Sunday, May 17, 2009

Stephen Ross School of Business - Before and After Tutorial

Stephen Ross School of Business Building

This is a shot taken of the main entrance to the Stephen Ross School of Business building at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I took this shot on a beautiful sunny spring day, with the mid-afternoon sun shining on the west side of the building. I find this building very interesting. It has a variety of interesting lines, colors and textures from the various materials used in the construction.

For this shot I used my 7-14mm wide angle lens. My camera is an Olympus E-3 which has a 4/3 sensor, so the cropping factor is 2x the focal length. This picture was shot at 7mm (14mm effective focal length) using ISO 100 and an exposure of 1/200 sec @ f/8.0. This lens is pretty good with respect to distortion, but you need to keep the sensor plane parallel to whatever you are shooting or you can rapidly get some drastic perspective distortion. I did my best to keep parallel to the building, but the image still ended up having some distortion.

Stephen Ross School of Business Building - Unprocessed Image

The image above is an unprocessed version of the final image. I use RAW capture, which always requires some post processing, and you can see in this shot that the image is rather flat. My standard processing either involves doing some work in Lightroom to enhance contrast, or I do the same thing in Photoshop. This time I decided to go straight into Photoshop CS4 to do my work. My main objectives with this image were to improve the contrast and fix the distortion. As I worked with the image, some additional ideas came to me.

Note: In the images below, if you move the mouse over the image, you will see the 'before' version of that development stage and when you mouse out the image will revert to its processed state.

The first thing I wanted to do was correct the perspective distortion. I really prefer architectural shots to have parallel lines if at all possible (unless used for dramatic effect).

Perspective Correction LayerImage after Perspective Correction

In order to fix the perspective distortion I used the Free Transform tool of Photoshop CS4. From here I selected the Skew option. In the image below, you can see how I corrected the image. I started by putting in some vertical guide lines to help me gauge my progress. I then took the upper right corner and pulled it right until the lines on the right side became vertical. I repeated the process on the left. There was still some minor skewing, so I took the upper middle control and moved it just a bit to the right to straighten out the middle.

Perspective Correction Edit

The next step was to add some punch to the image. I could have just used a curves layer to add some additional contrast, and possibly a Hue/Saturation layer to add a bit more color, but I decided to use the Topaz Adjust filter to see what interesting look I could come up with. Topaz Adjust can create all sorts of interesting effects from simple exposure adjustments to very gritty almost HDR looking images. I wanted something with a bit more punch, but still realistic. I started with one of the standard presets and then adjusted some of the controls to refine the image. After saving I decided that the effect on the walkway was too severe so I used a layer mask to reduce the effect. I also used the opacity slider to reduce the overall effect on the entire layer.

Color Adjustment LayerImage after Color Adjustment

At this point I was ready to stop but then I decided to go ahead and play with the sky. I really like architectural images with some contrast, particularly against the sky. I decided that a black sky might go well with this shot. Fortunately the roof lines of this building are simple and straight. I used the pen tool to draw along the roof lines and created a selection once I completed the path. I created a new layer and filled in the selection with black. I ultimately added a second layer where I filled in a few spots that I had missed. I probably could have used the Select -> Color Range... tool or one of the smart selection tools as well, but I decided to use the pen tool instead.

The final steps in the process were to run a noise reduction tool (there wasn't much to begin with) and do some sharpening. The final image is what you see at the top. I had played around with a black and white version as well, but I didn't like it as much as the color version in this case.

All processing done with Adobe Photoshop CS4.

This image is for sale in my Architecture gallery on ImageKind.

Comments and feedback welcome.

Image and text Copyright © 2009 James W. Howe - All rights reserved.

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