How to Photograph and Retouch Old Monuments

In this article, we talk about how to photograph and retouch old monuments.

Hello my friend, how are you? Today I am going to show you how to photograph and retouch old monuments with Lightroom and Photoshop. In Paris almost all the buildings are pretty ancient and beautiful so I practiced a lot. So let’s get started!

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I shot this photo years ago, sometimes I like to go back to photos I took a long time ago and retouch it with the knowledge I have now.

Anyway so I shot this at night because I think that the monuments are even more beautiful at night because of the lighting on them, this is the Arc de Triomphe a beautiful building at the end of the Champs-Elysées, you can also see the Eiffel Tower and the moon, I think it is a nice shot.

I had my tripod and I took a long exposure shot because there were so many cars, it was actually the world cup of Rugby and so there were tons of cars everywhere but I didn’t want to have them in my shot, so I did a long exposure. I also took three different exposures, and there is something I like in each exposure but I am not going to do HDR.

This is the normal exposure:

This is the underexposed photo:

And this is the over exposed photo:

I shot this with a 5D Mark I there was not the 5D Mark II yet so I don’t have any amazing dynamic range that is why it is good to have three different exposures. On the underexposed photo, I love the city light, I think it looks good. On the normal exposure photo (2,5 seconds exposure) the city light is blown out. Now on the overexposed photo (0,6 second exposure) I like the car strikes because it was a longer exposure 10 seconds.

Step 1. Basic retouching. I bring the highlights to -100 and the shadows to +100 as usual. (You can get a more complete statement on why I do this in almost all my photographs by reading this how to article here.). Next I will increase my whites to +51 and my black to -37. (You can get a more complete statement on why I do this in almost all my photographs by reading this how to article here.) It is a bit too bright so I am going to lower the exposure (-0,30):

Step 2. Find the right White Balance. When you shoot monument at night you always have this yellow color because of the streetlights. So I choose Fluorescent because it gives this blue atmosphere but it is not too much. Then I desaturate it (-23) because there are too many colors:

Step 3. Sharpening. This was shot at 100 ISO so there is not a lot of noise but I am going to set the Noise reduction to 10 and the Sharpening to 90. To make sure that the sky doesn’t get sharpen I press the alt key and move the slider of the Making up to when the sky is pitch black (45) which means that it will not get sharpen:

Step 4. Lens correction. I enable the profile correction, remove chromatic aberration and then I press the Upright function, I click on auto and it makes a huge difference, the building is now straight:

Step 5. Synchronize. I select all three photos and press Synchronize, check all and okay.

Now all three photos are retouched the same. On the underexposed one, I really like the light pole and how you can see the light bulb, I am just going to boost the exposure +0,20. And on the overexposed photo I really like the car strikes so I am going to lower the exposure to make it a normal exposure -2,15.

As I said earlier I am not going to do HDR, I am just going to do digital blending and so I am going to take the bulb of the light pole of the overexposed photo and the car strikes of the underexposed and put them together on the normal exposed photo.

Step 6. Open as layers in Photoshop. I select all three photos, right click, edit > open as layers in Photoshop.

My main purpose is to get the best out of each world. First thing I do is to bring the overexposed photo on the top of the layers. Then I click on the mask took holding the alt key, what this is going to do is, it is going to create a black mask. I make sure that I am brushing white on black; I take a brush, set the opacity at 68% and just brush over the light bulb of the light pole:

Then I go on the second layer and I create a white mask. I make sure that I am brushing black on white because I want to hide the car strikes on this photo and I set the opacity at 100% and in brushing I am bringing the car strikes of the underexposed photo back:

Now that I have the best of each photo, I am going to select all three layers and press command E to merge them into one.

Then I duplicate this layer to do more retouching. I like the car strikes but not a lot, meaning not to the point that it is distracting so I am going to take the stamp tool, set the opacity at 100% and I duplicate the texture of the ground and click and drag over the strikes, the good thing is that the pattern is pretty random so it looks natural:

I also want to get rid of the wooden pole that is not contributing to our message, so I use the stamp tool again and I click and drag over the pole:

When you use the pattern of the ground just make sure to respect the perspective, use it on the same level.

Then I just look around in the photo to see if there is anything else I would like to erase, like paper on the ground or anything that doesn’t contribute to the message:

This is before I removed the distractive elements:

And this is after I removed all the distractive elements:

I could be finish here but what I like to do on old monument is to add a sepia effect. So for that I am going to go to the Black and white filter.

If you just click on Tint, it will automatically gives a sepia look to your photo and then you can play with the opacity to make it more or less intense. I set it at 76% and I think it looks great for old monuments.

You can see on the monument that there is a lot of car strikes and I would clean it up with the stamp tool but I am not going to show you that here because it would take too much time and I did tutorials on this specific subject.

I really like this photo, it looks nice with the light pole and the sign and the Arc de Triomphe. So to finish the retouch I am going to go back to Lightroom and double process it.

Step 7. Vingetting. To make the photo more dramatic I go to the effect section, and bring the post-crop vignetting to -37:

And just to make it more intense I am going to add +13 of Clarity.

And here is the final result:

I hope that you liked this article and that you learned news stuff, I love to shoot monument, it is a lot of fun and you can really create with it.

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