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Wrong in Camera

Posted by on October 26th, 2011 with 0 Comments

Photographers have a thing they like to do called getting it right “in camera.” Essentially, it’s a smug thing people say meaning that your photo is perfect before you hit the shutter.  Post processing might be some minor curve adjustments, a little sharpening, but nothing to “save” the photo. That’s all well and good, but sometimes getting it right in camera isn’t an option.

Late yesterday I was asked to shoot a newly restored iconic mural in Philadelphia for the cover of a small educational magazine. The wall looks great in late afternoon, but sucks at all other times. The image is due in 2 days. Tomorrow it’s raining. I’ve got 1 opportunity.

The mural is 8 stories tall and faces a parking lot. The autumn sun is dropping fast and 30 feet from the wall is a big, ugly mini van. I wait for a couple minutes and look anxiously at pedestrians passing trough the lot, but that van isn’t going anywhere. So at risk of revealing a little too much, the best shot I can get is this:

Yes that looks horrible… but that’s not what I’m looking at. What I’m seeing is the mini van safely away from the wall, a decent amount of sky for me to work with, and the ultimate subject of the photo in the minimally distorted middle of my 17mm lens. A few duplicate layers, a little distort, lens correction, free transform, distort, lens correction, levels 1, levels 2, curves 1, hue saturation, vibrance saturation, smart sharpen, noise reduction, clone, clone, clone x 20, spot healing, spot healing, filter, tweak, tweak, flatten and save, and we’re a lot closer to that cover:

Now I’ve got 24 hours to stare at this thing and make my second look adjustments. Sure it’s not what I could have gotten had the lot been empty, but that wasn’t an option. The moral… get it right in camera when you can… but when you can’t, use the shit out of Photoshop.

p.s. The Mural is Meg Saligman’s Common Threads and you can see it at Broad & Spring Garden in Philadelphia, PA. It was originally painted in 1998 and restored in 2011.


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