Saturday, May 03, 2008

Fine Tuning

The image above is one I showed a few days ago. I made a print, put it up in the office and lived with it for a few days. I wasn't happy - oh, it's nice enough, but what I imagined isn't what the print shows. Too much clutter and distraction. I see the image as being about the three light coloured bumpers, looking a bit like the reverse of some Japanese character painted on paper. I tried darkening the rest of the print - didn't like it. I wondered about whether there was some kind of curve that would keep the darkest parts of the print showing some detail but the midtones pushed way way down and leaving the highlights where they were.

Today I tried this and though I didn't record the curve, trust me, it's a bizarre looking one

and this is a reproduction of roughly how it looked. Normally this would produce a very unnatural looking result with incredibly muddy tones, but guess what, it did exactly what I wanted.

I wondered though, whether I should help the print glow just a bit. Normally I'm not a great fan of diffused highlights. This used to be a feature of soft focus lenses, now it's simply a Photoshop trick, and frankly, overdone, but perhaps if it didn't hit you like a sledge hammer, it might be ok, and certainly it fit with my plans for this particular image.

I duplicated the image in another layer, then used gaussian blur of around 20 pixels, changed the blending mode to lighten (so we get the flare, not the spread of dark pixels). I then used the adjustment layer opacity slider to tone down the effect till I thought it reasonable. In fact it may not show enough on screen, though it will help if you take the final image and click on it to have the larger version show in it's own window.

Oh, and there's several dozen minor changes made - I cloned out the numbers pasted on a bumper in the bottom middle of the image, removed a number of scratches and spots that looked more like print defects than part of the image, and in several steps lightened the third light bumper on the right to make it stand out equally to the vertical one and the one on the left.

I'm quite pleased with the print - certainly a lot more than with the original. The glow is subtle - you can't actually see it in the details, it just exists. Exactly what I wanted.


Mike Mundy said...

Much better in the larger screen size.

I'm curious . . . do you have a set routine for resizing your photos for the blog?

Mike Mundy

George Barr said...

Yes, I have an action which reduces the size of the image using the File/Automate/Fit Image, converts it to 8 bit, changes the colour space to sRGB and then saves it in a special folder as a jpeg. If it's a black and white image, I then convert it to grayscale then to duotone then use an adjustment curve to increase contrast a little, convert back to RGB and save again as jpeg.


doonster said...

I don't know if it's just me but... while the glow effect does offer an overall improvement, I find that the effect is stronger on the left side of the image, giving the appearance of significant out of focus which is rather distracting.