In this post aerial photographer Cameron Davidson takes you through his process of turning his uncorrected rough-looking RAW file into a clean and magnificent full-res image of lower Manhattan.
Recently I shot aerials of New York City for a long-term personal project.¬†This is a view that many photographers have shot ‚Äď the southern tip of Manhattan showing The Battery and the Financial District.
This image was shot on a Hasselblad H1, 35mm lens and my trusty Leaf Credo 60. Supporting the camera and back was my Kenyon gyroscope. I was shooting from a turbine helicopter piloted by a friend who I have worked with for many years.
I will walk you through my process of taking the uncorrected RAW file to a final full-res image.
8 easy steps
First off, let’s look at this ugly mess of a RAW file.¬†The sky is too bright, the color is off and a bit green plus there are dust spots and lens corrections that need to be made.
Step 1: The first part of my process was to get my black point set and to knock down any glaring highlights that may be clipping. I set the black point to 5 and brought the highlight recovery up to 36. This brought the highlights down to 252/251.
Step 2: I then changed my ICC Profile to Leaf ProPhoto RGB and the curve to Credo 60 product.¬†This gives me a bit more contrast and a slight amount of magenta.
Step 3: Next up were lens corrections.¬†Capture One Pro 7 is able to correct the distortion in the Hasselblad 35mm lens easily.¬†I checked all three boxes: Chromatic Aberration, Purple Fringing and Hide Distorted Area (see below).
Step 4: Then I applied the keystone correction.¬†This is critical with aerials because you are often looking down on buildings, and it tends to push the perspective a bit when you shoot extreme wide-angle lenses. I am not looking for complete correction but more in line with bringing the image closer to how the eye sees and believes.
For this image I chose two buildings close to the center of the frame to use as the keystone reference.¬†If I had chosen buildings toward the edge of the frame, the corrections would tend to be too dramatic for my taste plus it would crop the image more than I want.¬†¬†Occasionally, the correction will shift the horizon to the left or right and a small correction will be needed.
Step 5: I like to spot an image before adding correction layers, major color corrections or gradients.¬†I use the Spot Removal Tool more than the Dust Tool even if it was a dust spot.¬†It just works for me.¬†The radius was a bit larger than the dust spots and yes, I did leave the airliner flying out of Newark Airport in the frame.
Step 6: After I finished spotting the sky,¬†I used one of my favorite tools in Capture One Pro 7: The Color Editor. In the advanced mode, I clicked on the center of the sky.¬†I pushed the smoothness up to 30, left the saturation alone (although I was tempted to push it up a bit) and dropped the lightness to 49.4.¬†¬†Without using the Gradient Tool, I was able to bring the sky color and tone down quite a bit by using this Color Editor.
Step 8: Then it was off to top half of the frame and bringing out the clouds with Clarity.¬†¬†This one is tough – you can easily overdo it easily and make your skies unbelievable.¬†¬†I added just a bit.
That‚Äôs it for this one.¬†¬†Clean, simple and easy.
Thank you to David Grover and Gitte Maj Nielsen from Phase One for asking me to participate in the Capture One Blog.