HOW TO TURN A NIGHTTIME DISASTER PHOTO INTO A KEEPER
Hope everyone is having a great start to the New Year! It seems like there are some wonderful new Photoshop techniques being presented almost daily. What I am going to show this week is one that totally blew me away since my camera does have a lot of noise when I shoot over ISO 1000 especially. It is an older model Nikon that I can’t seem to part with and I have a ton of nighttime images that just do not look great due to the older sensor. So if you are like me, or have some images you shot before before getting a better camera, this technique may really help to salvage a few of your favorite images from the past.
It all started when I read an article by Serge Ramelli, the Adobe Lightroom guru, in Kelby One’s November Lightroom Magazine called Nighttime Photography Workflow. Yes, Kelby One (the old NAPP site) still puts out their Photoshop and Lightroom magazines just like when they used to be on the newsstand years ago. If you are a member, they are published digitally almost monthly. Below is the RAW image for the above image of San Francisco at night. I really liked the bridge lit up and the tall building on the right with the lights on, but the car and blinding lights and colors were awful! The only thing good about it was fairly sharp. What I learned from Serge’s article is that there are a few tricks to getting those night photos to pop and that you do not have to stick to the original color scheme – I really liked the cool night tones that ended up in my final image. Therefore you will see most of my images are now turned towards the cooler bluish-pink tones which I think looks much better than the ugly yellow-orange original colors. I might add that Serge has lots of very good Lightroom programs and some great tips on photographing.
Just to help everyone out, the preset has been added to my DeviantArt site so you can download it with the settings described below – zipped file is called SJ Nighttime Settings.
This is what was done with to the above image to get the final top image look – these are my settings so feel free to change if you like different ones. The preset (linked above for download) uses my settings shown below:
1. First I set the Profile in Lightroom (could use ACR for these same steps) to Vintage 07 with the Amount slider set to 78%. Always check through these profiles provided by Adobe (or any you may have acquired recently). This profile seems work with most of my night images.
2. Crop and straighten image. In the above the parked car roof had to be removed.
3. In the Basics Panel try making some of these adjustments – use any order you think works best on the image:
– Open the shadows up but not so much since it is a night image – in my case +63 was used. If image a lot darker than the above, use a smaller amount.
– Boost up the whites – this makes the lights in the image really pop if they do not already stand out as mine did above so it was set to 0.
– Blacks – set to reveal more of the sky but try not to add more noise. Mine was set to -7 which really did help.
– Highlights – I set mine back to -100, but in a dark image, this may too much.
– Temperature – I set mine towards blue or -80
– Clarity – really makes it pop – a +35 was used on this image.
– Vibrance – used a +24 here.
– Saturation – used more of this +33.
– Tint – +22 to give it a little of a magenta feel.
– Exposure and Contrast – these were adjusted as a last step. Only the Exposure was decreased to -98 for this image and preset.
4. Here is the tip that gives the image the depth it needs – add a Radial Filter over the midground subject – in this case the bridge area. Invert should be checked so only the inside of the filter is changed. Now slightly boost the Exposure to something like +1.47, which was used here along with Temp of 35, Tint of 35, Clarity of 41 and Whites 22 (since it really popped the lights of the bridge). Again, re-adjust these for the image being used. For this image, the Range Mask set to Luminance was used and the Range set to 95/100 so only the really light areas inside the circle were affected – that is why the lights look so vivid. If you cannot see what is happening, check Show Luminance Mask and watch as you move the sliders. Note: if you make a preset for these settings, be sure to turn off the Luminance Range Mask settings which is not needed for all image, and it will not looks right when you try to adjust the other sliders in the Radial Filter. For the preset the Radial Filter circle was left on the image with the above settings.
5. Last step involves using the Details panel and adjusting the Noise Reduction – in this case Luminance was 28 which is quite a bit and Contrast to 23. Then the Sharpening was set to 85. This is definitely a setting that you need to set yourself depending on your camera model and how much of a noise problem there is.
6. I made a preset (download shown above) with my settings so that I could reuse them on another image (with Luminance Range Mask off). Also, now that I was at a point where the image could be opened in Photoshop, it was opened sent over as a Smart Object (right click and select Edit In -> Open as Smart Object in Photoshop). This will open up ACR only if using RAW files. If needed, you can go back and adjust your settings in PS without going back to LR.
The following steps will vary depending on what will work with your image. For the one above, this is the workflow but the image below used totally different steps to remove noise and finish up the image.
7. In Photoshop the next thing done was try to sharpen and remove noise a little more by going into creating a duplicate layer and going into Topaz (for website see sidebar on my Tidbits Blog) Studio. Their AI Clear adjustment was selected and these settings were applied: Auto Noise Reduction and High Sharpening. The Precision Contrast Adjustment was added in Studio also and these settings were used: Micro, Low and Medium Contrast set to 0.30 and High set to -0.30. The last Adjustment selected was Dehaze set to a Strength of 0.52. Apparently their Dehaze filter is much superior to the one in Lightroom or ACR. I also find it is pretty good so I apply it using this filter.
8. Finished up with a Tone Curve to darken down the image to add contrast.
A couple things that can be also done to enhance these images. If another Radial Circle needs to be added to fix an image, go ahead and try it. To duplicate the one already in the preset, just right click it and select duplicate – then drag to the new location. If new settings need to be used, just click the New button. Also, add a Gradiant Filter or two if the foreground or background needs to be darkened some. And for the really hard to adjust area, just brush the settings in. Lightroom and Camera Raw are so flexible.
Below is another example of an image that was really bright yellow and did not look good at all.
This image followed pretty much the same steps as above – used the preset I created for the first image and just adjusted for this one. The Radial Filter had to be adjusted and the Luminance Range Mask set for this image. But this time in Photoshop, did a couple different things. Used Imagenomics Noiseware‘s default to remove more noise – it worked wonders! I always try different ways as sometimes one will not work but another will. This is not a new filter, but it is one of the best out there. The Fireworks was from Design Textures but it is pretty easy to create your own (see one of my older blogs called Faking Fireworks!). at A little clean up was done and the last step was to open up Topaz ReStyle and applied the City Lights II preset. A few sliders were adjusted in the plugin to tweek the colors. That is all that was done and the image now has a very Disney look. Below is the original image and another example of how Topaz ReStyle can change an image’s look, even a night one. This time the Royal Blue and Apricots preset was applied to give a much more Disney feel to it, but not what I would do to most of my nighttime images.
Technique may or may not work on every image, and the image needs to be really sharp to get good results. I have a few images where the noise just could not be removed, but most work pretty well with this preset and a few tricks in Photoshop.
Hope everyone will give this a try – it really surprised me how good some of my image could be. Hope everyone has a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd