Exercise 21: Enhancement

This exercise is a step further into level of intervention. To many people this sort of interference is making things go beyond reality. At the end of the exercise, I am supposed to make my own judgement regarding, how far I would like to do this in my image processing.

This exercise has very specific guidelines, starting from taking a picture to processing it. After following these guidelines, I have captured the image displayed below.

Ex 21-1

1/200 sec f/1.4ISO: 100

Focal Length: 75 mm

No flash

Lens used 50mm f/1.4

The image is taken in my living room. I asked the model to sit opposite a big French window. The subject was well lit by defused light. Using 50mm lens with wide aperture has allowed enough light. Hence I could avoid rising the ISO. There is another benefit with such wide aperture. It allows blurring of the background; this results in better separation of the subject. I am not happy with the back of the sofa showing behind the main subject.

Post Processing:

The exercise requires me to look at the adjustments in 2 phases:

Phase one looks at making the a selection of the face and adjusting the brightness and contrast

Phase two looks at selecting the eyes and increasing the brightness and saturation. And after that I need to try to change the hues. First two adjustments can be easily handled with the Lightroom 3. I will have to open the image in Photoshop to change the hues correctly.

Note: I have corrected the WB and cropped the image slightly. Other than the said changes, no modifications have been made to the basic adjustments.

Phase one: In the “Develop” module of the Lightroom, I chose the local adjustment brush “Dodge (Lighten)” and painted over the face. However, leaving the neck and part of the hand could have caused vast difference between the skin tones hence; I selected that too. I moved the exposure and brightness sliders to the right. To give the skin little softness, I have decreased the clarity. Rest of the sliders were left untouched. These adjustments to the sliders have lifted the look of the skin and have taken care of the reddish tone too.


Phase two: After making the above adjustments, I continued with the other specifications of the exercise. I had to select the pupil and iris area. Under the “Adjustment brush” there is an iris enhancement option. After magnifying the image to 100%, with the help of the brush (under iris enhancement) I painted the pupil and the iris. After the selection was made, I moved the exposure, brightness, saturation and clarity sliders to the right.


In the above image, you can see that there is a subtle change in the white area of the iris and the pupil has browner tint to it. Normally the saturation slider is more effective when used on lighter eye. Unfortunately for this exercise, I could not find anyone with the lighter eyes.

Next I am supposed to change the hue of the pupil. Lightroom has its limitations in this area. Hence, I imported the worked image to Photoshop CS4 and performed the following procedure.

  • Duplicated the layer (Layer > Duplicate layer)
  • Made a selection of the pupil with the elliptical marquee tool
  • Switched the “Edit in quick mask mode” to modify the selection
  • Feathered the selection by 3 pixel (Select > Modify > Feather)
  • Selected Hue/Saturation (Image > Adjustment > Hue/Saturation) and played with the slider till I got the satisfying results
  • Reduced the opacity of the layer


Conclusion: Now let me address the two points raised at the end of the exercise.

At what point between lightening the face for visibility and altering the eye colour do you consider that you have tempered with reality? Are you satisfied that all of this is legitimate?

If I am doing a portrait shoot and the client is ok with minor enhancement to look better then I am also fine with the first two phases. Provided they are performed moderately. This definitely would not be the case with my travel photography or portraits representing reality.

In the area of advertising, false idealized beauty is represented. Most of the times it is highly digitally processed. I do feel cheated; I believe many countries are coming up with the regulation that product needs to endorse that the look of the model is digitally process. Once that happens then I will be able to justify, as it is also a form of art. Many of the famous paintings with the idealised beauty have been accepted as art; therefore, I guess digital media should not be treated differently.

When it comes to altering the colour, I did not feel comfortable at all. The image looked artificial to me. I have skills to do such and many more alterations. However, ethically I don’t feel right to change the reality to this extreme.

Legitimacy of the above changes depends on the guidelines of the industry, as well as the laws for that particular country or region. For me, even changing the skin softness too much or hues completely is a debateable situation. However, all around the world the beauty industry has been practicing such and many more adjustments without any problems. Hence, I feel it is not up to an individual to decide.


3 thoughts on “Exercise 21: Enhancement

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