Back again! It seems that I am going to have some extended downtime (won't be shooting everyday:( ), but my wonderful wife is getting me an XBOX, Battlefield 3 and Oblivion Skyrim this week, so I will have something to keep me busy, lol.
Now that I got that out of the way, I worked a photo in Photoshop and took screen shots to show you how I went about this particular image. Just keep in mind that each photo I approach differently. Before I get too ahead of myself, some info. I use the Nik software (which is SPECTACULAR) on most of my images. I try not to go overboard on anything; such as over saturation, contrast, ect. I am not a fan of HDRi at all. I understand that it can be helpful for getting shadow details back, but I think manual blending of multiple exposures renders MUCH better results, or even dual "processing" a single RAW file works just as well.
I also contacted Tony Kuyper. He is a bad-ace photographer based out of the SW. Over the last 6+ years, he has (with the help of others') written "actions" for photoshop. They are great, and the explanation on what they do and how to use them is excellent. To be honest, I don't know what 90% of them do..meaning I don't use most of what I bought. The photo I worked on here, I didn;t touch any of the curves. I try to get the best exposure I can in camera, and try not to rely on photoshop if I can. Don't get me wrong, I am not a "naturalist" or against Photoshop/etc at all, it is just that I am still learning the more advanced (and even basic, lol) techniques..so I keep it as simple as I can on my self. I do use the web sharpening (less halos) on all my photos I post online. I do adjust the amount via the sliders.
Now for printing, I do NOT use the Tony Kuyper sharpening actions. I use Niks' RAW Output sharpening. It works super well. There are settings in there you fill in (such as paper type, file size, sliders), but I will make a post about using the Nik Output in a bit. Also, there are a ton of different options for sharpening. I just found that his actions are really helpful and easy!
So here is what I did, step by step. Let's hope that I post them in order. I will add a photo where I did more to it, as I really didn't do a whole lot to this one.
First step I do is to get rid of the dust bunnies. I then will level the horizon - which I ALWAYS have problems with. The irony is that BOTH my head and tripod have level bubbles on them. After messing with the horizon, I will save the image to a PSD. That way off I mess up, I just simply go back and re-open. Also if there is a crash of Photoshop (which is super stable on my new 2011 iMac running Lion and CS4 Master Suite), I have a backup.
After saving, depending on the photo, I will use the TK actions for curves. He has a TON of them, so I will usually mess around with several of them until I get the result I am happy with. The beauty of RAW and digital in general! Then I will open Nik (which you have the option to buy it for Aperture, LightRoom or Photoshop I believe..I use PS) and adjust the colors and sometimes contrast values.
Next I will add a border around the photo and add my signature that I scanned. Then I run the TK sharpening and save for web. Here are the photos..