Monday, May 4, 2009
my attempt at salvage
Yesterday, Larry Patrick posted a photo over on his blog that he took at Dickens on the Strand in December. During the fall, he and I took photos at festivals together using an off-camera flash shot through a small softbox -- approaching people asking to take their photos, and only spending about 4-5 minutes composing and lighting the impromptu portrait. He'd shoot and I'd handle the flash, and then we'd switch off. So, essentially we'd get pretty similar shots. Here's a link to his photo of this woman. The main issue we both had with this image is the terribly distracting background -- mostly items under the vendor's tent where she was standing. It would have been nice to get her into a neutral background, but that probably would have broken our 4-5 minute rule and made things way too simple. So, on Larry's blog I made a comment about using the clarity slider in the conversion, and how that may have played up the creases in her face. So, here's my attempt at salvage. Like Larry, I dropped in a new background. Mine was made of three layers - emulsion, bokeh, and watercolor. I masked her and brought her to the top, then used a Nik Color Efex filter to try and unify the color tones, and finally used a sepia Nik Silver Efex layer in overlay blending mode to desaturate the image slightly. What I really tried to do early on in the workflow was to de-emphasize and soften the natural lines in her face, while keeping the eyes sharp and colorful. So what resulted was a 400 megabyte, 16-layer file of adjustment layers, blending modes, and masks, sprinkled with the toning layers described earlier as icing on the cake. Was it worth it? I think, like Larry, I'm not really satisfied with the image. It definitely has mood and strong colors. But what sticks in my mind is that there was potential there with that subject, and we both failed to come away with a good photo. And as much as I tried, you just can't overcome those inherent flaws ... and that's one of the biggest frustrations of photography. Sometimes you just have to give up on an image, learn from your mistakes, and fight another day.