Unleashed Education Blog

Before & After: Pushing the Boundaries

before & after Mar 12, 2016

I took this image at the end of a mentoring session, just for fun, knowing that I was going to use the shot to demonstrate some editing techniques to my student. We were in the middle of a suburban park in an open grassy field and the sky was putting on a show. My first choice would have been to shoot a silhouette - but for good silhouettes the subject has to be totally outlined against the sky and unfortunately there was absolutely nothing around to elevate Diesel on to get the right angle of view. A bench, picnic table or garden bed would have been perfect.

Instead, I decided to go for a HDR (high dynamic range) style of shot. HDR involves taking multiple exposures and "sandwiching" them together in the editing process to create an image with a larger range of tones than can be captured in a single shot. However with a constantly moving subject such as a dog and without using a tripod, it can be tricky to get multiple shots similar enough to combine.

Knowing that my camera body (Canon's flagship SLR, the 1D-x) creates RAW files with huge amounts of data, I thought I'd push the boundaries of what was possible to recover from a single shot. I exposed for the highlights - in this case the sky - counting on being able to recover the details in the shadows while editing. I aimed to keep the ISO as low as possible when shooting, as recovering data from an image shot with high ISO results in a poorer quality image.

Here's the exif data:

Canon 1D-X, Canon 24-70mm f2.8L @ 24mm, ISO 400, 1/640 sec, f2.8

So below is the original unedited RAW file, and the final edit. I was able to do the bulk of the editing in Lightroom using the Basic and Tone Curve sliders, taking the image into Photoshop to finish off with some selecting dodging and burning, object removal (spot the differences?) and overall colour, contrast and sharpness adjustments.

It's not something I would shoot for a client, as the quality wouldn't hold up to a large wall art piece. But fun to play around with, nevertheless!

Note: This is the sort of situation where shooting with off camera flash (OCF) would be ideal - exposing for the background (in this case, the beautiful sunset sky) and adding a splash of artificial light to illuminate the subject.

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