Category Archives: Competition

Clone wars – Bridal Retouching

While photographers strive for that perfect picture, often times we have to make do with where we are, the light we have and stray items or people in the shot. But, with modern technology and some skill, we can fix a good many things now in our digital darkroom. In this show and tell, I will be showing how I was able to remove a child who was not wanted in the image by the photographer. Just to make it clear up front, this was not my image, I do some work for hire and in this case, it was a friendly competition among several photographers as to who could do what with the image to meet the requirement of the picture being childless.

Bride and groom with child before edits

Here is our RAW image straight from the camera and without any edits at all. In the image you can see the color balance is off, the bride is not exactly the center of attention, there is the child in the foreground and there is the tilt thing going on. We need to fix several things here before we can give back the image to the photographer.  Now, there are many ways to correct this and I’m just going to show you one of many ways.  It does not make it any more correct or right than any other way. It just happens to be the way I worked this picture.

The first thing I needed to do was to remove as much of the little girl as I could. You could try and clone her out but it is a lot of work, you will fight the texture, the lighting, and you need the replacement floor, door jam and baseboards. So to keep things simple and because the human eye can be fooled given half a chance, I borrowed the wall from the right hand side and flipped it upside down. This gave me texture, lighting in the correct place and the clean corner.

start of edit with just the cloned wall

The result of the wall clone looks like this image. You can see with just the simple act of borrowing the right hand wall and moving to the left side then flipping it upside down, I have cleaned up the wall, the corner and erased most of the child. Now it looks much easier to fix what remains doesn’t it?

This still leaves me the floor, the door jam, baseboards and overall image corrections.  So lets move on shall we?  The next item on my list is the floor. It’s rather simple but like many things, paying attention to the detail is what makes it work. In this case, I selected a large piece of the floor and slide it sideways on it’s own layer. All my edits sit on their own layer so I can change and move things around without damaging my original image. I also lined up the darker boards so the eye is fooled into thinking all is well with the new cloned floor. A layer mask and a soft brush let me feather in the edges so there is not any hard line for the eye to see.

replacement floor with clean edge I drew in a selection with my polygonal lasso tool to get some straight lines, inverted the selection and then erased the wall that was in the way of the floor. This gave me nice clean edges.

This now leaves me with needing a baseboard. But, I dont have any baseboard to borrow or steal so what is a retoucher to do? You make it from scratch or in this case, I faked it by stealing part of the door jam and then using the transform tool to stretch it and bend it the way I needed it to be. If you notice, my wall is not straight but I have a perspective angle on the wall which is what you would see if it were real. The lines head back in a convergence and if you dont have this, the brain will note there is a problem and the picture will not look “right”.

baseboard and door jam replacement

I also took advantage of the good parts of the door jam to fix the parts that had the child in the way. One issue right now is that the edges of the new baseboard are too “sharp”, they stand out and do not really look part of the wall. A simple layer of gaussian blur takes care of that along with a soft brush to put just the right amount in place. Retouching is as much artistry as it is anything else so you have some leeway as far this sort of reconstruction goes. As long as you are close enough, the brain will automatically fill in the rest for you. And that is something you can use to your advantage when retouching.

At this point, I spent some time cleaning up the edges of the door frame by making small straight selections and moving them up against the door frame. This brought in texture and a clean edge to my edits and building out of the door frame. A touch of blur here also smooths things out. I used color sampling and a brush set to about 10% opacity to “paint” in color to smooth out the color on the door jam.

I used a grad filter on the left side to darken up the wall some which helps hide all the work. And then I used a white grad filter to add some “light” to the top. Again we are fooling the eye by putting in tones that the brain expects to see and using them to help blend everything together. My final layer was to color adjust and apply a high pass filter to the bride only.

Final Edited and rebuilt image of bride

In this image, I decided I liked black and white better as it fixed the color casts of the original. I was able to to use a yellow filter to really clean up the dress and I worked the face and dress to get good deals. The black and white version was the keeper and it made everybody very happy.

Asian bride with mom in black and white

 

I wish to thank Rengie Mendoza at renzaweddings.com for permission to use his image for this tutorial.

 

Also posted in editing, musings, portraits, technique, training

500px and showing off your pics

[dropcap_1]M[/dropcap_1]y new site for showing off images is called 500px.com and they beat the pants off Flickr and most other photosites by a large margin.  You can click on the image below and see what I mean. You get the image and all the details you would like to know about the image plus an comments.

