Monday, June 13, 2011

How to Approach Editing your Photographs to Create more Visual Appeal

Big title, a complex subject and almost impossible to answer correctly. The key ingredient is the photographer who took the image and not a critic commenting on his or her own vision. Even though these comments might at times produce a better result, especially if technical problems persist. If the image comes with a statement or feelings or any other human/artistic guidance then it's easier to comment on how the image achieves these goals.

The yellow green hue of main tree shifted more yellow less green. The greens shifted cooler, bluer in green, and desaturated and darkened slightly as greens are always stronger than yellows. Bench made more teal to better compliment the yellows.

The initial step to capturing a better image is to first understand what those elements or emotions are in the scene before you that excites or intrigues you. Sounds easy this self analysis but if it truly were easy then there would not be as many self help books all saying they have the answer. The same applies to my advice. Take it with a few grains of salt, shake well and wait for the dust to settle.

I believe that the more you immerse yourself with good and bad (if there really is bad) art, the more you come to understand your own emotional drivers. Seek out not just photographs, but paintings, sculpture, drama etc. Some are born more wild and for these individuals maybe too much art exposure may limit their own wild creativity. But for the vast majority of us, exposure is a good thing.

The tree had such a glow in the morning light and with such a tranquil setting it almost seemed the perfect place to contemplate. The glow was very important and being backbit helped this effect. By going to B&W and then increasing the yellow slider to almost blow out texture helps to make these leaves glow. Once again, I darkened and slightly blurred the grasses as each blade was too strong for this scene.

It's not always possible to pre-think an image, as sometimes the scene unfolds too quickly. All we can do is react and hope our training ensures proper techniques and the correct settings.
With any subject, what is it about this object or collections of objects that you find interesting?
Is it it's novelty, color, contrast, action, humour, memories, emotions, abstractness...?

When you do understand what is driving your vision, it becomes easier to place the focus correctly. Not camera focus or rule-of-thirds etc., but your visual focus of photograph, then ensuring that other elements in scenes do not compete for focus.

It's easy to see those elements that grab you but harder initially to see other parts that don't quite fit perfectly. The best advice is for you to constantly take photographs and where practical, many more than you think you need and from way too many angles. You will learn to see differently.

If it's primarily color then what other colors around either enhance or detract. Then move around to best find enhancing elements and reduce unwanted components
The same applies with details, lines, textures, contrasting shapes, size etc.
Start to think less of the subject and focus more on the surrounding pieces and how each helps or detracts and then using compositional theory when merited, compose your scene.

Here you can see this single yellow tree sitting in an open field, sunlit with lots of dark backgrounds to help increase visual contrast. This tree is what excited me and I knew that by walking around 360 degrees I would be able to place the tree and bench with good backgrounds. This was a morning shot and I would have liked to get an evening shot with the bench in the shade.

I know that the camera photo is never able to truly render a green landscape scene in the same manner that we visually observe. Those ever so subtle movements outdoors help us to see more with all the greenery around.

One of my favourite techniques with greens is to shift greens in certain parts either warmer towards yellow or cooler towards cyan. A little tonal contrast color difference, even when slight, can help to increase visual contrast.

The same techniques that went into planning the photograph should also be employed in photo-editing.
If main interest is:
Fine Detail and Texture - blur or lighten/darken other parts or reduce contrast. Increase contrast of subject detail.
Color – desaturated other colours. Change hue to better compliment contrasts.
Eg. If you have 3 blue balls spread out on the beach, then for the closest ball, increase saturation and only 1-2 degrees warmer towards red. For the other balls or circles make them lighter and bluer as distance increases. Only subtly so you don't notice. You may also want to slightly blur with increasing amounts as you move in distance.

The top image has the blue circles all the same color, whereas the blue version on the bottom is using the editing example mentioned above. The bottom group of circles provides more visual evidence of depth. 

The Hue/Saturation settings are listed shown in the same order of changes.

Don't forget to capture other images around you even though they are not currently your main interest as later you may find them more appealing when looking in isolation for what originally captured your heart. The tall skinny trees in front were just a bit lighter in colour and I found that in B&W I could best increase contrast from remaining foliage.
With one of the channel masks I first shifted the hue to more yellow for these trees, which made it easier with Black and White slider adjuster to lighten yellows and darken greens. Greater contrast from background.

As with the first image, lime-yellow leaves shifted more towards yellow and lightened. Green more blue and darkened.

A camera is light with a paint brush and with a canvas you can change any part if you want, unless the point is to document historical accuracy.

Niels Henriksen


Cynthia Schelzig said...

Such beautiful work you show here and great blog!!

jp said...

The last image looks surreal. It's like a dream land or a garden of eternity. Looks like the tree will not die forever. Thanks for sharing this, I really love it.


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