I've seen a lot of professional photos of Churaumi Aquarium in Okinawa. Most of them are great, but to my surprise, so many of them seem to have been processed in a rather lazy way. This may be because most of the pictures are for journalistic purposes and were not taken by "serious" photographers. None the less, a bit of post processing goes a long way.
Below is the standard photo of the main tank in the aquarium, the pic you see on all the advertising, which I took on my first visit there. What's the difference between my photo and others I've seen? A few minor tweaks that have a big impact.
First, this is my selection of about 20 shots, all timed so that at least one whale shark is in the shot. Unfortunately, shooting with my relatively inexpensive camera, I can't crank the ISO too high without dealing with a lot of noise, so some of them are a bit blurry (due to the movement of the fish in the tank, not camera shake, since I was using a tripod). Of the 20, about 12 turned out well. From there, it was a matter of choosing the best. I wanted a shot that featured not only the sharks, but also the rays and other fish, so I chose one that made them look the best. My next priority was to select shot in which the people were doing something interesting, like pointing or taking a picture. The woman toward the right of the frame fit the bill. In other shots, some people were pointing, which looked great, but the fish weren't as aesthetically pleasing, so elected to favour the fish. If I'd really wanted to I could have cut and pasted people from one photo and put them in the other, but that would be overkill. This is about the fish.
So, with the best picture selected, processing was simple a matter of removing lens distortion (which had the effect of making the top of the aquarium flat. I then used the angle tool in Lightroom to level the top of the aquarium with the frame. Finally, I selected a white balance that brought out the right hue of blue without overdoing it, then applied some noise reduction and sharpening.
My point? A little bit of extra work at every stage of the process (shooting, shot selection, post processing) adds up to a huge difference in the quality of a published photo.
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