Elizabeth Halford Photography {the blog} » photography in plain English

How I Did it {darkening using fill layers}

Today is a bit different. Yes, I’m gonna tell you how I edited this photo, but I’ll also tell you what I was thinking when I took it (which I hope to do more often).

{How I took it}

Obviously, it was dark except for the stage lights. I was trying to avoid getting on the stage in front of everyone, but unfortunately, I only have the 18-200mm lens which came with my old camera. It’s a rockin’ lens, but in this atmosphere, not at all appropriate since, when fully extended, it can only open as far as f/5.6. The only way that could ever work was for my ISO to be so high that the noise speckles would be as big as the performers’ heads (exaggeration of course!)

The longest lens I own other than that one is the 85mm f/1.8 so I had to use that and intrude on the performers and (yikes!) stand in front of the 200+ audience.

So anyway, this shot was taken at ISO 1250, f/2.0, 1/125th second with a Speedlite attached.

The problems I encountered on the whole when photographing this event were these:

  • Aperture – My lens was opened to f/2.0. But since there were many various items on the stage to take in (microphone stands, music stands, performers, instruments) it was difficult to get the focus where I wanted it because of such a wide open aperture.
  • Shutter speed – Because of the moving performers, I couldn’t go any slower than 1/125 without motion blur. Could I have slowed it down, I wouldn’t have needed to have the aperture opened so wide.
  • ISO – This is the biggest problem for me. I shoot with a Canon 7D which promises really spectacular noise reduction as high ISOs. It was spectacular alright. Spectacularly crap. When they do the ISO test shots, they never do them in the situations where you would actually be using such high ISOs. The noise reduction slider in LR treated them well, though.
  • Smoke – I often had to wait for the stage smoke to clear before I could continue shooting. Because I had to use a flash, the light reflects off the smoke and caused the photos to be very cloudy.

{How I edited it}

On the left, you’ll notice a couple things. 1.} It was a bit cloudy because of the smoke. 2.} There was a piece of tape which wasn’t too attractive. But I really liked the colours so I thought I’d take a hack at fixing it up.

Here are the steps I took to fix it:

  1. In LR, I made adjustments for how I wanted the overall photo to look. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get the mic blacker until I started editing in PSE. I altered the sharpness, contrast. Nothing major.
  2. In PSE, I separated the mic and made a separate layer (using the quick selection tool). Check this out to see how I do that.
  3. I went to layer > new fill layer and made a new fill layer which was black
  4. In the layers palette, I dragged that layer above the mic layer and did crtl+g to paste it onto the mic. Then I used the ‘overlay’ blend mode and – voila! – the mic is instantly blacker. Merge those layers.
  5. Using the healing brush tool and a selection from nearby the tape, I erased the tape. Used the ‘replace’ mode which doesn’t try to be clever and heal it. It just uses your sample area to literally replace the tape.
  6. After that, there are some funny lines where the different blacks don’t match in colour so I then changed to the ‘normal’ mode of the healing brush and just go over those little lines.

That’s it!

  • Joanne Thomas

    I am wondering if there is a Photo filter adjustment in PSE. If there is–I wonder if it would help get the look you want. I know filters can work wonders–but not sure how to use them–just trial and error–they are fun to play with. I just discovered them myself. Smiles, Joanne

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