If I Were You

The Lizard

Suraj P. Singh is a Smart Photography reader from Navi Mumbai. He says that he has edited the picture (contrast, brightness and some sharpening) but wants to know how the framing could be improved.

Suraj, keep in mind that the background is just as important as the main subject. In your picture, the background is disturbing — the bright sky and the out of focus structure are competing for attention. May be you had no choice or may be you were afraid that the lizard would run away if you spent too much time trying to frame it better. Also, unfortunately, two thorns seem to be coming out of the lizard’s throat and another twig out of his back!

We shall see how the composition could be improved, but first let us improve on the tonalities.

1. I first selected the overexposed highlights on the lizard’s back and using Levels in Photoshop, toned it down (the selection was ‘feathered’ by 15 pixels).

2. Next, I selected the sky area, feathered it by 50 pixels and toned it down using Levels.

3. In the third step, using the Clone tool, I carefully cloned out the two offending thorns and the twig.

The picture now looked better but better framing would certainly improve it.

4. Hence I experimented with various crops and found this one (the edited image) suitable.

5. The background was given a helping hand with generous touch-up.

6. Finally, the image was sharpened.

When framing a subject: a) Move closer to the subject (whenever possible) b) Eliminate everything that does not add to the picture

Lord Shiva’s Statue

Anil Kumar Khatri from Lucknow is an amateur photographer learning from his mistakes. He has sent us two pictures (one of which is discussed here) and has requested for some tips to improve his skills. The picture is of Lord Shiva at Rishikesh (Parmarthniketan). The scene was photographed around 7PM in 2011. Incidentally, this is the same statue that was swept away by the devastating flood in June 2013.

While learning photography, the first step is not to be happy (for long) with one’s creation. In other words, find out how one can improve. You have indicated your willingness to learn and by doing so, you have taken the first correct step.

The photo that you have tried is quite difficult from the exposure point of view. If you expose correctly to get some details in the dark background area, it’s very likely that the statue would be overexposed;

If you expose correctly for the statue, the background would be badly underexposed.

When the lighting/subject has excessive contrast, one could resort to what is known as HDR (High Dynamic Range) imaging. Using a firm tripod, you take three pictures — one correctly exposed for the sky, another correctly exposed for the dark background, and the third, correctly exposed for the off-white statue. Then, using Photoshop (or any other editing software that has the feature) you could combine the three images to form a single image with adequate detail in the darks as well as the light areas. For obvious reasons,

I cannot go through the entire Photoshop procedure here (we have done that in past) but believe me, it is quite simple once you have some basic knowledge of Photoshop.

I have improved the picture by using the Shadows/Highlights Tool in Photoshop. This tool allows us to ‘open up’ shadows and/or ‘tone down’ highlights. It is possible to overdo the corrections and hence care must be taken to see that the final image still looks natural. I consider the Shadows/ Highlights Tool to be one of the most useful tools in Photoshop. A printscreen showing the adjustments is included.

The next step was to reduce the colour cast on the statue (without removing the warm colours in the background).

Finally, the image was sharpened.

Observe how some details have been brought back in the dark background. This is where you have to be extra careful — too much of detail here would look artificial. The water too has some details now. Observe how the brightness on the statue has been toned down. Compare the statue details between the two pictures. Again, be careful with the adjustments -we don’t want the statue to look dull.

Sea of Heaven

Sachin Balan is a Smart Photography reader from Port Blair, South Andaman. He wants to know how his picture, titled ‘Sea Of Heaven’ could be improved.

What would I have done if I were you?

Your picture is a good effort but it appears to be overexposed and does not convey the mood. Observe that the ‘sun-burst’ from the white cloud (often called Jacob’s Ladder) is washed out. However, it is also possible that your photo depicts the scene as you saw it at that time.

Now observe my edited image. It has deeper tones and the sun-rays from the cloud are clearly visible. The sea now is probably darker than what the eyes may have seen in the original scene. Does that bother me? Not at all. I am not a documentary photographer. I am not capturing reality; I am a digital artist and I am creating my vision. What I want my viewers to see is the view that I had in my mind’s eye when I took the picture. Photography is an art. Let no one tell you what you can or cannot do to your picture. If asked, just mention that the photo is your mind’s vision and not reality.

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