Monday, 9 January 2012

Cropping Images And Enhancing The Subject

Tight crop and bokeh

HERE IS AN EXAMPLE of how Photoshop  might be used to improve upon an original digital image. (Purists might like to look away now; because what you see is very unlike the original).

Let us imagine that you were the original photographer, tasked with covering a martial arts display that was to take place in the High Street. Well, the image here is probably just the type of action photograph that your editor would expect you to bring back. It is nice and tight, with no distracting background, and conveys the action that was observed. It is a truthful image that could be guaranteed to accompany a sports hack’s written article imparting the full flavour of the event.

Now let us take a look at the original, which I stole from a Google image search…

No photoshopping

As you can see, the original has been cropped – and the bokeh has been introduced post processing.

If I were the photo-editor, I know which image I would choose; but, if I were the photographer, I would also ensure that I submitted the original, together with the two crops it favours to produce a powerful image.

In the old days you would use a piece of Scotch tape and a transparent overlay to mark-up printing crops on a transparency; but these days you can make the photo-editor’s task much easier by recording cropping paths in your JPEGs, with appropriate descriptions, which can then be chosen to perform a physical crop or create a suitable clipping path for the title’s printing package.

This particular photograph lends itself to the two crops highlighted below; but, in the real world, they might need adjusting to the restrictive proportions required by some journal’s house styles or the need to be reproduced full-page – so you need to ensure you get that particular aspect right before you include them.

Cropping the image

It would be a little trite to suggest that the original photographer would have been better served by opening-up his aperture and using a longer lens to produce an original bokeh shot as manufactured above; because there might be good reasons for not doing so. After all, we only have the one photograph here, perhaps taken out of context from a much larger series.

Live action shooting is always difficult to judge if you cannot be certain where the action will take place – and it is doubly difficult when the action is very fast moving; because you may not have time to refocus or reframe. In such situations you need to keep the odds of obtaining that magic shot firmly on your side by choosing the right vantage point and leaving enough room in the frame for the action to take place. Then you can set the camera to continuous shooting mode and capture a full action series from which the best shot can be chosen. It looks as if this stolen shot is just one of a series in which the photographer, like any good professional, has chosen to use a small f-stop so he can be free to move in any direction whilst keeping his finger on the shutter release and allowing his manual settings to take care of the correct focus and exposure.

Those damn purists would probably suggest that the photographer should just bide his time to capture the perfect shot in order to have a true bokeh image; but they obviously do not rely upon a photographic income or have any real experience of the medium. (Post processing bokeh was a little time consuming in the B/W dark room; but just as easily managed with a sharp scalpel and some fine sandpaper).

I really fail to understand the arguments surrounding image cropping. Standard industry contracts often make it quite clear that a title or a competition’s organisers reserve the right to crop a photographer’s image in any way they deem fit; and, had the photographer moved closer or used a longer lens: that subsequent pre-processing crop is apparently quite acceptable to the vociferous armchair critics.

Some people should really get a life…

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