Practicing your photography skills also means practicing your post-processing skills. Almost every photo can benefit from some refinement later, whether it’s to optimize exposure, crop for better composition, or to retouch and remove unwanted subject matter. Back in the day, post-processing happened in darkrooms and at light tables. These days, it more commonly happens in Photoshop or programs like Lightroom and Aperture. Regardless of the tool, post-processing is an important part of the photographic process.
In this week’s installment of The Practicing Photographer, Ben Long dives into Photoshop to examine the process of combining, or compositing, two similar photos to obtain the best parts of each one. His subject is a street scene in San Francisco. Ben shot a photo of a bicyclist entering an intersection, but just as he pressed the shutter, a pedestrian intruded into the edge of the shot.
Ben’s solution was to quickly take another shot of the same scene, this time with that pesky pedestrian out of the frame. And that’s where we join the story. Ben takes both photos into Photoshop and uses the Auto-Align Layers command along with some simple masking techniques to remove the intruder and yield a stronger photo—the one he had in his mind’s eye when he first snapped the shutter.
Satisfying Your Mind’s Eye
Getting the photo you originally envisioned is one of the best reasons to improve your post-processing skills. You’ve probably noticed that some of your shots don’t seem to convey the mood of the original scene. That might be because your camera’s meter exposed the shot in a way that didn’t do justice to a dramatic sky. Or it might be because you didn’t notice a distracting element at the edge of the frame. These are problems that you can fix with post-processing. And while it’s important to strive for the right exposure and composition when you snap the shutter, it’s equally important to know how to fix and enhance them when you’re back at your computer.
To further explore the world of compositing, check out Tim Grey’s Creating Composites in Photoshop and Chris Orwig’s Photoshop for Photographers: Compositing. You can also visit the Masking + Compositing subject page, where you’ll find 28 courses that address the subject.
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