Almost exactly 4 years ago, I finally took the plunge and found myself a model for my first ever people shoot. I had been a bit scared before – insecure, if I would meet my expectations and be able to create something unique, special when shooting with someone – other than shooting landscapes or urban environments that don’t move or complain or have moods. Mo – a young man who used to live in Munich, offered to collaborate with me and we decided to drive to a location south of Munich – a small town called Holzkirchen. There’s an amazing little lake there with a wooden jetty. I prepared for a sunrise shoot and figured everything out – where do we need to be and when, where will the sun rise, what do I want in my frame and so on.
The day came and I was SO nervous – I got up at 3 am I think and packed all my stuff. We weren’t supposed to meet until 5.30 or so. The drive down there took 1 hour and then we started to set everything up…well – at least I did. Mo was trying to stay warm as it was really cold that morning in mid September. We started warming up with some easy shots as the sun was still hiding behind that hill. Mo even got into the water for some shots – I honestly have no idea how he did this without his face bursting out in all sorts of weird expressions. He kept his cool and held his straight face all the way through the shoot.
Then slowly the sun began to rise over the hilltop and the scene I had in mind was about to unfold. I shot a series of frames and exposures to be able to blend everything together in Photoshop later and that was basically the end of the shoot. After getting dressed and packed up, we drove back to Munich to get a nice hot coffee and review the images real quick on the back of my cam. I was pretty happy with the results as you can imagine and so I went back home to edit the material.
Now – 4 years ago I didn’t have A SINGLE clue about what I was doing. Yes – I knew Photoshop pretty well. I am a certified trainer after all. But the main area I used Photoshop for until that day, was for webdesign or some minor editing. Anyhow – I started to work with Lightroom (absolute beginner on that one, too) and edited the shots a bit and then I took them into some sort of HDR processing software – I don’t really remember which one it was. It took me almost 2 hours to get the result I wanted and thought, looked good. That shoot started a passion and over 4 years and 50 shoots later, I have changed. I changed my editing style as I learned more and more about retouching, I changed shooting style getting to know my camera and gear better and I changed visual style…always striving to get better and refine my skills.
Today I wanted to see, how much I had changed. I took the old RAW files (you can see all 6 of them necessary for this photo at the top) and reset EVERYTHING! From basic adjustments to camera calibration or sharpening. I started from scratch to see where this picture would take me with what I know now.
I am pretty impressed about how different the photos turned out. The old one looks very over-processed and rough – way to gritty for my taste now. The new version is much more harmonious and dreamy – just as I remember that cold but stunning morning in 2012.
But now I want to show you the before and after. Feel free to drop me a comment below – I’m curious to hear your opinion about the two shots and edits. Notice the amount of layers that I used to edit both of the shots.
If you want to see, how I did the whole editing, check out this video I uploaded to Youtube. The editing took me 44 minutes total in Lightroom and Photoshop and no external HDR software. This image was shot with my Nikon D7000 and a 18-105 mm lens.