Unlike classic photography, digital photography comes with unparalleled opportunities for photo editing. Because of the editing programmes, photography is no longer limited to real images. The only limit is your own imagination. With the help of the camera and the computer you can build fantastic worlds, just like artists. However, unlike the artist, who must start from scratch with only a blank sheet to work with, photographers have ready images drawn with light, which can be changed and combined in any way they like. We can change the perspective of the image, we can erase or add objects, change the colours of every element the way we want to and combine elements from different shots.
We often use editing programmes to change the perspective of a photograph. It is easy. Open the photograph in the window of an editing programme (Photoshop, Gimp, Corel Photo Paint, etc.), click on Select All from the Transform menu and select the Distort command. Markers will appear along the edges of the photo. Drag the dots with the mouse and extend in the required direction.
All you have to do now is cut out the unnecessary elements on the side.
In this way you can correct tilted horizons, distorted buildings, interiors or other objects we find necessary. Of course, with such corrections there will always be certain reduction in resolution, but it is not a problem if there are enough pixels in the file as the changes are not a large proportion of the total area of the photo.
Erasing and adding details to the photograph
Sometimes a single detail in the photograph can ruin the entire composition. If you have shot using film, there is nothing you can do about it. The blasted post or wire passes right through the middle of the shot and ruins an otherwise good photo. Fortunately, there is a solution for such problems when the image is digital.
Here is an example where the mast of the boat passes right through the middle of the frame and offends the eye. In this case we can use the help of the Stamp Tool – this is a brush which takes a part of the image from the photograph and then clones it in a new place. The instrument can be found in many editing programmes, such as Photoshop, Gimp, the free Faststone, etc.
After you have determined the size of the brush, you select the place from which you will copy (usually with Alt or Ctrl on the keyboard) and click on it with the mouse. Next, click on the mouse on the new place in the frame and you will transfer the same pixels which you selected with the first click. It may seem difficult at the beginning, but after a few attempts you will see that you will get better and better at it as your photos get more and more beautiful. In the case of this fisherman, we will take a part of the image of the water on the side and we will copy it on the place of the mast. The result is a photograph with a more streamlined composition.
Some versions of Photohop have another option – content aware. If you want to use it, select the area and click delete on your keyboard. The programme will fill the selected area with content matching the surrounding pixels. It is faster and easier, but you do not have full control over what new content will be created in the place of the deleted one.
You can not only delete, but also add details to photographs. When you want to add a detail from another photograph, you must first select it and then copy and paste onto the photograph you are working on. If the detail was not cut out precisely, you can use some of the tools to soften or delete its edges, make them darker or lighter, adjust their saturation, hue, brightness or contrast so that it matches the main photograph as well as possible.
Montage and collage
Photo editing programmes give you the great opportunity to combine elements from different shots. You can create fun, interesting or fantastic stories.
It all depends on your patience to cut, scale and paste objects from photo on another. In this photograph there are three elements which were shot separately. The books are the main background. I used a pebble to keep the middle book open. The child was photographed separately on a bed, and then she was cut out of the photo and pasted in place of the pebble. The glasses are the third element also cut and pasted onto the face of the girl.
Retouching the faces of the models is an integral part of portrait photography. It has been done for years, ever since the age of film photography. However, it came at the cost of a lot of effort, wasted materials and unclear end results. Today with the help of photo editing programmes we can do it relatively quickly and easily.
The main retouching instrument for faces is the so-called healing brush which can be found in many photo editing programmes, including some free ones. It works following the same principles as the clone stamp but in addition to transferring pixels from one place to another, it levels out the colour and density to match the base. All we have to do is find good texture of the skin on the face and clone it on problematic areas – spots, marks, blemishes, cuts.
To change the geometrical shape of the face you can use the Liquify filter. It is also easy to use with its own interface with several tools – push, twirl, bloat and pucker. You select a brush with the respective diameter and you position it on the area which you want to correct by pushing it, rotating it, expanding it or collapsing it, respectively. To be completely honest, your first attempts may result in faces which are slightly cartoonish, but the more you practice, the better end results you will achieve.
Blending layers is a technique which allows you to experiment and create interesting effects in your photographs. Generally, blending means that the dark spots from the lower layer will become visible over the lighter areas of the upper layer. The opposite is also possible – light areas will become visible over the dark ones. In the following example there is a second layer over the portrait, a photograph of cracked paint on an old wooden surface.
This is how the following image was produced. The main photograph was shot in a studio – a reflective umbrella with a flash inside, under the umbrella. To this shot I added two layers – one with raindrops and another with blurred defocused lights from an urban landscape.
An artist must know the rules of art before he can break them.