Bad picture days happen, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t have a little fun and learning before we trash the files. Recycle your near misses and tragic photo errors into sample images used to improve editing skills!
Rather than trash your near misses why not use some of them as sample images for some fun and learning in your editing software? Experimenting with pictures we really don’t care too much about is kind of liberating. Often we will try things we wouldn’t waste our time with on a ‘keeper’ image.
Now we do have to be realistic, the odds of creating a good image from a poor image are pretty slim. This kind of exercise is all about discovering software and techniques. By using our own poor images we are giving ourselves a challenging place to start.
Set aside some time to put your editing software through its paces. Push your envelope a little and branch out into new territory. This is one instance where the image actually means less than the editing experience!
Read about my own bad picture day below…
Some days it seems like you just can’t catch a break. No matter what you try every picture you take is a little off or simply too boring. I had that day on Friday. I just unpacked my new Wide-Angle and Telephoto Kit for use on my Lensbaby Composer. It was a warm Fall day and I was stoked to try out the new gear.
The park near our house is usually bursting with fall colors at this time of year. Unfortunately this year the colors didn’t happen while there were still lots of leaves on the trees. The park seemingly went from green to brown in an instant. I was anxious to use and learn my new adapters so I still shot a few dozen images anyway.
As you can see from the following example, the results were pretty boring and uninspiring.
The only upside to my day’s shoot was that I had a number of good candidates for experimentation. There were capabilites in my software that I hadn’t yet tapped into so I chose an image and set about exploring.
First I wanted to see if eliminating color from the picture allowed the texture of the trees to carry the image. I opened the file in Adobe Lightroom and played with several preset click-to-use monotone variations in the Develop module. I settled on one specific look because I thought that the warmer tones helped emphasize the seasonal nature of the image. Lightroom presets are something I seldom use so this was my first attempt to branch out.
The image was still too cluttered in the background so I saved the warm-tone image and reopened it in Photoshop Elements. In Elements I applied one of my favorite processes referred to as the Orton Effect which tends to blur finer detail while adding a halo to strong lines.
OK, now I have dark and textured tree trunks. After exploring new to me options in Lightroom and adding more edits in Elements I thought it was time to strike out into new territory.
Recently I found a web-only app called Pixlr-O-Matic, a kind of one-click picture style editor similar to those used on smart-phones. This service has been around for a while, but it’s new to me. I thought that this would be a great time to experiment with this app since I had already edited my base image beyond recognition.
After fiddling with and exploring the options available in Pixlr-O-Matic I settled on a canvas texture thinking it would compliment the tree bark’s texture. To my surprise adding the canvas texture also increased the image contrast rendering the dark areas darker as seen below.
The net results of the 30 minutes spent editing this image: I was able to explore new components of the software that I currently use, and I also added a new tool with Pixlr-O-Matic. The other payoff is that I now have a new look in my tool kit that I can replicate when it can make a difference to one of my ‘keeper’ images. Frankly, it is unlikely that I would have gone this far experimentally editing an image that I liked.