Stone Washed from start to finish

In the following short Photoshop tutorial I will show you the processing steps I used for this image from start to finish. Although I like my images to have punch I also like the image to retain integrity.

I will try and cover the various steps in an easy to follow format with reasonable detail showing the shortcuts and checks I know and use along the way.

Stage One: Opening the RAW in Photoshop

When you launch a RAW file in Photoshop the initial screen allows quite a bit of adjustment prior to fully opening the file. As you can see from the image on the right I have managed to remove most of the blue colour cast which resulted from the use of the Lee Filters Big Stopper.

The biggest changes were made to the ‘Temperature’ and ‘Contrast’ with minor changes to the other settings. Once I have made the changes I want to the RAW file I find it helps to then scan the image at 100% to ensure there are no chromatic aberrations, this will show as a colour fringe around edges of higher contrast. By viewing at full size you can make small adjustments to fine tune your changes prior to opening in the full Photoshop application.

It is also a good idea to keep an eye on the hystogram to ensure there is no clipping at either end as this will result in either areas of pure black or pure white. Although if only small areas are affected this is not a problem but large areas are generally to be avoided in landscape photography.

Stage Two: Lens correction

Lens correction can be found in the ‘Filter’ menu or by pressing the following key combination (Shift+Ctrl+R). For this image I opted for the ‘Custom’ interface as this gives more control. Using the grid as a guide I corrected the distortion in the sea’s horizon by adding +11 to the ‘Remove Distortion’ slider and -7 to the ‘Vertical Perspective’. Different lens will need different adjustments, this will be down to you to play around with the setting although ‘Auto Correction’ is available for some lenses.

You can now see the dark corners to the top of the image are gone and the sea’s horizon is now level. This distortion is most noticable in seascapes and usually not so much if at all in landscapes but this obviously depends on what you are shooting.

Stage Three: Levels adjustment

When shooting in RAW the resulting image will always look a little flat compared with the image shown on your LCD screen, this is due to your camera showing you a JPEG image generated from your RAW file. Correcting this problem is easy and all you have to do is create a ‘Levels’ adjustment layer which is found in the ‘Layer’ menu.

The hystogram (shown right) shows the distribution of pixels across the tonal range and by pulling the black arrow in from the left slightly and the white in from the right ensures there are pure blacks and whites. What you have done in effect is to stretch the image across the full tonal range but care is needed to ensure you do not leave large areas where no detail exists in either the black or white areas, this is called clipping. The white areas where no details exist are often refered to as being burnt out. By holding down the ‘Alt’ key and clicking with the left mouse button on the black and white arrows below the hystogram will show the full extent of the clipping at the current setting. As you can see the image is looking a lot stronger compared with the image we started with.


Stage Four: Colour correction

As you can see from the previous image there was a slight green colour cast across the image which doesn’t look natural however slight.

Removing the colour cast is achieved by adding a ‘Colour Balance’ layer which is found in the same submenu as the ‘Levels’ adjustment layer. To get the adjustments right here will take a little time and is best done by making small changes at a time. It will also be necessary to make changes across all three tonal ranges. It is also worth mentioning I prefer to keep the tick in the ‘Preserve Luminosity’ box otherwise the changes made in the previous stage to the ‘Levels’ could be affected.

The editing for this image is close to completion but there are still a few small tweeks which are required to complete the changes. the biggest issue which needs addressing is the lower left corner which is a little on the dark side.

Stage Five: Vignetting correction

I found the easiest way to bring back the darker areas without too much effort was to re-used the image created in ‘Stage Two’ following the lens correction and the ‘Colour Correction Adjustment Layer’ used in ‘Stage Four’ by merging these into a new layer. This layer was then hidden just below the image resulting from stage four and a ‘Layer Mask’ added to the top image ready for blending.

I selected a black brush set at 400px in size, 0% hardness and 5% opacity and carefully painted on the layer mask to slowly reveal the lighter layer below.

With that complete the image is at a point were you can then scan the image through and make the artistic decision on how you want to present it. I opted for a 5 to 4 ratio as the image was for me was a little weak on righthand side therefore for this was cropped to balance the shot.

Stage Six: The final tweeks

In the final stages I cropped the image on the right and cloned out the remaining part of the groyne as this was a distraction and pulled you eye out of the shot. The only other changes were to clone out any dust spots, I do this by zooming in to 100% and running up and down the image cloning out the few I have on my sensor.

As one final tweek I created a duplicate layer and desaturated it a little to make the sky look a little more natural and blended this in the same way as mentioned before in ‘Stage Five’.

I hope you found this article useful and if you have any comments please feel free to post them here against this post.

The Final Image