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For Kenny - or how to pull that Sky back in...

Some of you might remember my blog from last year about my attempt of a portrait of Joy in tricky light condition and how I solved it with a fill flash and a head shot. Here's the blog from last year:


And here is the photo I 'discarded' then because the sky is washed out:

Having learned some additional ways on how to use PS, I tried to edit this photo. As I always shoot RAW (Nikon NEF), I get to PS RAW converter when opening a photo.

On the screenshot below, you can see that I have all settings on 0, except brightness on +25 (I learned that in a tutorial and will just use it for now) and WB as shot (including temperature and tint). On the histogram (top right), I already clicked on the yellow icon and the washed out highlights are now marked red on my photo:

On my next screenshot, you can see that I changed the exposure just to the point where my red markings disappear, which gives me a value of  -0.24. That's not too bad; that is less than a third of an f-stop. Of course, if that sky would have been totally washed out, I could have just trashed the photo or cropped it.

I also have already used the straighten tool (top bar, to the right of the crop tool) and have drawn a line over my horizon to keep the water in the ocean :-). When you let go of the cursor, you automatically get to the crop tool and find a corrected rectangle. Just double click the photo and then open your image:

The sky is now visible everywhere but you might like it to be a bit more dramatic. One of the most important thing in PS is to understand the work with layers. So the first thing I do is, I duplicate the layer. A window does now appear and calls the new layer 'Background copy' - I changed it to 'sky'. On that layer (make sure it is highlighted blue; on the right side) I select the sky with the selection tool (left, about fourth from top). You can also save your selection for further use and give it a name. Next time you want to work on it just go to load selection (again make sure the layer your selection is on, is highlighted blue).

Before you save your selection, you can smoothen it by clicking 'refine edge' (top bar). A pop-up window appears. At the top of that window, you see a black arrow on blue ground; click on it and choose 'on black'. Then with your cursor 'paint' over the black edge and when you're done, click ok. On the next screenshot you can see where my cursor was - just right of the background mountain. Refining your edge is very important for instance when you want to separate Setter hair from a sky background!

You can now for instance just darken your sky by adjusting the brightness (adjustments/first icon) - only the selected area will be affected! 

When your done merge the sky and the background layer or your file will become too large (depending how many layers you've created). Click on both to highlight them (not the brightness layer), go to layer menu (top bar) and merge layers (near the bottom).

I have worked with many more layers on this photo and changed contrast, colour, tone in sections but thought of just showing how a selection could be made on a seperate layer and used for something like the sky - or else this blog would have never ended... :-). I hope this was helpful. Come and join us on Camera Corner...


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Comment by Kenny Jarvis on October 25, 2012 at 5:47pm

Thank you very much Cornelia that is very helpful and once i get some time i will have to give it a try.

Comment by Anna Kazimierowicz on October 27, 2012 at 11:53am

fine lesson, Cornelia:-)

since we are talking about editing I always wonder where is the border between editing and making a new photo

Comment by Cornelia on October 28, 2012 at 10:44am

Thank you, Anna! An important point you mention here! I would say, if I had added a different sky, like from a beautiful sunset, then I would have created a new photo. In editing, I try to show what I saw with my eyes but where the the camera needs a little help.

That would mean for the above photo: When I let my eyes wander over the scene and look at Joy and then to the overcast sky, which is still far brighter than Joy, the pupils of my eyes open and close as I do so, changing the 'aperture of my iris'; my brain then puts the whole scene together as one in the correct light for Joy and the background. My camera on the other hand has only one aperture to capture the above scene. So I have to find settings, with which I do not loose information, neither in the darkest or brightest part of the photo. Editing allows me to enhance these settings and bring back to the photo, what my eyes saw in the first place. 

Comment by Anna Kazimierowicz on October 28, 2012 at 4:32pm

Oh, Cornelia, I do hope you didn't feel accused be me. My thoughts sometimes are quite far away.. I've been thinking rather about ethics in photography. During your workshop you probably talked about it. I'm interested in repoortage, and I know many cases when Photoshop helped to "improve" the photo.

.I had the same problem with the sky while taking these  photos. It was fine sunny day with perfect blue sky.

I decided to take Kasia's portrait with this background, but as you perfectly know the result was not good:

to have a bright head I lost the sky. I even tried to illuminate her face with fluorescent aluminium foil. In the end I decided to find better angle. There was good one but with the lines in the backgroud

so the final effect you could see on ES

I still don't have PS so I have to compromise:-)

Comment by Cornelia on October 30, 2012 at 6:49am

Thanks Debbie! A lot can be done with more reasonable and easier to use software like 'aperture'.

@Anna - no, I don't feel accused at all. Yes, ethics was spoken about in the tutorial - it was for nature photographers. I think it is very important to stay 'truthful' in reportage and in nature photography also to a certain extend: I do not mention every blade of grass, I removed to get a better shot at an orchid, but I would not place a bird on a different background. Merging two photos is also 'legal' and if done well, can be an artform in itself - it's done in film all the time with the bluescreen - it's not my stile though. 

You did well with solving your photo problem! Even without PS you might be able to put a bit more fill light in or intensify the blue of the sky - I used iphoto for a long time. I would however recommend, cleaning your sensor :-) 

Comment by Anna Kazimierowicz on October 30, 2012 at 3:20pm

Yes, I know about this spots:-)


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