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daikambu65 Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)

These are Nikon RAW files. How do I enhance contrast of a bland sky to bring out clouds?


Please be specific about tools, adjustment bricks and sliders.



(my first stab at adjustments, following 2 months of learning how to import/name files in AP)

Aperture 3, OS X Mountain Lion (10.8.4), running an iMac
  • nick101 Level 5 Level 5 (4,835 points)

    Use the Brushes tool


    Dodge darkens an area


    Burn lightens an area


    The terms go back to darkroon printing - dodging meant putting somoemthing between the enlarger light and the print to stop the light hitting the print paper - burning meant letting more light through to a section of paper.


    You can choose the size of the brush. For area work, I usually use a small size brush to outline the area and a larger one ot fill in the centre. For clouds, you want soft edgaes, I guess. Softness creates a gradation between the boundary of no feect to full effect - the higher the softness, the wider the area for the gradation - you'll see 2 concentric circles for the brush - softer makes the difference in size greater.


    You'll want to experiment, so get used to using Undo and/or Photos/Revert to original


    Hope that helps

  • léonie Level 9 Level 9 (79,540 points)

    How do I enhance contrast of a bland sky to bring out clouds?


    Do you only want to enhance the contrast or also add some color?


    Bland skies can be tricky, because they will usually be overexposed as well.


    So the first thing to try would be the "Recovery" slider in the "Exposure" brick to darken the very light sky.


    Then use the "Enhance" brick to apply "Definition". It will emphasize any structure, that is available in the clouds.  And perhaps add a bit of "Vibrancy", depending on your taste and mood.


    This will give moderate results like this: See before and after, from left to right:

    Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 12.22.04MESZ.PNG

    Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 12.27.27MESZ.PNG

    These settings can be applied to the whole image. For more dramatic results, you will need to brush in adjustments selectively onto the sky area - contrast, color, or curves.


    See my next post

  • nick101 Level 5 Level 5 (4,835 points)

    Thos are good suggestions - bear in mind that they'll affect the whole image, not just the sky.


    It's often the case that the foreground is exposed well and, as a result, the sky is over-exposed.


    What would be nice in Aperture would be the ability to define an area in the image and make adjustments to that area.

  • léonie Level 9 Level 9 (79,540 points)

    And with curves: To make the skies dramatic stretch the contrast in the cloud with a steep RGB-luminance curve:

    Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 12.53.48MESZ.PNG


    Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 12.55.11MESZ.PNG

    This will need to be brushed in locally to be applied on the sky region only-

  • léonie Level 9 Level 9 (79,540 points)
    What would be nice in Aperture would be the ability to define an area in the image and make adjustments to that area.


    You can do that sometimes, if the the area can be defined by a characteristic hue. Then the color pickers in the color brick can be used to select the areas with that hue. The other options - apply to mid tones, shadows, highlights are a bit coarse, but quite often suficient. For all else, I will use the escape to Photoshop or another external editor, or try to take the picture again with better lighting conditions.


    I tried to use the color pickers on my sample pictures. I this case the hue is so ill-defined - gray is a non-color, that the results are rather random. It works better with a baby-blue summer sky, or at dusk and dawn.

  • Frank Caggiano Level 7 Level 7 (25,715 points)

    Shoot with a polarizing filter and expose for the most important part of the scene.


    Seriously, there are limits to what you can do after the shot, unless you want to go the whole PS route but then that really isn't photography is it?


    With digital photography we've come to rely so much on what happens after we take the picture that we sometimes seem to just point the camera and assume we'll be able to fix it in the computer.


    What happens in the camera is still the second most important part of photography.


    OK that's my rant for the day



  • léonie Level 9 Level 9 (79,540 points)

    <summoning the invisible post ....>

  • léonie Level 9 Level 9 (79,540 points)

    Shoot with a polarizing filter and expose for the most important part of the scene.

    A polarizing filter is great to darken the sky and to to add contrast, but it works best with the Rayleigh scattering in the blue sky and not so good for an evenly gray gray sky - at least, that is my experience.


    I really love your rant of the day


    Seriously, there are limits to what you can do after the shot, unless you want to go the whole PS route but then that really isn't photography is it?


