The Making of "Where Do We Go?"

How the winning photo of the "People" contest was made

By tokyoscape in Photo Contests on Dec 24, 2021

"Where do we go?"

I was initially trying to do a time-lapse which turned out to be a bad idea for this location. It has too few people walking in the area. But the two ladies stopped at this one spot and had a chat for a while, so I thought it might be better to do a composite photo of people movement around them. The image is my first successful manually created long exposure composite photo. It took a lot of trial and error in both shooting and post processing. Below I will show the successful part of the work and some tips for anyone interested in trying something similar.

The shooting: Pentax K-3, Pentax-DA 15mm Limited, a tripod

I used ISO100, F16 and continuous shooting of 1.3” for each image. Interval shooting won’t work here because the gap between each frame will be too wide. Therefore I let the camera shoot one image after another until it died.

I tried a few different shutter speeds before ending up with 1.3”. It seemed to be the best setting for this location with its very bright indoor light. Too slow of a shutter speed will result in no people in the photo. Too fast of a shutter speed would give me too many images to edit later!

The image was composed based on the rule of thirds. The two ladies were just a strike of luck. They stopped at almost the perfect place on the lower part of the floor. I cropped the lower part out to fit the 4:5 ratio for my Instagram post.

Post process: Adobe CameraRaw and Bridge

I selected 18 frames and used the frame with least movement of the 2 ladies as the main image.

Click image to enlarge

Step 1. I began with post processing the selected main image in CameraRaw. I just did the overall lens, color and light correction here. I have learned not to do the digital dodge and burn right now because it won’t always come up right when I load the setting to the rest of the images in then next step.

Step 2. Next I applied the same settings to the remaining 17 images. I opened them all in CameraRaw. Once they were opened in CameraRaw I made sure that all 17 thumbnails were selected and hit "Load setting", then selected and loaded the file saved from step 1 above.

Step 3. Next, I opened all 18 images into Photoshop’s layers. I kept the main image from step 1 at the base layer (first layer from bottom). I placed  the other 17 layers in a folder and applied a mask to the folder so that I could mask out the area with the 2 ladies so there will be minimum blue on that area.

Next I changed all 17 layers in the folder to "Darker Color" blending in the layer panel. Now I have trails of people movement but it is way too dark because the "Darker Color" blending projects the darker parts of all the above layers on to the main layer. The color and details are there, but just too dark to see so it need a little boost in the last step.

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

Step 4. I converted all 18 layers to a single "Smart Object". Then applied "CameraRaw Filter" to the newly create Smart Object so that I could apply a variety of dodge and burn here. In the CameraRaw window I used the brush tool to paint the trails of people parts and then bring the "Shadow" up to +55. The colors in the area of movements will show up at this point. Next I adjusted lighting and color here and there and re-cropped a bit to get the final image.

Final image


It seems simple when I look back now, but I tried and failed many times in finding the best shutter speed and make the color and details in the movement show up. At first I thought it would be as simple as doing light trails from street cars but I was wrong. Maybe the best and simplest way to do a trail of people movement is to not do it in a very large area. It is easier to zoom in closer to a crowded area with a lot of people movement, and just do a single long exposure shot. Or let the camera do the in-camera composite photo. But if you want the maximum control (and headache) to show not only the movement but the large scale of the place you are in, taking a lot of photos and doing it manually is a fun way to go. I still try to find a better and faster way to manually achieve this kind of photo. For now, this is the best I can come up with and I hope you find it helpful

- tokyoscape

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