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Red, White and Blue


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Red, White and Blue

26 Jun 2022 3:16PM   Views : 207 Unique : 121

Creating pure white backgrounds in a studio, for portraits or flowers for example, makes for clean old images. So why do we hate white skies?

It's either ironic or perverse. As photographers we strive to create unfussy, clean and non-distracting backgrounds in a studio environment, and the ultimate clean background is a white one. Other colours and textures are available yes, but sometimes it's that pure white that we want, and it's not as easy as it might seem.

So when we're presented with such a backdrop naturally, why do we complain? Admittedly, a thin white strip above a landscape isn't hugely attractive. How about a bland white sky at air shows? The subject stands out clearly (assuming you know how to expose the image properly and process accordingly) justnas a studio portrait, or a still life, or a shot of something you're going to sell online.

It's always worth going through your back catalogue to see what's available and if there's potential for some image adjustment. It might be a lean period for new images or long dark days to fill. It may be you see something that would make for a good mono conversion. Sometimes it's a bit more.


White backgrounds are good for product photography as they make it much easier for cut outs. Therein is the start of an idea for aircraft shot against a white sky. Not a novel idea granted, and I've used that to show aircraft with a backdrop of an explosion or example. Certainly dramatic but my latest idea wouldn't work well with that. It's a Pitts Special purpose built for aerobatics.

The end result certainly has more interest than the original, evn if some may consider it anot fully accurate representation.

Having the idea is one thing, carrying it out is another. I had a mottled cloudy sky in my archives (note to self: must start collecting more skies) that was promising. It looked drab, however, so I duplicated the image onto a separate Layer and used the Add Blending Mode. I advise trying several blending modes as some wok much better than others and just because one works for a particular image doesn't mean it will work with something different. I wanted something believable that wouldn't detract from the main subject. You could go surreal or completely wacky of course!


Next I added the aircraft. I used the Flood Select tool in Affinity Photo. This did an excellent job of selecting the white sky even around the control wires at the tail of the aircraft. Increasing the Selection by two pixels and Feathering by one avoided a sharp cut out look. The original was very sharp so a softer edge worked well. As a side note, the aircraft was shot at 1/800 and there was still plenty of propeller blur, because it's a high revving engine and it was in the middle of a manoeuvre where plenty of power was required.

Unfortunately part of the white area on one wing and part of the tail got selected too so I duplicated the aircraft onto another Layer and painted the missing areas in using a Layer Mask in a few seconds.

I saved the image complete with Layers just in case I want to use the cut-out of the aircraft with a different background in the future.

All text and images Keith Rowley 2022


dudler Plus
19 1.9k 1947 England
26 Jun 2022 5:16PM
It does, simply, look much better! And that fits with the whole idea of a Pitts Special...
Robert51 13 8 129 United Kingdom
27 Jun 2022 8:36AM
This is why I say I'm a picture maker now. My job as I see it is to produce the best image I can as the case here.
I think the main problem is we are use to seeing studio shots with white backgrounds but we expect skies to have something, even on a gray day. The mind wants things to fit the ideas we have, that's why we misread a lot of words or fill in crosswords.
My mind is picturing a cuppa but alas I know there is no bacon roll to go with it...

dark_lord Plus
18 2.9k 824 England
27 Jun 2022 4:49PM
Cosswords are something else I create, and enjoy making up the clues.

Quote:we expect skies to have something, even on a gray day.

Very true.
28 Jun 2022 1:03AM
So .Er .the skys the limit Keith ?
Very creative processing A professional photographer I know has been showing me some sky processing tricks
now I just need to practice them !
29 Jun 2022 10:21PM
The plane needs context, contrast and depth - your edit provides this. The red, white and blue particularly effective when we are all (well some of us) still in Jubilee mood.

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