You DONT get the infamous Facebook compression fuzziness or the dated Flickr interface.  And you can sell your images through 500px which is always a good thing.

You can write a blog on 500px. You can have a portfolio that is separate from the main photosite. You can embed images into your own website. You can track friend’s posting of new images and you can build a catalog of favorite images that you like. You can upload FULL SIZED IMAGES and to top it off,  it’s cheap for a year 49.95 for the year with unlimited uploads.

What else is there? How about an iPad app that brings an excellent way to show your images on your IPad. After fighting with Flickr on the iPad for the better part of a year, this means alot to me.  And you dont need to log in to see new images, just open the app. There are third party apps for the Droid users and they provide much of the same user experience. Since I dont have a Droid, I can not personal vouch for these apps.

You can find my 500px site here:

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Long Live the Pocket Camera, the Pocket Camera is dead

the top and sides of an iPhone 3G S.
Image via Wikipedia

Yet another single use device has bitten the dust or I should say, is biting the dust even as I type this. The “pocket camera” or “Point and shoot” is dying a fast and unlamented death. The cause of death is the smart phone of which no matter which one you use, iPhone, Droid etc, now have a reasonable camera built in. It’s the old “good enough” syndrome of the consumer. The smart phone hits the mark in convenience and is good enough for most consumers to grab that snapshot.

When I’m scouting for locations, do I pull out my Canon G11? Nooope.. I pull out my iPhone with the GPS and then shoot and tag. I use my G11 about once a month if that. I use my iPhone at least once a day to shoot a picture of something. It could be a reminder of a phone number, a product in the store, something I’m doing that friends would find interesting.

Just the other day, I replaced the seals on my medium format camera. As I did the job, I took the iPhone and shot pictures every  now and then and put them up on Facebook in seconds. Not real time but close and alot of people enjoyed it. Could I do that with my fancy G11? Not a chance. I would have to shoot, upload to the computer, resize and then upload. The phone literally took seconds to complete the entire task. And that included enhancing the images using software on the phone.

Facebook which has the most pictures online, even more than Flickr which is one of the best photo sites, has some interesting statistics.  Facebook at last count has something like 50 BILLION pictures uploaded on it’s site. Flickr shows that it’s most popular camera is the iPhone 3G with the typical Nikon/Canon DSLRs in the 2nd/3rd slots. Not a point and shoot anywhere to be found in the top listing. Personally, I take shots with my iPhone and load them straight to Facebook. I’ve become so used to that feature and the ability to shoot an email on demand, I would not consider any pocket or point and shoot that didn’t do this. Nobody wants to shoot images on their point and shoot and then take it home, transfer to the PC, fix them and then upload to Facebook or Flickr or whatever. They want to shoot and go right then. And so long as the image is good enough, they are happy.

Most popular camera on Flickr

Most popular camera on Flickr

PSExpress, CameraOne and Best Camera are three apps I use all the time on my iPhone. Between the three, I can normally get a “good enough” image out of my iPhone. Would I shoot a wedding with it? Nope.. but as a guest I would be happy to use it to get the occasional snap. I will say that once I used my iPhone 4’s video, I never shot video on my Canon g11 again. The phone was just that much better then my 500 dollar camera.

Does anyone want to buy a slightly used G11?

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Final Westcott Competition Entries

Some of you know that the photographic lighting supplier, Westcott,  did a pretty crazy cool thing at Photoshop World this year in Vegas. They set up four shooting sets and had live models, lights, props and watchers on hand and then let the public go nuts shooting the models. The payoff if that IF you enter their contest and IF you win, your image will be the Westcott catalog and you get some lighting equipment. And let me tell you that after shooting with their spiderlights, I’m lusting after a set of those lights! Cool, nicely balanced and bright, they are easier than strobes when shooting something like this where a subtle change in position or expression can have a profound impact in the image. Since the lights are continuous, you can shoot as fast as you can click the shutter without worry of the strobe not keeping up. In my studio here in Orange, this type of shooting works really well. I shoot strobes alot but after working with “hot lights” twice now, I really can see the value of them, especially the new cool “hot” lights.

Here are my entries for the contest. I’m also including a few shots of the sets so you can see the environment we had to work in. I used several different techniques with my entries. I worked only with the props and set given, I replaced the background in one, I flipped one to a “painting” using CS5’s new bristle brushes and I worked the tones. In all case though, the overriding concerns were sharpness, content, composition and overall impact of the image. I feel that without a sharp image and good solid composition, all the post work in the world will not push a bad image up the ladder.

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