EXERCISE: Interpretative Processing

This exercise is about making interpretations for a creative purpose.

Choose an image that you feel is open to different creative interpretation(s) – an image with a lower dynamic range than usual will give more opportunities for varied processing.  Given all the adjustment controls available in processing software, you should have no difficulty in finding different ways of interpreting the image, whether or not you shot in RAW.  Some processing software includes pre-set treatments to give, for example, an antique look or sepia.  By all means experiment with these, and with any combination of adjustments that will give interesting results, but treat this experimentation as a preparation only.

To complete this exercise, make three different versions of the same image, together with a written explanation of what you were trying to achieve, and an assessment of how well you think you have succeeded.

For this exercise I did not want to use any of the pre-set treatments available in Photoshop, in fact, during my experimentation I did not even seek these out, so still have no idea where to find them, or how they even work!  I knew that I wanted to create some quiet unique images, and wanted to avoid those techniques I had been using in the past such as Levels, Brightness/Contrast or Exposure.  At the same time, I was not really sure what I could achieve, so my workflow for this exercise was to a) find an image, b) play around with the various applications and c) work out afterwards what I had achieved – backwards I know, but I have found the process quiet easy.

My original shot is of some flowers, a type of Clematis I think, the heads of which are fairly even in colour.  The contrast within the shot is quiet consistent across the board, although there are a few darker areas within the frame, but no clipping shown at either end of the scale.

Shutter Speed 1/160; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 300mm; ISO 100; Spot Metering; AWB

Shutter Speed 1/160; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 300mm; ISO 100; Spot Metering; AWB

For consistency throughout this exercise, I have included the manipulated image as well as the new histogram produced by the manipulation; therefore below is a copy of the original histogram depicting each of the colour channels.

Original Image Histogram

Original Image Histogram

Working through the image adjustment layers, my first port of call was Hue/Saturation and by playing with the sliders, I have produced an image that is predominantly blue and green, in varying degrees.

Hue & Saturation Layer Applied

Hue & Saturation Layer Applied

With a completely different histogram than previous produced.

Hue & Saturation Histogram

Hue & Saturation Histogram

I have achieved the effect of this image by making the following adjustments to the ‘master’ data; first, I moved the hue slider along to its lowest position (-180).  This initial change turned the petals of the Clematis a peppermint green and the foliage various shades of purple.  I then increased the saturation slider to +61, which made the greens more vivid and prominent and turned the foliage a more striking purplish blue.  These changes are evident in the histogram, as the height in the red and green channels has lowered, and the blue channel data increased.

When increasing the saturation above this point, the image starts to distort and clipped highlights begin to appear in the histogram, so this is a good place to stop the manipulation.

I like the effect achieved by these changes and think that the colour combinations work well together.  Although I like the original image achieved by changing just the Hue, when increasing the saturation there is more definition within the frame and a sharpening along all of the lines within the image.

Next, I moved on to Colour Balance and it was while here I realised that I was able to manipulate each individual colour separately, and by taking this further I could also manipulate specifics within the image, such as the shadows, mid-tones and highlights.  Hmm, now this gave me an even bigger range to play with, so for colour balance I have included two images, the original manipulation of the shot, plus additional tweaking’s

First, I played with the mid-tones and increased the Magenta/Green slider all the way to +100.  This eradicated almost all of the colours within the foliage, producing various shades of green across the image (green, by the way, is my favourite colour), apart from the veins of the petals, which turned a subtle shade of pink.  This was a nice enough image, but I wanted a little more, so decreased the Yellow/Blue slider down to -100.

Colour Balance Layer Applied 1st Image

Colour Balance Layer Applied 1st Image

Doing this made the image stand out; and I went from a calming, serene photo, to one that popped out of the screen.  The colour has taken on a more vivid cast and the heightened colours make for a sharper more defined shot, although the definition within the petals veins is not as prominent as before.

You can see from the new histogram, that by increasing the green, yellow has become more prominent, which has been further exenterated by the decrease of the colour blue within the image.

Colour Balance Histogram 1st Image

Colour Balance Histogram 1st Image

Wanting to see how much further I could push the shot, I left these settings as they were and moved on to make alterations to the shadows within the image.

