Portraits, Architecture, Stock Photos: monitophoto.com, Alan Marr
Layers used to process photo of Queen Mary 2

Processing the Queen Mary 2 Image

Here I show most of how I processed my photograph of the Queen Mary 2 docking in San Francisco, February 2007. It took me over two hours to find the right combination of adjustments and settings to achieve the results I was looking for. I am dedicated to making photographs through careful and sustained attention to detail. I can tutor photographers of many levels of experience in these techniques in addition to the making of the initial image.

I almost always photograph in Raw mode and do the raw conversion to 16 bit TIFF file in Canon's Digital Photo Professional software and do all the fine tuning in Photoshop. Here I set contrast 0, saturation 0, and sharpness 2 in DPP. I have included an illustration of the layers used on the right.

Most photographs are slightly out of true vertical or horizontal alignment. Even a small amount of error can be unconsciously detected and reduce the overall appeal of the image, though non-professional viewers might not be able to put into words what is not quite perfect. So I began with a 1.4 degree clockwise rotation.

The image had variations in contrast due to the extreme lighting. So in Photoshop I made three adjustment layers for brightness and contrast for the left, middle and right. I applied each adjustment to a layer copy of the image to generate three new adjusted layers. Here are some 100 % magnification crops.

Left side original
Left side original
Left side adjusted
Left side adjusted
Middle original
Middle original
Middle adjusted
Middle adjusted
Right side original
Right side original
Right side adjusted
Right side adjusted

Layer masks were added to the three adjusted layers and painted with gradients so that the three layers could be blended. Then the three layers were combined into a single layer according to the blend.
Three layers combined

A copy of the combined layer was made and then it was desaturated to remove the color informaion. A filter was applied to detect the edges. They were blurred to reduce the amount of noise creating false edges.

The blurred edges were adjusted for contrast and brightness to select a good amount of detail throughout the picture but not too much. This produced an edge mask, used later.

Edges detected
Edges detected
Edge mask
Edge Mask

Two copies of the combined adjusted layers were made. Noise reduction was applied to one layer. Sharpening was applied to the other layer.

Noise reduced
Noise reduced
Sharpened
Sharpened

The edge mask was applied to the noise reduced layer so that the sharpened edges would shine through and the smoother broader areas would retain the noise reduction, because noise would be more apparent there and sharpening would be more likely to introduce unwelcome artifacts there.
Noise reduced and sharpened layers combined with an edge mask

Finally, a curve adjustment was added to deepen the tail end of the blacks.
Curve adjustment

The layers were all flattened into one and the image is ready.

Original image from converter
The original image from the converter.

Processed image
The finished image.