Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A More Perfect Day

No one can complain about the great weather we've been having lately, especially for the air show this past weekend. I guess my only wish would have been for a few clouds in the sky...and with the help of Photoshop here they are. This is a photo of an F15E Strike Eagle taken at Wings Over Houston on Sunday. The original shot was against a flat blue background, and honestly it gets pretty boring looking at a couple hundred flat blue sky airplane photos, so I decided to enhance this one. I used the quick select tool to make a selection of the blue sky (which was very easy since it was such a consistent blue tone), selected inverse to get a selection of the plane, then moved that to a layer by itself. I then created a layer below the isolated plane and used some great brushes from Stephanie Shimerdla over at Obsidian Dawn to underlay some big white fluffy clouds.
Now, this brings up the issue of ethics and photo retouching. Since this isn't photojournalism, I don't feel particulary guilty of anything here. In fact, dropping in a new sky or altering a sky is probably one of the easiest things to do to a photo. I've heard Scott Kelby over at NAPP say he never makes significant alterations to a sky. However, all the while he's doing HDR and using blending modes to enhance images; so I think he is re-shaping reality to some degree. His stance on skies has always puzzled me. I guess it comes down to trust. Does the knowledge that I added a few clouds cause more doubt in the viewer's mind? Were the vapor trails really there? Was this photo taken at Wings Over Houston? Did I take the photo?
Once you start down the path of alteration, does it effect credibility of the photographer? It's a tough line we walk, but one that happens every day as we push pixels around on our computer screens. Like it or not, this is the world of contemporary digital photography.


  1. Great job composing/timing this one Steve and your camera settings are perfect. What time of day was this? It looks like the pilots watch says 2:30!

  2. The clouds make this image pop out of the frame. I certainly don't take issue with them being added. It's something that could easliy have been there on the right day. I don't feel it's a misrepresentation of what happened.

    Your exposure, framing and great detail from your excellent focus technique are super. It looks like he was setting his watch for daylight savings time Larry.

  3. Awesome shot Steve!

    Terrific job adding the clouds...I never would have suspected Photoshop magic was at play! :-)

    I think anyone who is considers it a bad thing to change the editorial content of a photo is just upset that they don't have the creativity to "improve" their own images. In general their work won't be as interesting as yours and will never have the same impact.


  4. Amazing. I agree with Doug and Barry --- you have not really changed the intent of the image, the clouds could easily have been there on another day. I mean, it is not like changing heads or something similar that really affects the content of the original image. Besides, Scott Kelby has a very long tutorial on Kelby Training about how to edit portraits in Photoshop and I can't see the difference in removing blemishes from adding clouds, both are changing pixels for a desired improvement but not misrepresenting the intent of that image to highlight the subject in the most flattering way.

  5. Great shot, and I also would have added the clouds to have a cool shot of the plane in an interesting sky. However, I agree with Scott Kelby that it moves it from fine art photography closer to the catagory of graphic representation. Portraits are a different category, since they are really intended to make the subject look better than they really are.

    I think we should disclose the extent of Photoshop alterations before judging on our Honors night submissions. But thankfully, I realize I am in the minority on that view.

    Bob Dempsey