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Thread: How do you cure a busy background?

  1. #1
    FrankMi's Avatar
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    How do you cure a busy background?

    I am trying to learn how to make an image appealing when the background is busy as in this original shot of a flower at a a local nursery. I liked the flower but the background is very distracting. Shot at F10, 1/100 sec.

    How do you cure a busy background?

    I tried a number of things, mostly based on what I've learned at this site, but it still seems to be lacking something I can't quite put my finger on.

    How do you cure a busy background?

    Perhaps the approach I've taken is way off base and I need to start again with a completely different track? I would like to learn the techniques needed for the "busy background" scenario as I'll likely need to address this with other images over time. As always, any suggestions, comments, and criticisms are welcomed. Thanks!

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    jiro's Avatar
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    Re: How do you cure a busy background?

    Try darkening them, Frank. Sometimes its a simple way to give some separation without altering much.

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    jiro's Avatar
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    Re: How do you cure a busy background?

    A quick edit, Frank it you don't mind.

    How do you cure a busy background?

    The second step after this would be to blur the background a little bit.

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    FrankMi's Avatar
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    Re: How do you cure a busy background?

    Quote Originally Posted by jiro View Post
    A quick edit, Frank it you don't mind. The second step after this would be to blur the background a little bit.
    Your edit is an honor, sir.

    I originally tried something like this but felt that the subject still tended to get lost in the background, even with the blur. I also tried an almost totally black background but as the flower doesn't have any stem or leaves that clearly belong to it, it had the appearance of having its head lopped off. Hmmmm... I also appear to be having a hard time keeping the vibrance in a reasonable range.

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    Jo Brown's Avatar
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    Re: How do you cure a busy background?

    Funny, I have the same issue with some of my shots - trees mostly. What I wonder is if using a shallower depth of field would help.

  6. #6

    Re: How do you cure a busy background?

    Frank, I think the only solution with things like this is a close crop preferably when framing the shot in the first place. This subject will certainly stand a close crop. Jo's solution is ideal but the bloom is so close to the leaves I suspect you would struggle to blur the background.

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    Re: How do you cure a busy background?

    Jo's suggestion of a shallower DOF would certainly help as would shooting without the direct glare
    on your flower. It would help with this image to do a tighter crop, selection and background "lens blur".

    Would be easier all around to do a re-shoot in late PM with f/4.

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    FrankMi's Avatar
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    Re: How do you cure a busy background?

    Hi Jo, I agree that a shallower DoF would work in some cases and I'll definitely look for that while I'm shooting I think the issue for me is more of what can I actually do with it.

    I tried in PS to apply a lens blur to the background which is scant inches below the blossom, but the high contrast of the blured background was still very distracting. I then tried making the background very dark but the blossom looked like it had been lopped off as there were no leaves or stem that could be clearly associated with the blossom. I finally tried to merge the leaf color into the shadows to keep some of the leaf texture without the high contrast and it still leaves (Oh groan, a pun) a lot to be desired. As I looked at a number of different flowers I shot that day I realized that the 'busy background" issue applied to many of them, so I was hoping that there was a technique that would bring out the beauty of the blossom without the background distraction.
    Last edited by FrankMi; 28th May 2011 at 08:40 PM. Reason: spelling

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    FrankMi's Avatar
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    Re: How do you cure a busy background?

    Hi Steve, is there a significant difference, other than the risk of the PS 'look', between bluring in PS verses using, where possible, a DoF camera blur?

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    Re: How do you cure a busy background?

    Hi Chauncey, It's worth a try. Do you feel that the late afternoon sun, or perhaps an overcast day would be the best approach for this type of situation? I had also tried taking pictures of just the leaves, doing a lens blur in PS then merging the two shots but it still had the lopped off look. Of course it could also easily be my lack of skill in using layers and merging techniques in PS! I also tried a shot of the leaves in the shade but the blossom in the sun and the leaves in the shade look just silly.

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    Re: How do you cure a busy background?

