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Vivid Light Photography, digital and film photography online
After The Fact: 
Using Photoshop Before You Print

by Gary Stanley

I can't tell you how many times over the years that I have prayed for a manufacturer to come out with a "Telephone Pole and Wire Removal Filter" for the front of my lens. You know, the kind you just screw on, and all the junk you didn't intend to be in the picture just disappears. There have been countless times over the course of my career that the image would have been near perfect if it hadn't been for that darn telephone pole, junk car, or person standing in the way.

Back then, such a filter was just a silly dream designed to make me feel better, and to make my friends laugh. As most of you are now aware, that kind of filter really does exist, at least "After The Fact" in computer program software such as Photoshop. People often ask me if I alter my images using a program like Photoshop. My answer is fairly simple and quite honest. "That depends!" I don't fool with photographs that I use in my articles unless I am trying to illustrate a particular point. After the initial scan, I only try to make them look as good as my original slide.

After all, can you imagine what type of reputation as a photographer I would have if every time I did a slide lecture program, everyone in the audience whispered to each other; "How come his photos in Vivid Light always look so much better than ones we're seeing projected?"

There are, however, those times when I either want to have a little fun with my images, or like many of you, I want to make a print to hang on my wall. With a program like Photoshop you can fix those small little annoyances like the person who refused to get out of the way of your otherwise perfect shot. You know what I mean? After all, an artist doesn't have that problem. Do you think a painter waits for an hour and a half until that person sitting on the rocks in front of the lighthouse moves before continuing to paint? No, they just make the choice whether or not to include that person in their painting.

I have waited that long to take a photograph, only to have a load of tourists pile out of a bus and take his place on the rocks. Although I generally do everything I can to photograph a scene as I see it, sometimes, as the expression goes; "The gods are not with me."

So, while I may or may not include that image in my slide show, I may choose to make a nice print from that slide after making a few corrections to that otherwise nice image. If you are a total purist, there is probably no need to read any further, but if I've stirred your interest a little, please feel free to continue reading.

In the remainder of this article, I have included several photographic illustrations from the simple touch-up to the more drastic manipulation to show you what can be done "After The Fact."
In the first series of photos, I had trouble getting a nice level horizon line. With the sun coming up and the clouds tipping up from the sun, it was difficult to tell where the horizon line actually was. Sometimes it's not about using a bubble level but more an issue of balance. How does it look? After you've taken the image and viewed it on a light table, you can see that something just does not look right. Thanks to Photoshop, I can fix it with out much effort. You can also re-mount the slide, tipping it slightly to help level the horizon line.

In the next two slides, I'm correcting for the little things that I wish were not in the picture, such as the van in the background and the float near the boat. Those are things that a program such as Photoshop can fix quite easily.

In the last series of photos, I decided to take things just a little bit further. I fell in love with the great light over the harbor, and the light on the boats was terrific. However, I felt the boat in the foreground didn't fit with the nostalgic lobster boats in the rest of the image. So, my options were to eliminate the boat and that red float in the foreground and leave it at that, or clone in another lobster boat from the previous photo.

I feel that for a print to be successful it should be matched as closely to the original slide as possible. And when it is not, you need to make sure that it is as realistic as possible, otherwise the result will fall short of both your and your customer's expectations. While it may look okay on your monitor, the truth will be in the final print.

The bottom line is, if you feel comfortable with the final print and you are upfront with your viewing audience, then I say go for it. Enjoy all that you are able to do with a photograph "After The Fact."

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