Some say that a photo should be a direct representation of what we saw as we clicked the shutter. I say, that is impossible. The eye, like the camera, may see the true picture, but the brain tends to see what it wants to see, and the photo may therefore disappoint.
We filter out that ugly sign in the background. We don’t really notice the telephone wires overhead. We know it is a sunny day so we see warm sunshine, even where a camera may capture a rather flat scene. Must a photo retain all of these things; or is it acceptable to remove them so that it looks like we thought it looked, rather than as it really did?
And what about the things we do see but wish we didn’t? The stray person in the background; the ugly car parked in front of the beautiful church; the branch of a tree partly blocking the view? Photo-editing can remove those distractions to create a more aesthetically pleasing, if not totally accurate, record of a scene.
I confess I love to edit my photos; I am not a purist. As I have said elsewhere in this blog (Smoke and Mirrors), I strive to produce the best images I can. And I do so even if that means playing around with the originals to create something I find more pleasing to the eye, and more reflective of how I perceived the scene rather than how the camera recorded it.
I was pleased therefore to see that this week’s Lens-Artists Challenge invites us to share some ‘before and after’ images. Although this does unfortunately mean that I will have to let you all see those original images that didn’t please me as much as I would have hoped, and which I would normally keep well-hidden!
The suggestion is that we present some images that were initially disappointing ‘out of the camera’ but which through editing we’ve turned into ‘keepers’. Let’s see what I can find …
[If you must look, the originals are at the foot of this page!]
A gossip with a friend
While visiting Sofia with some Virtual Tourist friends in 2019, I took a walk in the streets around our hotel in search of street art and street photography possibilities. I grabbed a shot of two women engrossed in conversation outside a book store. The shot had potential but needed work. I cropped out a distracting building, car and street sign on the right-hand side and got rid of a white sticker on the bookshop wall. I then converted it to black and white, using Silver Efex Pro’s ‘dark sepia’ filter to give it a slight vintage feel.
I grabbed this photo of a fisherman from a minibus while on an outing in Bulgaria. I knew the bridge was in shot and that I was too far away, but I reckoned I could make something of it. So back home I cropped and straightened the image; I also lightened it as the tinted window of the bus made it look murky. Finally I gave it a slightly painterly effect in Color Efex Pro.
On the streets of Hanoi
I took this photo while on a walk through old Hanoi last February. I found the woman very interesting and photogenic, so I cropped tightly around her. And, as I often do with street photos, I converted it to black and white. Finally I boosted the contrast and added a touch of vignetting to highlight her face.
Sunrise at Angkor Wat
When we visited Angkor Wat last year our guide took us to a spot where we could watch the sun rise over the ruins away from the crowds of other tourists there to do the same. It made for a much more peaceful experience; but we didn’t get the water in the foreground to lighten our shots so photography was challenging. I took this shot on a long exposure with my camera resting on a wall. It needed straightening, naturally, but that alone wouldn’t ‘rescue’ the image. So I used Photoshop Elements to lighten it, which revealed the bright colours of the sunrise. It also revealed the causeway, giving the foreground interest that, without the water, the image lacked.
I increased the saturation of the sky a little and also removed the distracting bit of scaffolding towards the left side, which had been hardly noticeable in the original but showed up more against the brighter sky. And I used Color Efex Pro to smooth out the worst of the grain in the sky. For this I employed a favourite trick, applying the skin smoothing filter but using the eyedropper to pick up the different shades in the sky.
Kamikochi in the rain
We spent a rainy morning walking in Kamikochi National Park in the Japanese Alps. Despite the bad weather the autumn colours were lovely, but the resulting photos sometimes fell a bit flat. For most of them I just used PS Elements to boost the contrast; but for this shot I had some fun playing around with Landscape Pro to add a more dramatic sky and make it look generally more autumnal.
Rain again on Lago Todos los Santos
In Chile we spent another rainy day cruising on Lago Todos los Santos. The outing was prebooked and pre-paid, otherwise I don’t think we would have bothered, as there was zero chance of seeing the stunning mountains that (apparently!) surround the lake. But of course I still had a go at taking some photos. I was especially drawn to the forested hills around Peulla where we stopped for lunch, although I could only just make out the interesting shapes of the trees through the drizzle.
I started my edit on this one with the ‘auto smart fix’ option in PS Elements; the mists dropped away to revel the soft greens in the trees. Next I boosted those greens with the foliage enhancer in Color Efex Pro. Finally I used one of its vintage film effects to produce this finished result, and gave it a frame. It reminds me a little of an oriental painting, just as my original view of these trees had done.
Lake-side in Peulla
Another ‘rescue’ from the same trip was taken down by the boat landing in Puella. I cropped out the distractions of fence and ferry, removed some of the bright orange buoys and used the colour contrast filter in Color Efex Pro to brighten the scene, making it look more misty than miserable. I also added a very slight vignette to further emphasise the brightness on the water.
And now to reveal the originals
Click to open a slideshow if you really must see them full size!