Enhancing Your Images for Greater Impact
By Ana Galloway
There are times when you take a photo but you instantly know how great it could’ve been, if only… If only that tree wasn’t playing havoc with your leading lines or the solar panels on that cute cottage weren’t messing with the chic vibe of your photograph. Sometimes you just have to accept ‘it is what it is’. It is, after all, one of our common selling points to couples around the world, we often claim to be documentary-style photographers, seeking those ever-so-candid moments. That wayward tree and those unsightly solar panels were far more established than me before I came along with my camera and magic photoshop wand. Who am I to mess with the natural balance of things?
Well, when I see the potential in an image, I know that with a little gentle persuasion I can take it from ‘meh’ to ‘WOW’, you bet I’ll be waving that magic wand! I’m not one to use this tool willy nilly, I’d say on average two or three images per gallery of 1000 photos will get this special treatment, the secret is identifying these little diamonds in the rough….And when it comes to entering Awards, the level of attention and enhancing to those images you’re considering submitting can go up an extra level again..remind yourself that your images are being compared with and judged alongside other incredible images.
When editing and altering elements of an image I always follow the two golden rules outlined by past IWPOTY judge / photographer extraordinaire Oli Sansom.
“If it isn’t lifting it up, it’s bringing it down”
“Don’t add what isn’t there, augment what is there”
Here are a couple of images showing how a few simple spot edits can enhance the composition of an image and bring emphasis to the story.
Keep focus on the storyline
Before getting carried away with altering a bunch of images, we first need to think about the ethics around retouching and ultimately making decisions for someone, about how they experience the retelling of that moment. We should ask ourselves – who/what is the focus of the image and what environmental elements are distracting from the ‘main attraction’? How much time can we allocate to spend on each image in a gallery? Where do we find the balance between a truly journalistic approach, where ‘accurate and true’ is the brief, and choosing to enhance an image with a little ‘special sauce’? I’d say the answer lies in our client’s story, how did they experience their day or that moment? What is the significance of this image to the greater story? It’s less about photoshopping out dress creases or blemishes. It’s more about tidying or suppressing the foreground or background, as a way to keep the focus on the people and the storyline.
The power of cropping
Below is an original of a photograph that made the finals of the 2020 IWPOTY awards and I’ve highlighted the steps I took to remove distractions and enhance the composition. The day before Arna and Kyle’s wedding in Wellington, New Zealand, I was scouting locations around the city. There were cute alleyways, parking lots with leading lines for days, brick facades and the like, but nothing was jumping out at me. I was crossing a road and saw a striking pyramid in the distance. The day of the wedding we made our way to the spot and waited for the magic moment when fewer people were strolling the stairs. I asked Arna and Kyle to ascend the steps as I took a few photos. Of the series of around 15 photos, this was the one I loved the most. None of the others had birds in the photo, and I loved the spontaneity of Kyle glancing back at Arna as she sorted out her dress. I saw there was so much potential in this image.
Never underestimate the power of cropping. This image could easily have been classified as lacklustre and committed to the depths of a BIN folder for eternity. Instead of binning the image, I cropped out all the noise from the sides, as Oli says “if it’s not lifting it up….” so they had to go. This step did most of the hard yards in removing the distracting objects and elevating the image. I also moved one bird into a spot that balanced the overall composition (“…augment what is there”).
I then applied a black and white preset and waved that magic photoshop wand to address the distracting crane and hill in the background. Voila! The image went from ‘meh’ to ‘WOW’ in just a few steps.
Making small adjustments to a photograph like cropping, removing distracting objects, or manipulating highlights or shadows can transform an image, subtly enhancing the story and bringing the focus back to the subject. There is no way this photo would’ve placed in the awards last year without a little gentle persuasion, at the very least, cropping out the noise. I encourage you to look at your images with fresh eyes, have a play and bring out the magic!
Entered Yet? No? There's still time!
Thanks so much Ana for your slices of wisdom here, we can all take some lessons away from this when considering our images for entry to Awards as well as delivering the magic to our clients!
If you want to see more of Ana’s stellar work head to her website – anagalloway.co.nz
If you have any questions for Ana be sure to head to her Instagram and drop her a DM