What I learned from shooting a popular historical site on a sunny day and then later editing the photos.
Before my notes on the shoot and post-production, I'll let you review the photos first. I've roughly ordered them as you would encounter each section of the shrine going on a walking tour.
- Camera: iPhone XS Max (just using the standard camera app)
- Lens: I had bought a clip-on lens after hearing various iPhone photographers saying how much of a difference they made to their photos. However, I discovered that it wasn't ideal for the XS Max since it has two lenses. Those clip-on lenses seem to be made for single-camera phones. Didn't want it to go to waste, so gave it to my colleague and he's making great use of it on his older iPhone.
- Conditions: It was a beautiful blue-sky day and we were at the shrine from around 9 AM to 10 AM. Being early summer, the sun was already quite high in the sky, so there were a lot of shadows.
I took most of the photos, but several were contributed by colleagues. I imported all photos into Photos for macOS and moved them into an album. This allowed me to group similar photos together and remove redundant ones. I also used the following apps within Photos for a smoother workflow and retaining the ability to compare the results to the original photo. It also gave the option of returning to the original photo if I lost my way (which I did on once or twice!).
Although it was a bright sunny day, the darker parts and shadows ended up with substantial noise. I used Topaz Labs' DeNoise AI on most of the photos. My 2016 MacBook Pro can handle the rendering without crashing, but since it's so slow, it's not easy to play around with the settings much. If I turned the de-noising up too far, things looked too smooth. If I turned up the sharpness too much, it looked unnatural also. And, the setting for adding detail just seemed to add noise. That said, this tool will be pretty amazing once I upgrade to a faster machine, and their AI improves.
On most of the images, I ran Photolemur. This software works best on ultra high-resolution landscape shots that were dark. However, for these kinds of photos, I found it would over-do the sky blue, the shrine's red paint, and the green of the plant. Often, I'd let it run at full blast but then come back to turn down the contrast, one color at a time, using Photos for macOS.
I used the macOS version of TouchRetouch to remove clutter and other items for an overall cleaner look.
I used to love HDR and over-saturation, but gradually, I've come to appreciate the atmosphere and mood that can be created by allowing for shadows and darker tones. Many great photographers on Unsplash have mastered this, and so, I'm keen to explore more of this look. However, this time, the shoot was for my client, so I couldn't get overly artistic. I just went for a more realistic look.
Sometimes the built-in filters of Photos for macOS hit the spot. The only problem is their intensity can't be adjusted. So, I use Polarr's macOS app for filters. I took a long time to get into doing this, but I now have the selection process down. It's still tedious, though, and it's interesting to note that several apps are now appearing that will recommend filters based on your photo. However, I haven't had much luck with such apps to date, and I guess there's no accounting for individual taste.
I shared the photos on my client's various social media and their Unsplash. The latter will likely reject a few, allow most to be kept on the profile, and hopefully add a few to their search indexing. We'll see.
We also took a few group photos. The lighting, focus, resolution, and noise factors weren't good. I struggled to make significant improvements, so hired a Photoshop guru on Fiverr. He goes by the moniker of Star Lion and is based in the Ukraine. I've used him quite a few times in the past and he's one of the top freelancers on the platform.
His edits were better than what I could do, but I still played around with the above-mentioned tools to see if any further improvements could be made. We kept the finals for internal sharing via Slack.
As for sharing photos of staff publicly, there's usually one or more who don't want their face to be shown, so I use BeFunky's Oil Painting DLX filter to obscure their features. I even used it on photos where people had their backs to me because sometimes people can be sensitive even about that. In any case, I think they turned out quite well.