This blog is all about creative editing with the aim of changing the mood and feel of a single image. Is not about dealing with imperfections (cloning, erasing or cropping). Unleash the creative side of your editing suite. Just one image and a little imagination are all it takes.
On a rainy day, there are not many things to do outside. So why not sit in front of your computer and have a look at the images from your last trip?
To get your creative juices flowing, and to illustrate some of the possibilities, I’ll use a single picture. This is one of my favourite shots from last year. It was taken on an early morning last July in the Southern Red Sea while snorkelling with dolphins in Fury Shoals.
Straight out of the camera, the shot looks a bit dull, but that is not uncommon and doesn’t mean the shot goes straight in the bin.
Dolphins swim very fast and I didn’t have enough time to get the composition exactly how I wanted right on camera. Therefore, I had to crop the image a bit to get the framing I wanted.
Once I was happy with the composition It was time to get the image ready. I tweaked a bit the clarity, highlights shadows, and white balance and the end result was a much clearer and sharper image. Something I was very happy with.
A bit of background: There are different editing software options out there and each one offers different levels of flexibility. For many years I’ve been using a combination of Lightroom and Photoshop from Adobe to do the bulk of my editing and Silver Efex Pro for my black and white and colour conversions.
When you compare the two images next to each other, you can immediately see a big difference. The corrected version is so much clear and sharp that you would think is a different photograph altogether. If you want to have this level of flexibility in your post-production, I strongly recommend shooting in RAW mode. a Jpg file won’t have enough information to allow you this range of corrections.
Now was the time to start playing with this image and find out how far could I push it.
When it comes to editing your pictures in a digital world, the possibilities are endless. It is impossible for me to talk about them all, but these are some of my favourites.
I always split the treatments into two groups, colour, and monotone. If your preference lies in colour images you can explore styles such as Cross Processing or Bleach Bypass. These treatments simulate old film process and with the right image, can create striking results. Monotones cover a large spectrum of images, from old looking sepias to the cool cyanotype or simple black and white. Here too you have many choices, but I must confess, increasingly they are my go-to edits.
Creative editing – Colour options
Cross-process The basic principle behind this treatment was to use the wrong processing chemicals on your photographic media to create a hybrid end result. In the “old, non digital” world you’d et’s say process slides, using the chemicals for negatives, or vice-versa. Many photographers loved this sort of treatment because the unpredictability it offered.
Today it can be done by a couple of clicks and you have complete control of the end results.
Bleach Bypass is another process based on the good old film days, which either completely or partially skipped the bleaching stage when processing colour film. The end result was in many ways a composite image of a black and white and a colour layer.
The Nik Collection offers a huge range of plugins for Photoshop and Lightroom that allow you complete control over the colour of your image. At the moment can be downloaded free and is something worth ingadd to your creative editing arsenal.
This is probably my favourite version, I used a series of treatments available on Color Efex Pro
You can push the simulation of the old analogue film a bit further to the point of including the slide frame on your image as well, as any physical damage to the media such as scratches and markings or light leakage, as well as replicate techniques such as double exposures. I personally find the end result very evocative, but if you like it or not is purely subjective.
Here are a couple of examples of similar treatments on other pictures
Your single tone options
The moment you start working in monotones you have a huge range of possibilities, from a high contrast to get the most out of the shadows, to a high key to get the best out of a bright situation you can play with your photos to get different images.
Start with a straight black and white conversion. This will give you a base to start playing with your photo.
Don’t be afraid to push the limits of contrast and exposure when working in monotones, as the image will be much more forgiving than the colour version.
For this shot, I decided to take things to an extreme. Having a relatively clear and flat background allowed me to almost eliminate it completely and in a way turn the dolphins into blocks of black with very little tonal variation. In the end, I got one of my favourite images of 2017
Remember that monotone does not refer only to black and white. If you use a separate colour instead of white you can end up with very interesting versions conveying very different emotions. The most popular of this conversions is the sepia toning in which the grey tones are replaced by sepia tones.
I’m not very keen on this kind of tonal conversion, preferring a more cooler range of tones such cyanotype or selenium… in other words, a bluish greyish tint, but again, this is my personal preference.
As you can see, once you start exploring the options your editing software has, you can spend hours if not days playing with your images so don’t be afraid, double-click on that app icon and start a journey into creative editing.
Join me on my next Shark Quest photography trip to the southern Red Sea for a chance to encounter and photograph hammerheads, grey reefs and oceanic whitetip sharks, mantas and dolphins. I will also run editing sessions for the opportunity to explore these and many other techniques.