Making of "Night At The Sorbonne"
If you happen to subscribe to me on YouTube, you will see that I posted a new video the other day, which was Episode 1 of a new series I am sharing there. The series is called “Making the photograph”, and in each new episode I will record myself editing a photo, talking about the process I go through, what decisions I make and why, and that sort of thing. Basically, I will show my workflow for each shot and do my best to help others be able to do the same with their photos.
I think it will be fun, and I am excited about sharing all my workflow tips each time.
While I won’t do a written summary every time, I wanted to share this first one here as well. If you would rather skip this article and just watch the video, you can do that here:
This is a 3 exposure HDR that I created in Aurora HDR Pro from Macphun, which is a product that I absolutely love. I process everything in it now. It’s just so capable and awesome.
This was taken in Paris one evening. It's a scene from The Sorbonne, which is a University there in Paris. I love architecture and European street scenes, so naturally this was something I had to stop for. You just can't pass up stuff like this!
I merged the 3 files together in Aurora, and this is the base HDR without any adjustments applied:
I like the scene and the lines, but I really don’t like the colors very much. I’m not a big fan of yellow (unless it’s a sunset), and the entire scene is SO yellow that I have to change that. Plus, I want to create more of a moody, dreamy feel to the image, so I’ll get that done as well.
The very first thing I do is apply a preset to the base layer. I chose Realistic Desaturated because it brings out some of the details while not amplifying the color at all. I leave that at 100% opacity across the base layer.
The next step is to create a new layer, and this time I chose the Realistic Dreamy preset, also at 100%, and I also apply it across the entire photo. This preset softens up the scene a little bit, adds some shadows and pretty much shifts the mood entirely. I like it. We're getting there.
But as I mentioned above, the colors are not to my liking, and honestly I don’t remember it being quite so yellow anyways. So the next step is to use some of the awesome tools built into Aurora to shift the colors around a little bit.
The first thing that I do is make some minor adjustments in the Color Filters menu, but the big change here is really applying some Split Toning to the image (it’s called Color Toning in Aurora). It’s an incredibly powerful adjustment tool, and one that I think everyone should be familiar with. I use it all the time. It's my bestie.
As you can see here, by adjusting the Tint and Saturation of the Highlights and Shadows independently, I have been able to significantly shift the entire photo from yellow to a much softer, somewhat muted blue shade. This is much more what I remember, and much more to my liking anyways.
By the way, if you are new to split toning, then you should read this post about how I use it in Lightroom. It operates the same way, whether you are in Lightroom or Aurora. Seriously, you should learn it. It's so powerful.
Next up is a quick layer to bring out some details. I bring them out in the Structure menu, increasing Clarity and HDR Look, and then paint a mask over just the areas in which I want the adjustments to be visible.
You can see below that the details are much richer and more defined. Here’s the shot after hiding the mask:
As I approach the end of my editing, I always take a look at the noise levels and that’s when I make any adjustments to that. So this requires a new layer, and some slider adjustments in the HDR DeNoise menu. I don’t show you the mask this time, but I painted it just across the sky in this shot. It's fairly hard to tell the difference, as there wasn't a lot of noise to begin with.
That just about completes the photo. However, I was still not 100% satisfied with the colors, so I opted to create another layer and go through split toning/color toning one more time. While I was on this layer, I also made some adjustments to Saturation, Vibrance, Temperature and Tone in the Color menu, reduced the Highlights and Midtones in the Tone menu, added a slight Vignette, and even bumped up the Radiance a bit. Yeah, I did a lot on this layer! :-)
All of this made quite a difference in the photo, and I love it now.
The last thing I do is straighten the image, because it looks just a little bit off to me.
Then it’s a quick Save and I am all done.
After making all the above edits in Aurora, and then returning to Lightroom (which I used to manage my library and make some edits), I decided that I wanted a little more color in the final version, so I made a few more changes in Lightroom. I did some more split toning in Lightroom, in order to accentuate the red tones and give it a little color boost. I also boosted the saturation and vibrance a bit as you can see pretty clearly.
Here is the final version of the photo:
We came quite a ways from the original, which was very yellow and washed-out looking. We added 5 layers to the photo, several presets, some noise reduction and more, resulting in the final version shown above. In other words, I completely changed the look of the photo and it was all made possible with Aurora HDR and Lightroom. It's a fabulous combination, and my workflow is so much better now that I am using Aurora.
This might seem like a lot of work, but in reality it’s about 15 minutes or so of work, several of which are just experimenting with various presets to see what works best on any given layer.