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Processing

Before you can really do any kind of processing you need to decide what kind of output you want  (Web, Monitor or Print) and you can't properly do that until you see the image file. This is something no one seems to mention. For instance, am I going to view it on a 16 X 9 monitor only? Do I want to print it? If I crop for an 8 X 10 and I want it on a monitor what should I do? It sort of works like this - you crop to create the best output you can.  Some are great in landscape and some in portrait mode.  You will end up with some photos that are great on a monitor but print terribly as the resolution is not there.

I have brought this up first as you are shooting something that is not staged. You have to process what you were able to find and shoot. You are not building a set in a studio, putting up props and then shooting from the perfect position. You are not processing a landscape where you walked a mile to get to the right spot. You are processing an image where you were only able to get so close to the subject at such an angle you were only able to capture so much DOF. Now you have to make the most of it.

Output - Web, Monitor or Print:

If you plan on displaying your photo on a monitor the only way to calculate what the image size should be is to measure the monitor and divide it into the screen resolution. Each monitor is different so the optimum size will be different for each one. It is not 72 dpi unless you are running a 20 or 30 year old monitor. For optimum display you need to use the monitors native resolution and then make the calculation. There is an excellent web page that goes over this on Photoshop Essentials Website. The catch is that not everyone uses the same display settings (I can't read the text using my native resolution) nor do they have the same monitor.  It is probably why the 72 dpi myth has been around for so long, there is no right answer that fits everyone's needs.

Printing:

When printing people think of dots per inch "DPI" but what is being printed is "Pixels per Inch" in a lab. Someone should write a really good easy to understand explanation of all of it. I haven't found one yet but I'm sure one is out there being missed by the search engines. What is out there are a few good pages that if you read them you can sort of get a decent understanding of it. One is naturally at Cambridge in Colour it touches on Pixels per Inch and Dots per inch and how misleading they can be especially with ink jet printers. The key to understanding it is that it takes a different amount of dots per inch to make up a pixel as you are using different color inks to produce the pixel. The page goes on about what size file for what size print but there are better references for that in my opinion. It continues with aspect ratio and ends with sensor size.

The sensor size is a must read. I have  (had) a Canon 60D, which is an 18 megapixel camera with a 1.6 crop sensor. I also have a  5D Mark II. The 5D Mark II is 21.1 megapixel full frame camera so I divided that by 1.6 and came up with 13.2 so for the same area on my sensor the 60D has 18 megapixels and the 5D Mark II 13.2 a 27 percent difference. Hands down the Canon 5D Mark II puts out a superior image, (you can easily see it) and this web page explains why.

On to what size to print, as you don't want to base it on file size which is sort of useless so you need a calculator and a good one is available here at Photokaboom. Think about it, you have a photo that is properly sized lets say 2 inches by 20 inches (a football team group photo)  and it is a 10 meg file, do you really think you are going to get an 8 X 10? I know that is silly but it makes a point.

However you really need to also understand PPI in more depth as it relates to printing, Cambridge in Colour goes into it on the link above but here is more about it Have Camera will Travel.

One thing I have found and it sounds silly but you can have to much detail. I have some files that I had printed at 16X20 and they were amazing. So I had some additional ones printed at 8X10 and they were awful and the reason was with the bigger size you could see detail that you couldn't see on an 8X10 as it all ran together.

My Basic Post Processing:

If you read some of the other pages you will learn to shoot in RAW. All cameras with the ability to shoot in RAW have a RAW editor/converter. If you took some time in the field to dump the really poor shots you should have only somewhat decent ones on the camera. In the field it doesn't take long to do a quick review. All you need to do is learn to look at the histogram and if it is poor delete it, then do a quick zoom if it looks somewhat sharp keep it, if not delete it.

Everyone uses something different for post processing software but the steps are about the same.  Regardless of the software open the image and zoom to 100% to see what is really sharp. If it is not sharp enough, delete it. Do this quickly through all of the images as it will save time later.

I shoot Canon and they have exceptional editing software (my opinion); however, it has its limits. I only started using Lightroom a year and a half ago.  I start off by coping all my files to a folder on my desktop and then I use Canon's DPP to view and rate them. Either they pass or fail and the failed ones are deleted. The passed ones go into Lightroom. I know of others that do this in Adobe's Bridge or with Perfect Photo Suite 9. I have tried it in all of them and I keep ending up with Canon's DPP. 

If you do this first you are left with only files with a decent, may not be perfect exposure, but they are all sharp. Sharp counts in close up and macro shots.

At this point since they are in LightRoom  I have a preset that I apply. My preset has the following settings.

Presets

Under "Camera Calibration"  - I select for a profile "Camera Neutral"

Under "Lens Corrections" - I put a check in Enable Profile Corrections and Remove Chromatic  Aberration.

The portion here in blue is what I use but it needs to be what works based on your camera - Keep in mind these are basics they are a starting point

Under "Detail and Sharpening" - Amount set to 48, Radius 1.0 Detail 25

Under "Detail and Noise Reduction" Luminance 34, Detail 50, Contrast 0, Color 25, Detail 50 and Smoothness 50

 

Once I apply the Presets, under Basic what I do is hold down the ALT Key (I use Windows) and adjust the Whites and the Blacks by sliding it until I can just see some appear.

I usually at this point put in Clarity of +20, Vibrance of +10 and sometimes Saturation of +5

This was shot with a Canon SL1 with a Canon 100mm Macro and a Canon 270 EX II flash

Once everything is set I go in and crop. I suppose I should crop first and then set my black and white level but I don't.  With the spider above I could go with either landscape or portrait. When I zoom at 100 percent the quality is decent enough and when I crop I am not going to be exceeding 100 percent of my view. So it will continue to look good on the screen. However, the image really isn't going to be great for printing. I could possibly get an 8 X 10 out of it but nothing more.  Keep in mind this was shot with the second least expensive DSLR Canon makes. This same shot on a 5D MK II or III would be much different. Once cropped I make my final adjustments such as adjusting Highlights and Shadows.

At this point I open it in NIK  Sharpener Pro 3. I have a preset that I apply that contains these settings.

Adaptive Sharpening 42%

Output Sharpening Strength 81%

Structure 20%

Local Contrast 2%

Focus 11%

This seems to work for me but you may want to use it as starting point for what you prefer.

I then save it and convert to a JPG.

Click on the photo to open the JPG

Notice that when you click on it zooms to 100 percent and the photo does not get much bigger meaning there is a huge crop.