How would you crop, mat, and frame this image?

Started Dec 10, 2006 | Discussions thread
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A little about contrast
In reply to Peano, Dec 11, 2006

One of those “for what it’s worth” posts:

I’m a great believer in giving names to things, because once you can name something, you can get control over it. One of the “things” I consciously name and think about when looking at an image is contrast. I stare at the image with contrast in mind and try to see where the contrast seems to work and where it might be made to work better.

Contrast occurs in lots of ways, some of which are:

  • focus: sharp vs. blurred

  • hue: red vs. green

  • size: larger vs. smaller

  • number: many vs. few

  • texture: rough vs. smooth

  • saturation: more vs. less

  • brightness: brighter vs. darker

I could go on (and on) about all of these, but take just the last: brightness. Sometimes to get a better sense of how brightness is working in an image, I dupe the image and desaturate it (no fancy filters; just take out all the color). Then look at the gray tones and see what I can see regarding contrast. If you toggle back and forth between the color and B/W images, your eye learns to disregard differences in hue and notice the sameness and differences in brightness.

This image is a good example. When I first looked at it, I immediately felt that the face was getting lost for want of contrast between the front edge of the face and the background. So I went at the retouching with this (among other things) in mind. Certain points in particular -- 1 through 3 -- stood out as “test places” where I wanted to increase contrast.

If you zoom in close at these points in the original, the weak contrast becomes much more noticeable. If you want to quantify the differences, bring up the info palette, set it to read HSB values, and hover over the background and foreground in these areas. Here are close-ups and (approximate) B values in each of the three.

Although I generally don’t go “by the numbers,” checking them is a useful way to discover whether you’re seeing what you think you’re seeing. Surprises are always instructive.

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~ Peano

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