ACR works the same as Lightroom and in Photoshop

  2. Thanks for sharing this.
    The additional detail you can see in comparison to my efforts in LR with jpegs (D7000 has rubbish burst in RAW) is evident.

    Once I've finished sorting my Omaka shots I might spend more time on bringing out the best of what I have using PS.

    1. Cheers, it's always good to review your images even after some time. Just remember not to over cook your images in Photoshop there are some harsh critics out there, but at the end of the day it's what we like that counts :)


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