Today is all about getting a tall building photo ready for stock. To the right, you see the original photograph of this famous Quebec landmark, the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré cathedral near Quebec City, at the entrance of Charlevoix (ISO 100, F/11, 1/200 sec, 24mm). Above, you see the corrected shot. So what is the process in between? First of all, you’ll need photoshop. Then you have to solve these issues.
A) Recognizable people. Of course this being a public place, and a touristic landmark on top of it, you’re bound to have recognizable people on your shot. And I don’t like running around with releases to sign. So let’s photoshop them out. For the people near the church, I thought ahead and shot several pictures. That way I could copy/paste areas without the moving folks in my main shot. I cloned out the stationary ones. For those sitting on the left stool in the foreground, it was trickier and so I decided to copy the right stool, paste it, Edit –>Transform –> Flip Horizontal, move it and mask the contours out. I then did corrections to the plant at the back of the stool to make it look slightly different than the one on the right.
B) Lens distortion. The use of a wide angle (in this case a 24mm) to fit the building into the frame means huge deformation of the subject on each side. While suitable for more artistic or reporting work, this does not work well with this subject as a stock photograph. The photoshop work to correct this is two-fold. First let’s deal with the lens distortion. Go to Filters–>Distort–>Lens Correction. There are three adjustments to be done here. #1, the Vertical perspective has to be shifted to the left cursor-wise to correct the steeple effect. #2, I wasn’t totally centered when I clicked the shutter so I made a minute Horizontal perspective to the left. #3, the lens makes a concave effect on the subject, so correct this by sliding the Remove Distortion slider to the right until pleasing. Click Ok. Now, you’ll see the cathedral is in good shape, but the pathway has become globular. Correct this by selecting Edit –>Transform–>Warp and move the two pivots on the bottom line outwards. Then adjust the curve of the bottom center area. Now your image is in good shape.
C) Colors, contrast and sharpness. The dreaded Overprocessed, Quality and Lighting rejections we so often see from the agencies ar a difficult bullet to dodge. It is a very fine line to be able to please everyone with these adjustments. For example, Shutterstock loves vibrant colors and softened shadows while Istock will prefer softer colors and an unprocessed look. In this case, it is a strong afternoon sun light, one that create strong shadows and gives a bluish cast to the whole shot. I don’t like tempering with architectural shadows… it mostly ends up looking phony. They are not distracting enough in this shot to be a problem. To solve the color cast issues, I used one of the many methods available, but it is a simple one that works very well when doing landscapes: make yourself a new Levels adjustment layer, and click on the RGB drop down menu. Then select each of the three separate colors. With each one, look at the histogram and drag the black arrow to the left edge of the histogram curve and the white arrow its right edge. When you work on the blue curve, push the black arrow a little bit further to the right to give it a slightly warmer tone. This method also solves the contrast issue. Your photo will look great. As far as sharpness go, you have to be very careful. I find the method that works best is by creating a composite and then applying a Filter–>Sharpen–>Unsharp mask, set at a low Amount, a High Radius and no threshold. Play around with it. It gives a subtle glow and sharpens the edges just a little.
Then you have to mind two more things. Is there a need for noise reduction? Look at 100%, especially in shady areas to see if you see any pixellisation. If you do, there are many ways to fix this. Cheap and easy (but be careful that they don’t become distracting): 1) apply a slight blur to these area, around 25% or 2) burn the area to blend in the artifacts or 3) make the shot smaller (which also slightly increases focus). Better but more expensive: use a plug in. I favor Noise Ninja. Make a new composite, apply the default settings and then reduce the opacity to about 49%. Mask out areas with grass, fur, hair or waves, otherwise you are likely to get an Overuse of Noise Reduction rejection.
One last thing: look at your photo at 100%. Pixel hunt. Some reviewers do that, so be ahead of them. Look closely at the blue sky. Do you see sensor spots? (deeply out of focus darker circles) Clone them out. Look out for brands or writing in a foreign alphabet. Clone these out.
And then Keyword and submit. Yep it takes that much work. Cheers!
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