After-Before Friday

After-and-Before Friday Post Header

Welcome to another After-Before Friday post.  By request, I am featuring the photo of the iron gate that I submitted to the last Monochrome Madness Challenge. Since the “after” photo was already highlighted in the MM post, this week I’m starting out with my “before” picture.  Before I discuss the process, though, I’ll share a bit of background about the picture.

I came across this gate while wandering the beautiful streets of Georgetown, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., filled with quaint 18th-century row houses, many of them sites of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. My eye is inexplicably drawn to wrought iron, and this neighborhood offers a smorgasbord. Fences, lamps, signs, architectural details, I love it all. This gate, combined with the weathered red brick and climbing ivy, provided a beautiful tableau of shapes, textures, and colors just perfect for a great photo. And so I shot.

Bad news: Over-exposure. For some reason I had set my ISO to 3200 (don’t ask me why – I just forgot to check!). Good news: Lightroom.


  • Cropped the photo to provide greater focus on the gate’s scrollwork.
  • Decreased the exposure to recapture the midtones and reduce the overall brightness of the photo.
  • Increased the contrast to better define the areas of light and dark and give the photo a bit more “pop.”
  • Set the highlight slider to -60 to eliminate the white clipping in the gate’s finial and to bring back the detail.
  • Set shadows to -38 to recapture the lower midtones.
  • Set whites to +21 and blacks to -15 to capture the full tonal range.
  • Used an adjustment brush to selectively decrease the exposure of remaining hot spots on portions of the gate.

Note: The whites slider helps to refine the very lightest tones. To preserve detail, I aim to have the whitest tones just inside the edge of the histogram. The black slider refines the blackest tones in the image. At a minimum, I aim for just a bit of black clipping. I will be heavier with either of the sliders, though, if there is nothing meaningful in the clipped areas.

  • Applied a bit of sharpening.
  • Used the noise reduction sliders to help offset the high ISO setting:
    • Set the color slider to 25 to remove the little bit of color in the noise.
    • Set the luminance slider to 15 to reduce the remaining noisy texture.
  • Applied a vignette (highlight priority) set to -35 (I tend to like heavier vignetting).


After all this, I still wasn’t pleased with the result. There were some funky blue highlights in the gate that I just couldn’t get rid of. The conversion to black and white seemed to be the better option.

I used the black & white tab in the HSL panel to convert the photo. Once converted, I played with the highlights and shadows and the individual color sliders in the black and white mix to produce the effect I wanted. And I edited the adjustment brush to bring down even more the hot spots I had brought down in the color photo.

The differences between the two b&w images are hard to see in the gallery. Clicking on the full size images helps, but without a quick back-and-forth between the two, just a bit. Trust me, though, the additional post-processing did make a difference. I’ve actually had the final black and white printed and it’s just wonderful. Can’t wait to get it matted and framed!


  • Can anyone give me a clue how I might effectively get rid of the bluish areas in the iron gate? (I used an adjustment brush and played around with all the sliders, but some sliders didn’t make any difference, and the few that did, well the effect wasn’t pretty.)
  • Do you enjoy reading about the details of the process or would you rather just have me tell the story and post the pictures?
  • If you like the details, does this post provide too many?
  • If I turned this into a weekly challenge, would you participate? It would be as simple as leaving a link to your after/before post in my comments section.

A Few Words About After-Before Friday.

I always enjoy before-and-after photos. It’s interesting to see the creative post-processing choices of others and it’s a wonderful way to learn what can make photos better. Currently, I post-process to correct my exposure mistakes (and there are many). But as my skills with my camera improve (fingers crossed), I envision using post-processing to apply different creative choices to my photos. So I guess these posts will be a gauge of my progress.

24 thoughts on “After-Before Friday

  1. Just realized, I didn’t address your question on the blue highlights. I don’t use LR, so have no clue on what to do there, but if I were using Photoshop, I would just go Layer->New Adjustment Layer->Hue/Saturation–>Mode=Saturation. Then when the three sliders appear, change the drop-down selection from “Master” to “Blue” and drag the saturation slider to the left. Repeat the last step with “Cyan” and that should do it. Should take about 30 seconds. Flatten the image and save as JPEG.


