How To Save A Picture From The Recycling Bin
Most of my private messages on Facebook are similar. "What program do you use to edit your pictures?" While there are a multiplicity of choices I try to keep it simple. For batch editing I use Adobe Lightroom and for individual projects I use Photoshop. I've either owned or demo'd just about everything that's out there but I keep coming back to Lightroom for its cataloging and elementary editing capabilities.
As my personal assignment I dug out an image that I took from the beach last summer. The goal was to save an image that I pretty much dismissed when I edited the summer vacation pics. The image obviously was not staged and I'll admit, has little going for it. I was walking behind my wife and took a snapshot as we were heading towards the water for the actual "family images".
While I'm probably not going to disclose the "secret sauce" for all of my edits, I'll walk you thought my workflow with some simple and popular techniques that can be used in Adobe Lightroom.
Step One Clone Stamp
The first thing I did was remove all the distractions in the sand. There were rocks, grass and other debris that needed to go, especially the grass on the side of the fence. For this first step, I did pull the image into PS and I used a combo of the healing brush and clone stamp tools. This could have been done in LR but PS does a much better/quicker job.
Step Two Exposure
My intentions were to get to the beach for some early morning light. Because of this, I did not want to bump the exposure slider to make it look like it was high noon. Instead I moved my shadows to 100% and my highlights to -100%. This is something I do quite a bit. With those 2 simple moves, this was the result.
Step Three Composition and Color
All I wanted to do here was create more of a panorama type photograph. I used the crop tool and began adding some color with the white balance brushes.
Step 4 Create The Mood
LR does not have the ability to work in layers however you can still layer certain things onto the same image. By lowering the flow and density of the adjustment brushes I was able to gently get the color and mood that I was hoping achieve the first time straight from the camera. The pins on the screen represent the number of times I layered the color onto the sky. I believe I also added an exposure brush onto the water to bring it out just a bit.
That's A Wrap
At this point it becomes a matter of taste and personal preference. I originally liked the bottom image; but after coming back to it an hour later, I moved some sliders around to tone it down a bit. Now I prefer the top one.
While I'm the first to admit that not every picture I take is "folio worthy", the originals don't often come out this bad. But when they do, at least I know I can save them in post.
So I guess this begs a few questions......
1. With today's editing software, you can clearly see why anybody who owns a camera calls themselves a photographer. I completely missed the shot and was able to pull it off. I'm not saying this is a good thing, it's just the way it is. I see more "photographers" posting work on facebook etc... and all they have is a kit lens and camera that was purchased at Best Buy.....pun intended. They know nothing about lighting, exposure or manual controls on the camera. All of these attributes lead to number two.
2. What's your photographer worth? Having even the slightest knowledge on composition and editing saved this photograph from the recycling bin. It was not the computer. Even though this was essentially just a snapshot, your photographers experience and trained eye notices subtle things like a clean background (the sky), leading line (the fence) , and straight horizon (the ocean). These are the qualities that you are paying your photog for. If this was a cluttered background and had poor composition no amount of editing would have salvaged the picture.
3. In 2014 is it more important to hire a good photographer or a good digital editor? Even though I strongly favor the prior, I often ponder the latter.