For this exercise I have chosen a picture of a Kea landing. I chose this picture as it has lots of detail which I think would be improved with sharpening. The background is out of focus as I was trying to follow the Kea whilst it was flying. So whilst I want to sharpen the image of the Kea, the background should remain slightly blurred.
To sharpen the image of the Kea, I used the ‘unsharp mask’ feature in GIMP. The first picture has no sharpening at all. After some experimentation I decided to set the ‘radius’ to 0.5 as this seemed to sharpen the edges of the feathers in the way I wanted. The ‘amount’ of sharpening was set to the following amount for the three images: 3, 5, and 10. I kept the threshold at 0.
Differences between the printed pictures
Having printed the images out the biggest difference can be seen between the original and picture 4. The details are much clearer in picture 4, the ‘noise’ seems to be more pronounced whereas in the original image the details are much softer. Picture 4 seems to be more speckled and the edges of the feathers seem to be more defined. The eye is much clearer in picture four than the original. The differences between the original and pictures two and three are much less pronounced. At first glance, it is hard to tell any difference between the original picture and picture two. However if you look more closely, picture two appears to be more in focus, some of the detail is clearer without the ‘noise’ or speckled effect which can be seen in image four. Again the eye seems to be clearer in images 2 and 3 however it is at it’s brightest in image 4. The colours in picture 2, 3 and four seem to be clearer than in the original. The colours in picture one are softer due to the due to the softer detail. The grass at the bottom of the image increases in sharpness at the amount of sharpening increases. In comparison in picture 1 the grass is quite soft in texture as opposed to picture 4 where the grass at the bottom of the image seems quite spikey.
Differences between the on screen images
When the images on the computer screen are compared the differences are much more pronounced. On the screen the difference between image two and and image one is slightly more obvious. The details are much clearer, the colours seem brighter as they are more defined, the edges of the feathers also seem more defined. Images 2 and 3 on screen seem quite similar, the differences are much less pronounced which is understandable as I kept the amounts quite close. In image two the amount of sharpening is 3, in image 3 the amount of sharpening is 5. In image 3 the colours seem slightly better defined than in image 2 however there is the beginning of noise and speckles creeping into image 3. The colours in image 2 are more natural without any really noticeable amount of noise or speckles. The differences between image 1 and image 4 are much more defined. Whereas again the details are more defined, the colours seem brighter, image 4has a grainy ‘noise’ texture that is not present in image 1. The amount of ‘noise’ is greatest in image 4, less so in image 3 and there is not a noticeable amount of ‘noise’ in image 2.
Printed versus computer screen
When the printed images are compared with their on screen counterparts, the first most noticeable thing in the ‘noise’. It is much more pronounced on the computer screen than it is in the printed image. The details of the feathers and colours are much more defined on the screen than the printed image, though the colours seem to be more natural, i.e. not very grainy, or have much ‘noise’ in the printed images. The colours also seem a lot brighter on the screen, but I this is due to the light from the monitor. Comparing image 1 on screen with the printed image much more of the detail of the feathers can be seen on the screen than the printed image, though some of this could be due to the quality of the printer. The eye is much clearer on the screen than the printed image. The grass at the bottom of the image seems more highly contrasted on screen than in the printed image. There is a greater contrast between on screen images 1 and two than printed images 1 and 2. Image 2 on the screen is shaper, more of the detail is defined, the colours seems brighter than the printed image two. However the grass at the bottom of the printed image two seems more highly contrasted than the grass on the screen image 2. More of the detail is defined on screen than the printed image, though as I have said some of this could be due to the print quality of the image and possibly my computer screen not being correctly calibrated. The differences between image 2 and three are noticeable on than off. The differences between printed images 2 and 3 are hardly noticeable but can be seen if examined closely. Again the major difference between on screen image 3 and printed image 3 is the detail which is better defined on the screen. There is more noise on image 3 on screen than printed image three, As I have mentioned earlier, printed image three has hardly any noticeable noise or grainy features which are more easily seen on the screen. Again the biggest difference between image 4 on screen and printed image 4 is the amount of ‘noise’ in the picture. Image 4 on screen appears much more grainy, though the details in the picture are also clearer than the printed version of image 4. The grass at the bottom of the image of the printed version has more contrast than the on screen version.
