This exercise looks at some of the corrections a photography may make to images – and involves some thought around what is an “innocent” correction and when it becomes something more – alteration of interpretation of the image.

Dust correction

The first part is dust correction.  I took an image from my library initially, taken a while back with my old 5D Mark 2.  Here it is post-correction:

Fellfield

Fellfield in the Lake District

At the time the sensor had collected a fair few dust spots, including a major one that stood out on a few images especially on light backgrounds:

Dust spot on cloudy area

Dust spot on cloudy area

I used the Spot Removal tool in Lightroom, set to “Heal”.  It automatically selects an area which will blend in to where the correct spot is:

Spot Removal selection

Spot Removal selection

It can be altered, but most of the time when I use it I’m happy with the job it’s doing.  Here’s the result in the area used here:

Dust corrected

Dust corrected

In addition to using the spot removal tool, the exercise suggested using the clone stamp tool and comparing the use of both.  I opened the image up in Photoshop and made a change to the same area as shown above.

The clone stamp tool required me to select an area to use in order to remove the dust spot.  While the end result was the same, I did get the idea that the conscious choice – rather than automatic selection – makes the change a subjective application to ensure the image “looks right”.  That may be intuitive, but it is still selection.  I don’t have a problem with it – but there’s a fine line between making the change to correct a technical issue and making the change to improve the appearance of the image – which is essentially alteration.

The final part of dust correction was where the dust and detail in an image interact.  I used the image in the course resources which has dust spots and detail mixed up.

Firstly I identified the spots which were away from detail – which I changed without any real problem.  The difficulty comes when looking at areas with detail like this:

Detail and dust

Detail and dust

There are some bits that look like they’re more likely to be dust than detail – but how can I be sure?  Here’s the visualiser for the Spot Removal tool – and it’s even less clear here!

Spot visualiser

Spot visualiser

Here there is an even finer line between correction and alteration.  Removing dust – not a problem, removing a blemish – the image is no longer a true representation of what was seen.  What effect and moral implications that has depends on the context it’d be used in; I don’t think it’s black-and-white “change is bad” or “change is good”.  In terms of the practicality of removing dust and avoiding slipping in to alteration – it’s a case of best-guess, and that’s much harder when the image isn’t my own and therefore I have no reference point on which to make a judgement that minimises the chance of me removing genuine detail.

Lens flame

The next part looked at removing lens flare.  Again I took an image from my library – and it had a pretty extreme amount of lens flare.

Lens flare original

Lens flare original

I used the technique described in the exercise – using the clone tool set to “Color” and then set to “Darken’ to reduce the impact of the lens flare on the image; though with it being so extreme I didn’t completely eliminate it:

Lens flare - corrected...ish

Lens flare – corrected…ish

I can see this being a useful technique where small amounts of lens flare have “crept” into the image by mistake.  But where lens flare is deliberate – “doing a JJ Abrams” – or more pronounced it’s not incredibly effective as shown above.  I’d be inclined to think that if I don’t want lens flare in an image then the best way to eliminate it is in composition of the original shot as much as possible.

Conclusion

It’s interesting that some very basic corrections can throw up the question of at what point those corrections become alteration of the image rather than simply “fixing” technical errors.  As I’ve mentioned though – the implications of alteration really depend on context.