Colour Balance Layer Applied 2nd Image

Colour Balance Layer Applied 2nd Image

I started by increasing the Cyan/Red slider to +74; doing this has darkened the image considerably and increased the intensity of the red veins within the foliage.  If I had made further reductions, most of the interesting detail in the foliage at the back of the shot would have been lost, making it more susceptible to noise, but at this level I can manage the effects.  This saturation decreased the size of both the green and blue channels and also created some clipping the shadows behind the petal, although when zooming into the image, I can not see any evidence of noise at this point, although it is very close to making an appearance.

This darkening had taken away some of the lushness of the original greens created, so I tried decreasing the blue channel further.  This has worked as the increase of yellow has lightened the image, which in turn has brought back some of the greens.

With all of these changes made, there is now a vast difference in the histogram for this image, and although the red channel is still very prominent, both the green and blue changes have really changed shape, indicating the loss of pixels in these two colours.

Colour Balance Histogram 2nd Image

Colour Balance Histogram 2nd Image

Moreover, when looking at the RGB histogram, there are hardly any lighter pixels in the image.  This indicates a low contrast shot that tends toward under exposure and the possible introduction of noise – which is always an issue with shots of this nature.

Colour Balance RGB Histogram

Colour Balance RGB Histogram

My next experimentation used the Curve tool.  As I started playing with this application, I got a little carried away and have produced, what I think is the funkiest image of the batch.

Curves Manipulation

Curves Manipulation

Originally, I started out with two points one at the bottom and one at the top of the diagonal.  As I played around with the S-curve, I could see some interesting changes occur, so I added a third point and then a fourth, moving everything around to see exactly what would happen to the image.

This image has a 1960’s, psychedelic feel to it, I think this is due to the transparency of the background information. There is a big loss of pixel information in the mid-range of histogram, which also confirms the range of extremely light and extremely dark within the frame, although there is no clipping at either end of the scale.

Curves Histogram

Curves Histogram

Of all the images in the exercise, this really shows an extreme from the original shot, which was very cool and calming, compared to this image, which is hard and exotic to look at, here the colours have become too vivid and the lines extremely bold and hard.

Before finishing this exercise, I did one final experiment on changing the way this image looked; which was achieved by adding a colour filter to the shot post-processing.

Red Photo Filter Applied

Red Photo Filter Applied

I tried each of the pre-set colour filters on offer in this application, but when selecting the red filter to the image, the flowers jumped out of the screen and when increasing this filter density to 27%, I have been able to create an aesthetically pleasing image of the Clematis.  Unlike the other processes I have tried, this filter has not really changed the way the image looks, but it has enriched the colours within the frame, giving the image a slightly warmer feel and bringing it in line with how these flowers look to a human eye.

In addition, you can see that there is hardly any change to the histogram, just a slight increase to the red channel.

Red Photo Filter Histogram

Red Photo Filter Histogram

Not only has this filter enhanced the colours within the flower and foliage of the shot, but it has also made things much clearer within the frame, detailing individual petals and making for a more balanced image.

Conclusion:

In general, this exercise has been good, as once again it has taught me about areas of Photoshop I had up until this point not used.  It has also shown me just how easy it is to manipulate images – a good or bad thing?  The jury is still out!  As I have mention before, I had always shied away from Photoshop as I thought it too difficult to learn, but by going through these exercises and documenting everything step-by-step, I am beginning to get to grips with it.

It is also proving good practice to follow the journey of an images’ histogram, I am beginning to grasp this now, and doing this allows me to see exactly what happens when different changes are made to my images.

The final experiment I conducted during this exercise is one that has intrigued me the most; let me explain.  Recently I have started using ND and graduated filters to bring out colour and textures within the sky, especially on a summers day when blue skies appear very washed out and lifeless.  I have a filter kit bag that holds a variety of different coloured and different gradients of coloured filters.  In the past, I had always thought that I would never use these pieces of glass, but now I am beginning to think differently, as I have seen that these could actually enhance my images, especially on overcast or overly sunny days.

Source:

Bibliography:

Cambridge in Colour.  (n.d.) Tutorials: Color Perception [Online Article].  Available at: <http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/color-perception.htm&gt; [Accessed 20 July 2013].

Digital Camera.  (2012) A Photographer’s Guide to Photoshop.  Bath: Future Publishing Limited.

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