Sunday, May 30, 2010

Is It Really Cheating?

I've had talks with my friends ever since I started shooting sunset photos a couple of years back, and sharing them with my friends. One of the comments I have heard a quite a few times is that I could 'PhotoShop' (note the use of the name 'PhotoShop' as a verb instead of a noun, much the same way that 'google' is frequently used as a verb!) some of my pictures to get rid of power poles, etc. Earlier on, I felt like I didn't want to spend any time learning how to edit pictures in such fine detail. Plus, I felt like it was cheating. You know, make the image look like something that it's not.

As time has rushed by, I find that I like to edit my pictures more and more. Usually all it takes is a little contrast adjustment to turn a so-so picture into a real keeper. I've written about this in the past. I find that I use Picasa for most of my editing since it is so simple, and doesn't require a large learning curve. One of the special editing features of Picasa that I have talked about in detail here in the past, is called Graduated Tint, and can be found on the Effects tab.

This time, I'd like to discuss another special editing feature of Picasa that you can find on the Basic Fixes tab, and is called Retouch. Take a look at the following picture. Go ahead and click on it to get a larger view. I really like this picture. The colors are great, and the silhouettes of the plants in front of the water are nice. I hope you will notice the major annoyance that bugs me -- those wonderful street light poles.

Now, take a closer look at this next picture. I increased the contrast a small amount which makes the plant silhouettes show up a little bit better. But, do you notice what is missing? Where did those street lights go? Enter the Retouch tool!

Here is another sample, taken from a slightly different angle. I think that I like this shot even more than the one above. But, there are those wonderful street lights again! Yuck!

So, once again, enter the Retouch tool! Yeah!

I really, really like this modified image. But, the question that I want to ask is - "Is this cheating?" If the idea is to capture the true environment, then I guess that the answer would be yes. But, if the idea is to make a pretty picture, hopefully one that someone would like to look at, and if art can be considered as part of the process of creating the image, then maybe it's OK.

What do you think?

And, since I didn't go into any detail here as to how to use this Picasa tool, let me know if you would like more details. The instructions included in Picasa are a little bit skimpy. I know that I don't have it totally figured out yet, but the more I use this tool, the more I understand. Seems like that's the way it usually goes, huh?