Let Your Imagination Soar; Turn A Dull, Static Shot Into An Action Shot!

Photos © 2003 Rick Sammon, All Rights Reserved

Perhaps the coolest feature of digital imaging programs is that they let our imaginations soar. Using our imagination, and working with the latest technology, virtually any effect is possible. I thought I'd share a few techniques that illustrate how, with a little imagination and a few digital darkroom techniques, we can turn a boring shot into a much more creative image.

Original picture. Here's my original shot of a biplane at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in upstate New York. I used film (way back in 1999) and a 300mm lens on my SLR. Kinda boring, don't you think?

Problems. Look at all the problems with the picture. 1) The negative was severely scratched and marked with dust. I've circled the major offenders. You may not be able to see all the marks on this page (even though I over-sharpened the image to make them more visible), but they scream out on my Apple 23" HD Cinema Display. 2) The sky is pale and dull. Sure, that's how it looked, but I wanted a deep blue sky for a more dramatic picture. 3) The plane is too small in the picture. What's more, the angle at which it's flying is not very exciting.

Creative cropping. One of the first things I do with a picture is to crop it to my liking. Simple cropping is good, but here's a technique for creative cropping. Rotate the image to create the feeling that the subject is moving at a different angle. In Photoshop, the program I use, that's accomplished by moving the cursor outside of the picture area, and then by rotating the picture to your liking.

Up, up and away! After using the creative cropping technique, the plane now looks as though it is soaring upward.

Wild blue yonder. The next step was to turn the sky to a deep shade of blue. That was easy. First, I created a Layer, because I knew I wanted to make only the sky blue--and that I didn't want to change the color of the plane. Next, on the top layer, I used the Magic Wand to select all the areas of the sky--including the areas that were shown within the wings of the plane. Then I went to Image>Adjustment>Color Balance and boosted only the Blue. (I took this screen shot, using Snapz X Pro, after I got my new Mac G4--hence the different look of the screen.)

Next, still on the top layer, I used my Eraser to erase the area over the plane which let the original color of the plane show through on the bottom layer. After I erased all the blue areas on the plane, I flattened my image to save file size.

Soaring! Here's my final image! Well, not really because I'm never really finished working and playing in the digital darkroom.

Back in time. Visions of the old plane made me think of the "olden days." So, I applied the Old Photo filter in Photoshop Plug-in called nik Color Efex Pro! from nikmultimedia.

Frame it. Adding digital frames is popular among digital darkroom artists. One of the programs I use is Extensis PhotoFrame 2. This frame, added with a few clicks of my mouse, is called Acid Burn.

Okay, I've had my fun. Now it's your turn to have fun in the digital darkroom. Let your imagination soar. Shoot for the stars and if you only reach the moon, you are still doing okay.

Rick Sammon is the author of "The Complete Guide to Digital Photography," published by W.W. Norton. See www.ricksammon.com for information.