This exercise looks at further manipulation of the digital image; this time selecting an area of an image to alter in order to make it stand out from its surroundings.  I used a photo I took while in the Lake District last weekend – a portrait with a fairly busy background – and selected the subject of the shot using the “Quick Select” tool in Photoshop.

This tool allows you to add blocks of areas to the selection, and also remove any which are not wanted in the selection.  Once completed I had successfully selected the subject.  I’ve filled the selection in red so it’s obvious which bit I selected:

Selection Illustration

Selection Illustration

Once this was done I then adjusted the brightness and also made slight modifications to contrast.  As defined by the exercise, I’ve tried to ensure it remains “natural” looking.  This was the end result:

Adjusted image

Adjusted image

And this is the original, unedited, image to compare:

Original image

Original image

The exercise calls for reflection on my personal limits of what I would deem acceptable and “innocent, legitimate adjustment”.  For the image in the exercise I would think it qualifies as legitimate; I’m not misrepresenting the subject and it remains “natural”.  I’m thinking it’s not that different from using a flash – knowing that will light up the subject of the image and fall-off towards the background.

As with the last exercise, I’m aware “natural” is subjective, but also intuitive – most people would have a sense of “natural” which is very similar to everybody else’s view.  Overall, this kind of adjustment is acceptable to me in this context.; i.e. a vernacular portrait .

The exercise includes an illustration where the iris of a woman’s eyes have been lightened so they stand out more.  That’s an adjustment I’ve made to some images in the past too – and again I think it’s acceptable to a degree if it remains natural-looking and isn’t misrepresenting the subject.  It’s pretty similar to the idea of using artificial lighting to make a subject stand-out.  A similar result could be achieved with very specific lights for the eyes.  It’s easier and more effective to do a local adjustment after-the-fact.