The Art Of Creative Photography: Chapter 6
I considered not even bothering with this chapter, since many of the people that seemed to be reading stopped, at my last chapter. Why they would stop at basic editing is beyond me. Either they could not see the benefit of basic editing skills or egotistically thought they were above learning the basics. Why even bother reading at all, if you are so smart? You should not even bother picking up a camera, if you think you are above learning. I can think of no other profession on the planet, that is more of a constant learning process, than creative photography. It is a career path that is always evolving and never stale.
So many things can be done with a photo to take it outside of the norms. From small little things like fuzzy, hazy, and soft focus to drastic shifts in color and hue. Removing items, inserting items, background swaps, texture changes, the list just never ends. Once the basic editing is done, the direction a photo can be taken is never ending…indeed.
Obviously, I cannot discuss every single type of creative effect that can be done in one small guide like this. I would have to write a very long book and that was never the goal in this guided series. The goal was to get you started down the path. To get you started in looking at photography in a entirely different way. To accomplish that goal, I will discuss in this chapter some of the more common creative edits. Shall we begin?
Soft focus, fuzzy, dreamy, glowing edits- It should be noted, that these can be done to the entire picture or just part of the photo. Using either the adjustment brush in Lightroom or selecting a portion of the photo in Photoshop using the selection brush. For the purpose of this section, we will just discuss applying the the effect to the entire image, as this is what is most commonly done.
Once the basic editing is done, we can then add some softness to the image. The reason we do the basic editing first, is because even though the image will be out of focus we still want the overall tone of the photo to be correct. In Lightroom, softness is easily done by taking the Clarity slider and going in the negative direction(slide it left). Be careful doing this, we don’t want to lose all details. We want to just add softness. A negative 20-40 will usually accomplish this while still leaving details. In Photoshop, we reduce the sharpness or add a transparent blank white layer, being careful to not make it overly opaque. We can also accomplish this using the soft focus filter found in Color Effects Pro 4.0 by Nik Collection. Further more, there are other filters in Analog Effects By Nik Collection, specifically the choice of lens. Just keep in mind when doing any of these things we want to keep the main subject still prominent in the photo, or the whole photo has no guidance for the viewers.
Color changes, hue shifts, Split toning- There are so many methods of doing these that it would futile for me to list all of them. Instead I will point you in the general direction and hope you find what you are wanting.
In Lightroom, there are several methods for doing this. There is the tone slider at top, the hue slider, the HSL control panel and lastly there the Split Toning panel. In Photoshop there are some controls such as hue, color change and replacement, inverse, etc. but no Split toning. In Nik Collection there are more filters for doing this. In fact, there are more than I can list here. The point I am trying to make is there are many options and you should take your time to explore them. I, personally, only use Lightroom to do most of these kinds of changes simply because it is easy to isolate the colors I want to change using HSL panel. I also like to use the Split Toning module. It allows me to change the feel of the shadows and highlights. Sometimes I will do that just create a total different look for something in the photo such as water. The tone slider I often use to change how the sky appears, and hue I rarely change, but it can useful in creating a different feel. Most of these adjustments can be used selectively and I suggest you give it a try. These kind of adjustments are endless, thus the only reasonable thing I can suggest is experimentation. The best advice I can give you, is never to settle. Keep trying and you will find the look you are after.
Black and White, Sepia, Faded- All of these are easily done with any of the previous programs I have discussed. From just reducing the color saturation to zero in Lightroom or Photoshop to using committed programs in Nik Collection such as Silver Effects Pro, Analog Effects, and Color Effects Pro. The options are nearly endless for this. Thus I am going to give you a few pointers to keep in mind when doing these kind of effects to point you in the right direction.
