Sunday, 23 January 2011

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.

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