Sunday, 23 January 2011

Exercise 23: Alteration

For the final project in this section of the course the intention is out and out alteration of the image content. Using clone stamp tool and other possibilities a major element had to be removed. In re-working some of my earlier images I have already done some removal but as the majority of them were straightforward cloning of black background I would not consider using them for this exercise. For example the removal of the paper in my "Health" image.


Rework 1

Rework 2

To complete this exercise I chose one of the images I took of an elephant during the Elephant Parade 2010. Situated in one of London's parks at the time I deliberately included the street furniture and tourists. For this task I removed these elements.

Original Image

The first section that I cloned was the area between the elephants legs. To create the other side of the tree a selection was made of the left hand side with the rectangular marquee tool edit>transform>flip horizontal and it was blended in using a layer mask and brush tool.

Cloning and duplicating with Marquee Tool

Next the small elephant in the background was removed by cloning, the street lamp and finally the tourist. Again I found it easier to create the new side of the tree by making a selection and flipping it.

Selection flipped Horizontal

The clone tool/layer mask was again utilised to remove the rest of his body and fine tune the marquee selection.

Final Altered Image

Alteration by cloning is a very useful tool/skill and can be used to good effect to remove distracting elements however once again this should only be used when improving a composition where the message/intention of the photograph is not to deceive.

Controversy Crops Up Over Economist Cover Photo

Toledo Blade's Detrich Resigns Over Digitally Altered Photograph

Exercise 22: Addition

The aim of this task is to add an element from a different image using different techniques. The remit to to take a landscape view with a significant area of sky containing cloud detail. Using a tripod take two separate images, one with correct exposure for the sky and the other with correct exposure for the foreground. The images should be processed with minimal compensation and combined using layers if available.

Two different methods for the combination should be used, one using an erase method, the other using a selection tool.

The second part of this project is to import the sky from one photograph to another. The aim being to create a realistic effect. Obvious things to take into consideration will be direction of the sunlight and overall brightness and contrast.

Are these techniques a step too far? How much should you "doctor" an image and why? Is it ethical?

Completion of this task has been delayed mainly due to the poor weather. It has not played ball with me at all, rain, rain and a bit more rain. If not rain complete grey blanket cloud with no real detail and such 'flat' landscapes obtaining working images has been very difficult. Giving up in despair I rummaged through some of my archived shots. Because of this I have not been able to shoot using a tripod, deliberately taking two images correctly exposed for the sky/foreground, but I am familiar with and have used this technique previously. Instead I have chosen an image taken on a cloudy day and altered the exposure in RAW to provide the correct exposure for the sky/foreground.

Altering the Sky - Erasing

A local lavender farm opens it's fields shortly prior to harvesting the flowers. The original image was taken on a cloudy day with intermitent sunlight with the exposure chosen for the foreground. ISO 200 f10 18mm 1/125.

Original Image

Due to the recent inclement weather I have been unable to take images for this task so altered the original image in RAW to correctly expose the sky, bringing out the detail in the clouds and providing the second tiff image to be able to complete this exercise. There was no highlight clipping and the foreground is under-exposed. Had this image been shot to deliberately underexpose, it probably would have had a difference in the region of 2 fstops from the original. My intention is to take some images once the weather inmproves to see how many fstops I do need to alter my images to get this effect.

Altered in RAW to provide Second image

The lighter image was then dragged onto the darker image and the over-exposed sky was erased using a layer mask. I find this method of erasing offers much more control than simply using the erase tool.

Layers with Layer Mask Adjustment

Final Image
Although using layer masks is a better option than the erase tool I still found the area around the tree awkward to correct as I kept getting a halo effect. after some trial and error I obtained a result I was happier with.

Altering the Sky - Selection

The same two images were opened in photoshop, the lighter image placed on top of the darker but instead of using the erase tool the lighter sky was selected and deleted. Quick Mask mode was used to complete the selection with a feathered brush to assist with the blending of the different layers.

Quick Mask Selection

Final Selection Image
Using the selection technique was quicker and provided a more pleasing result, although I don't know if the jpegs on here show the subtle differences. The feathering of the selection was easier to obtain and this meant the sky blended into the foreground with more success first time on deletion.

Reflecting on the process of combining 2 copies of the same image, or shooting 2 frames at different exposures I can see nothing wrong with applying this manipulation technique. In post production we are only compensating for the camera's limited dynamic range. Our eyes automatically adjust to the ambient light and correcting exposure, unless done to the extreme, should have little impact on the content or meaning of the image taken. I have used this technique before and will no doubt continue to do so. To my mind the integrity of the photograph has not been affected, this is the scene as I saw it and it presents a true reflection of that place at that time.

Adding A New Sky

For this second part of the project I opted for an image of a statue taken outside the large greenhouse at Kew. It was a bright but overcast day with very little cloud detail. To get correct exposure for the statue the sky itself was very overexposed so what little detail there was lost and hard to recover.

To prove a point about needing the correct replacement sky I first experimented with a very bright blue sky but although the 'faux' background looked  fairly reasonable behind the statue it looked fake against the greenhouse which did not reflect the replacement.

Experimental test sky

Due to not liking the effect of the bright sky I did not take that much care while adjusting the edges along the trees and greenhouse but it shows that care care needs to be taken with choosing the second image which will provide the replacement background. Brightness, contrast and the direction of light all play a very important part of the decision making.

Experimental Selection

Having used images from the lavender field in the first part of this task I thought this image would be a better option.

