January 10, 2013

Making the Most of a Cell Phone Photo

My new favorite photo of Nicki and I, after a fair amount of editing.

I fancy myself a semi-serious armature photographer. There are few things that make me happier than being behind my camera’s view finder. Heck, I took 3 thousand photos of Nicki before she was two months old. I have photos I adore of her. I have tons of her with Dada, Grandma, even the cat. But something is missing. Me! I have so few photos of Nicki and I!

This week I stumbled upon this on my phone.

Photo credit: my wonderful husband.
Nice composition, but the photo has the double whammy of slightly blurry (most noticeably by my hand), and nosy from high ISO (most noticeably on Nicki’s face.). I was probably rocking when the photo was taken.

Of course as soon as I saw it I wished I had a DSLR equivalent photo. I wanted something I could print out and frame. But alas, this was taken when Nicki was four weeks old. She’s a bit different today, and there’s no way we could recreate the photo. If I wanted a framed copy, I was going to have to fix it up in post processing.

For the first pass, I did some smoothing and contrast adjustment. While I can smooth out the texture a little bit, but there’s little I can do about the blur and loss of detail. My best bet is to make the issues look intentional, or at least as intentional as possible. Since the photo already has a warm, nostalgic feel to it, I decide to emphasize that and give in an old-time feel. To me that meant a Sepia filter (I picked Sepia over greyscale to preserve the warmth.) I used a special program to do this, but you can also do this by adjusting your hue and saturation to get the color palette you want.

Adjusting hue and decreasing saturation to simulate a sepia color contrast. In this case since the image is already pretty red, I didn’t have to adjust the hue much. Had there not been as much red in the photo, I might have had to adjust the three color channels (Red, Blue and Green) separately to get the right red/brown hues.

The next step was to clean up the background a bit. I did this by using the clone tool to get ride of the glass of chocolate milk, and adding a slight vignette to put the focus squarely on Nicki and I.

A comparison of the original (left) with the final version (right). Click it to see the comparison in more detail.

I’ve done a few photo enhancements in my time, but without a strong graphic design/drawing skill I’m limited to tools like the clone brush and minor adjustments. There seems to be an huge business opportunity here for someone with true graphic artists skills. How many of us have that one photo they would give there left arm to fix?

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