Nov 01, 2011

Finding a Focal Point & Why We Edit

Today we are going into the 2nd part of editing fundamentals -Finding a focal point, and why we edit in the first place. These are things not many people talk about, but they should be at the root of everything you do in Photoshop.

We go over various ways in which a viewer’s eyes will be attracted to a certain part of an image. These include Saturation, Difference between Tone, Focus, Sharpness, & Composition. The great news is that Photoshop gives you the Tools necessary to change all of these things to help you get your point across. In the end you will want a clear idea of where the viewer should look at your image. This episode is all about helping you do that.

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    Andrea Peipe

    I really like the basics you are going through this week! Very interesting to watch! 

    Honestly, I never really cared about the rule of thirds but I have to get into that… Hey, do you know this large photo of London that you can buy at Ikea that is all black & white except for the typical red London busses? In that case selective color is actually cool! I think. 😉

    Jeez, I am always amazed at how fast you can paint in different colors over white parts and achieve such a great result! *note to self: work on that*

    Why do I edit photos in Photoshop? Because a lot of times I cannot achieve a result without it, e.g. a levitation shot or something. Or because I want to exchange heads like with shots from last weekend where the kid is not looking into camera when the parents are and vice versa… 🙂

    As regards how I draw the attention to the subject of my photos, that depends…but most of the times I work with light! Or having her/him very focused and the rest in a bokeh.

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    When shooting people I’m really picky about getting the most interesting facial expression. Like something real or in the moment. No matter what else I do in editing nothing seems to bring out a picture better.

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    Tom Brown

    Have to say, that these past two episodes have been two of the best to date… Your skills with Photoshop are wonderful, BUT my interest is photography and using Photoshop as a tool to enhance my images.  These two episodes have already been a great benefit.  Thanks.

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    Dale Antony Richards

    When you mentioned about the black and white images where it is only a little bit in colour; I have to say THANK YOU! I am soo happy I am not the only person who finds them tacky and horrible!

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    Why do I edit my photos? 

    I’m trying to achieve a certain mood. My post-processing is a reflection of the feelings or the atmosphere around the time the picture was taken. Mostly I will try to focus on one subject and I do that with selective coloring, lines and the rule of thirds. It’s hard when you’re out there in the wild without the possibility of telling the subject to perform in a certain way. But that’s the fun thing about it.
    I’m going to post some images.First one is the black and white of a police officers silhouette at night. He’s lit up from behind with the spotlight of his cruiser. This image is really rough, gritty and dark. The story behind the image is also rough, gritty and dark. He is about to arrest a person responsible for beating up a random stranger, sending the stranger severely injured to the hospital. 

    Second one is of the first lady in Iceland, getting out of her car in front of Althingi.Lots and lots of protesters were there, shouting and throwing things. Tensions were very high when she and the president got out of their car, only a few feet from the line of protesters. This image was color-toned using the colors of the flares in the background. This color-toning was used in my photo-series, depicting the circumstances at Althingi from a cops point of view. Here we can see that she and a part of the car is in focus, her clothes are sharp and she is a tad brighter than the rest of the image. Also, she and the lines of the car conform perfectly with the golden ratio that I tend to use more often than the rule thirds.

    Third picture is from crossfit competition. I’ve used very thin depth of field to draw attention to the subject and lit the face a little in post. Notice the room in front of her and how golden ratio/rule of thirds is applied. More could be done, but in my time vs money scenario, this is it 😉 
    What I also do is trying to get as much detail into veins and muscles as possible in the crossfit pictures. An example in the fourth picture. These people are competing as being the most fit, and that should show in the pictures.

    Fifth picture is just an attempt to annoy Aaron with selective saturation, although not quite as bad as many other examples 😉

    In short: 
    I shoot with composition in mind.
    -> Trying to leave room in front of the subject.
    -> Eliminating background distractions
    -> Rule of thirds or golden ratio
    -> Find lines and use them, make them lead to my subject.
    Selective focus
    Selective coloring
    Post processing with the moods in mind.
    …lots more, but I’m hungry and all I can think about is chicken.

