The Struggle Within

This photo needed some blurring of the background and noise reduction, but I wouldn't be surprised if jaded viewers assumed the girls were somehow photoshopped. For the record, I don't even use Photoshop.

Every digital image can benefit from some post processing. How much is enough?

I’m thinking about this because I’ve got about 3500 images to review from a couple of dance concerts.  It used to be a lot easier to cull the bad ones, because out of focus, under- and over-exposed images were quite obvious as I browsed through the batch. But I’ve gotten pretty good at the technical side of things, so now I’ve got over 3,000 technically okay images to deal with. Yikes.

So now I’m making aesthetic decisions, and that is not my strong suit.  I know, I know. Initiative, organization and patience are not my strong suits either. The only thing I could probably call my strong suit is my motorcycle jacket and pants, which have kevlar fibers and lots of padding. But seriously, I want to provide the dance teacher with images that document her event, and I also want to take the best captures and see if I can turn them into really good photos. I’m intimidated by the task ahead. I’m going to have to be ruthless in my editing, and I’m going to have to decide whether my retouching skills and judgment are up to the challenge, as illustrated by the two photos below:

A friend saw this image on facebook and suggested I darken the floor, since our eyes are drawn to the lighter parts of images. He was right that the floor was a distraction, however...

...the fact that I don't work in Photoshop left me using fairly crude tools to darken the floor, but the tools are not the problem. The problem is that I didn't know how to make the final image look right. Should I have left the lit floor around her foot? It would look more natural, but would still be a bright distraction. My brain hurts. I don't like the idea of spending an inordinate amount of time on any one photo, especially when I've got a couple thousand waiting for review.

6 Comments

Filed under Dance and Theater, Post Processing

6 responses to “The Struggle Within

  1. Tina Horton

    I like the unaltered photo. I think that it’s almost always more true to go with what you saw. The first photo looks more natural and outlines the dancer’s lines nicely…just my take.

  2. Diana Kelly

    For my money, you need the floor. Otherwise it looks like she’s in mid-air, and the left foot is inconsistent with a jump.

    • I think my friend wanted me to darken the floor to the left of her and keep the light/floor coming from the right, but I didn’t know how to make a dividing line. As you know, a real Photoshopper could do that AND add a dog/horse/cloudy sky to the image…

  3. myrna

    agreed that the unaltered photo is wonderful … the light floor gives her a base … plus the shadow on the floor is pretty wonderful too

    you could darken the floor area slightly … i think best using a mask … but this image holds its own with the beautiful light and i love the space that she is in

    there is something just to the right of her skirt that is somewhat distracting … easy to clone that out

  4. In dance, we seek to light the feet (shinbuster lighting is the name of it). Keep the floor lit. It is appropriate artistically.

    What you see to the right is a part of her skirt. There are strips of the skirt that hang away from the larger pieces of fabric.

    • This image illustrates the challenge of managing lighting ratios. Since the eye will be attracted to the brightest area of the image, one wants to make sure the brightest area is the center of interest. I obviously went too far in my experiment. In the version I’m uploading to Smugmug today, I toned down the floor and foot but did not black them out. If we were posing these shots in the studio, we would have calculated the lighting ratio to nail this at the time of capture, because the post processing tools can only go so far…

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