As the photographer for O’Reilly conferences the last three years, I’ve had lots of opportunities to make photographs of Tim O’Reilly. Most of these photographs are standard stage fare with front lighting and general stage props. They get the job done, to be sure, but I’ve been trying different things over time to make a more unique shot. At the Web 2.0 Summit last week, almost everything lined up just right and I had the opportunity to make a photograph of Tim that I really like.
The rub with the photo, however, is that almost everything lined up. There was one element in the composition that didn’t cooperate. At the time I made this shot, I was behind the stage standing right behind the opening of the stage curtain. Tim was on stage with Paul Kedrosky and I saw that, from my vantage point, if I dropped down a bit I could position one of the stage lights right behind Tim’s head. The only problem with this angle is that Paul also was in the shot. In fact, the way that Tim and Paul were stepping back and forth on stage meant that Paul was blocking Tim most of the time. But, in one instant, Tim stepped or leaned just far enough back to make the shot. But Paul, at least the outline of his jacket, was still in it.
Here’s what the original shot looked like after processing in Lightroom:
Typically, I stick with Lightroom for all my work. I endeavor to get composition and exposure the way I want them in camera and then just use Lightroom to polish things up in terms of white balance, exposure, contrast, tone, and sharpness. Because my emphasis is on what happens in the camera, I don’t spend a lot of time pushing pixels around and making macro changes to photographs.
When faced with the photograph above, however, the right answer was to bounce out of Lightroom and go into Photoshop so that I could remove the bright outline of Paul’s jacket. To get there is a simple right click on a photograph and select of the “Edit in Photoshop CS” item from the pop up menu. Lightroom makes a copy of the image with options you select (I used a 16-bit PSD in the ProPhoto RGB color space) and then opens the resulting file in Photoshop. Any changes you save in Photoshop are automatically reflected in Lightroom.
After a few minutes of work, I here’s the result:
With a trivial amount of work in Photoshop, the image is done. Everything essential about the photograph—Tim’s expression and the light—is preserved. And the element that was removed was not pertinent to the photograph at all. Even though tools like Lightroom have become the place where I spend most of my time, Photoshop will always have a place on my system for just these kinds of needs.