Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Nothing But Nik: Gyeongbokgung Palace

I posted the edited version of the shot below on 500px and sent it to a few friends. Shortly thereafter I got several requests asking me how I processed this shot. Since I didn’t use smart objects and because this was a quick edit I can only offer a quick summary of what I did.

Throne Hall of Gyeongbokgung Palace
Throne Hall of Gyeongbokgung Palace
Click here to view on 500px

The obvious problem with this shot right off the bat was that I was too far away (because I wasn’t allowed to get closer) and nasty lens distortion. While Lightroom 5 (currently in beta) should make fixing distortions like this as easy as clicking a button, I found it pretty easy to do manually as well. Here’s all I did to effectively tilt-shift my image in post-processing:


After some basic tweaks in Lightroom (like pre-sharpening), it was all nothing but Nik Collection after that. Here’s what I did:


For this shot I did a very mild noise reduction using measured points in Dfine (a rarely used feature, but I mention it in my review). Normally I’d use Noiseware, but for this one I chose Dfine simply because I wanted an all Nik workflow for this image.

I wasn’t planning on doing much with this shot so I went out of my typical order and started with Tonal Contrast using the defaults. Afterwards I used the Foliage #3 preset with lots of control points so I could isolates the greens to give them more pop.

I like a warm tone for many of my images, so my go to filter is Skylight filter. I used U-Point controls to exclude the green from being impacted by the yellow.

At this point you might be asking “what is CEP” (that’s Color Efex) and why didn’t I just create a recipe with all three filters applied at once. The short answer is that I could, but personally I like to see the layers in Photoshop each in their own layer. I could have used Smart Filters too, but I think they are too slow.

When I was done with Color Efex I decided that I needed to take care of some of the hot spots and shadow areas in my image. For that the choice was easy – Viveza – which basically creates complex hidden layer masks in seconds to apply whatever you need exactly where you need it. For this shot I needed to tone down the highlights on the polls and steps, so after a few clicks with Viveza to do some minor exposure adjustments I was done.

After I was done I did a quick sharpen with Sharpener Pro.

After I scaled the image down to upload it to the web, I did a stupid thing and did some quick healing on the polls because they were bothering me. I’m now paying the price as I’d like to print a larger version of this image and I don’t have any of that cloning work in my PSD file. Learn from me – that’s stupid, never do that – ALWAYS work on your full size PSD and keep the layers!

I’m sorry there’s no video, but I just ran out of time tonight and wasn’t able to do one. I do hope to do some video tutorials in the future, but in the meantime maybe some of the things I’m showing you here will give you reason to experiment.

Here’s another Before & After that followed a similar worfklow of “Nothing but Nik*”:

Gyeongbokgung Building
Gyeongbokgung Building

This photo was a little easier because I didn’t have any distortion to correct. I did have a lot more noise, but I used U-Point controls to only apply it in the sky and leave the “noise texture” everywhere else. Had I created a recipe for the earlier shot, it would have been a one click visit in Color Efex Pro  - doh!


Outside of some really basic Lightroom work and one final touchup on my web version of the file, this is all basically a “nothing but nik” software edit. It’s a testimony as to how very good the Nik Collection and Lightroom can be together – even if you don’t own Photoshop! These photos are part of my personal site, http://asia.ronmartblog.com where I process personal snapshots really quickly. 

I once wanted to do a blog where I talked about all of the Nik products because they are so important to my digital workflow. I haven’t had time to do that yet, but hopefully this inspires you on giving that shot that you didn’t like another try. Personally I was going to delete the Throne Hall shot because I thought it would be too hard to make it look any good, but boy was I wrong! I’m glad I gave the Nik Collection by Google a shot as it really made a huge difference. Even if you hate my edits, you can see for yourself that the sky is the limit with the Nik Collection.

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Click here to learn more about the Nik Collection to see how you can get a trial version or purchase it with a generous discount.

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