For this particular picture, I prefer the adjustments made in image 2, which is the weakest amount of adjustment. The details are made slightly clearer but there is no noise or grainy quality to the picture.
Selling the Dream
In December 2013 the Victoria and Albert museum had a touring photographic exhibition called ‘Selling Dreams: One Hundred Years of Fashion Photography’. I visited the exhibition whilst it was at Auckland museum. The title of the exhibition was taken from Irving Penn, who saw his role at Vogue as ‘Selling Dreams not clothes’. The exhibition depicted 58 images which showed the evolution of fashion photography, with pictures from between the early 1900′s through to the 1990′s, and included some well known images such as ‘Model and Mannequin’ as well as some previously unknown work. The exhibition grouped the photographs into various themes, as well as charting the more controversial images that provoked debate, such as the infamous ‘Women in a Bath House’ by the late Deborah Turbeville . All the images are designed to sell an ideal, a dream. The poses of the models, the lighting and background are all shot in such a way to create a particular mood, whatever ‘dream’ the photographer happened to be selling. For example ‘Jean Shrimpton at 91 Heigham Road’, the background is clearly the hallway of a house, but it could be anyone’s home. The clothes she is wearing, an oversized jumper, again something that could be found in anyone’s wardrobe. In my opinion, David Bailey is trying to project the image of the ‘girl next door’ look.
Some of the pictures from the 1990′s and later recreated images from fairly tales and classic paintings. The style is a lot more fantastical and makes full use of colour. ‘Le Manege Enchante’  by Miles Alderidge depicts a woman with bright red hair seemingly asleep on a merry-go-round. ‘Blooming #3′  another image from Miles Alderidge is a very bright colourful picture with elements of the fantastical. The woman’s painted face is nothing from real life, her long golden hair is an ideal rather than a reality. The doll she is carrying possibly possibly suggesting a fantasy from childhood.
All the images from the exhibition were intended for the fashion industry, who are not all that interested in depicting reality – the majority of women who would potentially wear the clothes they are selling would not look anywhere near as good in them as the models do. Through photography the industry is trying to sell the fantasy that this is what you could look like, or this is what could happen if you use our product. Therefore photo-editing, or ‘photoshopping’ as it is referred to, is common in this industry. The images I have named are selling an ideal or a fantasy, which whilst not a specific product in itself, means that adjustment to the photograph is more excusable, as the photographer wants to create the best possible image.
Real or fake?
For the assignment I created an image for a fake book called ‘Whale Watching Kaikoura’. As with the images from the fashion industry my plan was to ‘sell a dream’, namely seeing sperm whales in the Kaikoura bay under ideal conditions. It is possible to take a boat trip from Kaikoura and see sperm whales in the area due to the unique geography of the region. The idea for the front cover for the book was: A beautiful clear day, the classic ‘tail shot’ of a whale diving with mountain scenery in the background. All three of these elements are possible at Kaikoura but getting all three together is a lot harder.
The image I created definitely lies within the centre ground of the real versus fake argument. All the elements in the photograph are real. However all the elements have been adjusted in my photo-editing software, GIMP, to make the composite image appear realistic. I have encountered many images that have been obviously ‘photoshopped’, so one of my aims was to make the image appear as realistic as possible.
Firstly I took the image I would be using for the background landscape, and cropped it to the water line. I then found the ‘tail shot’ image and placed this below the landscape. The two at first did not look as though they could have been taken together at the same time, which was one of my aims, so I adjusted the images, as separate layers so the colours and light appeared to match. I mainly used the ‘curves’ and colour balance tools to achieve this.
The image I originally thought to use was this one.
