Six Editing Tips for Cleaner Nature Photos
In this tutorial, we’re going to make some quick and simple adjustments to a close-up flower photograph using ACDSee Photo Studio Professional 2020 and its powerful Develop Mode.
By making a few color adjustments and altering the light levels in the photograph, we will retain detail in the delicate petals of the flower and mimic a warm film look by adding a color Photo Effect before introducing some grain. We’ll also be using the Repair tool to remove distracting elements and use some simple effects to draw attention to the main subject, the flower near the center of the frame.
Despite the excellent tools available to us in this software, this kind of image can easily be over-edited because of the delicate, white petals on the wood anemone flower, so let’s take a look at how to retain this while getting the best out of ACDSee Photo Studio Professional 2020’s Develop Mode.
1. White Balance
First, we want to work from an accurate color balance. Go to the White Balance panel and use the eyedropper tool (automatically selected) to highlight the white petals somewhere near the middle of the flower. This is the warmest part of the flower color-wise and will keep the pure whites white. This allows the shade to render as a pale blue, as it would naturally.
Don’t worry if it makes the image bluer initially, as the warmth in the image will come from the greens and yellows in the foliage and stamen, respectively, on the flower itself. After clicking on the center of the white petals, notice how our Temperature slider has adjusted. It now reads at 5,563K and 25 on the scale, with the Tint slider now at 14. We kept the Strength slider at 100, because we wanted the white balance to be accurate, not blended with the original, incorrect balance.
2. Light EQ™
Next, we’ll alter the light levels using the Light EQ™ tool. It works via patented technology that allows full control over the light levels in the image without affecting other areas. For example, we can brighten dark areas without changing light areas and vise versa.
Its default state is to display the Basic Mode, where Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights sliders alter corresponding light levels in the image. However, click the drop-down arrow, and we’re met with two other modes: Standard and Advanced. All modes are customizable by clicking and/or dragging on the image, but Standard and Advanced modes visually emulate that of a sound equalizer and have an interactive histogram. This allows you to fine-tune small bandwidths of light, increasing or decreasing them.
For this project, though, let’s stick with the Basic Mode and set -25 Shadows to darken them to reduce detail in those areas and +25 Midtones to brighten the rest of the image. Leave Highlights alone as the white petals are already as bright as possible before overexposure.
3. Crush the Dark Areas
We specifically darkened the shadows in the last step to reduce detail in those areas, because in this step, we’ll force these darker areas to turn gray to create a matte tone.
Under the Tone Curves panel and in Standard Curve, make an anchor point on the histogram two squares in and two squares up. Next, click on the bottom left anchor point and raise it up until the dark areas look quite gray. Notice how the curve line above the anchor point is automatically bent. Click on that upper portion of the line and drag that up to create an S-shaped curve to keep the rest of the image bright and punchy.
Step 4. Add Some Effects
In the Effects panel, we’re met with four variables to experiment with. Photo Effect is an effect preset: tick the box to turn it on, then click on the drop-down arrow to see all available presets. The > button allows us to change the preset opacity and blending mode. With the Sophia effect selected, keep the blending mode set to Normal, but reduce the opacity to 20%. This way, Sophia adds a touch of a pinkish hue to the shadows without influencing the color of the entire image too strongly.
If you’d prefer to overlay a block color or gradient, then click on the relevant setting below the Photo Effect option. Additionally, you can add Grain to your image. In this project, we want to mimic a film look, so increase the Grain Amount to 10. Lower Grain Smoothing to 15 for added grit, and change Grain Size to 15 for a finer, more polished finish.
5. Post-Crop Vignette
We’ll use a vignette to darken the outer edges of the photo and draw attention to the brightest, most interesting part of the frame, which is the flower in the middle. Under Post-Crop Vignette, reduce the Strength slider to -20. If you’d prefer to go lighter with the vignette, simply add a positive value to the slider.
Change the Radius to 20 to draw the vignette closer to the center of the frame, and leave Feathering at 50, because it’s sufficiently diffuse. Next, change the Roundness to 40 to produce a more circular and less ovular vignette shape. This minimizes the dark vignette towards the top and bottom of the frame.
6. Final Touches
Other Develop Mode tools on offer are the Detail tool, which allows Sharpening, Noise Reduction, Skin Tune, and Chromatic Aberration correction. But for this image, we have good sharpness on the few areas that are sharp, and the noise/grain is intentionally added, so we don’t want to remove it.
The Geometry Tool allows for lens corrections and perspective distortion correction, as well as crop adjustment and vignette correction. However, the Repair Tool is the last tool that we’ll use on this image. It features the Heal, Clone, and Blended Clone parameters, which each clone areas from part of the image to another, but in slightly different ways.
For our repair, we’ll be removing the distracting white petal in the bottom left of the frame. The Blended Clone tool blends the harsh clone lines to make it look natural, so make sure this is selected. Then, right-click on a clear, green area nearby to define a source point, reduce the Nib Width to 13 for a more accurate selection, then start painting over the petal to remove it.
Save Your Work
After correcting the white balance, adjusting the light levels, and grading the tone curves, we finished the edit off with some additional effects and a post-crop vignette to draw the viewer’s attention to the center of the frame. We also used a blended clone tool to remove a distracting petal in the corner of the image. To save the finished product, go to File>Save As (Ctrl+S), then choose your desired file format, which we set to JPEG.
Edit your own nature photos with ACDSee Photo Studio Professional 2020, and share them in the comments with me.