Exercise: Improvement or interpretation?

Photograph a portrait in a setting and then use a manual selection method to select just the area of the person e.g. lasso tool or mask painting with a brush. Then save the selection and make any adjustments to this area that makes it stand out more clearly from the surroundings while still looking realistic.

I chose an image I’d taken of a band player at Southport air show where the background is quite busy and the attention should be on him. In Photoshop CS6 I used the magnetic lasso as I was struggling using my tablet and pen and the mouse to get a perfect line, ensuring that I selected the edges of the image as I wanted to darken the background not the subject. I then decided to crop the image just to make the focus stronger on the subject. I feel that comparing the images side by side that there is much more impact with the edited image and the colours make the subject stand out more against the darker background. I’d also been experimenting with the magnetic lasso technique and managed to select the figure and to alter him to monochrome while keeping the background normal coloured. While this isn’t ‘realistic’ in terms of the exercise, it’s a good example of what alteration can be done to make a statement without altering the subjects within the image.

Original image


Modified Image


Modified experiment

ii one

Consider the limits

I wouldn’t use this technique to take a subject from a background and to place it in another different context as that can be misleading to the viewer, altering the background/subject to make the difference more tangible is one thing but to create a situation that’s essentially fake to me is one step beyond where I want to go as a photographer. The only situation that I can see this to be acceptable is if you are creating a fantasy scenario, recently I saw some bridal photographs where the subject was placed against a fantasy background and that was obvious to the eye that it was not a natural situation and there was no attempt to mislead. Considering press and documentary photography, the ethics of undertaking changes would negatively affect photography planting a seed of doubt in viewer’s minds and I feel that photographers need to be careful that what they produce depicts reality or is made clear to be a fantastical situation.


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