AB Friday Forum – Week 36…

Last week I took my dog to the beach and I saw this family building a sandcastle. They had tools and brushes! I stood up on a slight hill overlooking them, I originally was waiting for one of them to look at me so that I could ask if I could take their photo.

Then I realized that the photo I wanted to take was about the sandcastle making process and the intensity these people had in doing a good job. Asking if I could take the photo would not be candid, but probably of them posing with it, which isn’t what I wanted.

So I waited, when I saw the opportunity where everyone was looking at the sandcastle, but I could still see the sandcastle, it seemed like the best time to take the shot. I only took this one shot. I felt awkward enough taking the one, especially when I hadn’t asked for their permission.

I’m not a people photographer and it feels awkward to me to take photographs of strangers (and people I know, for that matter).

It wasn’t until I got home that I realized that the woman was not in the best ‘pose’, it would need to be cropped. I also did some preliminary adjustments in Camera Raw, the usual stuff – exposure, contrast, saturation, clarity, etc. I also used the adjustment brush to lighten up their faces.

I thought I was done. Then a voice inside me urged me to push it further. I found myself removing things from the photo and creating my own version of dodge/burn with a transparent layer painting with various shades of grey. Before I knew it, I had spent quite a bit of time on it and it was actually really nice. So I decided to submit it for this week’s After-Before Friday Forum.

Normally, if I spend that amount of time on a photo trying to ‘fix’ it I usually stop and toss it out figuring that if I had to ‘work it’ that much then it wasn’t a good photo to begin with.  I tried several different ways to remove the items in the photo and it just wasn’t working.  Eventually, I tried something I started doing lately (pink flower, hot air balloon), and it took more work than those other photos but it finally worked out.  But it was A  LOT of work, definitely not for the faint at heart.

Without further ado, this week’s AB Friday submission…


Kind thoughts and comments are welcome!

For an attempt at explaining how I got to this version, keep reading…

Go find out what everyone else did this week here.

I have joined ABFriday (after before Friday), it is a forum hosted by Stacy at Visual Venturing. This week’s forum can be seen here.

Every Friday Stacy showcases after/before photos we’ve submitted. Then, if we choose, we can tell how we did it on our own blogs.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

How To…

I started out with this photo…


1. It is dark, so I opened it in Camera Raw and did my usual adjustments, contrast, vibrance, saturation, clarity.  I also adjusted shadows.  Then I used the adjustment brush and lightened their faces…

after camera raw

2. And then a crop…

after camera raw with crop

Normally, I would stop here.  But I decided to see if I could remove those blue buckets…

3. It took a long time and several different methods until I found one that worked.  I tried the two different types of content-aware fill in GIMP (resynthesize, and G’MIC plug-ins), but because there just isn’t any information on the sides of the buckets that I wanted repeated it just wouldn’t work as an auto fix.  Finally, I just tried to do it by hand, similar to the way I did the pink flower and the hot air balloon.  Basically, I made a copy of the image, added a white mask, moved the lower image, and painted in black the areas I was trying to remove.  It took several repeats.  I would copy, mask, paint, move, merge down, repeat… until the whole area was removed.  It finally became apparent that I would have an easier time putting the man’s arm back later and remove that section all together, so that’s what I did.  Definitely not for the faint at heart, this took time and patience…

remove buckets

I got lucky that the sand, even though kind of repetitive, is how sand at beaches tend to look because of the waves.

4. Next I added a Hue-Saturation layer to boost the colors…

added saturation

5. Then I remembered something Ben said about using a grey layer to do dodge and burn.  I couldn’t remember  which post he said it in (turns out it was his AB Friday from last week) or exactly how he said he did it, so I made it up as I went along.  In my version, you add a transparent layer set to overlay, and then paint various shades of grey to lighten or darken an area… the closer to white – lighter, the closer to black – darker. My layer looks like this…


Which gave me this…


I figured out that I could ‘erase’ the paint in the areas I had accidentally painted if I needed to… I probably should go back over this photo with the erase tool, because now that I’m looking at it in a slideshow, my eyes can see a little halo of light around some of those areas.  But not a bad first try with this method I made up, if I do say so myself.

And that’s it. A bit of work, but I think it turned out pretty well in the end. Thoughts?

Until next time…

12 thoughts on “AB Friday Forum – Week 36…

  1. nice work on the editing, Nic. It is at least sometimes worth the effort to get the photo you want!
    I know how you feel when it comes to photographing people, what I tend to do, is take the photo, or photos, then go and talk to the people, show them what I have done and offer to email them a copy, or delete it if that is their preference. This way I get the candid image I first saw, and I get to share my work. So far people have been happy to have the image and it has made me more confident in taking more people pictures.

    • Thanks, J! I appreciate your suggestions on photographing people. But given my personality and preference towards photographing nature, photographing people in general isn’t really my thing. I wanted a photo of the sandcastle, so taking the photo of people was a rare thing for me. Plus this situation would have been difficult to do as you suggest, because I was up on a hill, and they were in the sandy part of the beach… I had my dog with me (who is afraid of men… there were 2 in the photo) and at times dogs are not allowed on the sandy part of the beach… and I’m a shy person too… sooooo candid and making sure they were looking at the castle to maintain some of their privacy was the only way to go. Not to mention, my raw image was not that flattering to the woman and I can’t image her approving it without knowing what the cropped photo would look like. Looking at your blog, you love to photograph people and have a rapport with people that shows in your photography… I on the other hand, take photos of dogs, bees, flowers, and inanimate objects… so people aren’t really my strong suit. 🙂

  2. Wow, Nic! You really had a lot of fun with this one, and your efforts really paid off! It’s such an interesting shot too, given the way you’ve cropped it – focuses the attention on the work in progress, just as you wanted it to. Thanks for submitting this and for your great explanation 😀

  3. Fantastic, I really like the crop as it has kept the portrait of the family(?) and removing the distracting elements.
    Your dodge and burn layer is really the same as mine; I start with a middle grey that does nothing like a transparency and then painting the black and white at a low opacity create different shades of grey. As long as your way works that is all that matters.

    • Thanks, Ben! I think they are a family, I don’t really know, I didn’t actually talk to them. 😛 Thanks for the idea on the dodge/burn, I like how I can undo it if I choose, whereas the dodge/burn tool you can only undo for so many steps and then you are stuck… I like how it is similar to masks in that I can ‘fix’ my wild strokes. Haha. 😀 I can see how your way might put a bit more ease into it, you can remember the amount of opacity… whereas I’ll have to remember the color code of each grey.

  4. I love what you did. I always feel the same way about shooting people. It’s not my thing for sure, but in trying to stretch myself I will try it once in a while. Lots of work on your after, but it’s great.

    • Thanks, Mary! I push myself occasionally, but I usually don’t know when/if I can post images of people I didn’t get permission from… I know that public space it’s ok and all that, but it still feels weird to me.

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