Long exposure shots are nice and quite frankly a loooot of fun. At least when you finally meet somebody that teaches you how to do it. I’m not gonna lie, for a long time I used mainly the P mode in my Nikon (P for Program Automatic) and while I still felt that I was getting good results, a new world opens up when you finally start shooting in half or full manual mode (thanks to Julio who taught me).
SHOOTING: WAITING FOR THE BLUE HOUR
For my last Frankfurt shooting we met shortly before sunset to make use of the blue hour that lasts usually around half an hour after sunset (golden hour is half an hour before sunset). In doubt, check this calculator, works perfect for me.
DATA: CAM // LENS // EXIF
Nikon D7200 // Sigma 10-20mm F3.5 // f/11 20s ISO100 10mm
RESULT Out of Cam (OOC)
BASIC IMAGE PROCESSING IN CAMERA RAW
The result out of cam without any editing is not bad but nothing like what you usually see around the internet which can actually be very frustrating. Believe me, I understand that very well, I’m trying with every new picture to get better and better. So this here is not coming from an expert, but from someone that is sharing what he’s learning along the way with you.
My first step is to open the RAW file in Adobe Camera Raw (opens immediately when you drag the file into Photoshop). Looks ok, not great. Here are my steps to improve the shot:
- Lens correction: if you’re using a current model it is likely that the lens will be detected and distortion and vignetting will be corrected atomatically
- In the basic settings, I start correcting by bringing highlights and whites a little down, while bringing shadows a bit up. I also bring up clarity quite a bit and vibrance a little. Although I’m a huge fan of contrast, with night shots, I usually take it down a bit. In this case, increasing the exposure also seems suitable.
- Going to HSL, adjust colors simply to how they seem right to you. Some people hate green, some don’t like orange or yellow. You’re free to work on saturation and luminance of each color and even shift single colors. Here, I’m going mainly for a more intense blue.
- Final step: adding a little sharpening, but careful to not sharpen the whole piece (masking amount high) and the radius not too much (around 1,8 is usually the max)
RESULT AFTER CAMERA RAW
I also learned (again, thanks to Julio), that a great and easy way to give architecture pictures a stronger impact is to straighten buildings in Photoshop, especially because of the distortion coming from wide angle lenses. In this case, let us leave it like that, the distortion seems quite ok for me.
Let’s see if we make these editing instructions a regular thing.