From Dull to Dynamic

From Dull to Dynamic
Using manipulation to take a dull photo to a dynamic one.

I don't recommend that you use the following technique on every photo that you see as simply average or dull but using manipulation can sometimes make the difference between an image that gets archived in your stock folder (or simply tossed) and one that not only goes into your art folder but that becomes an image you hope to print soon.

The photo immediately below is a perfectly acceptable stock photo. Though its not particularly interesting it might be something that a laundry detergent company would find useful or a company that sells Phlox seeds.

In fact, as I was looking at the image today I was in the process of weeding out some images from a processing folder and was about to drag it into the stock photo folder. I was actually in the process of deciding it I was going to throw it away entirely or put it in the stock folder. 

Then I decided that it might be worth taking a shot at using it for a tutorial. Though I didn't expect to actually like the final product as much as I do.

First you need to decide what the focal points of the image are. That's a job for Captain Obvious, right? The circular clothesline and the phlox are the focal points. However, I did not immediately see an obvious way of tying the two focal points together that was interesting (In fact I still can't, even though I have now spent hours staring at these images).

So the first decision was to eliminate the phlox as a focal point - and incidentally to keep the small container on the ground in the image.

The next decision was how to treat the focal point. I tested multiple filters and treatments and finally settled upon a filter that created a zoom effect - allowing me to move the center point of the zoom so that the clothesline - though offset - could be the center of the zoom. That left the image below.

Now this image in-and-of-itself is interesting but I was on a roll and thought I would test altering the colors a bit to see what I could create.

Changing the colors a bit made the purple of the towel pop but created kind of a muddy mustard in the zoom area of the image that was not visually pleasing.

So I took the entire image down to its most basic form, saving a copy of the muddy mustard image. Now at this point, depending on the software you have you can do one of two things, use a history filter or cut and past the monochrome over the muddy mustard image and then use an erase function to restore colors selectively.

First I restored the colors of the clothesline and clothespin bucket. I recommend that you use a filter that allows you to restore the color gradually in case you want something slightly lighter or slightly less vibrant. I saved this image as it was in case it was the final version I wanted after I took the next step.

After saving the image with just the line restored I then partially restored the muddy mustard zoom. This allowed me to bring some color back but mostly just the suggestion of color.

Leaving me with this, my almost final image. I added a 1/10th inch white border, you can see here that seems to set off the image just a bit more. It's not the best "washday" image I have ever created but if you know my work you know that I have some pretty terrific washday images - I've been a bit obsessive about washday since I first picked up a camera. Nevertheless, it is an image that I am quite fond of and now feel comfortable placing it in my "art" folder and sharing it with those who like to visit my website and blog as well as my online galleries.

There will be only one original of this image sold and then I will create an open edition in case others are interested in having a print of this image as well. Its name: Rushing to the Washline.

Rushing to the Washline
One original
18x24 Fine art Giclee, Archival inks

Order the Original Art

To purchase this image on cards or open edition fine art prints, click here.


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