February 23, 2015

Adventures In Editing: Theater

As my series on photo editing continues, I'm going to take you step by step through my post process for two of the pictures I took at Wild Kratts Live! last week. I'm also going to talk about the importance of preparation, and the difference it can make.

This was my first time shooting a production in a theater. I knew there were special challenges, so I did my homework. I read tips from photographers who do it for a living, joined photography forums and asked questions, experimented with my camera settings.

As a result, I shot in full manual mode and knew exactly how I wanted to set my camera. I took a few test shots at the start of the show and checked them out to make sure things were looking good. Made one adjustment to my ISO and was good to go the remainder of the show.

Based on the things I learned, I decided to rent a lens for the event. We have a number of zoom lenses, but I needed one that would let in as much light as possible, and be fast. I was able to rent a high end lens for a very reasonable price. And it was worth every penny.

For this post I am actually going to take you step by step through two images from the event. First up is this shot of Chris Kratt:

Click on image to enlarge

The first thing I did in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom was the initial step I take with all my RAW images - sharpening/noise reduction. The latter is known as "luminance smoothing" in Lightroom. I then used the crop angle tool to ensure the image was straight.

I found many of my images were crooked. I think it is because I was struggling to hold up the beast of a lens. That thing was HEAVY! I found it really difficult to hold for long periods. So I ended up using the crop angle tool on most of my images in post processing.

With this image and almost all the others, I changed the white balance from "As Shot" to "Fluorescent." Ninety percent of the time, the images looked better in that white balance setting. (Some worked best in "Auto.") And I had read that would be the case. Some photographers explained elaborate adjustments they made in their camera when shooting theater, but most recommended leaving white balance alone and dealing with it in post. With editing software, it is easy to adjust after the fact.

I reduced the highlights, making Chris look less washed out. And then I applied a very slight vignette.

I worked even less with this image of Martin Kratt:

Click on image to enlarge

Many of the steps I took were the same: sharpening/luminance smoothing, highlight reduction, white balance to fluorescent. I also used the crop angle tool to ensure the image was straight. I applied a stronger vignette. And I was finished.

The work I did in advance of this shoot really paid off in the post processing stage. I had so many good images in RAW it was hard to narrow them down. I did so mainly based on composition and lighting. Since I shot in continuous mode, I had many shots with only minor differences.

I took over 500 images and ended up importing 200 into Lightroom. Then I compared shots that were similar and kept the best. I deleted any shots where the subject's eyes were closed or that weren't particularly flattering. And while I had a lot of images to go through, I did very little actual image editing.

In the end, I shared 100 image files with The Kratt Brothers Company for use in media kits and promotion.

It was a fun challenge and great learning experience! But for now I think I'll go back to photographing kids...

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