The Fix

How to perform cosmetic surgery -- major and minor -- on your photos.



Beach Craft
Christopher Malcolm, Los Angeles, CA

The problemIt's an impressionistic and atmospheric beach scene, and the use of a Tiffen Sunrise filter was a good decision. But some of the impression and atmosphere is dark...and a little dull. We also, as usual, wanted to get the horizon out of the middle.

What now?Bringing up the brightness and contrast in Curves (Adobe Photoshop CS3) was all it took to goose up the colors and improve the tones of the picture. We then noticed all the people scattered across the beach this way and that, and decided to clone them out, leaving just the couple at the right to create a more focused visual narrative. Next, we cropped in from the bottom to get the horizon out of the center, giving more visual impact to the sky over the sand. Then, we looked at the relative size of the lifeguard station and felt it overwhelmed the other picture elements, so we cropped in from the left to lessen its weight in the frame. This leaves the line of the roof leading your eye to the couple at the right. Do you think this makes sense, or did we overdo it and take the spontaneity out of the picture?

Next timeThis is one of those simple scenes that make for multiple photo ops. Try different horizon placements, take several versions with different groupings of people, and play with other compositions. We'd also suggest adding a little contrast or color saturation to dimly lit scenes. The original version was perhaps a more accurate rendition of the scene lighting, but shots like this one can really flatten out on a monitor or in prints.

Tech infoNikon D200 with 18-200mm f/3.5- 5.6G ED-IF AF-S VR DX Zoom- Nikkor, 1/80 sec at f/4.5 through a Tiffen Sunrise filter, ISO 100.

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Horse Sense
Cindy Moe, Loris, SC

The problemThe exposure's right on the button, the moment is great, the composition well thought-out. But the mare -- even more, the post in front of her -- unbalances the frame. And the post shows how the mare is slightly out of focus.

What now?Getting rid of the fence post would be tricky (we'd have to draw in parts of the horse) and that wouldn't solve the focus problem. We could have simply cropped her out, but it would have yielded the Dreaded Centered Composition. So, even though we usually object to this sort of major surgery, we cloned out the mare and post completely. This leaves an asymmetrical composition, with the snow fence making a dynamic line into the colt. Too much for photo purists?

Next timeWe know wild horses aren't very good at taking direction, but perhaps a little more legwork would have yielded better framing. Beware big clunky objects -- like fence posts.

Tech infoNikon D70s with 28-105mm f/3.5- 4.5D AF Zoom-Nikkor, 1/400 sec at f/10, ISO 200. Slight color enhancements in Adobe Photoshop CS.

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