This post is not so much about photography but more about post processing and how softwares such as Lightroom and Photoshop, are essential tools to creativity. I purposely picked a "bad" image to show what can be achieved with very little time and few tricks !
To say that this winter has been cold and snowy is an understatement. Amazingly though, and maybe because it was so cold , I rarely ventured outside after each storm to take pictures or make videos. So after the last unexpected foot of snow fell on us, I decided to tour my favorite places in and around westerly to grab few shots, and naturally I ended up in watch Hill, which also happens to be one my favorite walking spots.
Few years back, they rebuilt the Yacht club, and it's a building I like to shoot when it's covered and surrounded by snow and ice. Unfortunately, it is always difficult to get a "clean" picture, since the background is always filled with distractions and it can be frustrating to wait for people or cars to go by. So as we walked , I took a couple of quick snapshots anyway and decided to concentrate on the snow covered dunes of Napatree beach.
Back at home, I was pleased with some of the pictures I took in Wilcox park and on the beach, but looking at the shots of the yacht club, I was underwhelmed to say the least. Picture was plain and boring, not even straight, typical of a picture taken too fast with no planning. The only thing I liked was that It had all the cabanas in the frame.
I figured a couple of quick "fix" and adjustments in Photoshop couldn't hurt. The first thing I worked on was how the picture was framed, I leveled the image to make sure the horizon line was straight and decided to crop it using the rule of 3 and emphasize the width vs height to give it more of a landscape look. I could already see a small improvement
Next, I adjusted contrast, levels and sharpness to bring more details out. At that point the color was a little too vibrant for my taste but I would fix that a little later while working on the sky.
Once the adjustments were done, it was time to clean the image, mainly the left side where we could see a gas tank, dumpster and fence in the background. I also didn't care much for the car tracks and decided to remove them as well. I finally took out the fire hydrant on the left and remove some fencing all the way back to the right. It did give the image a more natural, pristine look, a closer rendition of what I saw before any picture was taken.
Finally, I concentrated on the last part of the picture left untouched: the sky. The picture was taken in the middle of the day and the sky was a perfect blue, free of clouds.That's great for a walk, but many landscape photographers will tell you, this is actually the kind of sky they don't want, it looks flat, has no contrast and lacks dimension. So here is a trick that many of them use if they find that right location but are not lucky enough to have a perfect sky : they make it ! I like to think of this as an eyeliner, it is there to bring out the beauty of the eye, it doesn't change the eye, it just makes it stand out.
So the first thing was to do a quick search online for a picture of a sky with clouds. The best would be to take pictures yourself of different skies and build a collection you can go to when you need it. After few seconds, I came up with this image.
Next, I simply merged it with my existing picture in Photoshop. The technique is simple but you must take your time to make sure than it looks seamless or it will look fake. I then flipped and reposition the clouds to my taste, to make the overall image more pleasing. I then made sure that the sky blended well with the image by fixing tones and colors. Et voila !
In conclusion, after 10-15 minutes we ended-up with an image that we could be happy with and that brought out what our eye may have seen in the first place. We are not always lucky to have the perfect sky or the perfect location, but it shouldn't stop us from being creative. Not everything need to be retouched and sometimes you shouldn't, but with few tricks, you can bring your images to a new level and express yourself fully !