a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Downtown Photos Before and After

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Downtown Photos Before and After

SUMMARY: What and why.
I couldn't restrain myself from editing these two photos before posting a bunch the other day.

Here's why, and what I did.

What I loved about this scene was the angled symmetry of the fire escape against the straight symmetry of the vertical lines of the rest of the building. (Plus the one open window.) 

1. Because I shot the photo looking up, the vertical lines converge towards the top (that's called perspective distortion--sometimes you want that effect to emphasize how tall something is, but in this case, I want to look straight on).
2. In addition, the lens I'm using sometimes curves lines near the edges--look at how the vertical lines on the left and the right actually seem to bow inward in the middle (I believe called pincushion distortion--if they curved outward in the middle, it would be barrel distortion).
3. Also, the colors were a little dull and the sky too light behind it, which emphasized the fire escape too much.

 First, in the Raw editor, I adjusted the exposure, contrast, and I think saturation to make the colors more like what I wanted.
Then I used Photoshop Element's Correct Camera Distortion filter, first to make the vertical lines as vertical as I could with a quick edit, then to correct the bowing of the lines. It's not perfect, but much better.
Then cropped in just a bit to get rid of some of the sky on the left and the shadowy bits at the bottom of the building.

More I could do and probably will:

Hmmm, whole building is still too dark for my taste. Will have to think about how to lighten it without losing the contrast.  Also, The one open window is a nice variance from all the symmetry. But the awning at the lower left and the grate in the lower middle are just distractions--I should crop them out. Also not sure about the british flag;  I'm considering taking that out as well because I think it distracts from the tan/blue them in the rest of the picture.

Took a bunch of shots of this skater in the plaza of the city hall.  Most of them turned out badly, but I loved this one, how she seemed to be skating on the edge of the shadow.   Plus she was in focus [grin].
But there was a lot of other distracting stuff in the background. I loved the other horizontal lines to emphasize her direction of travel. And she was so small--obviously had to crop in.

So that's what I did--first cropped out all the boring stuff--I debated cropping in even more so that the bottom of the photo was all in shadow, but then it looked more like she was skating on a wall, so I left space in front of the shadow to make it clearer that it's a shadow. I kept her off center so that she had space in the photo to skate into.
Then I used Elements' automatic fixer, "Auto Smart Fix," to see whether I liked the change in contrast, brightness, color, and everything else that it tweaks--and I did. So I left it.

That was it!

More I could do but not sure I will:

I tried switching to speed-priority (TV) on my camera to see whether I could get her in focus and the background a little blurred to show her motion, but the few I shot didn't turn out well and then she vanished. You can actually make that effect in PhotoShop/Elements. Not sure whether I want to, though--I kinda like this as is and I think the horizontal lines and the space on the left still give the feeling of movement.


  1. Ahhhh, very cool! I do love a good before-and-after. I never would have guessed these were the ones. And who knew you could straighten lines like that?!

    That skateboard one is definitely one of my favourites... For one thing how she's skating right on the edge of the shadow, and how it's a big urban wasteland except for her, and that it's a she, too. Really special shot.

  2. That was actually really helpful! And these were two of my favorite shots from the other day. Oh. Wait. They were all my favorite shots!