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    Hassnal Adam Sulaiman

    Yeah, the last two episodes definitely touches on a lot of important things that can easily be overlooked. When you mentioned about the selective colour… i was like… “oh d*mn~ i’ve actually done that…one’ hehe.

    I edit my photos because i see it as ‘assisting’ my photo to achieve the ‘final goal photo’ that i planned. To make the exact image that i have in my mind into reality; the mood, the colour, the emotion. 

    This is my recent self portrait that i did. Inspired by ‘Being Human’ and a song by Muse, Showbiz.

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    Eric Burgers

    These last 2 episodes are the most instructive and inspiring ones. I just watched them over and over again. Superb!

    Im a bit of a exception in the world of phearnaholics – I try to apply your techniques to underwater photo’s. I’ve attached two versions of the same photo (one before and after editing). From these images it should be pretty obvious why I need to edit them. First of all, there is the general sharpness: images taken underwater are slightly blurred depending on the subject distance. Secondly color balance is messed up – water absorbs red colors first, then orange, then yellow, then green, until only blue remains – depending on the distance the light has to travel before it hits the sensor. Thirdly, color saturation is an issue. And last but not least: the water is filled with little specks of dust and whatnot that can show up on the image and need to be removed. Of course this is still not considering composition, which can only be done when all the previous issues have been solved, if at all possible….

    One of the things I try to use frequently, is to use color to create a three dimensional effect: reds are more foreground colors, blues are more background colors. (That’s why shots in tropical water are so appealing – most animals have reddish tones, and blue is the natural backdrop). 

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    Milla K

    I also love this weeks videos, and it’s only Tuesday. 🙂

    I actually use the vignette/”spotlight” technique a lot (maybe even a little too much). Usually it just makes the world of difference. An example:’s quite subtle (actually much more ‘visible’ in the thumbnail size), but it works. That’s probably not the best example, but I use it a lot in horse photos, where I don’t necessarily want to do that much editing. Usually because there are always like gazillion photos to edit and send to the subjects. 😀 This technique  makes the images usually pop a little more – at least when compared to the originals. 
    Plus, when taking photos of horses and their riders, the backgrounds are what they are. A lot of the times they can be distracting, and this helps with that also. That’s where I’ve learned to pay more attention to the background, because I have to make the best of what I’ve got. 

    Why I love to edit in PS? First of all, because it’s FUN. And then I’m covering the fact that I’m not that great of a photographer technically, YET. I want to create things, atmospheres and such, that weren’t necessarily there. I’m not much into a documentary style photography. 

    Here’s one more example of how I’ve worked with the focal point issue:

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    Owww… Does ‘Black Friday’ mean I can buy the new MacBookPro cheaper?!?!??!
    I hope to be joining the MBP club on Friday! ..and kick my G5 2005 tower to the curb! :))))

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    Macxs Oppici

    Great tutorials this week Aaron! For almost a 90% of what you explained, I feel like if you make me conscious of something that i always did unconsciously.

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    Jason Wong

    Sometimes I have brightened my subject’s eyes to draw the viewer’s attention towards that.

    There’s also one thing that I’m curious about that may or may not fit into your series this week?  And that is how you pick your photo to process.  I know I may come back from a shoot with a ton of photos and I pick them based on what looks good based on my first impressions.  But how do you decide on “the one” (or many) where you’ll spend hours upon hours processing them?

    Btw, love the taking a step back and explaining these basics!


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    Sarah Boban

    I love your tutorials, thank you so much! Also love that the thing closest to your immediate reach to display saturation was a box of markers lol. Awesome.   

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    Hay Aaron, was watching a old tutorial on basics of editing and got done with the above session, just cant find where to go next? Did you finish this project or pull it? I was getting some good tips here. Thanks if you can help, there are suppose to be 5 parts and I got the first two.


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    I cannot access the video for this or any of the other tutorials from page 10 through page 16. Please fix this…. The video area of the tutorial remains blank

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    I just love these tutorials where you get into art theory! I love all of them actually, but these are really special, at least to me, as I don’t know much about the “why”.

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    One thing that would be helpful, at least in a series of videos like this, is having a direct link at the bottom of the post to the previous and following tutorials in the series – especially for those linking here from an outside source.

    Thanks so much for the free lessons. You guys are amazing.