Wanchai – Photo “Painting”

For once, this post is a photography technique post, breaking with the usual idea of letting pictures speak for themselves.

I call this series photo “painting”, because it involves a specific process to give them a look that reminds of paintings:

This is a processed image:



This is the raw image: very flat tones, some areas darker than others, makes it difficult to make sense of the image. Now the human eye-brain couple does not actually see things like the below picture, but more like the above picture: the very wide dynamic range available to the human eye means that you create a mental picture where each area is considered with its own luminosity.


The point of this post-processing is to recreate in the photo the impression you get in real life, and that’s what painters do (at least in figurative painting).

Concretely, this involves using an advanced photo processing software like Adobe Lightroom, a stylus or mouse to “paint” on the darker areas and increase the exposure, or reduce the exposure when too bright, giving the scene an overall natural look yet reminiscent of a painting as much as of a photo.

Photographers used to use this technique in the darkroom by masking the paper partially, so that darker areas are exposed for smaller time and this allows to “dodge” some exposure areas, while some others are exposed for a longer time (“burn”), and today those are still called Dodge and Burn in the Photoshop toolbox.


The key to this is to save pictures in RAW format, and ensure your camera records enough dynamic range, i.e. enough detail in shadows as well as highlights.

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