Photo Editing: My Way

Orion

Ultimate Fish
Moderator
Feb 10, 2003
5,803
3
38
Kentucky
www.thefishcave.net
#1
Photo Editing: My Way

This is a description of some of the ways I might edit a fish photo after I’m done with a photo session. It’s important to keep in mind that while this might be the way I use right now, there are a 100 ways of doing the same thing in any of the popular photo editing software’s available. So the way I do something isn’t necessarily the ‘right’ way of doing it. And you don't have to have expensive photo software to do some of what I describe here, as well as other things. There are cheap, and some free programs available that are capable of many useful features. I’m sure people with a lot more experience with photo software could do the same thing much better. And I hope to get there one day, but for now, this works well for me.

For this editing I’m using Photoshop CS3. But many photo editing software will do similar if not the same thing, it might just be called something a little different. And don't be afraid to try new things and experiment to see what works best for you. This is the way that works well for me right now, but this might not be the best way for you to do it, and a few months from now I might find better ways of doing the same things.

When I look at my photo’s, I not only look for the ones that look great right from the camera, I look for any that are good and also have potential to be better with some help from photo editing. The things that could be wrong with the photo could be something from water spots on the glass, or debris floating in the water that got caught in the flash, or small scratches on the glass, to the flash being a little much on the subject and almost overexposing the photo. These small things are most of the time easily corrected with some minor editing in Photoshop. For this example I’ll use a photo I took yesterday of one of the festivums.



Looking at the photo above, it first got my attention when I was reviewing all the photo’s because the subject, the festivum, was in focus and in somewhat of an interesting pose. However you can see that there are lots of little white specs in the water that shine like little beacons thanks to the flash. Also the head and breast area of the subject is almost overexposed due to the flash as well. So how do we fix this?

The first thing I will normally do in a case like this is use the Quick Mask. What this does, is let me use the paint brush and basically ‘paint’ the areas that I want to either change, or keep from changing, while changing something in the rest of the photo.



When in Quick Mask mode, the black color lets me add to the area to remain unaffected (and turns it red), while changing to the white color lets me add to the area that’s going to be changed by whatever I decide to do with it. So in the above shot, you can see that I want to keep the fish, and the driftwood in the foreground from being changed right now, so they are colored red by Photoshop to let you know what’s in the mask and what isn’t. Personally, it took me quite a bit of practice to get the hang of using the quick mask. At first I always seemed to be going outside the subject, or too far in. Let me state that it does take practice! For me this is the longest part of the entire process. My purpose here is to basically separate the subject of the photo from the background so that I can have better control over the editing which follows.

Once I’ve got the Quick Mask where I want it, I exit the Quick Mask Mode and the red color goes away, and I get the ‘marching ants’ border around the selected area:





Now I’ve got the background of the photograph selected, I can start my editing of it. The first thing I did was adjust the highlight’s of the background because I felt that they stood out too much. I didn't want to adjust the overall brightness of the photo because if I did I could have lost some of the detail of the rest of the background. I did this by going to IMAGE > ADJUSTMENTS > SHADOW/HIGHLIGHTS . I think this is one of the neatest things in any photo editing software’s bag of tricks. This allows me to either brighten up the shadow or dark area’s, or darken the lighter highlight area’s. To me this can often help the end result become a more balanced photo with no glaring bright spots to take the focus from the subject, or to even balance out a subject better as I’ll get too later on.

Next I wanted to apply a filter called ‘Lens Blur’. This is going to blur the background more, but in the process it will do it in a uniform manner which adds to the photo in so many ways. There are several other types of Blur options available, and depending on the photograph I might use another one, but overall I do prefer the look that the Lens Blur gives. Another big benefit to the Lens Blur: Remember all those white specs that the camera flash highlighted oh so well? Take a look now:



The Lens Blur made all those little specs blend into the background so that now they aren’t even noticeable. This is SUCH a huge help, because I can just use the Blur and not have to take the Spot Healing Brush or another tool to remove every single spec of something individually throughout the entire photograph. It is most definitely worth noting though that larger specs and objects won’t always blend good into the background like the smaller ones will, and I find it easier to go ahead and fix those with the Spot Healing Brush before I use any blur filter. And once we get to the end product, you can also see how having a nice uniform blurred background can really help make the subject pop out more.

So now I’ve got the background of the photograph finished and ready, so it’s time to move my focus to the subject of the photo. I select the Rectangular Marquee Tool and then Right Click on the photo, then click on ‘Select Inverse’. This reverses the selection, so whatever wasn’t selected before, now becomes selected, and what was selected becomes unselected. This also moves the Marching Ant border from around the entire photo, to just around the selection.



Now that I’ve got my subject matter selected and able to work with it, the first thing I want to do is get rid of the white specs here. Unfortunately, I can’t just blur the subject like I did the background so this I have to do manually. I use the Spot Healing Brush. This removes the specs, and fills them to look like the surrounding pixels. I find it best to use a very small brush diameter as opposed to a larger one for small specs like what I had in this photograph because with a smaller brush the results are more accurate. The photo above also shows the photo after I finished using the Spot Healing Brush on the fish and the driftwood.




Now I’m done editing both the fish and the driftwood, and I want to edit only the fish. So again, I select the Quick Mask Mode and this time the majority of the screen is red, while the subject remains clear. I want to add the driftwood to the area that’s not going to be included in the next editing, so I switch to the Paintbrush and use the black color to ‘paint’ it. It will look like the shot below.



Once this is done that only leaves the fish to be edited, so I leave Quick Mask Mode, and the Marching Ant border is now only around the fish. Like I mentioned earlier, the flash from the camera made the area’s around the breast and head bright and almost over exposed. So again I turn to the Shadow/Highlight tool to help. I tone down the highlights just a little bit to make it fit a little better with the rest of the photograph. I don’t go too much, because if I tone down the highlights too much it will start to degrade the actual color of the highlights, and then leave the fish not looking the way it really does.

This is the photo I started with:



And this is the finished product:

 

unwritten law

Superstar Fish
Sep 2, 2008
1,471
0
0
33
DC
#5
They both look the same to me??
It looks overall cleaner... I thought you missed some spots but my monitor was just dirty. It's pretty simple but definitely helps a lot. I think you can do the same process with a free program called GIMP, but if you want a photoshop, you can probably do the same in PS 7.0, which has been around for years and is going to be a hell of a lot cheaper than CS3. I use PS 7.0 quite often and the newer versions have a lot of crazy filters and stuff, not really needed for simple photo editing done frequently.
 

Orion

Ultimate Fish
Moderator
Feb 10, 2003
5,803
3
38
Kentucky
www.thefishcave.net
#6
It looks overall cleaner... I thought you missed some spots but my monitor was just dirty.
LOL, you have no idea how often I'll try to 'clean up' a dirt spec that's actually on my screen and not on the photo. It does make things a bit more interesting.

Often the differences between a good photograph and an OK one will be the subtle differences. As long as the basics are good, like lighting, composition, exposure; most photo's can be turned into good ones IMHO.

And yes, you can do a LOT with GIMP. I've got it, just wish I would sit down and bother to learn it better. It seems to be a very nice open source free image editor.