The Face at the Window

Original RAW image

Original RAW image

This is an original, unprocessed RAW image captured a few days ago. The exterior surfaces of our house’s windows and doors  are being re-painted and I must thank my wife who spotted the potential in this scene and said I might like to photograph it. I gratefully seized that opportunity. This is a view of an upstairs window that was being painted. The sun was shining on it directly, and what you are seeing are the shadows of the painter and the window frame projected onto a pale yellow window blind that we had left in place to limit the dust that might otherwise have blown into the room during the prepping and painting.

What struck me immediately when looking at this, and other unprocessed files, was the flash of white light radiating from the painter’s glasses across his head. A trick of the light: a small bonus but actually so important to the overall drama of the image.

Usually I have a very clear idea of how I will process an image but in this instance an end point was not immediately obvious. I quite liked the sepia toning but I didn’t want that to be overpowering, but I also could see the obvious potential for a strong B&W image. So After some very minor preliminary work to straighten verticals and horizontal lines I opened the image in my favourite plug in:  Nik’s Silver Efex. This is my ‘go-to’ B&W convertor and is part of the Nik collection – free from Google – if you haven’t tried it yet, what’s stopping you?

When you load an image into Silver Efex (from within Photoshop CC, Lightroom or Photoshop Elements) you will find thirty-eight presets shown as thumbnails down the left side of the window. And you can very quickly step down through them to view them all sequentially. Usually one stands out. More often than not I will find a preset that I like and simply click ‘OK’ to return to Photoshop and do a little fine tuning there. Alternatively any preset can be tweaked within the plugin and a border and/or toning applied.

I stepped through the presets with this image and found myself excited by the possibilities but still uncertain of how to proceed. So I saved several versions of the image using a number of presets that I wanted a closer look at and the ones that interested me the most are shown in the gallery below. Click on the first image and then navigate through with the arrow keys. (The differences are actually quite subtle and you may find it difficult to spot the differences within the first two or three, but seen up large they do become much more obvious).

Each image is titled with the name of the Silver Efex preset.

Looking through these images will give you some idea of the potential of Silver Efex and the creative possibilities that it opens up. (The last two presets, you will notice, automatically add a white border). Occasionally I use the plugin purely as a resource to enable me to see, at a glance, a potential line of processing, that I then execute within Photoshop. And that is what I eventually decided to do on this occasion.

And below you will see my final image that I created within Photoshop. I decided that I liked a bit of Sepia toning but a rather subdued version of it, so the image was first adjusted using levels, curves, brightness and contrast and then finally the saturation of the image was amended.

img_9037_psfinalThis was an image that, to my mind, had no obvious final end point but I’m happy with the one I have chosen at present. But in a few months time I may decide to re-process it. Processing is always about personal preferences and you may well look at this and decide that you would have processed it entirely differently, or even left the original relatively untouched. What do you think?


About LensScaper

Hi - I'm a UK-based photographer who started out 45+ years ago as a lover of landscapes, inspired by my love of outdoor pursuits: skiing, walking and climbing. Now retired, I seldom leave home without a camera and I find images in unexpected places and from different genres. I work on the premise that Photography is Art and that creativity is dependent on the cultivation of 'A Seeing Eye'. I'm not averse to manipulating images to produce derivatives that may sometimes be far removed from the original.
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17 Responses to The Face at the Window

  1. oneowner says:

    I like your final image best, too. A beautiful shot. I remember a time when Silver Efex was $200 (US). Now this versatile plugin is available to everyone.

    • LensScaper says:

      Many thanks Ken. I’m sure we’ve talked about Silver Efex a few times previously – it is such a good piece of software. How I wish that the ever burgeoning range of plugins from Topaz was also free.

  2. Your wife has a good eye. Great image! 🙂

  3. shoreacres says:

    I like sepia toning, but it’s often too much. I like the final result, too. It’s quite appealing. I’ve hardly used the plug-in (like,twice) but at least I’ve gotten there, and know what you’re talking about. I used it with a shot of a local prairie that was taken during rain. It did make the clouds really “pop,” and a bland and boring landscape photo took on a good bit of interest. Learning to really make use of the program will be a winter project, I think.

    • LensScaper says:

      The thing about these plugins is that they can offer a a short cut to a quality image without the hassle and time involved in using a range of options in the main software – be it Lightroom or Photoshop. In less than a minute I can open Silver Efex, run through a few presets, (I’m beginning to acquire a few likely favourites – Wet Rocks for one) and return to Photoshop with a fine B&W conversion.

  4. I’m with you, Andy. It’s not only the sepia tone. I think the evenness within the range of tones is best in your final choice. Nice image altogether. You often manage to get abstraction and people into the same photograph, and for that I give you extra congratulations.

  5. Sue says:

    I’m a fan of Silver Efex, and you’ve given a good walkthrough of the possibilities… That said, I do like your final image with its tones….

  6. hmunro says:

    I love your image in all its iterations — but I think I like the final sepia version best as well. You’ve really hit on the quandary we face with all the tools at our disposal, though: When we have endless filters and processing options, it can be difficult to know when to stop. But in this case I suspect that even if you revisit it in a few months you’ll be hard pressed to top the last image you’ve presented here. Beautifully done!

    • LensScaper says:

      That’s very kind of you Heather. Actually I’m quite surprised how everyone agrees on that final image, particularly as it took me several hours and several run-throughs of the options before I felt happy with the final result. It could so easily have turned out rather differently.

  7. Lisa Gordon says:

    Kudos to your wife for spotting this, and what a wonderful image it is!

    • LensScaper says:

      Tanks Lisa. Glad you like it, but it wouldn’t be up here without someone one else scouting out for me. Over the years she’s spotted quite a few good images when I was looking the other way.

  8. The refraction from the glasses is a bonus indeed. I don’t recall ever seeing anything like it in a photograph.

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