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Making a good photo great

One of the things I find most satifying is to take a good photo and make it better by some deft editing. Almost any picture can be enhanced so before you discard your images, take a deeper look at what you've got. Here's an example of a photo that normally I would discard for any number of reasons.

Although I quite like it as it has captured my subject really well, and I think the use of B&W is right for this image, I have so many fantastic images of Kate that I've become conditioned to expect every photo to be perfect. It's not that this is a bad photo by any means, it's not. However, there are problems as it was taken very close up, and because I used a good quality manual macro / portrait lens in really tight, Kate quite rightly says it shows every blemish. Normally, I'd probably delete in favour of more flattering shots but here I thought I'd see what some editing of the image brings.

Now, the wonderful thing about photo editors is there's practically nothing that can't be done. The other wonderful thing is that they make great editors for every platform including smartphones. For example, here I thought I'd use an application called TooWiz Photos which I downloaded free to my Samsung S6 smartphone. I also use Snapseed, Google Photos and one or two others and all will keep you amused for hours. ToolWiz has four pages of editing features and yes, you've guessed it, each of those features has lot's of editing options. In practice it's all a little daunting but it's unlikely that you are going to use every feature so eventually you settle on the editing features you really like. The feature I prefer to use the Pro Editing feature as this provides lots of opportunity to modify any photo exactly how you want it.

Before I start discussing the editing of photos let me explain about my workflow. To store and access my photos I use Google Photos as this makes it possible for me to access any photo from any application, whether that's an application on my smartphone, e.g. ToolWiz, or on my desktop PC. It also allows me to showcase any photo on this website in any location I choose. For example, all of the images here are in a directory on Google Photo's called Content and the images stored in that album on Google Photos can be added to any article or any gallery instantly. Nothing is stored on my web-server, it's all hosted by Google. If you'd like more information about using this type of workflow then please let me know.

Often, when you start out editing you may have an idea of what you are trying to achieve. Other times, the editing process can open up some new ideas. One of the first things to look at is softening of the image. InToolWiz there's a section of portrait tools ideal for manipulating images such as the one shown above. For most pictures, colour, brightness, exposure and contrast will for the most part resolve any issues that you may want to improve. The other key tool you might employ is cropping. Sometimes there's an image within an image that just cries out to be isolated - more on this in a later blog. 

Here, the problem really is the closeness of the lens to the subject and the harshness of the lighting on the face. Changing exposure or contrast won't have any real effect here as the subject is well exposed and the contrast is good. There are two processes which will however help and these are smooting of the facial contours and brightness. Both for example will help to smooth the natural lines on the face while retaining the integrity of the image. As an example of this process, this next image is the effect of using the blemish removal tool to help remove some of the facial lines disliked so much by Kate. 

The other technique I mentioned was to increase brightness and this is easily achieved inToolWiz, and for that matter, any other photo editing program. The goal here is to retain as much as possible the integrity of the original photo whilst trying to smooth out any remaining features which detract from the beauty of the subject. Here's an example of increasing brightless by around 20%.

  

As I mentioned at the top of this article, where you eventually end up is down to you as the artist. You can wash out as much definition as you like or, in situations where definition is what you are trying to achieve, add in contrast to make your features pop. Here, for my last photo I wanted to go for a really high key image so far from the original that it unless you see the journey, as outlined above, the start and end points wouldn't necessarily be that obvious.

A big thanks to Kate for being my beautiful subject for this article.

 

Photo Re-touching | Lifting Detail
AQUA Adrenaline / OCRDA Power Boat Event, Torquay

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