The Power Of Professional Photo Editing: Before & After

The power of photo editing - before and after
Last week, Wayne Hall from Ocean Vibes invited me to do a special sunset cruise to see the glow worms mate in Providenciales, Turks & Caicos Islands. I just upgraded my working camera the week before to a Canon 5D Mark II—just like the one my business partner Kasey shoots. I’ve shot Canons all along, but this camera definitely has a bit of a learning curve. It was too tempting of an opportunity though, so I decided to push my limits and shoot against the sun on his beautiful boat, aptly named Island Magic.

Shooting against the sun usually means you lose focus of either the landscape or the people. Colors drain out of sunsets and pour into people, or people become silhouettes against beautiful skies. It is hard to capture all the layers of photos and have everything pop the same way it does to the naked eye.

This is where the importance of photo editing shines through and shows its value. Often, when looking at using a professional photographer, the value of editing is underestimated. Photographers come with high end equipment and know how which is easy to see on the shoot, however the majority of the time for producing final photos comes in after hours, using tools like Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop to polish the photos and bring them to life. Editing usually takes much more time than the photoshoot itself.

To see what I mean, take a look at this photo.

Jojo the famous dolphin on Grace Bay visiting our boat at sunset.

As is, this photo looks a little lackluster. Its subject matter is great though. The picture is taken just before sunset when the colors in the sky are melting together. And there is a famous dolphin, Jojo, who is showing off for some thrilled guests. For promotional purposes, this picture has a lot of the right ingredients.

To fix, we jump into Lightroom and create two versions of the photo. One brings out the sky, and the next brings out the people and the dolphin. Merge and blend them in Photoshop, and the result is spectacular.

Edited photo of Jojo the dolphin joining our cruise.

Photo editing can also eliminate distracting objects or blemishes as it does in this food shot.

Appetizers served on sunset cruises with Ocean Vibes.

This picture is pretty good as is, but there are a few things that are hard to control on a moving boat. This was an actual cruise, not a photoshoot with actors, so people were enjoying the cruise as they wish and one person made it into the back of the shot. There was also a cable hanging down, and the tilt wasn’t perfect as the boat was moving across waves. No worries though, a little post editing fixes all of that.

Appetizers become the focus in the cleaned up photo.

Now this photo looks like a staged studio shot, highlighting the appetizers without distractions.

Wide shots also tend to be problematic, especially shot in sunlight. Exposure varies across subjects, and skies in particular become washed out.

Wide shot of passengers.

An okay shot as is for a personal photo album, this photo lacks polish for professional promotional photos. To fix that we created three sets of color corrections to bring the family with the child in focus, to color correct the rest of the passengers, and to illuminate the sky and blended them together.

Final composite brings all the people into focus and makes the sky accurate.

Some professional photo editing can also help provide some quick maintenance. In this case, Wayne’s boat has a small amount of rust and algae showing under the boat. For those who have ever operated a boat in the ocean, you know this is a constant battle. Boats accumulate algae very quickly, and besides for optics, it also slows the boats down, creating drag and burning more gas. Boat operators regularly clean and paint their boats several times a year, but especially for the sensitive eye of a camera, it creeps back in a matter of days.

People gather on the back of the boat to photograph the dolphins playing under the water.

No worries though, clean paint takes far less time to apply in Photoshop. And we can bring back in the sky at the same time!

Photoshop cleans up people, sky and boats.

The sunset that night was spectacular. As dusk was peaking with its brilliant colors, Wayne asked me to take another picture to see if we could capture the vibrant colors. I was rapidly losing light, though so my window for anything workable was questionable. I tried to focus on the most intense color in the far right of the shot, but it did not compare to real life.

Sunset skies over Grace Bay are spectacular, and hard to capture, especially with people.

I framed the photo as well as I could with some guests, but the light was so low it came out all dark. By no means did the preview of the shot blow me away, but I knew we could do something with this as soon as I saw it.

To resurrect this picture again we used Lightroom to create two versions, one for the sky and another for the people, blending a mask of the sky onto the people in Photoshop. The result now reflects why the sky at that moment inspired such awe and excitement in Wayne.

The colors of the sunset in Turks & Caicos rates among the best in the world for a reason.

More Examples

This Glow Worm Tour provided some beautiful examples, but these same concepts apply to all kinds of photography, including photo restoration and post production services which we also provide. Check out these galleries for some more fun with before and afters.

Take Ocean Vibes Tours

Of course, if you are heading to Providenciales (we call it Provo) in Turks & Caicos, I recommend doing a evening cruise with Wayne.

Ocean Vibes does regular sunset tours, however if the timing is right, you should witness the unique spectacle provided by a species of marine worm (Odontosyllis enopla) which lives exclusively in the shallow waters around just a handful of islands in the Caribbean and Bermuda, including Turks & Caicos. They’re known as “glow worms” because of the green luminescence that accompanies their spawning cycle. Starting about 55 minutes after sunset, the surface of the water comes alive with tiny bursts of light as a new generation is spawned. It is a magical experience you can’t see in very many places in the world.

The tour takes place aboard Ocean Vibes 48-foot sailing catamaran, Ocean Magic, and offers fine wines (both red and white) to toast the setting sun. Rum punch, local beers, soft drinks, and bottled water are also included and served to you by the friendly boat staff. Finger foods prepared by a local restaurant are also included, offering conch fingers, fish fingers, and chicken fingers with a variety of dipping sauces.

Prices for the Ocean Vibes Glow Worm Sunset & Stargazing Tour is $85 for adults and $65 for children.

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