Judge not, lest

It’s no secret that I think very little of spectator sports, unable to get involved in watching someone else throwing a ball around, and the concept of an athlete’s ‘personal best’ is remarkably silly – “I set a new record against myself,” yeah, w00t. I also couldn’t care less about people’s daily meals or restaurant experiences and don’t go to those types of blogs.

But then, I get involved in stuff like this.

wedding couple exiting reception hall with guest in the way
At the very first wedding that I photographed, done as a favor, the happy couple was exiting the reception hall as they do, and I’d taken up position on the opposite side of the waiting car, to have a good view of things. This seemed fine up until another guest stepped into the frame at the crucial moment, resulting in this image. Worse, no subsequent frames were any better, as people continued to shift around and the couple ducked into the car. Shit.

Some months later, I was reviewing the scans and began to wonder if this one could be ‘fixed,’ and so, set to work with the ol’ Photoshop machine puttering away. The eventual result was this:

heavily edited version of previous photo
I’m pleased with the result, though it was strictly an exercise – the amount of work that went into this is not something that I’d typically undergo, and not worth the effort or potential income. Better to ensure that you get the right photo right off the bat (shit, that’s a sports reference, isn’t it?), which is why wedding photographers charge more than Your Cousin Larry. But I kept this as a demonstration of my skills, and we’re going into it in mild detail here because blogs are an exercise in thinly-veiled narcissism.

The color tweak and the perspective correction helped a lot, but are trivial compared to the rest. It’s easy to forget that this is merely a two-dimensional representation: removing someone from the photo doesn’t mean that you can see what was behind them. Seems obvious when said, but it’s a crucial part of editing images. You don’t remove someone, you replace them with appropriate details.

original image with blank where unwanted details were
The question was, were there enough appropriate details within the frame to work with? And I can tell you, everything except the groom’s hand, I believe, came from this frame alone. While the guest in front is obvious, less so was the head of a child above/behind him that I knew I wasn’t going to fill in, so they were removed too. And so, what were they replaced with?

  • Brickwork on the steps was copied over, but you’ll notice that there’s a perspective thing going on, the alignment of the mortar lines changes from left to right, so patching these in had to be specific – mostly, the front faces were used and the top mortar lines hand-painted in.
  • The bottom of the column is merely the top, inverted and resized.
  • The bottommost sidelight pane along the door is merely the second one copied over, and even the bottom of the one above it came from the topmost. The wood panel and plant beneath them are reversed from the opposite side.
  • Individual bubbles were dubbed out or copied over to be ‘random.’ Since they show the background colors to a small extent, they had to come from similar backgrounds; the ones in front of the white column actually came from the bride’s dress.
  • The sweater of the woman on the extreme right was copied over in tiny patches from what little could be seen, though the edge of her hand was simply hand-painted in.
  • The same can be said for the groom’s leg and foot, and the floor mat. More bubbles dubbed in over top. The guest behind the column was simply removed, easy enough to copy the siding pattern.
  • Finally, the remaining ‘shoulder’ of the intervening guest (left in because creating the entire background there was problematic,) couldn’t just be left as it was, because it was originally his back and the shadows were wrong/nonexistent. The slopes of the shoulder had to be recreated with careful shadowing with the Burn Tool.
  • Not anywhere near as labor intensive as a restoration, but still a lot of fiddling around that turned out fairly well, in my opinion. Then again, I do bug portraits, so what’s my opinion worth?

    *      *      *

    I’ll add in a couple of pointers, just for the sake of it. When doing editing work that involves cutting-and-pasting elements of any kind, Feathering the edges of the selection is very important – sharp edges betray pasted portions quickly, and it’s rare that specific details within any frame are that sharp anyway. The amount depends on the resolution that you’re working in, but a minimum of 5 pixels at least.

    And if you’re shooting photos where bubbles are being blown around, fire off a sequence of frames if you can. Those damn things get everywhere unpredictably, and can obscure faces or other details and even diffract the flash lighting. This naturally becomes a challenge when you’re in darker conditions and have to rely on strong flash power, which then has to recharge between shots. Man, what was wrong with rice?

    « [previous]
    [next] »