As it is one image and not a composite, however the tail is not quite in focus and the overall light is quite dull, so I decided to make a composite image using the landscape from a photograph taken on a nice day, and a separate shot of a tail in focus. For the landscape, I eventually decided on this shot:
I liked the light in this image, as it is clearly a good day. I thought the low lying mist gave a dream-like quality to the image. Also there was a clear amount of sky above the clouds which I could potentially use for the title. After some editing, the vignetting in the top corners of the image became more obvious. I used the ‘clone stamp’ tool to get rid of these. For the tail shot, I had a choice of two I could use:
I decided on the later, as the sea around it was sparkling in the light. Again with some adjustment I altered the colour of the ocean to more easily match with the chosen landscape shot. Once adjusted I think they look as though they could come from one image. I then had a few more decisions to make. Both the ocean below the tail and the sky above provide room for the title. Eventually I decided on placing the title in the sky, and cropping the image slightly so the tail was more the focus of the image instead of it being potentially lost in the ocean. I then set about finding the ideal font for the title, which I eventually found on a free fonts website. Of course were this book to be actually printed, the publishers would have to buy the rights to use this font commercially. I preferred this font over the more standard san-serif fonts, as it is reminiscent of pictures of the magic fish hook from the legend of Maui, who pulled up the North and South Islands of New Zealand from the sea bed, which ties in nicely with the setting of the book.
As I have said previously I regard the final image as selling the ideal conditions. The boat trip guarantees that you will see at least one whale on your trip. If you go on the right day, it will be sunny. Getting a shot of a whale diving with the mountains in the background is also possible, as I have taken one myself. So on the whole I do not regard the image I have created as being particularly misleading. These days I think people assume that the majority of the images they see have been edited in post production. For example photographs of food nearly always carry a disclaimer ‘serving suggestion’ and the food within the packet itself almost never looks like the photograph on the front. The image I have created was designed to be the front cover of a book about whale watching in Kaikoura, but I can’t imagine that book being of interest to a lot of people. The cover I have created was designed to be an attractive image which would hopefully have people at least picking up the book to look at the cover.
1. Selling Dreams: One hundred Years of Fashion Photography, http://www.aucklandmuseum.com/whats-on/exhibitions/selling-dreams, [31/01/2014]
2. V and A Selling Dreams: One Hundred Years of Fashion Photography, http://www.aucklandmuseum.com/media/media-releases/2013/v-and-a-selling-dreams [31/01/2014]
3. Jobey L, Last Tango in Paris, The Independent, April 25, 1993. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/fashion—last-tango-in-paris-1457295.html, [31/01/2014]
4. Jean Shrimpton at 91 Heigham Road, http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O82837/jean-shrimpton-at-91-heigham-photograph-bailey-david/, [31/01/2014]
5. Steven Kasher Gallery, http://www.stevenkasher.com/artist/Miles_Aldridge/works/828/#!828, [31/01/2014]
6. Artnet.com, http://www.artnet.com/artwork/426264960/425933006/miles-aldridge-blooming-3.html, [31/01/2014]
7. Selling Dreams: One hundred Years of Fashion Photography, http://collections.vam.ac.uk/search/?slug=selling-dreams-one-hundred-years-of-fashion-photography&exhibition=4561&offset=0, [31/01/2014],
The object of this assignment is to produce a photographic image to illustrate an imaginary book or magazine cover. I could also choose an existing book and re-imagine the cover.
This builds on the previous editing exercises which were designed to question what amount of editing is permissible. In my case it also tested my editing skills and I know understand more of the photo editing software I use.
First of all I decided to try and fake the Tardis on fire. This proved to be a worthwhile exercise as I uncovered more photo editing techniques that will prove useful in the final assignment.
My first attempt at making the Tardis appear on fire was rubbish and did not look at all realistic. I then searched online to see if any others had a different approach. I found two tutorials on the subject on you tube which proved invaluable.
