Friday, October 28, 2011

Editing photographs

There are a variety of fine editing tools in Photoshop that can save a special image. Some friends of mine recently lost a cherished horse named Cruz. They asked if I could edit out a fence in a photograph so they could have a large print made to frame in memory of Cruz.

Of course I said "yes." When I got the jpeg, though, I found that it was a low-resolution image, which meant they would likely get a somewhat "fuzzy" enlargement. Lower resolutions (2 megabytes and smaller) are fine for snapshots or Web uses. For enlargements of 11x14" or larger, the image needs to be at least 10 megabytes, preferably larger. Most of my 11x14" images are 35-40 megabytes. More pixels or dots per inch makes a finer image, especially at larger sizes.

The Photoshop tools I used for this project were the clone tool, healing brush, and blur tool. I cropped the image and adjusted the levels and color balance. Then I used the unsharp mask filter to sharpen the image as much as possible. Sharpening a low-res image is challenging because there just isn't enough detail to sharper, so you risk making the image appear to be coarser. In looking at the finished image, I think I would have used the blur tool more to reduce the checkerboard pattern of the fence in the background. I would also blur the right edge of the image a bit more. I took out the distracting fence but didn't "clone" in the bottom of the sapling in the photograph.

My favorite is the sepia-toned image but my friends wanted the color image, which they are printing on canvas. I can't wait to see it!

The entire project took about two hours. If I was working with a film image, these corrections would take hours, requiring air-brushing and touch-up by hand with inks and brush. I doubt, though, that it would look as natural as what we can get using Photoshop tools.

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