How’s that for a title? Absolute hooker, right? Here I am again, Dave Williams, on Scott Kelby’s Photoshop Insider for your weekly dose of #TravelTuesday wisdom—let’s get this show on the road!
First up, a little introduction for anyone who hasn’t landed on this site before: I’m Dave, and I’m a travel photographer. My job is to make you want to go somewhere, which means I have to use a range of skills and techniques on location and in post, and it’s one of those post-processing skills I want to share with you here today.
The success of your image can be pretty much determined from the moment you open the file. It all boils down to the first things you do, really. When you open up your RAW file in Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw and make those first few adjustments, you’re either setting yourself up for awesome success or for an epic fail. Here’s why:
There’s a common saying in everyday life: “less is more.”
This little saying is used to express the fact that, in artistic and aesthetic matters, a minimalistic approach is more effective. There is value in simplicity, and often more can be accomplished with less. Synonymously, the saying “don’t overdo it” is thrown about a lot, but the thing with us photographers is that there’s never usually an end.
When we’re out shooting, there’s always that one last shot, and then another last shot, and then just one more. Before we know it, it’s been an hour since that last shot and we’re still going. When it comes to the post-process, it’s not dissimilar; we all too often will retouch and retouch, and retouch some more. It’s hard to draw that line in creativity. It’s hard to say when it’s done.
So, on that note, now aware that my little spiel is drifting away and making this look like clickbait, here’s the BEST advice that I promised you: Go back to that first point, back to when you open up that RAW file. That’s what I said above, and that’s what I’ll explain right now.
We all have our own methodology when it comes to those sliders, ranging from those who just hit Auto through to the minuscule adjustments made using a Loupedeck, and everything in between. But, once we make some adjustments, it’s sometimes hard to know when to stop. Whilst stumbling over my thoughts, trying to come up with a simile, this sprang to mind:
You know how if you lose weight you don’t really notice because to you it’s been gradual, but then someone you haven’t seen for a while says, “Hey, you’ve lost weight!”? Yeah, that. You’ve seen the gradual changes to the image, not just the before and after. The changes you’re making when you push those sliders around look one way to you as you’re doing it, but potentially quite another relative to the initial image.
That’s where the best piece of advice falls in. Right there, in between the initial image and the “where I am right now” version, there is probably something better. Nine times out of ten it’s better, in fact. There’s a place where the adjustments are more realistic, more minimalistic, more “less is more,” and thereby more pleasing. That place is about half way, so here’s what you do:
Whatever slider adjustments you’ve made, make them half. If you’ve pushed clarity to +20, move it to +10, and then take a look at the difference it makes. Take a look at whether the image you now have achieves what you want it to in a more realistic way, rather than running the risk of being over-processed by our creative desire to please, which results in our photos never quite being done.