Creating a compelling photo with every-day subjects can be extremely difficult. Take for example, the venerable tulip. It has been photographed in every conceivable way you can imagine. I’ve seen photos of tulips splashing in water, upside down, against black backgrounds, against the blue sky, and repeating in patterns of giant fields as far as the eye can see. How do you create something visually compelling that has been photographed literally millions of times? The answer isn’t always in taking the photo, but rather in what you do after you take the photo.
I took these two images (above and below) yesterday while practicing my “Program Mode” photography from May’s GOAL Assignment. I knew that the images weren’t going to be anything special in the camera, but I had an idea about making the flowers appear metallic. Perhaps with just the right amount of post-processing I could create something fascinating.
Capturing the Image
As you know, the great end result always depends on a great initial photo. Therefore, make sure that your photo is well exposed and in sharp focus. In this case, I used a Nikon D7000 and an ISO of 400. Since I’m spending this month shooting in Program Mode, I set my camera to “P” and began different compositions. As I took the shots, I verified that my shutter speed was high enough so I wouldn’t get any blurriness from camera shake. Oh, I also turned on Vibration Reduction just to make sure my images were sharp.
Here are the two original images as captured in the camera.
Turning Tulips to Metal
The next step was to bring the photos into post processing software. I regularly use Lightroom, Photoshop and Nikon Capture NX2 about equally in my workflow and they all do a great job. I knew that I wanted to use the solarization filter in Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0 to create the metallic effect. I also knew that I wanted to darken down the green leaves in the background. For me, the fastest and easiest way to perform these two actions was in Nikon Capture NX2 since it works with Nik’s Color Efex Pro 3.0 plug-in and it has the amazing Color Control Point technology.
Here’s my step-by-step process in Capture NX2:
1. Choose multiple Color Control Points and place them on the green leaves and background (shown below). Reduce the brightness, or”B,” slider which changes the brightness of the selected areas.
2. Click the New Step button to add a new Adjustment Step. From the pull-down menu, choose Color Efex Pro 3.0: Stylizing –> Solarization. See example below.
3. Now, you’ll need to adjust both the Saturation slider and the Elapsed Time slider (below) until you’re happy with the result. There isn’t a magic formula here so keep playing until you like what you see.
4. Done! That’s it. Now, save the photo or print it out and you have your metallic tulips! If you don’t have Nikon Capture NX2, that’s ok. You can do these exact same things in Photoshop, Lightroom or Aperture. In fact, Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0 is a plug-in that works in all four of these host programs.
Never forget that the process you apply after you take the photo is just as important as the process of taking the photo. I think it is important for us to “see with post processing eyes” so we can always be thinking about where to take our images and how to create something new.