How do I get my photos to have that rich pro look?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by MacRy, Jun 1, 2013.

  1. MacRy macrumors 601


    Apr 2, 2004
    Like the title says - How can I achieve that glossy, creamy, saturated, shiny, Hollywood movie style look to my photos using only Photoshop Elements 6?

    I realise that description is a bit mental but it's the best way I can describe it without using photography terms that I clearly don't understand. I basically want my pictures to look like a Hollywood blockbuster. Not HDR, just really rich looking.

    I take photos that I think are quite nice but they don't have that punchy wow factor that you see in professional shots.

    Here's an example of one of mine that I'm sure in the right hands could look really cool but looks kind of muted and flat to me.


    Not the best example granted but it was for a comparison of say this shot by a forum member here that has beautiful colours and vibrancy.

  2. Phrasikleia macrumors 601


    Feb 24, 2008
    Over there------->
    It's mostly in the lighting. Good light at the moment of capture is essential to a really professional-looking photo. You can use software to emphasize good light and to finesse a photo's tonality, saturation, etc., but the good qualities need to be there in the raw data at the outset.
  3. MacRy thread starter macrumors 601


    Apr 2, 2004
    So living in the UK where it seems to be permanently overcast and raining is probably where I'm going wrong then! ;)

    I took this in some beautiful light but it still doesn't have that punchy, shiny look to it.

  4. Phrasikleia macrumors 601


    Feb 24, 2008
    Over there------->
    What in that photo do you expect to be punchy or shiny? You have a wire fence and a bunch of bare branches featured there. Your photos will only be as interesting as the subjects you choose to photograph. If you want to shoot in color, look for colorful subjects and shoot them in the light that best brings out their colors. If you want to shoot in B&W, look for subjects with interesting sculptural and textural qualities and shoot them in light that most emphasizes those qualities.
  5. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    1) Listen to Phrasikleia. She is an amazing photographer. Check out her photos. Now, pay attention to the kind of weather, and the time of day, that she was shooting in.

    2) Generally speaking overcast is actually better for what you want than sunny days. On a slightly to moderate overcast day the lighting is more even and less contrasty, whereas on a bright sunny day the lighting is usually too contrasty - too extreme - for the camera.

    Ironically, the scene you wanted to photograph (in the example above) was likely right behind you, where the lighting was coming from both the sun and being reflected from the sky.

    As Phrasikleia said - lighting is the key. So... forget (for the moment) about the camera specs, and the zoom factors, etc etc. Just read a bit about lighting. Things like Soft vs Hard, Diffused vs Point. Lighting angles that show texture vs flat lighting. Take a bunch of photos, paying attention to just the lighting. Leave the same lense on the camera so that the only thing that is changing is the lighting as you take different photos. On a regular basis, give yourself an assignment where you don't take good photos - but take photos of show different lighting well. Take photos of the same thing under different lighting. Take photos, even if you know they will be crappy, so you can compare with other photos that show different lighting. And sometimes you will be surprised. Study other people's photos that you like, and try to figure out the lighting. Study your own photos to figure out why you like one but not the other (due to the lighting). Post a few examples to this forum for comments... (the photographers here are a really good bunch - if I could collect them all in a beer hall somewhere for an evening, I would do so in a heartbeat!)

    It will take very little time to see an improvement in your photos, if you work at this. Be warned, though - it will take a lifetime to learn it all. We all learn new things about lighting all the time, no matter how long we have been doing. OK... I can't speak for anyone else. So, I am learning new things about light all the time - and I've been doing this professionally for over 20 years.

  6. El Cabong macrumors 6502a

    Dec 1, 2008
    "Good light" doesn't mean a particular time of day or a nice-looking sky. It has to do with how you use light - be it sunlight or artificial light - to properly accentuate your subject.

    It's something that has to be accomplished while taking the photo, and can't be added in using Photoshop or other software.
  7. MacRy thread starter macrumors 601


    Apr 2, 2004
    Thanks for the responses. It sounds like I really need to learn about lighting to get the most out of my photos. There's some great advice there. I'm guessing that the shots that I'm most pleased with we're probably as a result of accidentally stumbling across the right lighting conditions without actually realising it.
  8. Laird Knox macrumors 68000

    Jun 18, 2010
    It makes sense when you think about it. What are you doing when you take a picture? Recording light.
  9. Phrasikleia macrumors 601


    Feb 24, 2008
    Over there------->
    Thanks for your very kind words, snberk103!