I like to use Silver Effects Pro for all Black and White, Sepia, Monochrome, etc. effects. I find it just gives more control over your adjustments. It has several adjustments not present in anything else I have found. There are several things to keep in mind when doing these kinds of creative adjustments. The first and foremost is that these kind of photos lack regular color. In the absence of color, we must do something else to create interest. Specifically, we must overdo the contrast. It is the separation of lights and darks, that is going to create interest, in these photo adjustments. A good example of this can be found in the works of the late, great photographer Ansel Adams. Go do your research on him and you will soon discover he used a lot of contrast in his photos and he did it all on film to boot. Quite amazing really! The second thing we need to keep in mind is the subject of the photo. If the photo is of something old, classic, retro, it lends itself to a period piece. This simply means making the photo look like it was shoot in the same time frame, that the object was being used. These photos you will want to run through Analog Effects to add some dust, dirt, grime, and noise, that would have been appropriate to a camera used during the era.
Lastly, the faded photos are a bit different. In these we are going for a classic look with color, thus contrast should actually be lowered in them, instead of increased. It also would not hurt to ease the focus down a little. Faded color pics usually came from the earlier color cameras of the 60s-80s. They were often slightly off focus and flat. Thus lowering the contrast fits the camera profile of the era. However, we are speaking of creative, so you are more than welcome to try anything you desire.
In this photo not only were distracting elements such as electric wires and debris removed from the photo, also split-toning was used to change the sky color and the angle the photo was shot at even played an important part in how this turned out. I just love the multi-colored tracks!
Removing items, Adding items, background changes- I won’t go too far into this one. The description pretty much says what this is about. There is no trusty mechanism for doing this in Lightroom(Lightroom does have a brush for this, but it does not work well) or Nik Collection and there is a reason for it. This is going beyond the realm of photo editing and into the area of photo altering. However, sometimes it must be done. We cannot always control who or what may be in the photo. Although we can do many things to try to avoid this, it is not always possible. Thus we have to take the photo out of our photo editing programs and into photo altering programs such as Affinity Photo or Photoshop.
In either of these programs removing items is done by using the in-painting brush or by cloning a nearby area over the offending object. For in-painting you simply select the in-painting brush and brush over the offending object you want removed. For cloning, you select the cloning brush, select the area you want to clone, then click over the offending object you want hidden. Another method is if an object is near the border of the image you can simply crop it out. Common things I remove from photos are telephone lines, signs, cars, people, fences, and distant birds. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Any element you feel is distracting from the overall beauty of a photo, can and should be removed.
Adding things into a image is also not hard to do. I generally avoid doing this, because I do not want to create distractions. However, in the interest of showing you options I have included it. Simply select the object you want to add to the photo from your source and paste it into your photo. Then using the transform tool make it the appropriate size. Lastly, while it is still selected, you will have to adjust the tonality of it to fit the photo. It needs to look like it belongs inside that photo, obviously.
Changing the background is sometimes desired. We cannot always get perfect days with great clouds so replacing those skies is desired. Nor can we expect to always have our models/people standing in front of the best backgrounds, so again, replacing the background for something better is desirable.
To change the background we can use the quick selection tool in either program to select the background area we want to remove, then use the refine tool to make sure we get everything selected we want removed. Then select from another image the area we want to insert. copy this selection, then in our original image, paste. Again, while the background is still selected, adjust size and tonality. I only do this in photos where the sky is just so boring it completely ruins the photo or when I have a model that wants a different background to make the photo look like it was taken in a studio.
As always these types of adjustments are left up to you and your best judgement. If you feel it will really improve the photo, go for it!
I have tried to keep this section as brief as possible, while still covering the major things that are commonly done to creatively edit your photos. The point was to give you ideas. To point you in the right direction and get those creative juices flowing. The main ingredient needed for creative editing is experimentation. You must be willing to ruin a photo, in order to make it magnificent! Certainly, some experiments will require you to backtrack(Control+Z) but ultimately you will learn from it and find what you really seek in any given photo. There is no replacement for experience, but a willingness to experiment and discover, will take you in the right direction towards that experience.
I hope you found this chapter helpful. Please like, share, or comment! I hope you join me on the final chapter. The next chapter we will discuss my final thoughts on creative photography. Please do join me and take care!