Saturday, April 2, 2011

Ex. 21 Enhancement

The primary challenge for this exercise was to take a suitable portrait in shade and not using flash, the result was an exif reading: 1/50s, f/5.6, ISO 1250 using a 30mm prime on a Samsung NX100 mirrorless compact camera. As an aside having an interchangeable lens camera that incorporates an APS-C sensor is very handy, perfect for candid or street work.

The portrait I took is quite dark and back-lit, so I think well suited to the kind of enhancement planned here.  The starting point was:

In Lightroom all I did was a standard RAW conversion with some noise reduction, then saving to a PSD image for import into PS CS4.  As with the previous exercise I created a mask first using the quick selection tool and then refined the edge using the eraser and paint brush in Quick Mask mode.  I used the refinement tool to then feather the edge of the mask to create a smoother transition into the hair.  The mask looked like this:

I saved the selection to an Alpha channel and then set about adjusting the brightness and contrast to place more emphasis on Heidi's face (also removing a spot with the clone tool):

The biggest challenge here was to not overdo the brightening, it was very easy to enetr territory in which the image began to look artificial.  Next step was to create a new mask just for the eyes:

My first attempt at lighting the eyes was:

This was too much, the eyes look as if they are glowing.  Strangely adjusting the small area of the eyes was far more difficult than the overall face.  I suspect that we are far more sensitive to a persons eyes than their face.  So I toned down the brightness and arrived at the following:

Only a small change, but it does very much improve an otherwise dull image.  Philosophically I do not mind this level of intervention, provided it is clear that I have done it.  I would, though, choose to use a little fill flash to avoid this process from the start.

I find heavily airbrushed images of models to be fake and portraying an impossible look that too many people then strive for.  I feel that photography should shoulder much of the blame for current problems of body image and subsequent illnesses suffered by the young.  Innocently used to provide an enhanced image of a person, say a bride, to be treasured in future years, this technique offers much, used repetitively to create an overwhelming image of flawless beauty it is a destructive tool.

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