Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Exercise 20: Improvement

Intervention in photography moves from adjustment of the basic qualities to actions which, in our eyes makes the image look better. In other words interpretation. Local adjustments can be made to a specific area of an image. Once again the premise of making local adjustments in nothing new, with dodgy and burning being traditional techniques used in darkroom printing.

There are various methods in which to make local adjustments and selections. Some are more automated than others. Our own personal perception has a lot of influence over what is selected and the level of adjustment made.

For this part of the project I needed to take a portrait of a person and select the area of just the person. Having made the selection and any necessary retouching to refine the edges, I needed to make the image stand out more clearly from the background whilst remaining realistic.This is the digital equivalent of traditional dodging and burning and widely accepted as the norm.

The portrait below is of my son at the local heath. He was sitting in the shade on a slightly overcast day, the unedited image is a little flat and could benefit from some basic adjustments.

Unedited Version

I decided to approach the local adjustments on two levels; to make the background slightly darker and to make areas of the main subject slightly lighter.  To make the selections Quick Mask mode was utilised @ 100% opacity but with a feathered brush. Each local adjustment was selected individually, rather than the person as a whole, to allow for more control. A total of five layers were created, each with a layer mask so edges could easily be refined. A Curves adjustment was applied to alter the contrast and density. Refinements were completed using the Brush Tool on the layer mask


The improvements made were minimal as to keep the image natural looking and not alter the original image in the extreme, the intention of the improvement was to give an overall improved result, not produce
a creative alternative version of the scene.
Edited Version
To demonstrate how the image is now lighter and stands out from the background but has not been radically altered I have shown them here side by side for comparison.

Side by Side for Comparison

I have no doubts that as far as this image is concerned these adjustments are perfectly legitimate, reasons being: 
  • The same or at least a similar result could have been attained using a fill in flash.
  • As previously mentioned these alterations are no different to the darkroom techniques of dodging and burning.
  • There has been no addition or subtraction and the content/meaning of the image remains the same.
  • The selection and alterations were made based upon how the scene was viewed/remembered by the human eye rather than how it was captured by the photographic equipment.
The ethics behind alteration is something that provokes strong emotion/debate and I shall comment on this more fully in another post, for the time being I would say that in conclusion even "simple" alterations such as contrast and dodging/burning can be used in the extreme to alter the meaning of an image. If these alterations are merely for artistic purposes I can see no harm in it, however if used for political gain or to erroneously sway public opinion/ mislead this is where problems can arise.

No comments:

Post a Comment