    • Thanks, Robin! I love the suggestions I’m getting because I get to go play and try them out. I appreciate your detailed instructions on Photoshop simply because I’m really, really rusty in those skills. Have to do something about that, though with the suggestions here, seems I’m going to begin that process sooner rather than later! I’ll let you know what happens. Hmm, perhaps with the three suggestions I have received, I’ll update the post with a third gallery with the results from each 🙂


      • Hi, Stacy: Looks like you have sparked a lot of interest in this idea, which is great. Assuming you go ahead with the idea, how would the mechanics work? As you know, Leanne Cole takes email submissions for Monochrome Madness and assembles a gallery. If each email submitter had a fair amount of text and several images, that could mean a lot of labor on your part. In addition, a fair number of folks have time to send the two images but not the time to write up the details. The possible compromise you suggested in one of your replies, to do both, could work well. So there would be a series of “After-Before” pairs (most submissions), and only one or two detailed descriptions of how the photographer got to the end result.


        • Hi, Robin. Thanks for putting your thoughts into this. I do love the way Leanne puts together a gallery so that everyone can view all the submissions on one page. Having to click to links just isn’t as much fun. Are you suggesting I put each pair into its own gallery? I could put each pair into their own slideshow (so it’s easy to compare the after-and-before) and include a link back to the respective blog. Depending upon how many submit descriptions, I could conceivably include those as well, but it would be nice to drive people back to the original blogs. Do you think posting the pairs with their links is enough? People who are truly interested will click through; those that aren’t, won’t, and would likely only look at the slideshows without reading anyway. I thought about the idea of “featuring” a description each week, but I don’t want it to turn into a “competition” of sorts (and I wouldn’t want to have to choose :)). I’d love to hear what you think about this.


  2. Enjoying the details as I am newish to Lightroom. Would like to hear more on how to use the adjustment brush. Im not sure how I would go at a weekly challenge but would love to see other peoples work.


    • Karen, your pictures are stunning! You say you’re newish to Lightroom; do you use Photoshop? The adjustment brush is one of my favorite LR tools, simply because you can activate as many as you need to to achieve the effects you want. You can use a brush to change the value of just one slider (say exposure), or you can combine sliders into one brush (e.g., exposure and clarity). Easy way to dodge and burn and accomplish a host of other tasks. Google is replete with tutorials on how to use the brush. It would be nice, though, to learn how others have specifically used it in their photos. Thanks so much for your feedback and stay tuned about the challenge!


      • Thank you so much for your kind comments. I used to use Photoshop more but not so much for my photography. I find Lightroom a simpler to use program (well simple if I new exactly what I was doing!). I usually fiddle with the sliders, crop and level a photo, with a bit of spot removal into the mix and some noise reduction. Good idea re Google and I will give that a go, thanks. I look forward to hearing more about the challenge!


  3. I LOVE THIS!!!

    I really enjoy that you put the detail explanation of your process, its helpful to readers who are new to post processing and I think would also be useful if someone had any suggestions for you! I also like that you didn’t just skip right to the black and white processing, as I liked following your actual thought process and I have to agree that I love it in black and white!

    I am still pretty new and inexperienced, so I can’t really offer any advice about the blue tones, but I was wondering if you had played with the blue tone curve to try and fix it and if that helped at all?

    lastly if you had a weekly challenge I would love to participate in it 🙂


    • Hi, Kayla! Thanks for all your great feedback. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. You voiced all the reasons I think it would be an interesting challenge – a great forum for the exchange of post-processing techniques and ideas! I still have much more I can learn with LR, like using curves, for instance. I’ll have to try what you suggest and see what happens, so thanks for that. I’ll let you know! Stay tuned about the challenge. Given the feedback I’m getting, I’m going to shoot to begin it next Friday – I just have to figure out exactly how to best “host” it. So get some before-and-afters ready 🙂