For my second attempt, I used G’MIC tool on GIMP. I selected ‘contours’ and ‘gradient norm’. This gave me an oultine of the Tardis. I then created three duplicate layer, and using ‘Gaussian blur’ I set two of the layers to different values blurring the edges. I changed the layer mode of two layers to ‘screen’ which meant any black areas were transparent. I then used ‘colour balance’ and set the colours to more fire-like colours. This was achieved by moving the sliders to ‘red’ and ‘yellow’. I added a new layer which I filled with a picture of fire and set this as a ‘screen’ layer. I used the ‘Iwarp’ distort tool to warp the edges of the flames around the Tardis. Using the ‘eraser’ I tidied up the edges.
This created a nice image but it was not quite what I wanted. I wanted it to appear that the model Tardis was on fire. I brought up the original image and set the ‘fire’ image as a screen over the top.
When I first attempted this, I realised that The Tardis would be lit up by the flames and simply adding picture of flames would not do. This is a lot closer to how I imagined the image to be. As my very first attempt to set something on fire using photo editing software, I don’t think it is too bad. In this image it looks like the Tardis is glowing with the heat of the flames which is closer to how I wanted the image to turn out.
I subsequently tried to do the picture again. This time the flames were created within GIMP using a ‘turbulent cloud’ filters. This is closer to how I saw the picture.
The aim for this exercise is the deliberate alteration of a photo. The idea is to remove an element from the picture that takes up approximately one eight of the picture. In the picture I have chosen I have removed two elements that together make up about one-eighth of the picture. For this exercise I shall be using the Clone stamp tool in GIMP.
The major difficulties in this exercise is predicting the way the light would fall on the image when the two elements have been removed. The Clone stamp tool is very useful in this task, however I found that if I was not careful particular imperfection in the picture were continually repeated as that was the particular piece of the picture I had copied. I have not done this sort of alteration to a photograph before, as I prefer to get as much right in camera as possible. This way I don’t have to spend as much time in front of the computer. As to the arguments as to whether an altered image is valid I would repeat that it depends as to what purpose of the image. If the picture is supposed to be a true depiction, then altering it can be misleading. If it’s purpose is solely art based, then alteration is more excusable.
This is the unaltered image
This is the image with some elements removed.
The problem is when an image is to be used both as an art form and a true depiction. I refer to the case of the film poster for the film ‘The Heat’. The film itself comes under the heading of art, however the film poster is supposed to depict what is actually ion the film. Some controversy surrounded the posters as one of the stars was ‘photo-shopped’ so that the actress was depicted as being a lot slimmer than she is in the film. To my mind this is misrepresentation and completely unnecessary.
For the first part of this exercise I will be taking two landscape photos. One where the sky is perfectly exposed and the second where the landscape is perfectly exposed. Then using photo editing software I will be merging the two together.
As per the instructions in the exercise, having first selected my landscape, I set the camera up on a tripod and took two exposures. One where the landscape was perfectly exposed and one where the sky was perfectly exposed.
These are the two photographs.
As you can see the landscape in the first is virtually black but the sky and clouds perfectly exposed. In the second shot the opposite is apparent; the highlights have blown out in some of the clouds in the sky, and it looks generally washed out. Using GIMP I combined the two images using a layer mask.
There was a fair amount of editing involved in combining the two images. To accurately select the sky I used the colour select in gimp and kept clicking until all the sky was selected. Usually to photograph a high contrast scene such as this I would use a gradient fliter which can compensate up to a couple of f stops. At the moment I use GIMP which has no facility for automatically combining a number of images to create a hdr image, beyond using layers. However since my use of layer has been fairly limited, I welcome any any to practice!
The second part of this exercise is to take a sky from one picture and put it on another picture whilst keeping the image as realistic as possible.
These are the two images I will be combining. I will use the sky from the first photograph and put it into the second.
This is the final image.
