Saving a less than perfect shot

I wanted to talk a little bit about those photos you’ve taken that you might think are really bad – trust me… we all have those. Sometimes, those really bad photos have some potential so, instead of turfing it, because you will never be able to go back and shoot it again,  you try and save it. 

I took this photo May long out in Kananaskis. A friend and I had gone out shooting a good part of the day and on the way out, we noticed some action on the highway. There was a vehicle stopped in the middle of the road. Well you know what that meant right…. WILDLIFE!

Boy were we surprised! There was a moose on the loose :D. So imagine me, the driver, pulling over and then trying to get my big zoom lens out of my bag and onto my camera..Yes… we were laughing the whole time.

Here’s how I went

Gear: Nikon D810 with Nikkor 200-500 5.6 lens handheld

We had been shooting landscapes all day so my camera was set to for scenes that were still and with lots of light. Well this guy was in the trees and was heading further into them. He was not happy that we were there. It was dark (8:40PM OK, not pitch black because well, we’re in Alberta in May 😀 ) and he was moving. On top of that, I had just gotten a new body (to be clear, a camera body) and the light meeter is backwards from the old camera body. So when I thought I was overexposing, I was actually underexposing; hence the very dark photo. But that’s OK….

If there is anything I have learned is that underexposed is much better to work with than over exposed.

When I got home I downloaded the photos and almost deleted them all but then decided not to and I would maybe look at them another day. When I decided to look at them in Lightroom:

  • I immediately increased the exposure… at least 2.5 stops because this photo was very dark. You need to watch when increasing the exposure as you will get a lot of noise – that nasty grainy look. Unless you’re going for the grainy look then that’s fantastic.
  • I then export to Nik Color Efex where I have made some presets for different scenarios
  • Then back into Lightroom for some final tweaks like colour correction (there was too much blue), sharpening, radial filter for highlighting various parts of the image and so on.
Nik Color Efex

I’m not gonna lie, i don’t think that I would print this very big but it’s good enough for a smaller print and for sharing online. It really takes practice, learning the tools and trying new ones,  then there is trial and error to find your style. I look back on some of my older images and think, what was I thinking? :-O

One way to grow is to create presets. What a preset? Well, per Google:

A Lightroom Preset is a pre-determined position all (or some) of the of sliders in Lightroom (they are pre-set, get it?) In other words, you can edit a photo to your liking, and then save that exactly combination of slider positions for future use on another image.

So when you edit a photo, and you like what you see, you’ll want to save that as a preset. You can then apply all the settings to other photos. This does a couple of things.

  1. It speeds up your editing. If you’re editing a bunch of similar photos, you can simply click on the preset you created and all those settings will be applied to that photo.
  2. You get to learn how to edit. As you grow and learn the applications, you an tweak your presets and create new ones which will help you to create your own style; not mimic someone elses.

I typically use presets as a starting point in every edit.

Thanks for reading and I hope you found this helpful!


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