    MacRy, this is exactly the advice that I give to anyone who wants to learn more about 'seeing' good light. I recommend starting with an outdoor subject that has good isolation and good access--something you can walk around and shoot from different angles without anything getting in the way. You could choose a statue in a big park, a lone tree in a field, a remote barn, etc. Just make sure it's something near where you live or work so that you can visit it easily and often. It also helps if you genuinely find the subject interesting, so choose wisely. Then make repeat visits during different times of the day (sunset, sunrise, golden hour, blue hour, etc.) and in different weather (partly cloudy, mostly clear, overcast, foggy, etc.), always taking at least one picture of the subject. Keep returning to that subject and keep studying your results until you have a 'eureka moment' that results in a particularly compelling photo. Then take what you have learned and see if you can get similar results with a different subject somewhere else. It won't take long before you start to see light in new ways and learn to anticipate its effects.

    By the way, this thread reminded me of one that Doylem started here late last year, in which he invited people to post photos of the same location taken in different types of light. It was a great thread that died far too soon. Check it out:
  10. eddieitman macrumors newbie

    Jun 1, 2013
    Mac Ray, where do i start and i dont want to come across as rude but are you doing any basic processing, Because that image looks like a straight jpg out of camera.
    Contrast, and microcontrst boost for a start of to get the pop.
    Also that image has a ton of grain in it and needs to be run through something like noise ninja,
    Adjust the EV a little and you start to get a bit better,
    Also what camera are you using as it does not seem very good with dynamic range (this may be turned off)
    Will do the best i can with poor size image and already compressed by web

    Attached Files:

  11. dmax35 macrumors 6502

    Jun 21, 2012
    I think your best bet is to try a variety of filters of applications on the market that will assist you in enhancement. I'm no expert to be giving photo advice, here's a quick example of what I quickly did with your photo in light room and photoshop. See if you can notice the difference.

    Like others have mentioned, Phrasikleia has a fantastic portfolio that can inspire you in the right direction.

    Attached Files:

  12. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    The light from an overcast sky is about as good as it gets. Especially for shooting digital (as if anyone still shoots film) The light from an over cast sky is soft and has low contract. It is about perfect for shooting pictures of flowers.

    Many people who don't have that light bring "silks" that they use to make a kind of tent over the subject.

    High contrast light, the kind you get on a clear sunny day at noon makes for blown out highlights and deep shadows, you want the clouds.

    Then you might add a small "catch light", maybe use a reflector or bounced flash.

    One way to think about light is "The size of the light source as seen from the subject" the larger the angle the softer the shows. Professionals will work to control this. They might pull a softbox in or out, to change it's angular size.

    The next thing you do to get that "look" is use a camera with larger pixels. THis will reduce the noise. And so will shooting at the lowest ISO you can.
  13. Doylem macrumors 68040


    Dec 30, 2006
    Wherever I hang my hat...
    The light in the UK is fantastic! Photographers come here from all over to world, to witness our 'four seasons in one day' weather. :)

    Too many photographers think "If only I lived somewhere else" or "If only had had a better camera", or some other excuse why their photographs aren't as good as they should be.

    As photography's one indispensible ingredient, light can be a lifetime’s fascination. It’s not digital (on/off), it’s analogue: an infinite number of gradations between light and dark, with so many subtleties and nuances.

    Most of us improve our photography in small increments, day by day, year by year. The biggest help, for me, was deciding to use a tripod all the time. It slowed me down and helped me to look harder. Any excuse to stand still and watch light chasing shadows across Lakeland fells...
  14. MacRy thread starter macrumors 601


    Apr 2, 2004
    Thanks for the advice everyone. I clearly have a lot to learn and will take what you have said on board and apply it to my photography.
  15. Cheese&Apple macrumors 68000


    Jun 5, 2012
    You've got some great feedback MacRy. I would also suggest that the punch you're looking for may also come from composition.

    Your shot of the pianist would look very different and may have that Hollywood feel if you tried a couple different shots:

    - slight upward angle shooting towards the player and tighter on his face to capture and emphasize the emotion or intensity of his playing
    - how about a shot over his shoulder looking down on his hands on the keys to emphasize the technical aspect of his playing.

    Myself...sometimes I get too caught up in all the technical stuff and forget that I want an image to tell a story or evoke an emotion.
  16. flynz4 macrumors 68040

    Aug 9, 2009
    Portland, OR
    Adding on to the comments above... I find the writing on the side of the piano to be a very strong element that pulls the eye away from subject. I do like to motion blur of people walking by... but it still is not compositionally correct.

    Regarding your original question (regarding what I think comes down to post processing)... I am not a very big fan of PSE. I would much rather have a good DAM (either Lightroom or Aperture3) and a good set of filter plug-ins. I happen to be fond of the Aperture/Nik Software Suite combination. I do not think that most amateurs need an expensive program such as PS.

  17. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    I admit I come from the days of working with film and dealing with colour separations, darkroom and the rest of the process.

    After moving to digital, I had to rethink quite a bit and I'll just give you the short version.

    1) What and how you shoot
    2) Post shoot digital enhancement

    The first item is about how you go about shooting subjects and understanding lighting.

