View Full Version : Post-Processing Update (finally)

09-03-2005, 09:08 PM
Okay, I'm finally getting off my butt and updating how I post-process my photos. Hopefully more people will share their techniques and we can all benefit in the process. Just as a reminder, here's how myself and others did it in the past:


First off, I'm not using Photoshop 6.0 anymore. I'm using the software that came with the Rebel XT: PhotoStudio 5.5 and Digital Photo Professional. PhotoStudio is very similar to Photoshop, so if you're familiar with that program, this one is an easy transition.

I'm a pretty linear guy. I like doing things in steps; following checklists if you will. "Do this, then do that, then you'll get this." Unfortunately, photo editting is not a black and white (no pun intended) process. There's an art to it, and I think that can trip up alot of people who are afraid to experiment. I know I was hesitant at first, but the more you tinker, the more you get your hands dirty, the more comfortable you are with doing it. And the best part: it's a digital image, so as long as you don't hit 'Save,' you can always start over.

But, being a checklist-following guy, I've made an outline/skeleton checklist for the steps I take when post-processing a photo. The details that go with each individual photo are left out, but you have the shell to get you going in the correct direction.

- First thing I try is the Auto Enhance function (Enhance->Auto Enhance across the top of the program). Unfortunately, like Photoshop, the program doesn't quite get it right 90% of the tie shooting BNSF. It just makes the sky look greenish and fake. But when it does actually do a good job, you're given 9 options on what the program thinks are the best results, starting with darker ones and progressing through in increasing lightness.

- However, since Auto Enhance doesn't work for me the majority of the time, I've got to get down and dirty and do this stuff manually. First stop is Enhance->Tone Adjustment. This gives you a histogram where you can adjust the highlight, midtone, and shadow on a sliding scale of all colors or individual. I prefer doing all colors at once (RGB). If you have too many pixels in the light end (i.e. overexposed), bring the highlight down a few percent. Same thing with underexposed. I'll monkey around with that until I get a pretty balanced and contrasted photo.

- Next stop is Enhance->Brightness and Contrast. I usually don't mess with the Brightness function since you have more control using the Tone Adjustment histogram, but I'll slide the scale on the contrast jsut to see what it gives me.

- The next stop is the money maker for me. Enhance->Hue and Saturation. This is where you can really get the colors to pop and make the photo come to life. This one I have some details that work for 90% of my photos. I'll up the Saturation 10% and increase the Hue for BNSF to 3, and 1 for yellow units. This function has been the single best improvement in my final uploaded shots, IMO.

- After these three, then I worry about leveling the shot. There is a Transform button on the right, and you can choose to rotate the image there. I just eyeball what I think level is.

- Cropping comes next. I use the Rectangle Select button, hightlight the area I want, and use the Crop button.

- Now it's time to resize. Edit->Image Size. Keep the aspect ratio and resize the width to 1024. Make sure the Quality is Best.

- Finally, it's time to Unsharp Mask. I've found that if I Unsharp Mask before resizing, the final result is soft. That's why I save USM for the last step. Enhance->Sharpen Filters->Unsharp Mask, square size 3, effect 100, threshold 0.

Then save it at it's highest setting and you're good to go. On occasion, I may open the image in Digital Photo Professional because it gives me a greater ability to mess with the histogram (think Curves in Photoshop) and tinker with the saturation a little more.

So that's it. Nothing cosmic, but it shows the method to the madness. And I think it's working; I'm pretty happy with the results I'm getting. Finally. It took a while, but I think I found the formula that works for me.

If you have anything to add or hints or suggestions, please post them as this kind of discussion benefits us all.

Pressing the shutter is the battle...post-processing is the war...

Andrew Blaszczyk (2)
09-05-2005, 05:10 PM
Attached is the scanned print I am currently working on. Because it is a print and not a digital image I put a lot more work into making it "postable". I like most people use a version of Photoshop (Elements 2) for post processing.

#1. Level the photo. In this case the train is leaning a little bit to the right, to fix this I go to Image > Rotate > Custom and set the angle to .25 to the left or counter clockwise(CCW).

#2. Rough edge and scanned edge. I get rid of the edge around the image making it look like how you would get a digital photo to edit. I do this by using the crop tool on the left toolbar.

#3. Sharpening the image using Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask. I set the Threshold to 0, the Radius at 1.0, and for this image Amount to 100.

#4. Despeckle. Because the amount you sharpen the photo affects the graininess and therefore quality, I use the magic wand tool to select the very front of the engine (the most noticeable grain). After selecting just the grainiest spots (only in the brown of the nose) I use Filter > Noise > Despeckle.

