In this post we’ll be looking at a Raw editing example that I created in darktable.
This is a pretty dynamic action shot: the kid running, the two coaches giving instructions, the rest of the team huddled up against the wire.
However, there are also a bunch of distractions: the cars and parking lot, the guy walking way on the right, and the yellow tape.
My plan for the photo was to emphasize the elements that I liked, and to tone down or remove the distractions. A lot of elements would be cropped out. Others would be de-emphasized. Everything would be done in darktable.
1. Import into darktable
With darktable’s default edits (white balance, base curve, highlights, and a little sharpening), the picture looked a lot less appealing than the preview above.
2. Adjust white balance
The camera white balance looked a little off to me, so I bumped up the temperature ~200K to 5851K
3. Bump contrast via tone curve
To make the keys elements in the picture “pop”, I turned off the base curve and moved over to the tone curve. The high contrast setting had a nice effect, de-emphasizing a lot of the shadow details, but I wanted more so I dragged the bottom part of the curve down a little further.
The end result is much more stylized than the original, but I kind of like it. Note how a lot of the distractions in the team shelter have disappeared into the shadow.
Cropping removed a lot of distractions, especially from the car park. It would have been nice to have more space on the right side for the coach to be looking into, but you gotta make the best with what you’ve got.
I aligned the edge of the pitch with the bottom 1/3 grid-line, and I also lopped off a bunch of the kids (all of them seemed too distracting).
5. Further shadow darkening
I still wanted to tone down shadow distractions further, so I switched over to the shadows and highlights module. The default settings had to be changed so that the shadows were darkened rather than lightened.
6. Tone down car
There was no way to get rid of the whole car park without removing the coach, yet he is one of the most powerful parts of the picture.
Unfortunately the red car left in the car park draws the eye away from the action. To tone it down, I drew a mask over it and then went into the colour zones module and decreased the saturation of the reds within that mask.
It’s still not perfect, so I also decreased the exposure within the same mask.
7. Improve the coach
As I mentioned earlier, the coach is one of the key elements of the picture. However, the tone curve edits had darkened his face so that his expression was much less visible. Simple to improve by increasing the exposure within a circular mask over his face.
8. Bump up the saturation
The colours were looking a little muted – a boost to the saturation of the picture helped:
9. The devil’s in the details
I turned on the lens correction and chromatic aberration modules, because why not? As you might, the picture was also pretty noisy by now, especially in the shadows where the histogram had been especially stretched.
I tried the profiled denoising module, but had to use a very low amount to avoid obliterating details in the rest of the picture. As you can see, it’s an improvement but not perfect.
To emphasize the subject a little more, I turned on the vignette module.
As you can see, not only does this draw the eye centrally, but it also darkens the red car a little more.
11. Final touches and export
The last changes were to turn on the local contrast and sharpness modules (left at the default settings), to make the picture pop just a little more, and then I exported it as a Jpeg:
If you have any comments, suggestions, or criticisms, let me know in the comments. In the next post I’ll show a radically different version of the same image.