Before & After Edit: Round Lake at Sunset

I’ve spent many evenings sorting through previously taken photos to choose the best ones for my website. In the process, I discover many opportunities to improve mediocre pictures with a bit of editing. I decided to showcase one example here.

While driving by Round Lake in upstate New York one evening in early fall 2011, I noticed a small access point, pulled off the road, and grabbed my camera. The time was perfect for a low light shot as the sun set, filling the sky with mellow color. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a tripod with me but still managed to get a few decent shots. While browsing through later, this one especially struck me with the ripple reflection of the tree and the low perspective in the foreground leading out to the lake.

Here is the original shot. While the ripple effect is nice, the photo is underexposed with low contrast and does not “pop” out as exceptional.

A little experimentation in Photoshop made this photo much more appealing. Levels adjustment increased the contrast for a wider range of light to dark in the scene. Addition of a lens blur made the photo appear as if it were taken with a tighter aperture, drawing the eye to the ripples as they fade into the background. See the final edit below: