Project: Digital Photography and ‘Truth’ – Improvement or Interpretation

This exercise moves us a little further along the continuum by selecting a part of the image and making local adjustments. This is the image I chose to work with.

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It’s reasonably well exposed but I wondered what improvements I could make. The face looks a bit pasty and the black polo shirt is grey with lots of dust and dog’s hair. Working first on the face, I selected the skin on the face and neck using the magic wand (I get on better with this than the lasso for this kind of shape and tone).

Elements has a command “Adjust colour for skin tone”. I used this and adjusted the tan and blush sliders to get a healthier looking face:

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I then tried adjusting the colour further using “Adjust hue and Saturation”:

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and then used a small Level adjustment:

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Then I made a new selection of the polo shirt, darkened it with levels and removed the dust and hair with the clone stamp tool:

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The result is a more natural looking image than the original. It could be viewed that if is more “natural” looking there can be no issue with this kind of adjustment. As it happens, the original pasty look was probably more due to the lighting, but it is not hard to imagine an alternative scenario: what if the “pasty” look in the original was due to some illness and the photo was being used to demonstrate good health? What if instead of simply darkening the polo shirt I changed the colour, maybe also blanked out the logo? The ethical discussion becomes more relevant; we have moved further along the continuum.

Just to complete the exercise, I made a final copy to whiten the teeth (selection and levels), remove a few skin blemishes (clone stamp) and accentuate the small catchlight in the right eye (dodge and burn tool):

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