Tuesday, November 3, 2015


Now that you have some great images of fall colors captured in RAW…what do you do with them?

It begins with the HISTOGRAM.

When you open your images in ACR first look at your histogram. Is the image overexposed—e.g.. hitting or climbing the right wall? It’s always better to start with a properly exposed image especially with brightly colored subject matter.  The number one processing error I see from many photographers’ fall images is clipping in the red channel (over exposed reds). There is no excuse for this because, if your exposure is anywhere in the ball park, you can easily bring the reds down; and, by down, I mean reds with printable detail. 

Aside from over exposure the other ACR sliders that can cause your reds to clip include, too much: Saturation, Contrast or Clarity. One of the ways to control color clipping is to use More Vibrance and Less Saturation when you want more over all color. Vibrance is a smarter slider in that as you move to the positive, it controls reds, unlike the Saturation slider that just saturates all colors equally.  In fact, in a lot of my fall color images I leave my Saturation at “0” and just bring up Vibrance some.

In Part 1 I talked about the three different types of lighting that I use to capture fall colors.  How I process those images is different with each type of lighting.  In addition I often process each type in two stylistically different ways.  I render them either Soft or Hard depending on the mood I want to create.  Everything else being equal in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) this is done with Negative Clarity (soft) or Positive Clarity (hard). 

So, lets start with OVERCAST SOFT LIGHT:

f8.0 @ 1/160 sec., ISO 800 

Contrast  @  +28

HighLights  @ 0

Shadows  @  +6

Whites  @  0

Blacks  @  -50

Clarity  @  +50

Vibrance  @ +42

Saturation  @  0

 f8.0 @ 1/160 sec., ISO 800 

Contrast  @  +53

HighLights  @ -68

Shadows  @  0

Whites  @  0

Blacks  @  -59

Clarity  @  -52

Vibrance  @ +50

Saturation  @  0

In the image on the top I wanted the leaves sharp and crisp ( +50 Clarity ) and in the images on the bottom I wanted those red leaves to Glow against those white trees, so I went to -50 Clarity .

You’ll also note that with this low level, soft, lighting my ISO is at 800 (not a problem with my Canon 5D MKII). However, if your camera is noisy at this level you should drop your ISO and then use a tripod and use a slower shutter speed.


 f5.6 @ 1/320 sec., ISO 400

Contrast   @  +42

HighLights   @  0

Shadows  @  +60

Whites  @  0

Blacks  @  -38

Clarity  @  -73

Vibrance  @  +28

Saturation  @  0

I wanted this image to have a painterly glow, so, I applied a lot of Negative Clarity. Because that kind of Clarity really enhances the colors I only used a Little Vibrance and “0” Saturation. The backlight is strong, as well, so I also increased Shadows ( +60 ) to bring up the detail in the tree bark.


 f8.0 @ 1/320 sec., ISO 400

Contrast  @  +31

HighLights  @ -76

Shadows  @  0

Whites  @  0

Blacks  @  -28

Clarity  @  +54

Vibrance  @ +19

Saturation  @  +16

I don’t do a lot of front-lit fall colors, but when I do I look for light that is directional—I don’t want FLAT front light.  As I revolved around this tree I saw this spotty light skimming across these leaves. Since the light hit one particular leaf, I got my center of interest I was looking for.  Typically with this type of light you’ll notice that I knocked down the highlights ( -76 ) quite a bit.  Then I brought the clarity up ( +54 ) only moderately increased Vibrance and Saturation.

As one of those old timers with Over 40 years experience in photography, I do not miss the film days!  With this digital technology, being able to dramatically alter any image in an infinite variety of ways, my artistic creativity knows no bounds!  I have surpassed Anything I could have done with Kodachrome or any of my other favorite films with the exception of Ektachrome HS Color Infra-Red; but I’m working on that!

Hope these tips helped you to realize MORE of your creative potential. As always, leave me a comment or ask a question…’Til next week…

Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman, Certified
Training site:  http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com

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