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Is the image really worth enhancing?

Is the image really worth enhancing? - Making the decision of whether to throw-away or enhance an image on the mind of Photoshop expert Aidan O'Rourke.

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Category : Adobe Photoshop
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Words and pictures by Aidan O'Rourke

It is always a good idea to take more than one image of the same subject, so you can choose the best one later. Here I took four captures at different exposure and zoom settings. I had to act quickly as the sun sets very quickly in the Middle East.

Is the image really worth enhancing? Is the image really worth enhancing?
Is the image really worth enhancing? Is the image really worth enhancing?

1. This is the first of the four images. The camera has automatically set an exposure for a level somewhere between the dark foreground and still fairly bright sun. The sun is a little over exposed and the edge of the disc is indistinct.

Is the image really worth enhancing?

2. This exposure is better - the disc of the sun is clear. The foreground is much darker. The tall lamp post on the right is an undesirable element which should be excluded. I want to concentrate attention on the tree and minaret.

Is the image really worth enhancing?

3. In this exposure we have zoomed in, exluding the ugly lamp post ont he right. Attention is concentrated on the palm tree and the minaret. However the camera has set the exposure a little too high - The sun is indistinct, though the sky is a has a pleasing shade of orange.

Is the image really worth enhancing?

4. This exposure is better from the point of view of capturing the sun with its edge clearly defined. We have lost most of the orange colour from the sky. The darker tones give better silhouetting of the palm tree and the minaret. Of the four different captures, I would like to choose this one to enhance. But first we need to rotate it, as the minaret is leaning to the right.

Is the image really worth enhancing?

5. Using 'rotate selection' we have turned the picture two degrees anti-clockwise. Using the guide line, we can see that the minaret is exactly vertical. The palm tree is also vertical. Rotating the picture has left background edges which we can remove by cropping the image.

Is the image really worth enhancing?

Is the image really worth enhancing?
Cropped

6. The image is now properly aligned - cropping has improved the image by concentrating attention a little more on the three main subjects. But we are going to have to decide whether we would like to retain the television aerial or not. On balance, I think the tv aerial would be better exluded from the picture. This is easily achieved by using the cloning tool.

Is the image really worth enhancing?

7. With the tv aerial gone, we are lift with a timeless image - only the loudspeakers at the top of the minaret are symbols of relatively modern times. But it's a shame we have lost the orange colour in the sky which we had on the previous exposure. We can colour the sky by creating a new layer, setting it to overlay and using the paint bucket to pour a bright orange onto the layer.

Is the image really worth enhancing?

Summary
Though the colour has been added manually, during enhancement of the image, the resulting picture is actually closer to how it felt when I took the picture. Though the camera failed to capture it, the light at sunset is orange. This colour also captures something of the sweltering heat, as well as the atmosphere of the Middle East - you can almost hear the muezzin making the call to prayer.

Is the image really worth enhancing?

The above image shows us the stages we have gone through in order to achieve the finished image. Top left: An image rejected because the sun was indistinct and because of the ugly lamp post on the right. Top right: The image we have chosen to enhance. Bottom left: After rotation 2 degrees to the left Bottom Right: The completed image - see how the orange is close the the shade of orange at the lighter capture, top left. We have added colour at image enhancement to restore the 'truth' to the image.

About the images
Camera: Nikon Coolpix 990, normal setting
Enhancement: Adobe Photoshop
Capture time: Friday 27 April 2001 6.27pm

This is one of countless mosques in the emirate of Fujairah, on the east coast of the United Arab Emirates. We are close to the centre of the city of Fujairah, but the Hajjar Mountains are visible some 15 km away.

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