Sunday, 11 December 2011

PnP Ex 23 Selective processing

I took this picture in side St Pierre's Cathedral with the intent of using it for exercise 19, but it seemed to me to be between two stools – the people at the altar are too small as accent but large enough to draw attention, and the guy in the white jacket in the RH pews is also a distraction. So it seemed like an ideal candidate for rescuing in this exercise. The overall aim of the original was to lead the eye  to the altar with its ‘haloes’ of light.

St Peter's Cathedral, Geneva (i)

The exercise asks us for two new versions, one which de-emphasises the figures, and one that makes the more obvious. Here are both version – de-emphasised first (although it’s actually pretty obvious which is which):

St Peter's Cathedral, Geneva (iii)  St Pierre Cathedral, Geneva (ii)

In both cases I simply painted over the figures with the adjustment brush in Lightroom (set to a small diameter) and adjusted exposure/brightness/contrast until I got an acceptable result.

Reducing the brightness of the white jacket in the pews is beneficial in both shots, although I do think the ‘reduced emphasis’ shot now seems rather empty overall and less satisfying than the original.

In the ‘increase emphasis’ shot I not only brightened the figures at the altar, but also their surroundings so that they appear to be in a pool of light – the location of the artificial lights and the surrounding windows helps this to remain reasonably realistic in appearance. I also darkened the jacket in the pews and brightened the daylight playing onto the aisle. The former removes a distraction, the latter helps lead the eye to the figures.

This latter treatment feels like a dramatic improvement. There is now a very clear point of focus to the image where previously there were strong compositional elements leading your eyes to essentially nothing much.


Like most people who tinker with their digital photos I’ve done a bit of dodging and burning before – usually to recover shadow detail or try to save lost highlights. In DPP we were encouraged to remove and replace whole chunks of detail, but this exercise is somewhere in between. I’m not sure I’d have thought of this relatively subtle improvement without the need to find a suitable subject for the exercise – it’s clearly something worth thinking about with every shot – even if I end up concluding that it’s not necessary.

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