Touching Up The Photos of the Fortified Farm of Méré

Welcome to the fortified farm of Méré in the Vexin region, west of Paris, a series of pictures that needed a bit of touching up. “Vexin (French pronunciation: ​[vɛksɛ̃]) is a historic county in northwestern France. It covers a verdant plateau on the right bank (north) of the Seine. […] The name Vexin is derived from a name for a Gaulish tribe now known as the Veliocasses. They had inhabited the area and made Rouen their most important city” – Source

Touching Up The Photos of the Fortified Farm of Méré

I took these pictures 10 years ago. Thank God! A sound archiving system makes it possible to revive old photos like these. Many of my old blog posts were pointing to Flickr for no reason, and I’m working hard at the moment to revisit them and tart all my posts up a bit.

touching up the photos of the fortified farm
Touching up photo number one, taken under the porch of the farm. This is a typically difficult shot if one wants exposure to be well balanced between the space below the porch and the background (with the dovecote)

While I was at it, I decided to revisit my postproduction of these old pics taken at the fortified farm of Méré. In this case, I’m not talking of picture transformation per se. I didn’t touch up anything there, I merely corrected the balance of colours and I ensured that the lighting too was congruous.

Light retouching did the job

The picture is also much crispier but in hindsight, I didn’t have much to do to correct it. Now that I am a professional photographer and taking pictures in my studio, I realise the gratification it is to have a good – it can never be perfect – picture coming straight from the lens and captured by the sensor as is*. Very seldom do I have to touch up things on my portraits, except maybe for blemishes (like the unwanted and unhappy zit, you know, these things happen)?

*I need to point out that I shoot raw and in manual (M) mode exclusively. I don’t give my camera’s onboard computers any chance to do what it wants to do.

Keep Postprod to a Bare Minimum

Similarly, I feel that landscape photography is best if one keeps postproduction to a bare minimum. It’s taken me all those years of practice to realise this: it’s not that I wasn’t doing enough, but that I was doing too much. That said, postproduction is a must. One cannot always get the right balance of colours and light while one is travelling and getting the right angle for a shot doesn’t always mean the lighting is good enough for it. 

Touching Up Tip: Ban Horrible HDR Treatment 

I must admit that one of the things I did away with was the horrible HDR treatment I had applied to the above picture. I honestly fail to understand what I was finding so fascinating in HDR. Besides, with the new touch-up features in Adobe Lightroom, there is no more need for this. I used to take three snaps of each shot and superimpose them with a (dreadful) piece of software named Photomatix.

I haven’t used this software for so long it’s only tonight I realised I hadn’t reinstalled it on my two new macs. Anyway, Lightroom now does a beautiful job of correcting photos like the one above where, originally, the sky was all wishy-washy.

fortified farmtouching up
Before and after touching up the farm’s photos: As you can see in the above image comparison, I haven’t changed much of it but the end result is a lot more striking. A) I applied a normal lens and chromatic aberration correction B) I didn’t choose to straighten the picture here. If it had been taken with a wide-angle lens I would have done it C) I popped up the foreground a bit (but not too much) D) I then made the stonework a little crispier and lighter E) Last but not least, the sky is a lot less bland than it was originally. Merely selecting the sky and isolating it and lowering the exposure did the trick. I ddin’t need to do much else, really F) Ah, yes! a wee vignette (once again, not too strong) did the job.

Powerful and dangerous features

Above all, I’m very careful not too to overdo the presence filters.

touching up
The Presence filter cursors in Lightroom. Don’t overuse them!

These are very powerful but very dangerous tweaks, which could turn your pictures into horrible ghoulish things. When I looked at them in hindsight today, I rushed to Flickr and changed them on the spot.

touching up
The entrance is grand and fort-like. Yet, this is a fortified farm, not a castle.
Yann Gourvennec
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