One simple way of enhancing photos involves using the hue/saturation option. Instead of filing unsatisfactory photographs, scan them in, and load them into an image-editing application like Adobe Photoshop. Use the hue/saturation command to make color changes. Precise color changes are made by moving the sliding hue bar back and forth until the tone is correct. For some pictures, cooler colors work best; for others, warmer tones are better.
Another method for enhancing a washed-out shot is through toning. Convert the scanned photo from color to grayscale and then back again into color. This will remove the color data, but still make it possible to add color to the monochrome image. Then tone the shot by selecting the color balance option and adjusting the levels of the three primary colors. Boosting the red and yellow channels, for example, will create a pleasing sepia effect that instills a richness and depth to the image that can be lacking in color photography.
Saturation and color balance can also be used to enhance people shots, especially older portraits that were taken in black-and-white and then hand-tinted with watercolors. The image of the Navy Lieutenant is a good example of how a badly faded portrait can be revitalized by selecting and enhancing the specific colors that have faded over the years. For many images, a boost in saturation is all that is needed.
Enhancing the color characteristics of an image often changes its mood and focus. Switching backgrounds is another way of doing that. This technique is especially effective when the background is cluttered and distracting. To switch backgrounds, begin by using one of the selection tools to mask the original background. The magic wand is a good choice for simple backgrounds that are made up of just one or two colors. The lasso is a better choice for complex backgrounds, like the wall and curtains background in the Easter portrait of the girl.
Carefully mask the original background, delete it, and replace it with image content that’s appropriate for the subject matter. The background and foreground in the Easter portrait, for example, were masked, deleted and then replaced with solid colors that were selected to reflect the red and cyan colors in the girl’s shirt. Other replacement backgrounds could have been taken from other images or created in the computer.
Specific editing changes can also be used to enhance the subject. The most common modifications to portraits include complexion enhancement, wrinkle reduction, whitening of teeth and eyes, and hair adjustments. Cloning (replacing one portion of the image, such as a blemish, with another portion, such as a smooth part of the skin) is a good way to optimize a portrait. This technique can be used to repair such flaws as acne, scars, moles and pronounced facial lines. It is also very effective in removing red-eye, bags under eyes, double chins, stray hairs and braces. And it can be used to either remove or enhance catch lights in the eyes, to change the shape of broken teeth, and to remove the distortion and glare caused by glasses.
The cloning technique is relatively simple. Place the cursor over the section of the image to be copied, initialize the cloning brush, and then paint over the areas of the image that are to be replaced. Cloning was used extensively on the Easter portrait to change the hairline, fill-in hair and adjust for uneven complexion.
It’s said that the camera adds about 10 percent to a person’s body weight. Body sculpting can correct that, making subtle changes to a person’s physical appearance. Digital sculpting is very effective in correcting minor weight or distribution problems in hips, abdomen, and other body parts. It can also be used to reduce or enhance the bust, or trim a few pounds from a person’s face.
With body changes, for example, the selection tool is used to mark the sections of the hips or abdomen that need to be reduced. Then the cloning tool is used to fill the masked area with the adjacent background.
While subtle changes can enhance a person’s appearance; dramatic alterations may ruin the image. Resist the temptation to give the subject an entirely new body.
Digital editing techniques are giving photographers the opportunity to give their old, not-so-good people shots anew lease on life. It’s an effective way to improve on Mother Nature.