Travel Photo Thursday: Special Effects Can Salvage Photos

November 29, 2012

in Travel Photo Thursday

  • SumoMe

Beach Umbrella DetailLet’s face it. A good many of we point-and-shooter camera owners end up with out-of-focus shots.

Sometimes this happens because there is so little light that the camera’s shutter speed drops below the bare minimum (1/30 second or more) for getting a clear, sharply defined image without using a tripod.

But how many of us lug a tripod—even one as small and lightweight as a Gorilla Pod—along with us whenever we’re doing our “tourist thing” on vacation?  Damn few.

Even when the shutter speed is reasonably high (1/125 second or higher), we can still inadvertently shake the camera and end up with a blurred photo.

But rather than delete those blurry shots, turn them into “color swirls.” And even if the image is sharp, the photo may be dull (as in b-o-r-i-n-g) and need added pizzazz.

Here’s how you can fix those otherwise unremarkable photos.

First, select a photo that has vibrant color. Better yet if it has multiple colors, like the one at the top of an unfurled beach umbrella which I shot at Rodeo Beach in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Then, employ a photo editing program to “salvage” a photo you’d be inclined to send to trash on your camera or your computer. I use Adobe’s Photoshop Elements, the “lite” (less bells and whistles, and less expensive) version of its Photoshop CS program.

Even if you use the “Macro” setting on your camera, getting a close-up shot of a small subject, like a flower, with all of its parts totally in focus, can be a real challenge.

Here are four examples of such a photo. The first is the “normal” macro shot. The next three were created using the special “Effects” functions in Photoshop Elements.

Raindrops On Iris Estero Trail

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this shot taken of raindrops on an Iris I found on a damp, spring morning while hiking along the Estero Trail in Point Reyes National Seashore.

A smaller version of the photo, as the one at the right, doesn’t look bad. But if you click to enlarge it, you’ll see it isn’t as sharp as one would like.

Raindrops On Iris, Estero Trail

One way to deal with the lack of sharpness is to distort the entire image.

So by choosing the “Twirl” function under “Distort” in the Photoshop Elements “Effects” menu, I created an image which is deliberately blurred, but “more artistic.” The viewer assumes the effect was intended, rather than being a “cure” for an what was a “sickly” shot.

Raindrops On Iris, Estero Trail A more subtle variation of the original “Raindrops on Iris” photo is at the right. In this slightly-larger-than-thumbnail size, it’s hard to tell it apart from the initial, out-of-the-camera shot.

But if you click to enlarge it, it should look more like a painting than a photograph, thanks to the “Accented Edges” option under “Brush Strokes” in Photoshop Elements “Effects.”

Raindrops On Iris, Estero Trail

If you thought that the subject of the photo at left was completely different from that in the prior three images, you’d be wrong. It just looks that way.

By applying the “Neon Glow” effect available under the “Artistic” choices in Photoshop Elements “Effects,” I turned the “Raindrops on Iris” shot into a weird rendition of its ordinary self.

They beauty about using a program like Photoshop Elements to apply special effects, is that you can experiment with as many as you like. Just hit the “Undo” button to remove an effect before you try another one. And always, always work from a copy of your original photo so you never permanently lose it.

(Click on an image to enlarge to full-size. Visit Budget Travelers Sandbox for more of this week’s Travel Photo Thursday shots.)

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