If you can’t take it, make it!

We learn by doing. That’s a universal truth. And learning how to post-process an Image is no exception. If you want to learn how to do something (where messing up isn’t a disaster) then more often than not it helps to get really stuck in to something that is a bit complicated. That way you learn fast.

Two images for you today (one straightforward, one complicated), both from a late night trip to Heathrow Airport last week to pick up a member of our family flying back from Rome on the very last flight of the day.

I went, as always, Canon G10 in the pocket – just in case. I walked into the Arrivals Hall in Terminal 4. The place was almost deserted; just one or two people hanging around for the last flight. Great expanse of white wall, two dark suited men, huge ‘Arrivals’ sign. Immediately I saw the potential for something interesting – and straight off I knew that any image taken would be converted to B&W. Colour was an irrelevance. Always useful to know the parameters of how you are shooting.

click to enlarge

The first shot here required minimal work, just a tweak to add edge, contrast and sharpness. I quite like it. But after taking that I walked to the far left and looked back down the wall and by then one of the Suits was lolling over the rail texting on his smart phone and I could see there was an image there too. I spent about five minutes trying a number of viewpoints to get the composition that I wanted, but frankly it was an impossible task. I just could not line the elements up. And the image below is the best I came up with, but I think you will be able to see the compositional problems.

I realized that if I wanted an image I was going to have to Make it. There was work to be done. These are the problem areas I identified in this image:

  • The guy’s head needed separating from the ‘Arrivals’ sign.
  • The overhead monitor cut into the top of the ‘L’ of Arrivals.
  • The Monitor was far too dominant in the frame and was slightly crooked.
  • And finally on my big iMac screen back home, there was some horrid colour noise in the image. The histogram looked OK and the ISO was only 800 – but noise I find is a major problem with the G10.  Anyone with any thoughts on that?

Back to the image. I dealt with the noise in Camera Raw – that’s the first time I’ve used that feature in Camera Raw but it seemed to do a much better job than using Filter/Noise in Photoshop.

Then I shifted ‘Arrivals’ up (letter by letter, with a guide to aid positioning) using the Clone Stamp tool, so that the lettering cleared the guy’s head.  The foot of the letter ‘V’ and the back of the guy’s head needed some minor repair work.

Next, I used the Quick Selection Tool to select the Monitor and moved that to a new layer using Layer via Cut. That left a hole in the top Rt of the background layer. I cloned that hole in as far as I needed to for when the Monitor was reinstated.

I extended the ‘L’ of ‘Arrivals’ using the clone tool to the correct perspective height and borrowed the ‘slope’ of the top of the ‘L’ from another letter.

Finally – the monitor. It wasn’t straight and I wanted to straighten it. And it needed re-positioning so as to be less dominant. So I re-selected it on it’s layer and used Edit/Transform/Rotate to tweak the alignment of it. [Incidentally, I find the Transform function is a valuable addition to correcting distortions that cannot be fully corrected using Filter/Distort/Lens Correction].  And that done, I finally moved the edited Monitor up into its final position, checked I had painted in all the background and once I was happy with all the changes Flattened the Image.

Finally I removed the dark edge at the Rt side of the image where the wall appeared to end. I think the image looks better minus that. But I left in place the upright to the railing at the far Rt edge because I feel that helps (despite it being a minor element) to hold the image in a little better.

Then it was back to the usual controls to work with Curves, Levels, a touch of Poster Edge and sharpening to get to the final result: and here you have it.

The final image - click to enlarge

Was it worth the effort? I think it was – I’m pleased and satisfied with the result. I like the contrasting figures. [The guy on the Rt was a little disconcerting as he seemed to be staring me down as I moved around, taking images]. I like the way the rail curves back on itself through the foreground. I’ve got the image I was searching for, and although I’ve not done anything completely new, I’ve never combined so many tools and steps all in the one image as intensively as this. It took me three attempts to get to this point, and I’ve learnt a lot in the process. Hope you like the result.

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About LensScaper

Hi - I'm a UK-based photographer who started out 45+ years ago as a lover of landscapes, inspired by my love of outdoor pursuits: skiing, walking and climbing. Now retired, I seldom leave home without a camera and I find images in unexpected places and from different genres. I work on the premise that Photography is Art and that creativity is dependent on the cultivation of 'A Seeing Eye'. I'm not averse to manipulating images to produce derivatives that may sometimes be far removed from the original.
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11 Responses to If you can’t take it, make it!

  1. Len Saltiel says:

    Very nice images Andy. The steps you took on the second image really worked out well. You are right, there are those images that take a lot of work and they really help hone your post processing skills.

    I too have found noise issues on the G10 even at ISO 400. The noise reduction in LR3 & 4 (which is the same engine as Camera Raw) has really helped.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thank you Len. You’re absolutely right, the more you use the tools in any software, the more adept you become. Thanks for the info on LR3. I have a copy to load and will try it out.

  2. Nice work! It’s great to know the steps you took in getting to the final product.

  3. Dave DiCello says:

    Really impressive processing here Andy and well written out, easy to follow. Love both images, that’s for sure.

  4. Curt Fleenor says:

    Its amazing how a few minor edits can completely transform an image. Nicely done and a great write up too!

  5. I really like the result Andy and thank you for taking us through all your processing steps. Terrific post.

  6. Ginnie says:

    WOW. Indeed, Andy. It all came together the way you “saw” it in your mind’s eye. Bravo.

  7. seekraz says:

    You did very well, Andy…and it looks like the guy on the right might also be reaching for a gun…. 🙂

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