Photos From Hell #1: Too Dark, Too Much Stuff

I took this digital photo of my daughter, Vicky, and my husband's granddaughter on a swing in a shady back yard. While I loved the look on the children's faces, there are pipes growing out of my little girl's head, the picture is way too dark, and the dog's butt and yellow swing in the background don't add up to an artistic composition. 

Too dark, too much stuff going on

(Photo shown at 25% actual size)

I used the Clone Paintbrush tool extensively when editing this photo. First I used the default brush size of 20, with a soft edge of 50, to clone out the pipes sprouting out of Vicky's head. I did this by clicking in the dark areas above and below the pipes to clone those areas, then clicked on top of the pipes to cover them up. I used a very small brush size of 5 when I was very close to the red swing ropes and the top of her head. 

That was a big improvement, but the dog and the swing had to go, too. If you're going to take big stuff out of the picture, be bold. I set the Clone Paintbrush tool brush size to 50, with a soft edge of 50, and cloned dark areas near the dog and the swing, then clicked on top of the offending objects to get rid of them. I was careful not to use the same cloned spot over and over again, varying the areas from which I cloned. I even cloned some of the sun dapples on the lower right side and put them over where the dog was, to maintain the balance of light and dark. Here are the results.

pipes, dog and swing gone

Not so bad now, but the picture was still too dark, so I chose Format, Tone Map. Using the Highlight Midtone Shadow tab, I edited the Midtone value to 10 (arrow), which was just enough to bring up lighter tones in the image. 

lightening with a tone map 

Again, this improved the look of the image significantly, but it seemed kind of flat. To highlight the children in the middle of the photo, I chose Effect, Magic, Light. This is one of my favorite tricks for salvaging photos. Instead of selecting from a thumbnail, I clicked the Options button to open the secondary dialog box. I changed the default Light color to a very pale yellow, and increased the distance to 250, then clicked OK.

add Magic Light

The boost from Magic Light added needed drama and central focus to this photo. It sure looks a lot better than it did originally!

finished editing


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Copyright © 2002 Stephanie Baker-Thomas, PhD. All Rights Reserved.
East of the Sun Publishing
PO Box 110063
Naples, FL 34108-0102


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