Discussion in 'Seeking Critique' started by mickeysimpson, Sep 11, 2020.

  1. This is my first attempt at select and mask in Photoshop CC. I used a photo from an old cemetery that I believed had the potential for “a dramatic image”. I first created the base image to get what I thought was a stark color image and then used select and mask to get the sky out. I created a black and white layer maximizing the contrast to get a foreboding sky. I had a good time learning to use select and mask and was please with the results.

    I’m looking forward to honest an honest critique.


    20091030 IMG_6316 Emilys Corner Cemetery MWS C_BW V2a.jpg
  2. I like your stated goal for this. Somehow the vertical format doesn't feel like it's doing the whole thing justice, though I imagine you shot vertically to include all of the tree.

    On the processing, I worry that "drama" is bordering on harsh and maybe even a bit lurid in terms of the so strong and unnatural colors and the gritty feel among the tombstones. I think you can find a place where drama is less heavy but still emotional, less overwrought but still expressive.

    I'm thinking of atmosphere that's still somewhat ghoulish without being garish.
    mikemorrell likes this.
  3. Thanks for your comments Sam. I did shoot vertically to get the headstones and the whole tree. Knowing the location as i do, I think that a horizontal or landscape shot would get too busy. I also wanted the 3 family headstones from the 1870s to be prominent with the tree as background. I also decided to go for this look, that is the unnatural color and the harsh appearance. That said, your comments are valuable to me and I shall consider them whenever I get that ghoulish feeling. LOL

    Thank you very much Sam!
  4. Hi Mick, thanks for posting this!

    I pretty much agree with Sam. It looks you got the result that you were looking to achieve. You certainly did a fine job on the select and mask! This is one PS feature that I still struggle with in getting the precise selections that I want. Somehow, I never find it so easy to use as the Adobe video suggests. I usually end up patching in bits and pieces on additional layers that my initial 'select and mask' missed or mistakenly included. Probably just me. So I'm impressed! The tree is a challenging subject to start learning about 'select and mask' on!

    Your photo style is what I would describe as 'grunge' - a recognisable and established photo style, especially through mobile phone photo filters.

    Some additional feedback purely based on my personal preferences - which may be very different to yours - for this photo.

    In general (with very few exceptions), I'm not a fan of mixed color and B/W photos. So just purely for this reason, I would prefer to see a slight 'color wash' layer over the B/W sky. Just to connect the sky with the land more through color (and better 'íntegrated' the photo). The choice of color ,the layer transparency and the blending mode don't matter too much. I would just prefer the sky to be not only in greyscale. I think I might start to try blending a color in 'soft light' mode with a low (10%40%) transparency. So the drama of the contrasts in the sky remain unaffected. But the 'whites' especially, get a. slightly 'off-white' tint.

    I would also prefer the contrasts to be applied more finely (different levels of contrast and masked), especially w.r.t. to the 'micro-contrasts. It's worth trying out. I suspect that if you apply a lower level (masked) of contrast to the 'flat areas', you might get a much more subtle photo: high contrast on 'boundaries (lines, text, raised areas) and less contrast on 'flat areas.

    I realize that this photo is a small image for posting to PN. And that .jpg artifacts may result from this. As previously mentioned, the 'texture' of the flat areas on the gravestones screams (to me) 'noise' and 'overly post-processed'. Which is a shame because the contrast across the whole photo looks fine. At this size on my laptop screen, the sky looks 'grainy', which is fine. Zooming in 2x (to get the view that someone with a 24 screen might get or someone viewing an A3 print), the 'graín' soon becomes more clearly visible as 'noise'. I have no idea of the extent to which this was introduced by scanning photos, post processing, jpeg compression or some combination of the above. For digital sharing, it's no problem. Just something to bear in mind should someone want to make a large print based on this .jpg.

    This a very long 'critique'. Not because there's anything to criticize in the photo. But just because you've been so successful, you've inspired me to give any additional feedback that I can. As far as 'critiques go, I also tend to be long-winded ;). Apologies for this.

    ericphelps likes this.
  5. First off Mick, I'm not a professional photographer, artist, or art critic, and nowhere near as qualified to give a critique as others on this site are.

    That said, I think you succeeded very well in your stated goals. I do believe that leaving the tree as is and going to grayscale (black and white) with the grass and lowering the overall brightness a tad might not hurt either. I don't know how to do it but adding bit of fog might also help. The image reminds me of some of those old b\w haunted house, zombie, wolfman and Dracula movies. They just don't make them like that anymore.
  6. Oh my goodness Sam and Mike… You’ve got me all fired up and I’m having a great time playing with this photo based upon your feedback. Here I offer you three versions for comparison. The original unedited version straight from the camera, a lightly edited version, and the one I originally posted with a bit of color in the sky.

    I confess that color management is NOT one of my strengths, but the two of you are inspiring me to learn, so I expect that I’ll improve over time.

    All of these have been downsized to JPG’s that are 1000 X 667 pixels, 300 pixels per inch for PN posting.

    I shot the picture in October of 2009 with my Canon 40D, using an EF-S 10-22mm f3.5-4.5 USM lens. The photo was taken with a focal length 19mm, shutter speed of 1/200 sec at f10 and ISO 400.

    Here are the photos:

    FIRST: The original photo: unedited from the camera. This was EXCEPTIONALLY boring to me. Did I say EXCEPTIONALLY BORING? Had I not liked the composition I would have hit the delete key in a New York minute since I was reluctant to return to retake the photo.

    SECOND: A lightly edited version using Camera Raw: While I still found this version very uninspiring, the colors are generally true to the time that the shot was taken. Edits in Camera Raw:

    1) Camera Raw EDIT section:
    a. Dehaze +40;
    b. Vibrance +40;
    c. Temperature reduced from 5550 to 5400

    2) Camera Raw DETAIL section:
    a. Sharpening 120
    b. Noise reduction 100;
    c. Color noise reduction 100

    THIRD: As I found the two previous versions to be most uninspiring, I decided to try for a something a bit more hard edged and progressed through additional edits to achieve the photo that I originally posted. I did add some color to the sky in this last version. I started with my original post to the PN forum. I dropped the black and white layer, used select and mask again to separate the sky, and finally added a vibrance layer to the sky to bring out the bits of blue there. This version addresses Mike’s comments about getting some color to the sky. I like this result more than my original post.

    After all of that, I still prefer the final, harsher, “grunge” aka ghoulish look for this photo below; after all, it is a cemetery.

    Unedited photo:
    20091030 IMG_6316 Emilys Corner Cemetery MWS C V0.jpg
    Lightly edited
    20091030 IMG_6316 Emilys Corner Cemetery MWS C V0a.jpg

    Final version
    20091030 IMG_6316 Emilys Corner Cemetery MWS C_BW V2b.jpg
    luis triguez likes this.
  7. Thanks! I have been toying with idea of creating fog. I have this and a couple of other shots I'd like to add a fog or light mist.
  8. I am going to try and return here with a model - the grieving widow - to see what I can get. This will be my first attempt at using a model. I'm just waiting for the fall colors.
  9. Looking at that "final version" above. Adding that color to the sky does look like it might help, but I do think it should be darker (more threatening).
    Don't think that rimlight (don't know what else to call it) around the tree (especially the top) helps, and I still think going to gray (dark gray) on the grass wouldn't hurt.
    But! As I said in my earlier reply, I'm no expert, and that is just my opinion.
  10. It’s a halo, created by certain extreme post processing maneuvers. It's a white line and it's around everything that shows against the sky.

    The new final product looks like it had the kitchen, the bathroom, and the laundry-room sinks thrown at it. :eek:

    It is, indeed, harsher and grungier, but it comes across to me as an unsightly and wayward cartoon caricature of harsh and grunge.

    It is often impossible, but may be possible though still difficult with good post processing skills, to turn an exceptionally boring photo into something different. Kudos for experimenting and working on your post skills.

    I think some of the best post processing is post processing that doesn't call attention to itself as post processing and that looks organic to the photo. Yours does call a lot of attention to itself and doesn't look organic.

    That said, some post work is intentionally over-the-top and inorganic. Going over-the-top and knowing what works is, almost counter-intuitively, a fine line. One can do over-the-top with a chisel or a hatchet and everything in between. But even a hatchet can be used with aplomb or not. If you want to use one, you have to be careful not to kill yourself (or your photo) with it! :)
  11. A valued opinion Mike
  12. Sam, you're right. I rushed the final version select and mask effort. I'll start over from the raw file to redo this and take my time as I like the look of the new sky. .I'll also try to reduce the grain and experiment with a fog or mist. I'll try to leave the kitchen sink where it belongs. :)
  13. Fun image. The halo is probably the result of excessive's tough to eliminate and that might not even contribute (IMO)...but may be possible to reduce or eliminate with a lot of fussy local PS work...been there, done that.

    I don't buy the idea that an image should look "organic." Photos aren't reality, they're graphic thangs and "should" look however the photographer wants them to look..
  14. A thought about that "fog" idea...

    I created a rainbow (on one sheet of film) over a client's product by making that rainbow out of colored paper, focusing on the product (a bottle of vitamins) and positioning my paper rainbow out of focus. Took a lot of fooling around with size of out-of-focus paper rainbow, its lighting and it's position over the very much in focus bottle of vitamins. Clients loved it, used it in brochures. To get everything right I had to to shoot a lot of Polaroid color a digital camera would work even better.
  15. Hey Terry, great feedback. First, I did a lot of sharpening, but I rushed the select and mask to isolate the sky and I suspect that the halo may be from my haste yo get the photo modified. The rainbow trick sounds interesting. As I said in an earlier post I am interested in adding fog, or mist, and think that may be a bit easier than the rainbow. I may try the rainbow trick too, Thank you for the time and effort you expended to give me this great feedback.

    My best to you, stay well.
  16. By organic, I don't mean realistic.

    Here are some definitions of organic that apply to what I'm talking about, especially regarding photos and art.

    a: having systematic coordination of parts
    b: forming an integral element of a whole
    c: having the characteristics of an organism

    So, when I say the post processing doesn't look organic, I'm not saying it doesn't look natural or realistic. Much good post processing doesn't look like reality. I'm saying the post processing here looks like it doesn't grow organically out of the photo and its content. It doesn't coordinate or seem part of a whole. The post processing looks like an overlay on top of the image. There are times when a photographer might want this. This does not strike me as one of those cases and looks to me like the post processing could use improvement and refinement.

    One usually asks for critique to LEARN. In many cases, a critique is sought because the photographer may not be quite sure what he wants the photo to look like or if the photo looks the way he actually intends.

    When I started out ... and to this day ... there were and still are times I think a photo looks just the way I want it to and, by golly, I hear a thoughtful and knowledgeable critique and realize IT DOES NOT after all.

    I think both the BEST thing a photographer who's learning can do and the WORST thing a photographer who's learning can do is to think a photo should look just the way the photographer wants it to. That results in just the right combination of CONFIDENCE and HUMILITY!
  17. Mickey, there are some excellent videos on YouTube that tackle the 'halo' at tree to sky issue. They discuss many options for using mask feathering, masking after selecting color channels and other ways to finesse your vision organically without compromising what you seem to want.
    Be aware that your 'unedited' but converted version already shows signs of the edge transition halo.
    Good luck....
  18. It certainly is stark. I think the processing is a bit heavy, the contrast is really strong and it looks a bit like you used sky replacement to insert one that you shot on grainy bw film. The other thing I’d recommend is to use perspective correction to make the close grave markers vertical.
  19. Thanks! I'll check that out. Feathering was one part that I had trouble with. Hopefully one or more videos will help me get it nailed down.
  20. It’s like an Adams Family Xmas card. Nothing wrong with that.
    dcstep likes this.

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