    The second item is once you have created your digital images, what can you do to bring out the most in them. This can be as simple as using sharpness and contrast/saturation controls or filters....or learning some advanced techniques that will provide even greater control and superior output.

    One thing to be sure about it is far more about your own hands on with both than just picking up every suggestion. You can have two people with the same knowledge shoot the same subject and get different results. You can use various tools and yet another will use the same and get different results.

    In your case, go for learning how to handle light and your camera/lens combination for the best or most optimal images and then consider some simple software tools to start. Some here will suggest Aperture or Lightroom with some filters and that is a good start. I would also suggest looking into Pixelmator (sp). If you want to use a "big" program but can't afford Photoshop, consider GIMP which is free. GIMP has a somewhat steep learning curve but if you are doing a specific type of modifications to your images, then you may find after the first couple of successes you will get a pattern/workflow that speeds up everything.

    My workflow - straight Photoshop. I have DxO, Aperture and Lightroom and find that I normally end up in Photoshop and after awhile, learned I can simply address everything directly in Photoshop and catalogue images in my own way with fast lookups. Others will find Aperture and Lightroom as a good catalogue management tool for images and they are correct.

    To take photos - you will want to get a decent camera and a decent lens to match. These items don't have to be professional level (cost) but you need to understand your selection of tools and how to use them. Today's cameras are capable of taking some amazing shots that were only in the realm of medium format years ago. If you stay with your camera/lens set up, consider how light works, what is the best combination of f-stops/ISO for the use of your lens and if your lens is a zoom which part of the zoom range has the sharpest image and least distortion and colour fringing.

    A great deal can be found on the Internet about cameras and lenses and what is the best and worst facets of a particular brand/model and similar with lenses.

    Just my two cents.
  18. Rowbear macrumors 6502a


    Apr 14, 2010
    Gatineau, PQ, Canada
  19. zombiecakes, Jun 2, 2013
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2013

    zombiecakes macrumors regular

    Jul 11, 2012
    Photoshop has an adjustment layer for color grading called color lookup, its a quick way to give images more punch. Its the same thing they use for video production to make dull raw video look more cinematic. Remember that you can adjust the opacity to make the effect less harsh.
  20. MacRy thread starter macrumors 601


    Apr 2, 2004
    That's just the kind of thing I'm after. Looks like i'll need t start saving for CS6 now then.

    I've had a play around with levels and contrast etc. to see what I can do with my images and I'm getting a different look to the out of camera images, which I'm a bit happier with. First attempts and all and I can only improve.


  21. joemod macrumors regular

    Jun 8, 2010
    Athens, Greece
    As Flynz4 said you probably won't need CS6. Let me present some reasons:
    1) Lightroom or Aperture are far cheaper with pretty much all the tools that 95% (arbitrary internet number) of photographers need to post process their pictures.
    2) CS6 is the last version of non subscription photoshop Adobe will sell. I am not sure if it is a a good idea to invest in a program which won't receive any updates in the future (unless you go cloud)
    3) Lightroom 5 has a public beta version. You can pretty much check if it suits your needs
    4) Photoshop has a big learning curve in my humble opinion and you need to invest a lot of time in it in order to produce great results. As many would say you better spend that time being outside taking photos.
  22. sim667 macrumors 65816

    Dec 7, 2010
    Just to clarify, overcast is actually a better lighting condition than bright sunlight.

    Bright sunlight is a very harsh light, and will provide extreme darks and extreme lights. You have to remember that you camera will only have a range of about six stops, so shooting in harsh light will place the darker areas and the light areas out of your tonal range.

    Overcast grey light whilst may not look that interesting, is much more likely to light your object within the tonal range that you're able to use. This means it captures more detail which you can then work on in photoshop/the darkroom to get the best out of your images.

    Learn to control your exposure and meter properly, the rest will come.

    Also try using curves instead of contrast ;)
  23. MacRy thread starter macrumors 601


    Apr 2, 2004
    Thanks guys, some more great advice :)

    I'll have to download the trial version of Lightroom to see if it meets my needs.
  24. leighonigar macrumors 6502a

    May 5, 2007
    I'm a fairly middling amateur photographer, but I have two pieces of advice:

    1. When working on an image, do an edit and then come back to it later. What looked better during fiddling often turns out to be in appallingly bad taste on reflection.

    2. Unless you're doing something intentionally wacky (i.e. photomontage) the original image needs to be 95% there to begin with. You need to put the time in before you hit the shutter button. The idea, the composition, the light, they all need to be right at the moment your camera clicks. If they're not, you cannot fix them afterwards.
  25. Hankster macrumors 68020


    Jan 30, 2008
    Washington DC
    That's my cigar photo. There are two primary items on my mind when taking a serious photograph: Lighting and angle. Both can make or break your photograph.

    And as Phrasikleia stated raw is the best. Keep in mind Adobe has gone to a full subscription based service. You can have PhotoShop for only $19 a month.

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