Sunday, December 9, 2007

Lily and the Dancing Stamens

With the snow season finally settling in, it becomes harder to capture interesting shots every week. It is more physically demanding and you start to see a repetition in snow themes. Therefore this week I thought I would focus on a singular image and describe the photo-editing approach I took to enhance it to match the vision I had.

When it comes to your personal photography I find that there are no right or wrong approaches. There is your vision and what excites you. Now if you are a commercial photographer or if you want to make a living selling your images, that’s different. It’s the client that decides what works, unless of course you are such recognized brand that your work establishes the standard.

While I use Photoshop for my photo editing, I will try and keep the processes generic so that the same techniques can be used with any photo editing software.

The title for the image is the Lily and the dancing Stamens and as you can probably guess, the main focus will be the stamens with a secondary focus being the petals of the lily.

Whenever I work on an image that I will take to the print stage, I always like to mark-up the photo with the editing that I plan to undertake. I will at times use layers to keep notes as I am working through the image, which becomes a good reference tool later when re-visiting an image and figuring out why you took that approach.

The image below shows the planned changes on the original RAW version from the camera. The thinner lines are used to show less effect needed.

The anther parts (wow! some biology too) of the stamens are normally very monochromatic and uniform in tone and I needed to enhance these to make them jump out more from the very vibrant colours in the background. Pollen by nature is very soft, unless you are looking through an electron microscope. I applied a little sharpening to bring out some detail in the anthers but no other parts, as I wanted the soft focus of the background to remain.

Using a mask to just apply changes to the anthers I also increased contrast by using an ‘S’ curve. Then, on a new layer, copied only the anthers, converted it to B&W and inverted to create a negative and set the layer to colour dodge. This will make any subtle yellow tones on the sun-lit side of anthers a very strong yellow. The opacity was reduced until it appeared that the left edge was receiving a low horizon sun effect. A very steep ‘S’ curve adjustment layer to fine tune effect was added.

This image shows part of the colour dodge Layer from the B&W inverted anthers.

The second part of the stamen, the long green filament, needed to also stand out more. By using a colour saturation layer and only targeting the yellow channel I was able to make these filaments glow a bit.

This zoomed image shows in better detail the changes performed.

The diagonal petal behind the stamens was not very vibrant, which is fine, as I did not want it to detract from the stamens. The far right petal, I thought, was too light especially since it was near the edge of the image. I needed to increase the colour saturation and at the same time darken the overall colour. I used a black layer set to Overlay, which causes the colours to be very intense. A Hue/Sat layer was added to reduce a bit the strong red intensity.

I found the edge where the 2 petals joined needed to be a little darker on the right petal and I darkened this just a bit.

This is an image of all the adjustment layers. I take the time to record information in layers should I, at later date, decide to fine-tune another way.

Here are a few more images of the lilies from the days shoot.

If you have any questions about the processes I described, please feel free to ask me.
I can even send you a scaled down version of the Photoshop ‘.psd’ file so you can better see the effect, if you send me your email address.

Thanks for reading.

Niels Henriksen

A Photographer's Adage

It fascinates me that there is a variety of feeling about what I do. I’m not a premeditative photographer. I see a picture and I make it. If I had a chance, I’d be out shooting all the time. You don’t have to go looking for pictures. The material is generous. You go out and the pictures are staring at you. -Lee Friedlander, "Documentary Photography - LIFE Library of Photography" , page: 178

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