Processing dim lit subjects

May 19, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

AI software has made image editing much easier. With one click the software can select your subject. This let's you make changes to your subject without affecting the rest of your image. This has been what have set the pros apart from amateurs for years. Amateurs typically made global adjustments (that effect the whole image), while professionals made local adjustments (that only affect the parts of the image they want affected). No great skill is required anymore to select anything based on brightness (called luminosity masking), color, subject, or background. But with the advent of easy AI selection tools also come the temptation to over process.

Images like this one is a prime candidate for people to over process. They select the subject, the bird in this case. Then they can brighten the bird without changing anything else in the image. The reasoning behind this idea is simple. They want their subject to stand out more from the background. That is precisely why this image illustrates this issue so well. The bird is basically the same color as the rest of the image, with the exception of the brighter wingtips. No wonder people want to brighten the bird to stand out more.

          However, we have to be careful with that approach. Making the subject stand out can also make it stand out like a sore thumb. Brightening the bird too much will make it stand out in a bad way. It will not look natural. The bird is part of this image and part of the same general light. It needs to look dark, just like the rest of its surroundings. If the bird is much lighter than its surroundings it will just look wrong.

          Therefore, be careful with your processing. Just because there are all these new easy tools to use does not mean that we should go overboard. Go ahead and brighten your subject a little but stop well short of making it look unnatural. Because we can, does not mean that we should. Moderation is best. When you are done processing your images. Walk away. Come back in an hour and look at it. Does it still look good? Can you easily tell that it has been "doctored?" Call and ask your spouse what s/he thinks about the image.

          When these new tools excite you, stay calm and process gently.


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