EXERCISE: Alteration

The final exercise in this part of the course is deliberate, out-and-out alteration of the content of the image, and requires Photoshop for its Clone Stamp tool and its cut-and-past abilities.  There are many possibilities, limited only by imagination and skill, but to keep this exercise simple in concept (if not necessarily in execution), we will concentrate on removing a major element of an image.

Take a photograph, which contains one distinct subject occupying an area of between about one-eighth and one-sixth of the total image (this is very approximate).  It could be a person in a garden, for example, perhaps one of two or three people, the aim is to successfully remove this once element, replacing it with elements from the background or foreground.  ‘Successfully’ means that a viewer coming fresh to the picture would not be able to tell that there had been any retouching.  Relevant techniques are:

  • The clone stamp tool used to replace areas with adjacent areas
  • Making a selection of a background area, copying, pasting and moving over the area to be retouched
  • The patch tool to replace areas with adjacent areas

On a trip to Norway in the summer, we visited a fortress, which had lots of interesting things to photograph, but many people milling around getting into my shots.  One of the images I took during this visit is perfect for this exercise.

Original Image Shutter Speed 1/800; Aperture F4; Focal Length 29mm; ISO 400; Matrix Metering; Auto WB

Original Image
Shutter Speed 1/800; Aperture F4; Focal Length 29mm; ISO 400; Matrix Metering; Auto WB

You can see from the original image that there are three people in the frame that need to be erased; a lady in full view, standing in front of the cannon to the rear of the frame.  There is the head of a man sticking up above the front cannon (you can also see his arm beneath the cannon’s barrel), and there is the head and arm of someone else close to the ship.

Image Showing Deletions

Image Showing Deletions

Thinking it the most difficult area to tackle, I started out by working on the lady standing in front of the cannon at the rear of the shot.

The Clone Stamp tool is very versatile with many settings that make alterations look believable; I used many combinations in this application, just to get the detail in the grass looking right.  I hit a snag when attempting to clone the wheel, as no combination I tried would work; this is when I headed to the Internet to find out more about copying information in Photoshop (details of the article can be found below).  Taking this on board, I proceeded to make a copy of the cannon’s rear wheel and placed it over the front one, as seen in the image below:

Copied Wheel Shutter Speed 1/800; Aperture F4; Focal Length 29mm; ISO 400; Matrix Metering; Auto WB

Copied Wheel
Shutter Speed 1/800; Aperture F4; Focal Length 29mm; ISO 400; Matrix Metering; Auto WB

It wasn’t quiet as simple a copying and pasting the information as I had to refine the edges and feather the details to make the wheel look right, but after a little work, I was really surprised by the end result.  Being pedantic, and due to the details contained in the surrounding area of the copied detail, I was not able to rotate the information, so both wheels look the same in the frame (well, actually, they are the same wheel …).

Getting this hard work out of the way, I then worked on building the detail of the cannon’s base, continued to work on the grass look right and finally deleted the ladies shadow from the shingled ground (something that could easily be overlooked).

I then moved on to clone out the person standing nearest to the ship.

1st Clone Shutter Speed 1/800; Aperture F4; Focal Length 29mm; ISO 400; Matrix Metering; Auto WB

1st Clone
Shutter Speed 1/800; Aperture F4; Focal Length 29mm; ISO 400; Matrix Metering; Auto WB

This was an easier exercise and in fact, much easier than I thought it would be, as the area to be changed was much smaller in comparison to the first.

Finally, I cloned out the head and arm of the man standing at the rear of the front cannon.  This was a little tricky, as I had no grass to clone and had to take detail from a different area of the image, relying on my imagination of what I though would look right.

2nd Clone Shutter Speed 1/800; Aperture F4; Focal Length 29mm; ISO 400; Matrix Metering; Auto WB

2nd Clone
Shutter Speed 1/800; Aperture F4; Focal Length 29mm; ISO 400; Matrix Metering; Auto WB

Having completed all of the deletions I wanted to make, I then tidied things up by changing the exposure a little and cropping the frame to tighten the frame.

You can see the final image below:

Final Image Shutter Speed 1/800; Aperture F4; Focal Length 29mm; ISO 400; Matrix Metering; Auto WB

Final Image
Shutter Speed 1/800; Aperture F4; Focal Length 29mm; ISO 400; Matrix Metering; Auto WB

Along with the details of my workings

Workflow

Workflow

Conclusion:

This exercise really goes against everything I stand for within photography, but I admit that I enjoyed the task, probably because it was a task to learn from and not an exercise to produce an image I was intending to publicise.

I am beginning to see the appeal of using such post-processing procedures, especially, as in the original shot; sometimes there are elements of a shot that you just cannot govern at the time of shooting.  I am still unable to justify this kind of manipulation as I feel that taking photographs is a means of capturing a single moment in time, and once manipulation has been made, that original moment has been lost.

Having thought about this subject a lot recently, and while writing this conclusion, I can see that I am being very selective about what I like and dislike about image manipulation.  I personally have no quarrel with changing exposure, colour balance or other small areas within my images, and this is fundamental manipulation, but I put these changes down to inaccuracies within my camera, which may not be the fault of my camera, but my choice of settings at the time of shooting.  But what I do still have an issue with is making changes to images that make huge changes to the final shot, this includes altering content (as with these past few exercises) or making HDR shots that are past off as ‘original, out of the camera’ photographs.  My thinking on this may change over time, but at the time of writing, the convictions I had at the beginning of this module (and at the beginning of my studies) still stand.

Source:

Bibliography:

Ketchum, D.  (2012) How to Copy & Paste in Photoshop [online article].  Available at:  http://www.ehow.com/how_5078966_copy-paste-photoshop.html [Accessed 11 October 2013].

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