Deke’s Techniques 203: Developing a Dramatic Castle in Adobe Camera Raw

My dear dekeO’politans, are you in the St. Patrick’s Day spirit yet? It’s just our luck that Deke has decided that this week’s Deke’s Techniques episode features an Irish castle that we stumbled upon on our trip to the Emerald Isle. In this week’s video, you’ll see how Deke took that ordinary vacation photo and turned it into this dramatic image (complete with mysterious woman in red on the left.)

How did Deke turn the interesting but nondescript photo shown below into the dramatic photo above? With the help and power of Adobe Camera Raw. Here is the original inside the ACR interface, ready for its makeover:

Read on to witness the transformation of this “Oh, pull over, this looks mildly interesting” photo into the dramatic “Oh, this is why we came to Ireland” landscape:

1) Start with Lens Correction.

Open your image in ACR. The easiest way to ensure this happens is to select your image in Bridge and choose File > Open in Camera Raw.

Start by clicking the Lens Correction tab on the right and turning on the Enable Lens Profile Corrections checkbox you’ll find at the top. This is the easiest way to quickly correct lens distortion (presuming ACR is familiar with your particular lens.)

2) Remove any chromatic aberrations.

Click the Color tab in the Lens Corrections pane and turn on the Remove Chromatic Aberration checkbox. As you can see in the image below (zoomed into the flagpole detail for the sake of illustration), this removes the slight magenta aberration (best seen on the left edge of the flagpole) and the slight cyan coloring (on the right edge of the flagpole). The shift is slight in this example, but given that it’s just a matter of clicking a check box, it’s worth leveraging ACR to make this quick adjustment.

3) Adjust the warmth to taste.

In Deke’s case, shifting the White Balance to taste almost always means “make the image warmer.” To make the change, he shifted to the Basic tab and set the temperature to 59 degrees. Then, he lowered the Tint to 15 in order to remove a bit of Magenta cast brought on by warming the photo.

4) Adjust the Exposure and tonal settings.

Or rather, adjust the tonal settings, then rethink the Exposure. The heavy drama of the final effect is primarily supplied by adjusting the next set of sliders in the Basic pane of ACR. Deke changed the Contrast up to 7, the Clarity to 4. and the Vibrance to 25.

To offset the brightening of some of the whiter stones brought on by these changes, Deke ends up lowering the Exposure to -.15. In the video, you can see how he uses the Alt (Option)-click option on this slider to check for blown highlights and find just the right Exposure setting.

5) Sharpen the image.

Next, you’ll want to switch to the Details tab to sharpen the image appropriately. As you can see in the comparison below, over-sharpening can lead to basically sharpening things that aren’t there (hence, the “worms” in the sky on the left.) Dialing the Detail slider back gives you the best “sharpening what should be sharp” effect.

6) Bump up the Saturation of specific colors.

ACR has a handy tab in which you can adjust the saturation of specific colors in your image, via the HSL tab. In this case, increasing the Saturation of the Orange (to 5) and the Blues (to 35) keeps the colors dramatic but not insane.

ACR is great for adjusting photographic aspects, but to add a border you’ll want to leverage the Canvas options in Photoshop proper. To bring your image into Photoshop for and yet leave it editable (should you decide to go crazy in ACR later), hold the Shift key and note that the Open Image button turns into Open Object. Once you do that, you can apply a white background and build your border via the Transform command and some careful deletion of the edges.

And here are the dramatic results properly situated inside a meticulous border,

Of course, Ireland, and County Clare in particular, is a land rich with these side-of-the-road photo opportunities. For a look at the other treasures we found that day, check out this recap from our trip (and note how I could have used a bit of Chromatic Aberration help from my iPhone photos.) Sláinte!

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    This is exactly what I asked for! (You are listening… right?... and many thanks!)
    Even more basic Photoshop workflow stuff for photographers PLEASE…
    We love it.
    Bob (in the UK)

  • Good feedback, Bob from UK

    Which only makes me want to apologize for the Illustrator graphic frenzy I’m about to post.

  • Great Workflow, Thank you

    Another great tutorial, thank you. It’s always interesting to watch someone’s workflow and approach to an image.

    Bit of a Photoshop nut.

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