Now that the work on my new office is moving to contractors for a while, it’s letting me start thinking about photography again, and I’m starting to work on the Youtube channel again.

One of the things I plan on doing for the channel on a regular basis is showing how I take images out of the camera and turning them into final images, and teaching the techniques I use in processing them.

What I found when I started taking apart my processing habits I realized I’d fallen into a number of bad habits, because most of my images are used and seen online, I’d let myself get into a mindset of “this is good enough” unless I decided I wanted to print the image. In that case, I went through an enhanced processing to prepare it for print.

I came to the realization I needed to stop settling for “good enough”, and that I needed to tear apart my processing and fix it. That’s one of the things I’ve been doing in the background while working on the office and things like the upcoming SCVAS Birdathon (LINK).

The culprits in my lazy processing probably aren’t too surprising: it involved default values for clarity and vibrance and using some basic sharpening and noise reduction. Things looked good, but I realized I could make them better. The big change was going back and rethinking my sharpening completely and being more thoughtful about it on each image rather than bulk sharpening to generic values.

And then a funny thing happened. I started looking at images and deciding they really needed to be fixed. Take this one for example.

Immature Golden Eagle in Flight, Coyote Valley, San Jose, California

It’s a personal favorite. It’s one of the wallpapers on my computer, and I’ve printed it out and it lives proudly on my wall.

And the one day I looked at it and said to myself “huh. it needs more contrast”.

Why, after literally staring at it daily for months did I suddenly decide it needed to be reworked? I think in part because as I was working on fixing my sharpening habits it made me start rethinking what “good enough” meant to started getting me more throughful about what each image individually was capable of. And I’ve realized that my view of what that ‘good’ image should look like has shifted — for the better, I think.

Immature Golden Eagle in Flight

So after reprocessing it, here’s how it looks now.

What’s changed? If you compare the faces of the eagles, the processing of the face is almost identical. But there are a lot of changes across the rest of the image. I’ve raised the contrast a fair amount, and I’ve used a technique I’ve been experimenting with, which is using the dehaze command to tweak contrast and remove that greying that weak contrast and glare can cause. I opened up the shadows to lighten up the underside of the bird (after the dehaze darkened things) to tweak the relative contrast, then I worked on the sky, using a color filter to saturate and darken the blues. It’s also been resharpened but I have to be a bit careful there because of noise issues on the underside of the bird.

End result? I like it a lot. I liked the old one, but I think this one is a lot better.

There’s one thing about this image that still bothers me a tiny bit: the back of the wings and tail seem to glow a little bit. To me it looks like a processing flaw, but in fact this bird was backlit, and it’s the sun causing the glow from behind the bird. It does say something about the dynamic range of modern cameras that I could get this shot of a backlit bird in full sun and get this kind of nice detail out of it.

The downside of this relegation? Most of the images I look at right now that I’ve done seem to need work and more contrast. I’m trying tot resist falling down that rathole en masse, but I am starting to work through individual images as I want to use them.

I’m curious what people think: is the new version an improvement? What are your thoughts?