My RWA editing workflow

Okay, hi everybody!

I have recently seen a lot of guides on how to photograph aircraft and everything surrounding that. For me, the photo is the base and with the potential of raw-files you can do so much more with your photos. I strongly encourage everyone to edit their photos, it can be the other half of the photo. I also strongly suggest to shot in RAW.

So, on topic. I’d like to show you my workflow of editing aviation. We’ll start with how I organize my photos (which btw is quite fun) all the way to sharpening. Before I do anything more I want to just cover up for a small misconception that many have. There are a lot of people who think that you really need to have a beefy computer for editing. That is not true. I will give you my specs straight off;

iMac (early 2008)
2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
4 GB DDR2 RAM
ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT 128 MB graphics card.

So yeah, this is a nearly 10 year old computer, and it does involve some more waiting but I’m on summer-break so time is fortunately not an issue. :)

Organizing

I use Lightroom CC (2015) and Photoshop CC (2017). These are the two programs you are able to get with the Adobe Photography Plan. For a reasonable price you get these two (amazing) editing softwares where the sky is certainly not the limit. I organize all my photos here and the planespotting-pictures are just a small part of my ever-growing collection. Regarding aviation-photos I name them with the IATA airport code along with the date, like this:

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I also tag all my photos with appropriate keywords and name each photo with the registration. With LRs powerful exporting tools I can later export the file with the name I enter here.

This is great because I am able to pull any registration out of my database at any time within seconds and start to edit, and export within a few more seconds.

Lightroom editing

This is the photo I am going to edit today:

It’s a photo of OY-KBB taken at Split Airport a little over a week ago. I begin with making some basic adjustments like adjusting exposure, WB, whites, blacks and adding just a bit of clarity to make it pop a little. I also make sure to enable Profile Corrections and Remove chromatic aberration.

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I am pretty much done already in Lightroom so I’ll go onto Photoshop where I do most of the editing.

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Photoshop editing

I quickly want to take a minute to explain my workflow in photoshop. It begins with a levels adjustment and continues on with noise reduction. After that I add my own personal digital footprint to the photo and then sharpen. After this the photo goes back into LR. Sometimes there might be a distracting foreground element which I will then have to remove using different tools.

Here is my interface within Photoshop. I could not change the language but it should be pretty easy to understand nonetheless.

As I said, I begin with a levels adjustment by pressing the little lines adjacent to each others in the adjustments menu. image

If you do not see this panel, go into Window -> Adjustments and tick the box. I then adjust the sliders on the left and right to my liking.

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This gives some basic contrast to the whole picture. After this I now have two layers. If you do not see the layers menu go into Window -> Layers.

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I merge down with Cmd (or Ctrl) + E to get only one layer. In this example I do not care about the changes being destructive.

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After the levels adjustment it’s time for Noise Reduction or NR for short. For this I use the Nik Collection Dfine 2. This is nowadays a free software obtainable here. Unfortunately it was made free because google stopped working on it so further updates are no more.

Once in Dfine 2 I usually leave it to the software to decide where to take the sample points. It usually does a pretty job and 19 out of 20 times I donut need to touch the photo here.image

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Once again I merge down with the top layer selected inside Photoshop using Cmd (or Ctrl) + E.

It’s now time to add some color, major contrast and other small things to really make the image great. For this I use Color Efex Pro 4, also available in the link above via the Nik Collection.

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The interface can be a bit confusing at first but as time passes you get used to it. You basically have your filters and recipes (presets) on the left and active filters on the right.

In this example I do not like the blue tint that the Brilliance & Warmth filter applied to the aircraft, so I add a small negative control point which removes the effect from the aircraft.

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I add my usual filters and press OK in the bottom right.

I merge down again and here is the result:

Sharpening

It’s time for sharpening and for this I use a high-pass filter.

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Radius goes to 0.3 pixels.

EDIT: Yes, I later noticed that I accidentally applied 3 pixels when it was meant to be 0.3 pixels.

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Blending mode is set to “Hard Light”.

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Layer mask is made so that I can selectively apply sharpening. I also invert the mask by pressing Cmd (or Ctrl) + I.

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I select the brush and set the foreground color to white as I am painting on a black mask. Remember “White reveals, black conceals”.

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I paint where sharpening is needed and then merge again. I do the same procedure again with the high-pass filter except this time radius is 0.4 or 0.5 depending on how much sharpening is needed still and blending mode is this time “Soft Light”.

Once I have applied the sharpening and flattened the layers I press Cmd (or Ctrl) + S to save picture back into Lightroom and then it’s in Lightroom until I decide to export it.

Here is a before and after:

Thanks for reading! Have nice day/evening.

17 Likes

Holy wow!

That’s a lot for just one photo 😂
I suppose you get used to it over time and it becomes less difficult…

2 Likes

Yea, after some time it goes really fast. One photo to make takes between 5-20 minutes depending on how much effort I put into it.

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I personally hate editing because it makes the aircraft look unnatural. Jetphotos will not accept photos that have been overly edited. I will only edit to correct a few lighting flaws in my photos. But, it’s whatever floats your boat.

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I wonder from who ;). I personally really like your editing guide. It goes into great detail, but only if your into that stuff.

Yea, this is one thing I forgot to include in this guide. I mean editing is very subjectional, some love it, some hate it. It’s just the way it is, I suppose.

1 Like

Exactly, and while your edited photo is amazing, it does look overly sharp and shiny. It’s just editing :)

The reason for this is because I sharpened before taking the screenshot, and my screen size is smaller so it basically makes the picture smaller which compresses it weirdly and yeah. So this is mainly just because I’ve uploaded it to the web in this super-small size.

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Good stuff! I really enjoyed reading through all of that information. I’ve only recently begun editing photos, thanks for the tips!

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Your welcome. Thanks for reading!

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Am I the only one who doesn’t like editing on real life photos?

Sometimes you can’t avoid editing if you get the settings like exposure wrong. Or the weather is foggy and you want to dehaze it…
I do agree overediting is not good

2 Likes

Goodness me, that is an extremely involved editing process. I generally use some presets in Lightroom or custom edit it and then apply the settings to all of the photos in a particular session. I try to process about 300 aviation pictures per hour (12 seconds per picture).

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Oh the joys of editing! May I ask, how long did that particular one take? I agree, over editing wouldn’t be accepted on JP.net etc, but it makes shots look so much better😍

I had to do everything without my macros plus take all the screenshots for you so about 35 mins. Normally down to 10-15.

I know that. Jetphotos is no longer my aim, I believe that those shots are quite dull and boring most of the times. ;)

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