Image to provide replacement sky

Both images were opened in photoshop and the selection of the sky from the target image was made using the magic wand tool. The selection was modified by expanding and feathering the selection, this was then tidied up by switching to quick mask mode.  Moving to the cloudscape window I did the following :

Select > All
Edit > Copy

With the cloudscape now held in the memory I returned to the target image. Ensuring the target image still had the sky selected I pasted the cloudscape across Edit > Paste into

The cloud area was then resized using Edit > Transform > Scale

Although the brightness of the sky is more suitable it still is not quite right due to the difference in the depth of field therefore I used the gaussian blur filter to correct this.

Exercise 21: Enhancement

For this part of the project the aim was to explore changes that possibly go beyond reality. I needed to take a portrait in natural or available light, no flash or photographic lighting. The face had to be in shade, not receiving direct light with both eyes clearly visible. Then the adjustments were made, firstly to the entire face, by increasing brightness and contrast. This should have drawn attention to the face whilst keeping it  natural looking.

The second selection was for the eyes only, just the iris and pupil. Saturation and brightness were increased. Then the hue was altered.

I chose a photograph from my original portrait shoot exercise one which fitted the bill. Taken under the shade of a tree in natural light and with both eyes visible (well just!) It isn't a perfect portrait and my son doesn't like this shot of him but as it fulfils the criteria for the adjustments I told him tough luck ;o)

Original Image

The first adjustment was to the overall brightness and contrast to the face, this was done using an adjustment layer and moving the sliders.

Brightness and Contrast Adjustment Layer
The overall effect is very subtle in this instance and makes the image less flat.

               Image with alteration to brightness and contrast                                          Original image.
The next adjustment was to the eyes. Most magazines brighten and  alter the models eyes to add extra sparkle especially when promoting beauty products. A selection was made using quick mask mode and a new layer created. The selection was then brightened. Nathan naturally has very dark brown eyes so whilst brightening them has indeed lifted them and shows the details of his iris the effect on the colour, for me, is a step too far. Anyone viewing the image who does not know him would possibly notice they don't look totally natural but not be aware that the colour is not as true as it should be. Having carried out similar effects on blue eyes the effect is more pleasing and natural in appearance.

Image with eyes brightened

                                        Original                                                                                        Brightness Adjusted                               

After brightening the instruction was to alter with the hue, this reduced the red tones making the iris appear more brown/hazel which I think has a much better result.

                                       Brightness only                                                                            Brightness and Hue

When compared to the original photograph the adjustment to both Brightness and Hue lifts the eyes and allows them to remain natural looking. The minor adjustment to Brightness and Contrast to the face is also very subtle. To make for an overall better composition I took the added step of toning down the background, cloning out something white and distracting on the tree bark and making minor alterations to spots, shadows under the eyes and stray hairs

                     Original Image no Adjustments                                                                     Final Image

Finally I also decided to brighten the whites of the eyes.

In conclusion I can see the benefits of making these minor enhancements. I think the emphasis has to be on minor and also that this portrait was taken and being altered for personal use only. I would quite happily send this image to relations as a fairly accurate representation of what Nathan now looks like. Some of these adjustments can be taken to the extreme and if used to promote a falsehood or used to adversely influence people is when the ethical waters get muddied.

The most recent controversies have been with the Elle cover's of Gabourey Sidibe  and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
Some companies have woken up to this and actively promote the use of natural women and natural images. Dove has been running their campaign for real beauty for five years now.YouTube - Dove - Evolution I think this is a very good video which shows how an attractive model has several extreme photoshop effects completed after the photoshoot. Much criticism has been aimed at magazines and beauty companies for promoting unrealistic role models which has a detrimental effect on the aspirations and self esteem of young people especially females.

T4 Battlefront is also running a campaign for Real Images/Real People Battlefront II | Home. It has also got the attention of politicians with the Lib Dems proposing a partial airbrushing ban back in 2009 Don't airbrush advertisements aimed at teens, say Lib Dems - Times Online and more recently in Australia there is a suggestion that magazines will carry air brushing warnings. Australian magazines could carry airbrush warnings | Health news | Marie Claire. Even the Girl Guides joined in Girl Guides’ petition bid to tackle magazine airbrushing | The Wire | Press Gazette.

Slowly more companies are coming to terms with not airbrushing, Ultimo  for example now do not airbrush models and some teen magazines also use natural girls.

On reflection I really can't see the harm in slight adjustments to create a portrait which the sitter is pleased with, but it should be as close to reality as possible. Photographers and advertisers have a greater responsibility beyond producing a pleasing image.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Life's Interuptions!

Snow,Christmas, New Year and my daughter's friends spilling alcohol all over my keyboard!!!

Several planned trips to exhibitions were delayed, hoping to reschedule in the coming weeks, Christmas spent with my mother meant I was not at home with PC, software, books or props for photography. New Year and my daughter was back from Uni seeing many friends, some of whom came round and were not as respectful as I would have liked with my keyboard. It eventually dried out and still works, however despite being cleaned some of the keys are still sticky and I don't like the feel or the sound of it! I doubt very much if the impoverished students will be able to replace it so it will be down to the impoverished mother to do it herself! Not impressed at all.

Despite all of the above I have still be keeping my eye on the news, actively looking at how many images in the papers and free papers are no longer produce in black and white and most importantly of all trying to concentrate and make final images for my B&W assignment....

Daughter goes back to uni on Saturday and my son is away on a weekend Scout camp.....peace for a while :o)

Have obtained a Zennox Instant Photo studio for £12.99...will be interesting to see if I can work with it or prefer my improvised set up. I think the lights will be useful if nothing else. Watch this space...I am collecting from my Mum this Saturday :o)