Thursday, January 31, 2013

Photo Thoughts: Childhood Happiness

Childhood Happiness by Ron Martinsen (ronmart)) on
Childhood Happiness by Ron Martinsen

In 2012 my blog became very focused on product reviews and less about photo editing, so I’d like to change that in 2013. I put photos on my photography notebook and 500px, but I didn’t really focus on the photo editing aspect of this blog that made it popular to begin with. With that in mind, I thought I’d try to start sharing some photos again.

About this photo

This is a photo I took while on a subway train in Seoul, South Korea. It was part of a deliberate series of photos I took with my Canon 1D X using the 24-70mm f/2.8L II lens. I wanted to capture my youngest son’s enthusiasm for life as I hadn’t seen him in over two months (due to his extended visit with his grandparents in Korea).

Here’s the original image created from the RAW with an 8x10 crop and no other processing:

Click for original - Copyright Ron Martinsen - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
f/2.8 @ 24 mm,1/250, ISO 1000, AWB, No Flash
Original In-Camera Photo with no editing (but cropped)
Click for original – for personal use only – DO NOT REDISTRIBUTE or UPLOAD

I was a great shot of my son’s laughter (and I had plenty of shots to choose from), but my desire to avoid the flash and my shutter speed needed to freeze his animated body meant a high ISO.

How I edited this photo

I started by editing the RAW image in Lightroom 4.3 with the following adjustments:


As you can see I started by cropping (which I don’t usually do and typically don’t recommend), then I brightened up the dark exposure. I experimented with some of the camera profiles to get the Canon look that I like, but for this one the nasty lights made the white balance a little gnarly. After some experimentation I decided I’d handle that problem in Photoshop (more on that later). I finished up with the Punch preset which I like a lot but I thought it used too much clarity for this shot so I toned it down a bit.

After Lightroom I send the file to Photoshop for the heavy lifting:

Photoshop CS6 Layers

I started off using Vincent Versace’s white balance action from his book Welcome to Oz 2. With the white balance finally fixed I fixed up some skin blemishes and then took care of the noise problem with Noiseware.

My son is young, but I still wanted a little skin softening so I threw that on there with Portraiture’s default setting. I also wanted to brighten his teeth a bit so I used the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.

To warm the shot up I used the Skylight Filter from Color Efex Pro then I applied my Tonal Contrast filter with the mid-tones set to 0 and the method set to Fine. Next I added my secret sauce Silver Efex preset and reduced the opacity down to 60% to give it that desaturated look, but I did a Tonal Contrast again with saturation boosted to 49% to give it some color back but to also emphasize the darker look I was going for with the processing.

The dark look begs the question – why dark for a shot of a happy kid? The answer is simple – it’s just a photo editing style that I like and thought felt right with this shot. I could do bright colors, B&W and a variety different styles of editing for this shot but I liked this color newspaper processing style. Some will like it, some will hate it, but that’s the way things go with photography. This shot is for me, not a client, so I get to enjoy doing it in a way that suits me. I encourage you to do the same!

I finished up with some high pass sharpening and masked out the face by ctrl+clicking on the portraiture layer and doing a black fill on my mask. I always do this to avoid sharpening skin that I’ve softened.

When the file got back to Lightroom I made a slight adjustments with the highlights slider to get rid of a hot spot and then I tossed the preset Vignette 2 on it to help hold the viewers attention into the frame and on my son.


This was a quick 20 minute edit of this shot. If I were to stare at it and analyze it I’m sure I’d probably get in there with Viveza and work on some spots and I’d probably experiment with some different color enhancements.

I hope you enjoyed seeing the before and after and hearing the how and why behind the final image. If you want to see more articles like this, then let me know in the comments below.

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John Elliott said...

You said, I started by cropping (which I don’t usually do and typically don’t recommend).

Would you please say more about that? Cropping is something I usually fiddle with to tune up rule-of-thirds, get rid of unwanted white space, stuff like that.

Jerome said...

Great Article! I use LR 4.3 but I also have PS 5. I'm trying to combine both programs in my edits. Thanks for sharing your process.

Jerome said...

Hi Ron,
Great article. I have been following your Blog for about a year now and I enjoy your comments & reviews. Thanks for sharing your work flow on that image. said...


Early cropping is a very bad idea because it leaves you no options to change aspect ratios (back to 3:2) or add a little padding for framing or borderless printing bleed. It sucks to spend all of your time editing only to realize – crap, I wish I had done this to the original crop.

What happened here was that I was quickly trying to find a photo to edit and I just cropped this one to see what I thought. I then played around with it in LR a little bit and my ADD took me into Photoshop. I’ve done that type of thing before and really regretted it.

For this one I’m probably okay though since I overshot the original a lot (because I wasn’t looking through the viewfinder to get this shot). There wasn’t much worth keeping and I have enough edge for a full bleed borderless print or framing.

Uber point – leave yourself some space. For a successful edit you may also find a client that wants a portrait orientation where all of that useless whitespace that you thought you didn’t need comes in handy to put the title of the magazine, etc… on the cover. (yes, I’ve been burned on that one and had to re-edit).

Ron said...


No problem - thanks for stopping by and reading my blog! Be sure to tell all your friends about articles that you enjoy by sending them links!