  4. This is a beautiful photo Stacy and you’ve done really nice processing… I love it in b&w. I’ve enjoyed the way you’ve made these posts so far. It would be nice to participate in the challenge but at the moment I feel I wouldn’t have time for it. I enjoy your posts very much! 🙂


  5. Well, my vote is that this is the “Goldilocks” length for a post about processing, i.e., just right. On the final image here, you’re right, it’s hard to identify specific differences between the two but there is a qualitative difference. As for participating, I would be willing to join in, especially if color is also permitted. Every week might be tough, however,what with some travel coming up. At any rate, a very thorough and well-done post. Thanks!


    • Love the “Goldilocks” analogy 🙂 After the initial draft, I actually cut back on a bunch of the details and was still concerned there were too many, so I appreciate your take on it. As for the challenge, absolutely yes to color. And I’m also thinking that people don’t have to share their details if they don’t wish to or don’t have the time to. While learning the details will certainly promote, I think, some educational opportunities, I’m fascinated just to see where a photo started and where it ended up! That being said, I love your beautifully detailed posts about your process in capturing images (and I do wonder about how you “merge” your photos to create your stunning images), so I know I would enjoy the details of your post-processing! Would love to have you participate on whatever basis you are able to, Robin 🙂


  6. It’s frustrating the number of times I’ve left the ISO on 1600 or 3200 and I’ve forgotten to change it back to a more normal setting. I was quite interested to read the adjustments you made to get to your finished product … although it does take away some of the “ta-dah” magic. I can’t help with the blues. Doing the equivalent of digital darkroom is still not very intuitive to me and I don’t do a lot of it a.k.a. I get stuck and then I stop.


    • So glad to hear I’m not the only one 🙂 Yup, I hear you about the ta-dah magic; on the other hand, perhaps by sharing some of the details, you may find something that will help make the process more intuitive for you. Thanks, as always, for your comments!


  7. Hi Stacy; first of all, thank you so much for attending my request, very kind of you!
    Regarding the bluish areas, maybe by duplicating the original layer before edition (in Photoshop), and then “erasing” the area, little by little, till have the convenient level, could be an option.
    Regarding the final B&W result, I have a trouble: I like the final version background but I prefer the first edition version textures of the fence.
    Tip: that specific red-green-color combination is extremely difficult to satisfactorily convert to B&W (try to avoid those pictures).
    In my case, I DON’T like technical procedures explanations (at least it was a workshop). I definitely prefer posting A&B versions photos.
    And, finally, I’d definitely participate if you create the challenge; such a great idea!


    • Thanks for the Photoshop advice, Jaime. I’m not as practiced in using layers, so I’d have to brush up on how to do what you suggest. But I will, because I’d really like to try it (and I need to refresh my skills). Perhaps then the color photo will become my favorite! Glad to hear you’d participate in the challenge – I’d love having you aboard. As for the technical details, I’ll see how the votes go. If enough like them, then guess you”ll have to merely skip to the pictures 🙂


    • I can barely get my head around my FB page and my barely used Twitter account :). My daughter uses Instagram all the time. Hmm, perhaps I’ll have to ask her for a tutorial. Then again, the pictures my phone takes are less than stellar … By the way, went and looked at yours – awesome. If I join, I’ll definitely follow you!!


  8. wow, this is awesome. Thank you for so thoroughly sharing your process! So much work and skill goes into making a beautiful photo- more than I ever realized. I like learning about this and seeing how a pretty good picture becomes extraordinary! I don’t have the skill set to participate in a weekly challenge, but I’d sure like to check out other people’s posts!


    • Hi, Mary! My goal is to decrease my reliance on Lightroom 🙂 But it is pretty amazing, as you say, to be able to “save” a picture that isn’t so great. I don’t get how all of Lightroom’s bells and whistles are able to work, but I’m so glad they do! And thanks for your feedback. Really appreciate it!


    • Ha! I finally had to step away from my computer today to attend to my “other” life – you know, groceries, laundry, school events, the dog. So no worries 🙂


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