Exercise: Improvement or Interpretation

Start by photographing a similar situation to the one just described, a portrait in a setting , and then use a manual selection method to select just the area of the person. The tools available to you will depend on which software you normally use, but the two most usual methods would be either a kind of lasso tool, with which you can draw an outline, or mask painting with a brush,.

Having done this, including refining the edge by retouching it if necessary, save the selection if your software allows this. Then make any kind of adjustment to this area that makes it stand out more clearly from the surroundings, while still looking realistic.
For example, You might choose a curves adjustment to increase the contrast, or alter the colour balance.

What you have just done is the direct equivalent of traditional dodging and burning under a darkroom enlarger. Few people in the days of film considered this anything but legitimate processing, and yet… the selection is in a sense arbitrary, based not on the objective qualities of the image, but on the subjective photographer’s eye.
The effect, of course, depends on how extreme an adjustment you make to that selection, and what kind of adjustment. Consider the limits that you would accept for this to remain an innocent, legitimate adjustment

For this exercise, I decided to use an image I took last year whilst in Newquay, of my Cousin. I took the image around 19:00-20:00pm. The original image is quite dark, especially in the shadows, meaning that the facial area was too dark to see the details on his face. I knew that I would have to use tools to lighten not only his facial area, but also the rest of his body, as that too was dark.

Original Image:


With this image, I made a copy. I then opened the copy in Photoshop Elements 9. When opened in Photoshop, I then made a duplicate background layer. I used the Smart Brush Tool, and chose the setting Bright Eyes. I made a lasso around the facial area, and brightened the face. I saved this image, then re-opened it again. I then made a new duplicate background layer. I used the same smart brush tool and chose the Brighter option. I zoomed into the body, and began using the brush to lighten just the body area. Afterwards, I sharpened the detail.

I made very little changes, however, when looking at the before and after image, you can notice a difference. No changes were made to the background.




DSCF8440 - Copy copy

After comparing both of these images, I believe that this is a justifiable, innocent alteration. My image was dark and the body/facial area needed correcting, in order to make a better final image. I was unable to sharpen the edges of the person, as when I zoomed in, I found that this image contained a lot of noise, and by sharpening the image too much, would only make the noise worse.

After I had processed this image, I decided that I wanted to try and convert the background to black and white, in order to see whether or not it would make the person stand out even more.

I took a copy of the original image, (The image without any alterations)

I opened that image in Photoshop. I then made a background layer, and converted that layer to black and white, and chose the Vivid Landscape option, as this was brighter than the rest. After converting the image to black and white, I zoomed into the image, and selected the Eraser tool. I erased the black and white area of the body, in order to make the colour re-appear, only in the body area. I had to make sure that I took time around the edges, as I didn’t want to re-colour any of the water area.

Once I had re-added the colour, I then saved the image. I opened that image in Lightroom. Once in Lightroom, I then adjusted the tone, contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, blacks, clarity, vibrance, detail and noise. It took me a while to play around with these adjustments until I was satisfied that I had the desired effect I was looking for. When I looked at the image, I thought that there was something missing, I used the Vignetting Tool which I found by mistake, in order to create a dark, shadow area around the sides of the image. I only adjusted it slightly, so it framed the person, making the person more prominent.

I saved this image, then re-opened it in Photoshop. I used the Magic Brush tool, and did the same thing to the facial and body area, that I did to the image previous. I lightened the face with the Bright Eyes option and the body with the Brighten option. This made the details on the face clearer and the body stand out more against the black and white background. I then saved this image.

Final Image:

DSCF8440 - Copy copy - Copy copy

This image contains extreme adjustments, and is no way the true image that I shot first. I have altered this image to the extent that it no longer contains ‘Innocent Adjustments’. Every one of my adjustments have been used in order to make a striking final image.


DSCF8440DSCF8440 - Copy copyDSCF8440 - Copy copy - Copy copy

With the first image I adjusted, I used only two adjustments in order to lighten the face and body area, as these areas were hindering the image, as the face was too dark and the person was almost blending into the background. It needed adjusting in order to bring the person out from the background. Therefore, I believe this is an innocent image.

With the second image, I used a variety of adjustments for this image. I took the original image and adjusted as much as possible in order to make a interesting final image. These adjustments didn’t need to happen, and were not necessary, however, I do like the final result. Therefore, this is not an innocent image.

I am happy with how both of these images have come out. As this exercise says ‘Improvement or Interpretation’, the first image was an improvement, whereas the second image was my interpretation, and my own vision of how I wanted to adjust the image.


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