How to Make Your Pictures Look Like What You Saw – by Doug Brauner

May 29, 2015

DSC06582  DSC06582 (1)

Notice anything different about these two photos? They’re the same picture taken with the same click of my camera’s shutter.

My guess is that the top photo looks like pictures that come out of your camera when you’ve upload it to your computer. It’s disappointing when pictures look like this. You know that it doesn’t represent what you saw.

I spend a good amount of time in the digital darkroom trying to create what I remember seeing. Yes, there are times that I “overcook” a photo and it doesn’t look natural. However, photographers need to understand that just because the camera says that you’ve achieved a perfect exposure it doesn’t mean the picture will look like what you saw.

The problem is the difference between a camera’s sensor and the human eye. The human eye, created by God, has the ability to discern a much high dynamic range than your camera. That means the eye can see the details in the clouds while not losing detail in the foreground. A camera can’t do it as well as your God given eye.

To capture that picture you want to share with others you need to spend time in the digital darkroom. What is the digital darkroom? It is software that came with your camera, or like Gimp, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom and others that allow you to edit you photographs. This is often referred to as post processing. In other words, the camera does its thing (processes your picture) then you upload it to your computer and edit the photo using software (post processing).

The evening I took this picture I remembered the detail in the clouds and the softness of the new leaves on the Cottonwoods.

So what did I do to get this photo to look like the image I had in my brain? Funny you should ask. Let me give you quick rundown.

  1. In Lightroom and Photoshop I…
    • … darkened the darks
    • … lightened the lights
    • … reduced the highlights
    • … used the graduated neutral density tool
    • … sharpened the image
    • … added vibrancy
    • … reduced saturation
    • … added a cooling filter
  2. I then saved the image.

Sounds like a lot of work. It took some time but not near as much as it would have taken Ansel Adams to manipulate a photograph in a real darkroom, nor as long as it has taken me to write this blog.

You might not like the edits I made to this picture (you don’t have to), yet over time I have appreciated everything that I’ve learned in the digital darkroom.

You will too.

Join the conversation at Praying With the Eyes on Facebook.

(Click on picture to enlarge.)

Text and Photographs ©Copyright 2012-2015 Douglas P. Brauner.  ARR.

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