Rebuilding and Focusing with Light.
This image comes from freelance photographer and fellow Columbia College Chicago graduate Kelley Ryan. Thanks for coming to me with this image Kelley.
The initial issue with this image was the obvious reflection of the photographer in the center of the frame (which shows up a bit faint in this jpg rendering.) I’ve talked before about issues that photographers have with their images that could have been solved in camera, saving time in post-production. This image doesn’t fit into that group as no amount of polarization could hide the reflection because it was taken head on with the reflective surface.
Into Photoshop we go.
This is one of those lucky cases where all of the pixels needed to solve a problem in an image, are right next to the problem itself. Meaning. When I sectioned off the problem area, we have four small sections to work on where Kelley’s reflection appears. We have from top to bottom: bus window, remainder of the bus, street, and the woman in red. Stealing from the window to the problem area’s left, I was able to clear up the top two sections by lassoing an area and moving it over to the right to cover up Kelley, and then creating a mask to hide the transitions from this new borrowed section on top with the original problem area behind it. Fortunately the two sections below this were solved using the same process, just making sure to continue the lines in the bus and on the street and connecting them up naturally with the original image behind it.
Now to the woman in red. Here I used nearly the same process, but with a twist. Instead of being able to just copy from an area nearby and place it atop the problem area with some blending, I also had to horizontally flip it. When shot from this angle with people flat to the camera, people end being virtually symmetrical. That meant that I could take the left side of the woman’s coat and also make it her right side. The important thing to keep in mind when doing this is to add variations. Just a few added wrinkles cut out (or moved around with a subtle liquify tool) that are different from the original make this edit convincing.
There’s that problem solved. Now for some fun with light.
What I noticed about the overall image were the bright edges of the image. When working on an image I often start by zooming in to about 200% and panning around the image to see what I’m working with. In the case of this image, I found a lot of really nice details around the edges when I zoomed in that were lost when zoomed out and looking at the whole image. On the top of the bus stop you can see some light streaks on rain zipping past the dark roof of the bus stop, and on the bottom of the frame there is a really beautiful texture in the pavement that also gets lost.
The simple solution to this is to darken these areas. Curves layer with a mask so it only effects the edges of our image and there it is. Bam. This helps out doubly, for as well as burning in those previously lost details, it also brings our attention closer to the center of the image where our subjects are. Our eye is always drawn to the brightest areas and areas of the highest contrast in tones, (this is true whether we are looking at a photograph, or walking down the street seeing the scene for ourselves.) So in Photoshop we often make our subject dominant in an image by darkening the lesser important areas of the image and increasing the contrast our the main subject of the image, our heroes if you will.
In post-production, our goal is to direct the attention of an image’s viewer to exactly where we want it to go. In an image like this where there are so many elements, it can be a challenge but with selective increase in contrast and darkening, it can be easily achieved.
This composite comes from photographer Dave Rentauskas from a shoot he did for Time Out Chicago Kids for a two page spread on fall fashion for kids. I have worked with Dave on a few projects now dealing with varying degrees of compositing.
Ideally it is always best for a retoucher to be on-set when the shoot is happening that they will end up putting together. This allows you to go through all of the captured elements to make sure that every necessary piece is there. It’s much better to spend your afternoon at the shoot just an insurance that everything needed was shot, than to have to tell the photographer that something necessary is missing. Since it isn’t always possible to be there while it is being shot it is good to work with photographers that are as meticulous as I would be if I was there. Dave gave me over 30 images to pull from to put this composite together. Whether you are a photographer or a retoucher or someone who does both, always have much more than enough to pull from to put the final shot together. Your retoucher will thank you and you will avoid your own headaches and *gasp* reshoots.
A year ago if I would have composited this same image I could have gotten really close to this result. The difference that I have really drilled into myself over this last year is organizing what I am doing while I am doing it. A composite with this many elements makes it easy to get ahead of yourself and do things the easy way instead of the way that is the easiest to work with later.
Here’s an example:
Every image was shot from a tripoded camera at the same focal length, same aperture, shutter speed, available light, same everything. The only thing changing was what was in the frame. The meatballs that you see flying all over this image were pulled from a few different shots. I just placed each of those shots ontop of my working composite and picked some choice meatballs and masked them in while masking the rest of the image out. Once it came time to some final tweaks on the placement of some of the meatballs I found myself stepping on my own feet. It is usually best when you make a change to an image near its completion to look through your layers and find the bottom most layer where you can make that change instead of just making your change on top. It’s easy to just copy everything to the top and make your change, but if you ever need work on something below that, it can be impossible.
Just like shooting more than enough will save you headaches later, organizing as you go will do the same. If you save organizing your layers until after your composite is complete, then you will find yourself stuck, or doing a lot of your work over.
View Dave’s work @ rentauskas.com