    I like your rework Frank, it is quite striking. I have the same issue with many shots and below is a quick edit that I do in LR that works OK with some shots. If you are using PS and ACR I think the settings should translate. This might not be the best candidate but I have included the settings as it does work quite well in some shots. Basically what I try to do is desaturate the colours that I don't want to stand out and saturate and/or change luminance on colours that are in the subject. Then I apply a light or dark feathered vignette - Oh yeah, before applying the vignette crop so the subject is centred. Normally I would then take this into Elements and see if I could do anything else with it, but this is just a quick example so I did not do that. Anyway here is another method that might work for you on some shots.

    How do you cure a busy background?

    Brightness: -18
    Black Point: 14
    Fill Light: 16
    Contrast: 29

    Tone Curve
    Lights: 39
    Darks: -22
    Shadows: 4

    Colours
    Red: Luminance -9
    Orange: Luminance -20
    Yellow: Luminance 35
    Green: Saturation -19: Luminance -60

    Vignette:
    Amount: 100
    Midpoint: 5
    Roundness: -9
    Feather: 100

    Wendy

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    Re: How do you cure a busy background?

    Ooohhh, I think this treatment may be a good solution, Wendy. I like it. By avoiding the high contrast dark shadows and not hiding the leaves, it lets the colors come through without becoming muddy or having to over saturate. I'll need to try this on some of the other shots to see how it pans out. Thank You!

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    Re: How do you cure a busy background?

    Frank,

    How about this. An adjustment to levels,curves and saturation in CS5, followed by blur via topaz plugins lens effects.
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    Re: How do you cure a busy background?

    Hi David. Thank you for taking the time to work on this. There are probably several approaches that are an improvement over my efforts. Although this is certainly better than what I did, I'm not sure that the shadows in the leaves don't tend to still confuse the image. To me, from a slight distance, there doesn't seem to be a clear definition of the blossom. <sigh>

    Maybe it's just the way I am looking at it?

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    Re: How do you cure a busy background?

    Hard problem with faking lens blur is that it's hard to get gradients to line up with what you would actually have had in the scene (making 3d projections from a 2D image). I just went for Photoshop fake, cropped, and did a circular gradient mask and applied lens blur, using the mask as the depth map. Also converting the jpeg to sRGB helped with the colors for web display.

    2lwayww.jpg
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    Re: How do you cure a busy background?

    Hi Frank,

    Right, at the risk of being controversial and having things thrown at me, I really think this is one for the bin mate. I really would go back and reshoot with a wider aperture and maybe a bit closer to the subject. It's an interesting looking plant, so I hope you will.

    As for reworking an image in Photoshop, or any other program for that matter, I think the original picture has to be worth the effort. And this isn't.

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    FrankMi's Avatar
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    Re: How do you cure a busy background?

    Hi Mark, I really appreciate the effort. Perhaps you are right. There is only so much you can do after the fact. I think I need to start in the late afternoon perhaps on a cloudy day. That should take care of the biggest issue, the high contrast shadows. The resulting low contrast may be a much easier issue to deal with. Thanks, mate!

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    Re: How do you cure a busy background?

    Frank,

    I must admit that this an area of photography that I know very little about as yet. I've just bought my first macro lens. My main point was to point out that certain pictures just aren't worth the time and effort. I edit a professional wedding photographer's photos as a favour occasionally and I've seen worse than this!

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    Re: How do you cure a busy background?

    How's this frank for some additional edit?

    How do you cure a busy background?

  20. #20
    FrankMi's Avatar
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    Re: How do you cure a busy background?

    Hi Willie. Better, but I'm not sure that the inital shot can be salvaged. Do you think that reshooting in the shade to lower the dark shadows would help? ...or would I need to use flash, fill light or some other technique to get a better starting point?

    The thing the really attracted me to the blossom was the orange perimeter that makes it looks like it is two completely diffierent flowers in one. I never imagined that that perimeter would give so much grief!

    Thank you for applying your wisdom as I am clearly in over my head on this one.

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