Post Processing Stained Glass Photos – Part 1

Image after all post processing is complete

Image after all post processing is complete.  Taken at St. Saviour’s Episcopal Church in Bar Harbor, Maine.

A few weeks ago, I posted stained glass photos that I took at St. Saviour’s Episcopal Church in downtown Bar Harbor, Maine.  Everyone ooh’d and aah’d appropriately, then one of you stuck your hand up and said, “How did you do that?”  It turns out she has a number of stained glass pictures taken during a trip to Europe and hadn’t figured out how to process them up.

So this is going to get a bit technical and take several posts to explain, but here’s how I did it!

Select A Photo With Detail

The first thing is to select a photo that has sufficient detail in it.  I shot these with a high ISO because of how dim the church was and I was hand holding my camera.  Had I been tripod mounted, I could have used a lower ISO and had less noise (i.e., graininess).  But I didn’t have my tripod with me and I don’t know that the church would have let me set it up anyhow.

I routinely bracket my shots.  Bracketing is where my camera takes a picture at the normal settings, then another one that’s darker and another that’s lighter.  So I take 3 pictures of every shot that I want.  This helps improve the odds of getting a keeper.

Here’s the difference when I reviewed my pictures later:

The picture on the left is with normal settings.  Although it seems to be a better brightness, the details are lacking in the robe, flowers and even the hair.  The one on the right is technically too dark, but you can see a great deal more of the detail in the robe, flowers, and hair.

Open Up In Adobe Lightroom

I open the picture on the right in Lightroom and it looks like this, straight out of the camera:

The actual shot without any adjustments.

The actual shot without any adjustments.

Awesome!  Not.  I’m slanting down to the right and the top piece of each stained glass has a shadow, probably due to eaves outside the window.

Crop and Level

Since I want each photo to be on its own, so I can blow it up and show the details, the first thing I do is crop them each out.  I start by opening the develop module (the up arrow).  Select the crop tool (down arrow on the left).  Select a 1×1 crop size (down arrow on the right).  Make sure the little padlock next to the crop tool is closed to ensure the photo stays proportional when you are cropping.

I drag the tool around the photo and leave as much background as possible.  I’ll crop it again later to a small size.  This leaves me room to work, especially since I’ll be straightening the picture and might run an edge right off the end.

Because this is crooked, I also got the angle tool (the far right arrow pointing to the right).  I put it on the bottom of the tool and drag it across.  When I release it, the picture will automatically straighten (far left arrow pointing to the right).  If I don’t think it’s straight enough, I can also grab any corner of the crop box and rotate it until I like how it looks.

Click done at the bottom to crop and level the picture.


Open in the develop module, then crop and level.

I now have a cropped picture to work with.

Cropped picture before adjustments.

Cropped picture before adjustments.

I now make adjustments for exposure, highlights and shadows, contrast, clarity, and vibrance.  If I’d taken the picture in jpg, the camera would already have made those decisions.  Since I shoot in raw, I have to make these adjustments.

Unfortunately, in the course of all this, the background is now a grainy maroon.  I’ll fix that later in Adobe Photoshop.

Adjust The Dark Spot At The Top

I adjusted the dark part at the top with the graduated filter (down arrow).  I clicked the pin above the stained glass, and rotated it so that it lightened the area above the pin (the pin is in the circle).  The default is to lighten the area below the pin.  To rotate, move the cursor to the pin until a double headed arrow appears.  Then I can rotate it until the top and bottom are exchanged.  This is harder than it sounds, so if it gets too frustrating, I delete the pin (with the delete key) and start all over again.

Then adjust the exposure, contrast, and other sliders until that top piece looks like the rest of it.  This takes experimentation to figure out how big to make the graduated filter (how far down does it come) and what the correct adjustments should be so it’s not too dark, not too light, and the colors don’t get weird.

Use the graduated filter to adjust the darkness at the top.

Sharpen and Reduce Noise

I also sharpened the picture, which increased the noise.  I then applied a noise reduction to get rid of the excess graininess.  I have to be careful with noise reduction, as it can make the picture look soft if it gets too smoothed out.  The upper arrow pointing right shows a blow-up of one small piece so you can see the detail better.  Adjust the sharpening first, then get rid of enough noise to smooth out the picture but not have it get soft.  The lower area pointing right shows the adjustments I made to this picture.  The arrow pointing left shows the history and what the exact changes were.


Sharpen the picture, then reduce the noise.

How It Looks So Far

This is how it looks so far.  The graininess is greatly reduced from the picture above (when the graduated filter was being applied).


Close-up after sharpening and removing noise.

Move To Adobe Photoshop For More Editing

At this point, I’ve done everything I want in Adobe Lightroom, so it’s time to take this into Adobe Photoshop for more sophisticated and complex adjustments.  Do this by right clicking on the photo, select “edit in” from the menu that pops-up, then select Adobe Photoshop in the next menu that pops up.  I now wait a few minutes for Photoshop to open up and analyze the picture.

Moving the picture into Adobe Lightroom for editing.

Moving the picture into Adobe Lightroom for editing.

I’m going to end here.  My next post will show how to continue processing this in Photoshop.