Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs


Digital Outback Photo Contest #017

Contest March 2006: Tonality Recovery #1

Limited to 8 entries (at 7 entries closed)

See also our previous contests

  A Note on Copyright: This image can only(!) used in the context of this contest and the only site that has the right to publish images is Digital Outback Photo. If you want to use this image for any other purposes (e.g. marketing) you can acquire a license from us.
  There are no prizes for this contest as the evaluation of the results can be too subjective.

To share experience it is not enough just to show the results. We need precise step-by-step descriptions of all image editing operations that had been performed.

Photo was taken handheld with the Canon 1Ds Mk. II at ISO 200 (IS used).


Photos like this are common in overcast or mixed light situations.

Note: This shot was handheld and may show some slight motion blur


  • It is your task to improve the tonality of this image and send in a downsampled JPEG (compression 9 in Photoshop) with 600 pixels wide.
  • You can download the original JPEG image (copyright Bettina & Uwe Steinmueller) from here (about 4.2 MB)
  • Use any editing tool you like but don't use any masking techniques
  • Describe the process step by step
  • If your tools allows to save settings to external files (like most tools in Photoshop and many filters) please also send in these settings files.
  • Naming of the JPG: first_lastname_SnowInSV.jpg
  • Send only the instructions and the final image downsampled to 600 pixeles wide (JPG 9 in Photoshop) and your full name to:
  • Image should be in sRGB (for internet display)
  • No layers, no frames.
  Note: As all photos should be in the sRGB color space it is recommended to download interesting samples and view them in Photoshop on a profiled monitor and at larger magnification.
  Sample Entry (by Uwe Steinmueller)

  • We used the Photomatix Tone Mapping plugin (see also entry #7)

#01 Antonio Dias

1 - Duplicate layer
2 - Apply Shadows/Highlight correction:
Shadows: Amt 69% Tonal Width 50% Radius 38 px
Highlights: Amt 38% Tonal Width 50% Radius 79px
Color correction -60 Midtone contrast +25
3 - Create curves layer: 28:22 118:130 144:162 196:200 (Luminosity Fade)
4 - Reduce bicubic to 600 px wide; sharpen

#02 Fabio Riccardi (architect of LightZone)


Fabio wrote: "There are three different levels that I can see in the image, the lake, calm, the vegetation with the dark and light areas and then the mountain rising towards the bright clouds.

What I really like is the darker areas, where the vegetation is thicker. These trees are old, keep secrets, something sleeps there. I did not feel like waking it up. I tried to respect the original and not overdo the adjustments.

What I tried to pull out was the detail in the trees, the light on the hills. The original had a blueish cast which I removed, and tried to recover detail in the clouds."

  • Edited in LightZone (you can even download the LZN file from here and check the image with a free demo version of LightZone). This is a good experience for anybody. In this case the workflow is 100% documented inside the LZN file.

Fabio got my permission to use this image for a tutorial. Even if you do not use LightZone his comments are useful for all photographers.

Note: Remember these contests at Digital Outback Photo were created with the goal to share ideas and visions about handling digital photographs. There is often no right or wrong but all our readers help you in your own ability to create photos that match your personal style. If we give Fabio here some extra coverage than this is because he provides extra useful help and not because we find his solution better/worse than other ones on this page. Only you are the judge what you like or not.

#03 Sam Briggs

1. Used Exposure command in Photoshop at -3.00 and used Save As... tosave a copy.
2. Opened the copy and the original in Photomatix and generated an HDR image.
3. Used Tone Mapping feature at 60% setting--increased color saturation--MicroContrast on high.
4. Returned to Photoshop and did some selective dodging & burning.

#04 Dick Barbour

1. Convert to LAB
2. Select Lightness channel
3. Image/Adjust/Shadow-Highlight, decreased highlights to bring out detail in clouds
4. Select all channels
5. Image/Adjust/Curves:

a. Lightness channel, steepened curve to add contrast to mountains
b. A channel, steepened curve to separate colors in green areas
c. B channel, steepened curve with emphasis toward the yellow to
decrease blue cast

6. Convert to RGB

#05 Ed Verendus

1. Light chanel curve adjustment on the cloud in lab mode.
2. Selective color to adjust the colorbalance [local adjustment]
3. Curve adjustments for greens and blues
4. Dodge and burn on the hills
5. Unsharpmask 20/30

#06 Ian scholey

shadow / highlights

25 76 108
44 51 30

curevmeister lightness adjustment on duplicate layer at 50%

slight yellow desate to tone down the green's

unsharp mask 20 50 0 at 65% on dup layer

spot healing to remove dust bunnies ;-)


#07 Dieter Bethke

I changed the mode of the downloaded file to 16-Bit, in oder to be able to apply a Tone Mapping with the Plug-in "Photomatix Tone Mapping" within Photoshop. Settings are provided as XMP-File.

For your interest:

Color Saturation=80%
Whitepoint=5.0% (max)

Afterwards I dodged&burned the sky,








  Thanks to all participants (including all submissions that may not get published).

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