This was an interesting exercise as this is a lot more post processing than I would normally do. However this is not for ‘ethical’ reasons but more the fact that I have to spend more hours in front of the computer editing when I could be outside taking more photographs. I am not wholly against this kind of editing; it depends, as I have said repeatedly through these series of exercises, what the purpose of the picture is. If it is supposed to be an accurate depiction of what is actually there then I would not swap the sky on the picture for an arguably more interesting one. If the purpose is for ‘art’ and you want to make the picture as beautiful as possible then swapping the sky would be more justifiable. In this specific case a more interesting sky transposed onto a landscape can make a scenic photograph look better. However what attracts me to take a landscape photo is how the whole scene looks. Until now I had not really considered taking the sky from one photograph and putting it on another. When done seamlessly it can create stunning images, however done badly people can easily see it is a fake image. Creating one image from two others that have no connection with each other does not seem entirely legitimate. There are many images on sale that are precisely this, but they are not pretending to be anything other than art as opposed to a reflection of something real. As I have said regarding the post processing of images, in my opinion it very much depends on how the image is used.
For this exercise I had to take a head and shoulders portrait of a face in shade. The aim of the exercise is to enhance the face in post processing and to question when does it stops being ‘enhancement’ and becomes unreal.
Firstly this is the original shot.
The face is in shadow and cannot be seen too clearly. I selected the face using the ‘free select tool and brightened it using the brightness/contrast sliders. Then I used curves to further enhance the face. It was a mistake not to select the hair as well so unfortunately the effect is not very good. However this is the first time I have done such editing so I now have a much better idea of what works.
I made some further enhancements, merely for experimentation sake, and removed a few blemishes for the face. I did this to get used to the the clone stamp tool and have better control over it. I think I did quite well, though more practice is required.
The second part of the exercise was to enhance the eyes make them appear brighter. Again I used the free select tool and using the brightness/contrast slider to brighten the eyes, then I used the saturation slider for further enhancement.
The last part of the exercise was to change the colour of the eyes. Using the hue slider I changed them to purple, as I quite like purple. It does not look remotely realistic however it does emphasise how easy it is to alter features using post processing software.
In part two I will discuss at what point I consider post processing to alter the image as well as thinking about other issues surrounding image processing.
For this exercise I had to find a photograph where the subject and the background were dark. I chose this picture for various reasons, the subject (my husband) was in shadow along with the wall behind him. However the sky and the ground he is standing on is quite bright. This meant when I was using the free select tool in GIMP I could easily see his outline! I have not done this sort of post processing before as I find the free select tool hard to control. I managed to use the free select tool and then increased the brightness and adjusted the curves slightly. Although the finished picture looks slightly unrealistic, where the shadow meet the shoes for example, for a first attempt I don’t think I have done too badly!
With regards to the issue of changing and editing photos, as I have said in previous posts for this picture all I have done is enhance what is already there, I have not removed anything or added anything. I would say in this particular case I have improved the picture as you can now see my husbands face. Photo editing software makes virtually anything possible. In the press there have been lots of stories concerning the editing of models faces and their bodies in order to sell products. In this case I am not altering the shape of his body I am merely brightening his image so it can be seen more clearly. In the case of editing models so that they appear even thinner their bodies appear quite unrealistic. As I have said before whilst it is important to consider how much editing I am prepared to justify it is also important to consider what the photo is to be used for. The model photographs I am referring to usually advertise beauty products and will be seen by women everywhere. If the photo of the model has been editing using software then you cannot be sure whether the product will work. On a more serious note it creates an unrealistic standard of beauty that women compare themselves too which can create much more serious problems. I feel it is time that this industry should see the harm that is it doing to the self esteem and health of women and cut down the photo-editing. The argument that the editing is art is not a convincing one for me as the photo is specifically aimed at selling.
Although I have altered the photograph of my husband I haven’t performed any editing of the kind I described above. If for any reason I did do that sort of editing of my photographs I would first consider what the photograph’s purpose was. In this case I am not trying to sell a beauty product, so I am happy with the editing I have done.