Thursday, April 19, 2007

Basic post-processing

A camera’s exposure system is designed to calculate all of the light levels coming into the camera and set an exposure that averages all the light to match a neutral gray tone. The result of all that averaging is usually a photo that looks, well – average. And we all know the people and pets in your life are anything but average.

The photo above, on the left, is what a Kodak Easyshare C633 presented of my adopted stray cat, Poly. (You can find out how she came upon her name with one “L” here). The photo is kind of gray and murky. Average.

A little work in a photo editing program (in this case, PhotoShop) brings the photo back to life and gets closer to what my eyes saw as I pressed the shutter button. I started by increasing the overall contrast. In PhotoShop this is accomplished in the Adjust/Levels dialog box by sliding the left and right sliders toward the center, then sliding the midtones to the left, brightening the photo. A similar effect can be achieved by increasing the contrast and brightness settings if your photo editing program is a simple one.

I then increased the color saturation, then selected everything except the cat’s face (in PhotoShop, I used the elliptical selector, lasso’d the face, then inverted the selection). I feathered the edges of the selection, decreased the levels of the background, then applied a blur. The resulting effect (photo on the right) really brought out the cat’s eyes, which I wanted to be the focal point of the picture. In fact, when taking photos of people or animals, focus on the eyes.

I then used the clone tool to make some adjustments to the catch lights in her eyes (raised and moved out of the irises), and I was finished.

Using a photo editing program after you’ve created a picture is not cheating. It’s unlocking the information that’s inherent in your photo, but has just been rendered as “average.”

Photos © 2007 James Jordan.

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Anonymous Cassie said...

You know, I've never thought about lassoing a face, then adjusting around it. That's a really good idea. I'll have to try it out.

April 24, 2007 at 10:52 AM  
Blogger James said...

Hi, Cassie!
I've found that lassoing is a much more organic way to select an area than any of the others and I've found that the area that has been modified is harder to detect in the finished image.

My favorite way to select an irregularly shaped area is to use the elliptical selector and lasso within that area. It usually doesn't perfectly fit, but I just keep lassoing while holding down the shift key until all the little bits are selected. If I mess one incremental selection, I simply hit undo and try again.

April 24, 2007 at 12:02 PM  
Blogger Miss Trashahassee said...

This is something that I definitely plan to try. Thanks for all the great tips and hints!

Miss T

May 5, 2007 at 9:06 PM  
Blogger Wally Banners said...

great info! your really a genius.

May 21, 2007 at 3:30 PM  
Blogger cube said...

Good work. It really brings out the best of Poly.

May 30, 2007 at 8:02 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

That is some great advice and you did wonders with the picture.

I have Paint Shop Pro 8 and XI (which crashes repeatedly) which are like Photoshop but a lot cheaper.

June 2, 2007 at 2:31 PM  

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