Image Processing for Mood

Hilz_110601_0527

In my last post I discussed composition, now we'll turn to image processing and look at the approach I took for this image. When processing your images you are creating a look for each photo. That processing can range from simple to complex depending on the image. To create the mood I had in mind for this image, the processing became a lot more complex than I expected. The photo was taken before sunrise at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Maryland. To give you a sense of how much things changed from beginning to end, here is the photo after a few initial adjustments:

Hilz_110601_0527 (1)

Wow, big difference, right? It's dull, flat and not all that attractive. So did I overexposure the image? Yes and no. Yes in the sense that with the upcoming adjustments I'll describe you'll see that there is a lot of darkening that is applied. However, I wouldn't have shot the initial exposure darker because then I would not have had the subtle shadow detail in the shutters, the top window and the foreground. The lighter exposure was the best choice because it gave me the detail in the darker areas, but didn't lose any highlight detail. Sometimes it's a push-pull process for the best results. Push the initial exposure brighter, then selectively pull down the brightness. I wanted to create a quiet and muted mood that represented the feel of the building at dawn. As with all image processing there's more than one way to do the same thing....for this photo I primarily used a number of Curves adjustments.

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Darkening and contrast adjustments selectively applied to the white areas. use to bring out the detail in the peeling paint.
Darkening and contrast adjustments selectively applied to the white areas. use to bring out the detail in the peeling paint.
Lightening adjustment with a contrast pop, selectively applied to the white areas to prevent the front of the building from appearing too dull and flat.
Lightening adjustment with a contrast pop, selectively applied to the white areas to prevent the front of the building from appearing too dull and flat.
Final darkening adjustment, applied to everything except the door. Used to further quiet the mood of the scene.
Final darkening adjustment, applied to everything except the door. Used to further quiet the mood of the scene.