Thursday, August 6, 2009

About Editing

BY SUZANNE WILLIAMS

I have one major rule about photography editing and that is to do very little of it. I only edit a photograph to fix minor faults which might distract the viewer, to remove strange color casts, or to add contrast. I rarely ever crop a photo, though one exception to this would be leveling a horizon. In a landscape shot, horizons should always appear level horizontally.

One example of an editing choice, would be the following photograph. The top picture is the original. As you can see, there is a distracting out-of-focus flower on the left-hand side of the background.

In the second photo, I used Photoshop's healing brush to remove it. The most important thing to remember when using the healing brush or any cloning type tool is that your final results should not show your work. It is very easy to be sloppy and leave repetitive patterns. Trust me, I always spot them. It is good advice to use the three-point rule: work closely, work slowly, and pay attention.

Before

500-P8043751

After

Captured, Green Lynx Spider

Here is another example. In this image I removed the tip of a leaf which just barely sticks into the left side of the photo.

Before

500-P8043714

After

Pink, Guara

Often editing can come down to choices between two images. Other than resizing and minor contrast enhancement, I haven't changed anything in these next two photographs. It is the same small spider on the same flower. However, the difference between the two involved how I angled my camera. I like the top photo much better because there is more of the background flower. The bottom angle leaves too much busy out-of-focus background and a distracting piece of the same adjacent flower protruding in on the left.

Green Lynx Spider

500-P8043743

When adding contrast to an image, my favorite method uses an unsharp mask technique I picked up in a magazine. In Photoshop, I use an amount of 20%, a radius of 50, and a threshold of 1. These can be adjusted to give more and less contrast, depending on the image. I also often use Selective Color and adjust the percentage of black colors and white colors in the image. However, when using that method I do not generally mess with any of the cyan, magenta, or yellow sliders as these affect the color casts.

As I stated previously, I do not like to crop an image. If I take the image with a certain focal distance and as a vertical image, I prefer to leave it that way. I have already stated that leveling a horizon is one exception to this rule. After I have corrected the horizon, I will then crop it using the same ratio as the original image. If my camera uses 4:3 images, then I crop at 4:3. If it uses 2:1.5 then I use 2:1.5. (2:1.5 will give you a 640x480 pixel ratio. 4:3 is common for 4"x6" pictures.)

However, once in a while a photograph just needs to be vertical or horizontal when it was not. The top image in this last example is the original horizontal image. You can see there is just too much negative space around the flower and the butterfly. In order to isolate my subject, I chose to crop (2:1.5) the photograph into a vertical format. This gives more of a feeling of height than the horizontal image.

Original

500-P8043736

Cropped

Wings, Monarch Butterfly

Editing should always be done with great care. To me each image is unique and for this reason, unless it is simple resizing, I do not understand batch editing. I am striving with each photograph to present it at its best, and each image is worth my taking a few moments of time to address it singly. If I have taken the time to capture the photograph properly in the camera, then very little editing is required anyway. And this is the best way to save myself time to do other more enjoyable things!

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Suzanne Williams Photography
To Read More of My Words
Florida, USA


Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

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