    Teaching and researching computer vision and image processing is my job, so it is natural for me to explore the limits of these algorithms. But you are perfectly right. The best way to great photos is to take care when taking the photos and get the best shot possible.

    Image processing and enhancement will never turn a poor shot into a masterpiece, but it can help to add finishing touches to a great picture.

    Or to restore badly decayed old photos, etc.


    Only sometimes there is no way to repeat a shot or to wait for better weather or the right light, and then I am very happy I have Aperture and don't have any longer to go into a darkroom and don't have to do the image processing with chemicals, and blinds, and filters.

  • daikambu65 Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)

    The curve adjustment is intriguing. Here in Southern California, the skies are usually bright, but uniform. The comment about using a Polarizer filter makes sense, and I have one. I used it often in my film days for just this sort of situation.


    I wanted the shapes of the skyscrapers to stand out against a background with some detail. But with all the glass on the facade, the polarizer would help the buildings as well as clouds. This is an interesting learning process about post-process for me.


    Thanks to all.

  • ozdude Level 1 Level 1 (45 points)

    I agree with all the suggestions here, another way to do it is to use the NikEfex plugin called ColerEfex. You can use the Neutral Density filter and you can adjust highlights and shadows tonality quite well. Sure it's not the same as actually using a physical ND filter, but it works well and helps bring some detail back into high contrast scenes like cloudy days.

  • daikambu65 Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)

    OZdude, I've got the NIK plugins. I'm not welll trained in using them, but ColorEfex, is one I've used the most. I'll try it.


    To give you a little background story, the area I'm shooting (if the attachment works - 1st time attaching on this forum) is the business park called Century City. It is the former backlot of 20th Century Fox Studios. Fox, like all the other movie studios in town had a very large billboard painted over with sky/cloud scenes. It was masked into most of their movies because the cinematographers couldn't predict sky conditions.


    As I said, if they were shooting in Los Angeles, the sky is bright but quite boring for 300 days a year. If they were elsewhere, rain could ruin their day. You get a hint of that problem if you see the Leonardo diCaprio film, The Aviator. It's about the trouble Howard Hughes had filming WW-I ariel combat in the skies above Los Angeles. Without clouds in the sky, there was no sense of movement when the planes were aloft. 100 pilots and planes sat in a dusty field waiting. For more than a month at great cost. Bland skies nearly bankrupted the project.

  • ozdude Level 1 Level 1 (45 points)

    Hey mate, the ND filter is really easy to use, in laymans terms, there is a slider which only affects highlights, and a slider which only affects shadows. There are a couple of other sliders but I can't recall. With those two main sliders you can bring a lot of detail back into the image.

  • daikambu65 Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)

    Expanding on our talk about the NIK Plugins --- how does a person do the following: identify, save in a particular location, export a NIK-processed image in Aperture?


    Currently,  I go back to the Browser. Then hit the LIST mode (as opposed to Thumbnail previews), look for files with TIFF in the name, click on them and then Export.


    There has to be a more streamlined method. Your comments on NIK got me exploring in that plug-in, and it has opened new vistas.


    Gary in Santa Monica

  • ozdude Level 1 Level 1 (45 points)

    Hi mate, I checked the ND filter last night, and I am wrong in terms of how it operates. It does not detect dark and light areas, it simply applies tonality adjustments to separate areas on a photo, separated by a straight line. So if you are shooting landscapes with clear splits between sky and ground, then you can adjust top half, and bottom half, and then adjust the blend area, which effectively adjusts where the split line is. You can also adjust the angle of the split using the rotation slider.


    In terms of identifying Nik modified pics, you could set up a smart album, and select to show only TIFF files, this quickly filters your entire library and will update each time you add TIFF files. I am not sure if Nik plugins change any of the metadata, if it does, you could search by that metadata rather than by TIFF.


    However if you do search by TIFF, then it will likely pick up all your Nik processed stuff, as there is not much reason to convert camera RAWs / jpegs to TIFFs. I will have a look tonight to see if you can specifically target Nik processed files, rather than just a TIFF search.

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