Tag Archives: Photoshop

The value of photo editing

I’ve been going back over old collections of photos I’ve taken. I certainly use a few for Facebook and also, if they’re travel pics, to illustrate my travel blogs. But they represent just a handful of the photos I’ve actually taken. Some of the others are pretty good, too โ€“ in fact, better with time to dull my expectations.

Why am I trawling through old pictures? I’m glad you asked.

Since I take photos with a digital camera, I have software to edit said images. Most professionals use Lightroom and Photoshop for their image artistry. I used to, but these days Adobe has changed its model so you can’t buy the apps anymore. You have to pay a monthly fee, for which you get all upgrades and some online space to store images. But I can’t justify the cost, which is presently $180pa. So I bought Photoshop Elements, which is a cut-down version of Photoshop CC (the online version). Elements does all the standard processing, but CC has additional features that I admit I sometimes miss. Lightroom is a powerful photo processor which is only available online. So I bought Luminar, a stand-alone app which does pretty much what Lightroom does. Skylum has released a new version of Luminar which addressed some of the app’s shortcomings, so I invested in that as a kind of birthday present. (18th November โ€“ in case you missed it ๐Ÿ˜‰)

And that is why I’ve been trawling through old photos.

You could say photo editing is cheating and I suppose it is in a way. But especially when you’re travelling, the weather is what it is. If you’re lucky, you have nice days and bright light. If you’re not โ€“ with photo editing you can make things a bit better. Especially if you save your files in RAW format – which you should if you want to do this sort of processing.

Here’s an example.

Earlier this year we went on a trip to the South Island of New Zealand. The weather was often positively miserable, even though the scenery was spectacular. ย This is a photo I took through a window on the Transalpine train, which was, of course, moving. Given the circumstances, it’s not too bad. I suppose.

This is the same photo, brightened up a bit

And in this one I’ve used Luminar’s sky replacement feature, using a photo of birds flying at the beach. Hey – why not? I’m just mucking about.

It’s a much more interesting picture.

Here’s another example. We were in Europe doing the Rhine-Main-Danube river cruise. Evening was approaching – and so was a barge. I was on a moving boat and the barge was also moving – and the light was fading. As a result, my lovely Autumn picture has a decidedly washed out sky.

In this one, I used Luminar to pick up a sky I took around the same time, just focused on the sky. If I’d known how, I could have bracketed the exposures to get all the elements in different shots which could then be merged – but I didn’t. Anyway, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a much better picture.

Of course, quite often I just want to tweak exposure or something. It’s much easier to do sitting at your desk than messing around with camera settings out in the world – especially if you and/or the subject are moving.

You also get to crop images and do some judicious removal of distracting bits of stuff.Here’s a good example.

This was taken from a moving boat (again) with fading light. It’s a dramatic picture of a black kite shouting at his rivals but all those branches get in the way.

So I did this.

Here’s one more, taken in fading light from a moving boat (same trip as the one above).

The Jabiru stork is feeding in the shallows, right next to the mangroves.

I brightened it up a bit.

Editing is almost as much fun as taking the photo in the first place.

Fooling around with Photoshop

A pelican brakes with its feet as it skis to a halt

I guess everybody knows how powerful the world’s best known photo editing program is. You can fool a lot of the people with images manipulated in PS, as many a person on Facebook can attest. Apart from fooling people, Photoshop can be used to create stunning digital masterpieces, putting together layer upon layer of images and effects. The other half of that, though, is it’s not the easiest piece of software to use. There are so many things you can do with it that the sheer complexity can thwart the beginner.

I’ve bought myself an online course to learn how to use this beast, and though it’s early days, I’ve discovered a few things, made some pretty pictures. That photo up the top is a (pretty nice, if I say so myself) photo of a pelican landing on the water. Not long ago a friend sent me a link to the best bird photos in the world 2017. And stunning they certainly are. Everybody loved the photo of the pelican landing on the water at dawn (or dusk), but I’ll admit to wondering if a little bit of Photoshop had been added to the mix. I’m a tiaro at Photoshop magic, but I thought I’d have some fun and see what I could do with the picture up there.

And here it is. I cut out the pelican and the trail of water from the original picture. Then I painted a graduated orange background and pasted the pelican onto it. That done, I copied the pelican image, then turned it over and foreshortened it a little to create the reflection. To make it look less like a mirror image, I added some distortion with a ‘liquefy’ filter which I found as a plug-in on the web. It’s not a photo anymore, it’s a piece of digital art, but I like it.Apart from anything else, it adds drama to the picture, and highlights the bird.

But then I had a bit more of a think. A bird landing like that creates ripples. And as it happens, I had a picture of ripples .

I inverted the colours to make it orange-based, then added the image as a layer, where I fiddled about with the perspective and how it would fit. And this is my finished masterpiece.

One of the things about photography is that you have to work with the limitations of the camera. It’s a piece of kit, with limited capabilities, unlike the human eye, which has a powerful editing system of its own. We don’t JUST see with our eyes. If you’re walking along a beach and a bird flies up, you can still see the detail of the beach because your brain fills in the gaps based on the information it collected before the bird appeared. So you can see both aspects of the scene, even though you might be concentrating on the flying bird. The camera can’t. The bird’s in focus. in movement, so what’s behind it is fuzzy.

In Photoshop you can get around that by combining two images, one of the scene, the other of the flying bird.

A Brahmani kite rises from the beach

Here’s a photo of a Brahmini kite in flight. He’s just taken off from the tidal flats. Nice picture of the bird, pretty ordinary one of the background. Now here’s a nice background. A bit boring, except for the clouds.

Cumulus clouds over the bay

Put them together, and we see what our eye/brain would see.

Apart from anything else, fooling around with photos is a lot of fun.

Here’s another one I prepared earlier. Learning more about realistic shadows, too.

The original photo of three pelicans flying in formation

An idyllic beach scene

And the final product