Same Photo, Different Looks With Photo Editing

There’s more to making a “pretty picture” than just composing the shot and getting your aperture, shutter speed, exposure and focus just right. Photo editing in post processing is a completely different and important skill in and of itself. It can be time consuming, turn a “meh” shot into a “wow!” shot and can be a ton of fun. And since I shoot in RAW, post processing is a necessity. Here’s just one recent example of how changing the color scheme of a shot from the North Shore of Lake Superior in northeastern Minnesota gives it a whole new look and feel:

Straight Out of the Camera

This is what it looked like straight out of the camera with no editing at all. I took this shot just before 9 am in mid-September, so the light wasn’t horrible but was starting to get a little harsh. It was a 13 second exposure using a polarizer and a 9 stop ND filter.

Sugarloaf Cove Straight out of the camera
Sugarloaf Cove Straight out of the camera

A Variety of Photo Edits


Just basic edits to bump up the shadows and add a touch of clarity & vibrance, then a bit of split toning to warm up the rocks and brighten the blues in the sky and water.

Sugarloaf Cove Split Toning
Edited in Lightroom using split toning.

Topaz ReStyle

Topaz Labs has some of my favorite plug-ins to stimulate new ideas and ReStyle has some pretty crazy options to choose from! I like the way you can create different moods just by changing the color, tone, or contrast of the image, which can make it look like you were there at a different time of day or night. Some look realistic and some are way out there. Here are just two examples:

Sugarloaf Cove

Sugarloaf Cove
Edits with Topaz Restyle

Nik Collection Color Efex Pro 4

Nik has some interesting plug-ins as well. For landscapes, I like the cool / warm grad filters in Color Efex Pro. I think this is my favorite edit of the bunch for this particular image!

Edit with Nik Color Efex Pro using a cool / warm filter.
Edit with Nik Color Efex Pro 4

Nik Collection Silver Efex Pro 2

If I’m in a hurry and want to convert a shot to black and white, Silver Efex Pro is my starting point! You’d be surprised at how many different options there are just in black and white! Otherwise, there’s always curves and channels in Photoshop where I can dial it in EXACTLY the way I want it – if I take the time.

Sugarloaf Cove Black & White
Edit with Nik Silver Efex Pro 2

As you can see, the exact same image can take on a completely different mood just by doing basic edits. Some of the third party filter plug-ins can make it very easy to experiment, which sometimes gives me ideas that I wouldn’t necessarily have thought of otherwise. In addition to color scheme changes, there are endless other options as well, such as adding textures (OnOne has some good textures that can be used in Perfect Effects), painterly effects (Topaz Impression is awesome), double exposures, or more extreme edits in Photoshop. Although I don’t usually rely on plug-ins (I like to treat each image as a stand alone subject), it’s fun to try new things!

How do you do your photo editing? Which of these edits do you like best?