Throw the Kitchen Sink at it!

By Cory Disbrow on January 4th, 2012   |    Posted in:  Processing   |    5 Comments

Hello readers! For today’s article, I’m going to show another set of before/after shots to show how with Photoshop and its many filters, you can save so many shots you thought would go straight into the trash.

August 15, 2011. The first day of my big family WDW trip. Everyone else had gone back to Fort Wilderness to take a midday break. Being the only photo nut in my family, I opted to stay in the Magic Kingdom to try and get some photos. Sounds great, right? Well, it was and it wasn’t. I had a horrible drab sky. I also had completely dull lighting. In years past, I would have probably just put the camera away and ride the Peoplemover until they kindly asked me to leave. But, after gaining (limited) Photoshop skill, I decided to keep shooting and try my hand at fixing some really bad stuff once I got home. So, here’s what came out of my camera. This is a JPEG of the original RAW file with no editing done whatsoever.

Yuck. That has less dynamic range than a grey index card.

So, into Photoshop we go. Like I detailed in one of my more recent posts, Camera RAW has surprised me more and more with its power. So, that said, I used Camera RAW to pull shadow detail out of this shot. I changed exposure, recovery, fill light, blacks, clarity, and vibrance. I also went in an adjusted individual color sliders to try and make a better sky and better colors in the trees and grass. And I still hated it.

On the verge of giving up on the shot, I figured I would give it a whirl in Photoshop and push myself using Color Efex Pro. The first step was to get that sky the way I really wanted it. The first filter used was Polarization, which is basically the equivalent of putting a polarizing filter over your lens, just in post processing. Getting there. Next, I went in and used Brilliance/Warmth. I didn’t adjust the color temp with this filter, but I did use the Brilliance slider, which I find adds a significant amount of saturation, but in a different way that the saturation sliders in Camera RAW do. Finally my sky was the way I wanted it.

The sky in place, I still found the rest of the photo to be flat. To get some more details out of the landscape, I used Tonal Contrast. I went a little heavy on the sliders here, but not to the point where everything started to look fake. Perfect! By using Tonal Contrast, the image was plenty sharp already, so I opted to not sharpen the photo.

Being a Disney shot, I find it permissible to add a little bit of a dramatic and magical feel to it. So, I used what is becoming my favorite filter as of late, Glamour Glow. I went a little heavy on the glow slider, which gives it that “magical” look and feel I was referring to. I also made the glow a little bit warmer as I thought it made the image slightly more inviting. I know I said earlier that I like the color temperature, but after using the glow, I changed my mind, which is another wonderful thing about Photoshop. You can ALWAYS go back and change something. Then, I finally went into the Darken/Lighten Center filter to add a vignette. I placed the center of the vignette right on Cinderella Castle, and then made the center size really big. I then made the Castle a little brighter, and made the corners significantly darker. Finally, I was done. And this is what she looks like:

Huge difference, eh? Now, this image took me a little while to do, and took a lot of experimenting with both Camera RAW and the filters of Color Efex Pro. But, as I was able to choose exactly what I wanted and could go back and change what I disliked, it was well worth it. So the two lessons that can be learned here are that you should always keep shooting, no matter what the conditions, as you never know what you might capture. The second is that no matter how many things you have to throw at an image, you really can make it exactly what you envision in your head, even though it might not look like it at the start. Thanks for reading, see ya real soon!!


  1. Jud   |   Jan 4, 2012

    Huh! I was just about to post a link to this over on the DIS board… and then I see it is you! LOL! (Still going to…) Should have known! Very nice demo Cory!



  2. Dogstardaddy   |   Jan 4, 2012

    Great article Cory! Before and after shots always help demonstrate what is possible. Now to wade through my 600+ RAW shots that I got last week and see if I caught any winners.

  3. Ryan Pastorino   |   Jan 4, 2012

    Very impressive! You have to be careful when throwing the kitchen sink at a shot, though. Clearly you enhanced this photo but it’s very easy to go overboard and do more harm than good. Still, a great demonstration of what is possible.

    Now if only I had a 5Dmk2….haha

  4. Gregg Cooper   |   Jan 4, 2012

    Color Efex Pro version 4is my favorite “go to” set of tools to make the shot look like I envisioned it in my head when I took it…
    Glamour Glow is an awesome filter, but can get soft if over-used. I like to use it for adding contrast or even reducing noise in dark areas, and to give night-time reflections a little bit of happiness. The brilliance/warmth slider is one filter I use nearly every time.
    Another favorite of mine that is really excellent in the latest version of Color Efex is Pro Contrast which has sliders to correct color cast, contrast and (yes!) dynamic contrast – a very useful tool in my post process routine.

    These are very good tutorials Cory!

    Ahhh….you already know how I feel about your 5Dmk2 haha!

  5. Bonnie   |   Jan 8, 2012

    Beautiful. I can’t seem to get my RAW photos to load on to my photoshop program so I have stopped shooting in RAW. Just wish I knew how to fix that.



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