« on: August 26, 2014, 02:18:27 PM »
I very much tailor my postprocessing to the shot, as I suppose most people do I only use Lightroom as full Photoshop seems ridiculously expensive and I'm usually happy with the results I get (I do use Gimp for astrophotography, but that's all).
For birds, my primary subjects it goes like this:
Nowadays I try to expose to the right - overexposing as much as possible without blowing the highlights - at least when shooting birds, especially dark ones. I'll bring the exposure down until it looks right (I do everything by eye, to my taste), which helps keep shadow noise lower. I have always tried to use as much of the tonal range (if that's the term) as possible, I don't know why - it's just my personal style I guess. That means shadows are darkened, and highlights brightened until the full histogram space is used, with no clipping.
If I've used a high ISO (on the 5D3, 1600 and above, although it depends very much on light levels), I will apply moderate colour noise reduction, usually increasing saturation to compensate. I prefer to preserve detail at the expense of higher luminance noise, but on areas of smooth tone (e.g. out of focus backgrounds), I will often hand-paint higher noise reduction because there's no detail to lose, and this can actually improve the look of the bokeh to my eye (when done with care). With particularly difficult shots, I'll oversharpen the in focus areas and then apply wholesale noise reduction, which helps retain detail.
Since I share shots at reduced size (currently 1800 on the longest edge for Flickr where possible), I tend to split noise reduction into two parts - some on the original, then some on the resized version. At very high ISO, I tend to do several cycles, reducing the size a little each time, as it seems to provide the best results (better than all at one scale). If I'm printing large, I will reprocess, usually leaving in more noise and adding a little extra sharpness, but that varies.
Some examples. The siskin and dipper were in poor light, ISO 1600 and 2000 respectively, whereas the linnet was in ideal conditions, ISO 400 (all 1000mm, f/10).