From Bad To Good: An Image Worth Taking?

Although this blog post refers to an old image, I thought it would be interesting to share my experience of how I managed to salvage what I feel to be a worthwhile image from a hideously bad photo shoot.

A long time ago, almost a year ago, I had the random urge to shoot an image in which a person was wearing clown make up. I suspect that this idea came from the photographs of Eolo Perfido and Erwin Olaf which I had recently discovered.

Anyhow, I really wanted to take this certain picture that I had in mind, nothing special, just a standard headshot of this clown surrounded by a menacing darkness.  I went out and brought face paints and grabbed my default model, my brother, and searched for a place to shoot this image.

At the time I decided to do this, the art course I was taking was just finishing, so the studios were being used for exhibitions. Although it was the only place with a good enough uncluttered clean white background, I had to look somewhere else.  I ended up shooting the image in a common room against the only blank space I could find: a lime green door.

This is the image that I shot:

IMG_2473 jpeg

As you can see, it is not at all a good image in any way. I took one look at the contact sheet I had produced (I shot more images in the hope I would be able to make something out of the disastrous photo shoot) and realized that the images were no good.  Annoyed, but still determined, I decided to open up a few images in Photoshop and see what I could do with them. Eventually I settled on a particular image that I thought would work somewhat well with a complete makeover.

The first thing that I wanted to do was to eliminate the annoying lime green background, so I used a brush to paint black around the face. I then started creating curve layers and colour layers to produce this image:

IMG_2473 layers reedit

Although it is not the most amazing image ever, I think that ti is a lot better than my original image.  I have included a screen shot of part of the editing process I used to create the image. Sadly, I can’t find the file I saved in which you can see all of the layers from the original image to the finish (I have a habit of saving the final image 3 times, once as a small jpeg for internet use, one as a layered tiff in case I ever need to change certain layers and one as a flattened tiff file).


Looking at this image, I feel that out of all of my images, this is the one that has transformed the most from start to finish. I think that it is important to try and learn from the bad images and although I am not suggesting that you salvage every bad image, I recommend that photographers should take a look over considered failures and see if there is another way to give the image a new meaning, even if you have to spend a bit of time on it. With the unlimited possibilities that image editing software offer, who knows what will happen!


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