#5. Sharpening the numberboards and logo. The most noticeable areas of a locomotive to view sharpness are the numberboards and any writing on the nose which in this case is the OC Keystone. To sharpen these I use the Lasso Tool from the left toolbar. I circle both the numberboards and the logo then go to Filter > Sharpen > Sharpen.

#6. Cropping the image. After the work has been done for quality I re-crop the image by using the Crop Tool on the left toolbar. There is no trick to cropping except to make sure the image isnt perfectly centered and everything you want in the image is included and anything distracting is taken out. For this photo I make sure to keep the milepost sign on the right and the Tyndall Bridge close to the left side; getting rid of a lot of dead space ont he left.

#7. Resizing. Standard screen size is 1024 X 768 but I like to use smaller dimensions such as 950 X 713. It is a personal preference but for RP.net it must be betwen 1024 X 768 and as samll as 800 X 600. This photo I will use 900 X 675 because of quality.

#8. Lighting. Because the sun being diffused by high clouds and the image was scanned it became dark. To fix this I use Enhance > Adjust Brightness/Contrast. I set the Brightness anywhere between 3 - 22 for my photos and then make the contrast a little less than half that number. I set the brightness at 11 for this photo and therefore made the contrast 4.

#9. A little more sharpening. After seeing the photo at full size I decided to sharpen the entire image another Amount 45.

#10. Sky. After sharpening so much the sky has became a bit grainy. An easy fix is to use the Magic Wand Tool on the left toolbar and select the entire sky. Once again go to Filter > Noise > Despeckle.

#11. Saving. Save As > Filename (I use the locomotive number OHCR6307 - 2.jpeg) > JPEG Options Quality 12.

Also attached is the finished product after my post processing.

09-26-2005, 06:19 AM
I use Irfanview 3.97. Freeware, basic, and does a great job.

My techniques generally, are as follows:

1. Resize (if necessary)
2. Rotate (if necessary)
3. Crop
4. Sharpen (5-20%)
5. Adjust gamma (+.10-.15 levels)
6. Adjust brightness and contrast (usually +/- .5)
7. Adjust color (increase/decrease one specific color level just enough to naturalize the photo, if necessary)
8. Adjust saturation- Depending on the photo, the saturation may need an increase of up to 50% or a decrease of around 20%.
9. View photo, and make further adjustments if needed.
10. Spot sharpen- Number boards, trucks, facing end (coupler, plow, and steps/rails), scenery, and nearby objects.


07-29-2006, 05:17 AM
I don't mean to bring back almost a year old thread (which I'm doing), but I tried Chris' method (from the first post processing thread), and it worked well for me. I've let the photo slide from being in the database, since it was rejected for high sun, but I was just wondering what everyone thought. I'm using a Rebel XT.

Thanks, guys.

- I have my camera set on 'Fine' JPEG which gives me results that are 3456 x 2304 pixels, ~3MB/photo.
- I use Photoshop 6.0 for almost all my editting. Typically what I do first is either use the Auto Levels or Auto Contrast function to see which, if either or both together, produce a better result. I have found that Auto Levels makes the photo's colors look fake when shooting orange BNSF pumpkins for some reason. For those units, I usually just use the Auto Contrast.
- Next, if the shot is not level, I use the Rectangular Marquee Tool to hightlight the entire photo. Then I go to Edit->Tranform->Rotate and then level the shot.
- After the shot is level, I'll use the Crop Tool and frame the shot how I want it. This usually results in an image size in the neighborhood of 2700 x 1800 pixels, give or take.
- After the shot is cropped, I go Filter->Sharpen->Unsharp Mask (Amount: 100%, Radius: 1.0 pixels, Threshold: 0 levels).
- Then I have typically gone to Image->Image Size to make the width 1024 pixels and the height whatever the Constrain Proportion gives me (usually high 600s).
- Finally, I go File->Save As then name it and then save it under the Image Options pop-up at '12' and 'Maximum' with the Format Option of Baseline Optimized checked.

07-29-2006, 06:58 PM
i also tried to follow the tips that chris wrote in the first thread and i get nice results till now.thats donot mean that i will stop working with my favourite program PICASA but im trying aanother program and compare between the results of each one.

07-30-2006, 02:41 PM
I don't mean to bring back almost a year old thread (which I'm doing), but I tried Chris' method (from the first post processing thread), and it worked well for me. I've let the photo slide from being in the database, since it was rejected for high sun, but I was just wondering what everyone thought. I'm using a Rebel XT.

Thanks, guys.

Definitely liked the original one better.