EXERCISE: Enhancement

This exercise explores the next level of intervention and allows you to make changes that many would say go beyond reality.  At the end of the exercise, you’ll be asked to make up your own mind.

Note that an increasing number of image-processing programmes offer local correction at the stage of RAW conversion, often by means of an adjustable paintbrush.  Where this is available, the size and the feathering (softening of the edges) of the brush is adjustable.

Photograph a close-up, head-and-shoulders portrait, in available or natural lighting, without flash or any other photographic lighting.  The face should be in shade, not receiving direct light, should be towards the camera and with both eyes visible.  Prepare to make two selections, one at a time, each with its own adjustment.  The first should be of the entire face, which you should adjust by increasing the brightness and increasing the contrast.  The effect will be to draw attention to the face.  This is absolutely standard dodging, and your aim should be for it to appear natural.

The second selection and adjustment should be of the eyes only (limit this to the iris and pupil, not the eyelids or surrounding skin).  First, exaggerate the colour of the iris by increasing saturation and brightness.  You may have noticed an increasing frequency in magazine and poster advertising, especially for make-up and other beauty products, for eyes to be brighter and more colourful.  Digital enhancement like this is one way of achieving the effect.  Next, try changing the hue.  Save both versions.

At what point between lighting the face for visibility and altering the eye colour do you consider that you have tampered with reality?  Or are you satisfied that all of this is legitimate?  Note your conclusions in your learning log.

Part I:

Not having the opportunity to go take a photo specifically for this exercise, I looked through my back catalogue of work to find an image that fit the bill.  As I have so many image of my great nephew, I decided to use one of the shots I took of him over the summer.

Original Photograph

Original Photograph

As you can see, this image fits the requirement of the exercise as the subject has been captured in the shade, looking directly into the camera (although I will admit that the shot is ever so slightly blurred).

Upon opening the image, there was no need for changes to be made to the original; I therefore created a copy in order to document my progress.

Using the magnetic lasso, an easier tool to use for this kind of work, I outlined the face and neck area; I did this as by making changes to the face only would have given the subject an uneven skin tone, thus confirming that the image had been ‘tampered with’.  I then carried out a couple of housekeeping tasks which included feathering the selected area to 15 pixels and refining my selection to ensure that all of the flesh was both captured within the lasso and that the edges were further softened.

I then created a new adjustment layer of the lassoed area, enabling me to control the brightness and contrast of the subject without making changes to image as a whole.

As this is a babies face, I opted to lighten the skin tone (brightness +21, contrast -32).  Doing this has brightened his eyes, and eradicated some of the blemishes making him even more fresh faced.  If I had gone the other way, I think he would have looked older and the image less appealing.

I do like this new shot as the brighter skin tone and rosier cheeks look livelier, in fact you can see more detail now that you could in the original shot.

With Changed Facial Tones

With Changed Facial Tones

I then created a copy of this new image to enable me to manipulate it further.

Next I played with the eye colour; in the same way as before, I used the magnetic lasso tool to create a separate adjustment layers for each eye, then proceeded to change the hue/saturation to create a baby with green eyes over blue.

With Changed Facial Tones and Eye Colour

With Changed Facial Tones and Eye Colour

Part II:

At what point between lighting the face for visibility and altering the eye colour do you consider that you have tampered with reality?  Or are you satisfied that all of this is legitimate?  Note your conclusions in your learning log.

As I learn more about photography and as I dig deeper into its practices, my thoughts surrounding image manipulation are definitely changing, although there are still principals to be upheld.

I didn’t feel that bad about making changes to the brightness and contrast of the subjects face in this exercise, in fact I can see that there could be times when this knowledge would be useful, although only to be used as a last resort if I was unable to achieve perfection at the time of shooting; and my feelings on manipulating something so that it looks completely different to what was seen through the viewfinder still stands; I do not agree with it.

You can see from the change of eye colour above, that the final shot looks wrong – I know that the colour I chose is completely different, but this was deliberate, as I wanted the manipulation to really stand out.  Changing something to look different to how nature intended it is very deceiving, and as I am learning, very easy to achieve, and just because it is easy, it should not mean that we process all of our work or take photos with the intention of processing our photographs to how we want it to look over how they actually looked.

A few weeks ago, I read a quote, and my interpretation of this has stood by me during this module:

Look and think before opening the shutter.  The heart and mind are the true lens of the camera – Yousuf Karsh

As a photographer, it is my duty to the viewer to produce images that represent reality, okay, there are times when changes are preferred, such as when converting to monochrome, or are needed to lighten or darken things a little post-processing.  But as stated, ‘my heart and mind is the true lens of a camera’ and I should be reproducing what I see through the viewfinder and not what I (or perhaps someone else) would really like to see.



Karsh, Y.  (n.d.) Anon.  Cited in Photofocus (2013) Comments Pages [website].  Available at: http://photofocus.com/2013/09/12/look-and-think-before-opening-the-shutter-the-heart-and-mind-are-the-true-lens-of-the-camera-yousuf-karsh/ [Accessed 12 September 2013].


Bauer, P.  (2010) Photoshop® CS5 For Dummies®.  Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing Inc.

Posted Wednesday 2nd October 2013

Posted in: Reality and Intervention – Exercises

Tagged:     Assignments; Learning Log – Reality and Intervention; Editing

This entry was posted in Reality and Intervention ~ Exercises and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s