March 23, 2011

A Shaggy Dog Story of Digital Editing

The “before and after” theme of the last photo challenge was fun! And it so happens that I have a shaggy dog story that follows along that theme and unfolded this past weekend.

Since my retirement three years ago, I’ve been able to spend some quality time with my photography hobby and learn some digital editing. I’ve discovered so much in just a few short years, but I know that I have oodles more to go! And my time is limited right now because I am doing full-time consulting work this year. Rats! That leaves the weekends to carve out some hours to play with my photos and digital editing. And I get easily sidetracked along the way…

Case in point, I was going through my photo inventory and looking at my Seagrove pottery pictures so that I could prepare a blog post in the near future. While going through the pictures, I saw a rather dismal snapshot I took of an adorable and disheveled canine. I had forgotten all about that pup until I saw the image.

At this same time, I was also trying to find a tutorial for a technique that I used over a year ago. After wracking my feeble brain, I finally remembered that I saw the tutorial on the Adobe Photoshop Elements Techniques web site (membership required). While I was searching for it there, I stumbled onto a tutorial on how to do high-key photo editing using Camera Raw. Whoa, there I went off on a tangent! I told myself, yes, I want to learn more on how to use Camera Raw in Photoshop! And yes, I have never seen a concise tutorial about digitally creating a high-key photo. Never mind what my original intentions were!

Are you still following along? Are your eyes glazing over? Hang in there and don’t let the terminology scare you off. I told you this was a shaggy dog story!  And I have pictures.

So in my usual rambling mode this past weekend, I went through the lesson and then grabbed the last picture I saw – the dismal one with the dog – to do a little playing in Photoshop. To make matters worse, the photo was taken with my little Coolpix point-and-shoot camera, so the image clarity is not up to par with those taken by my DSLR. Heavens to Betsy, there is hardly any redeeming quality to this hastily taken photo of a cute puppy dog, except that it is in focus. Here it is, straight out of the camera with no editing whatsoever.

ghost dog original

It’s really a sad picture from a technical point of view. The subject is dead center (a composition no-no). The car is woefully distracting. The unattractive concrete block building in the background (complete with fluorescent light in the window, wires, and conduit) is the crowning touch to the composition disaster. Hey, but the subject is a cute dog – a shaggy one with the wind blowing through his hair! And I LOVE to throw a little test at myself to see if I can create something cool out of almost nothing. Game on!

So the first thing I did was crop the image to just a partial view of the pup’s head. Then I did some high-key tricks via the tutorial. At that point, it did NOT look promising. The grain was bothering me and I wasn’t getting the usual texture that I crave. I quickly remembered why don’t try to create high-key photos! The delete button was screaming for a well-placed finger. It was really awful. What the heck, I figured it was time to break into the Topaz Adjust plug-in and see what freakish things the various filters could do, just for a few laughs!

Like, what was I thinking, trying to coax a decent result out of this image? Geez, the things I challenge myself to do, LOL.

Well, low and behold, the “dark-ghostly” filter made the picture pop and sizzle! I was dazzled by the gritty glows! I whooped and did a little celebration high-five with Marty, knocked back a diet coke, and finished up my editing with some background touchups.

Drum roll, please! Here is the wild ghost dog that immerged from my little creative session!

How’s that for a dramatic “before and after”! I love happy endings, don’t you?


  1. I love the transformation!! Great job!

  2. An amazing before and after. You should be here to take a picture of my eyes...glazed at first, but brightening visibly. Sounds like great fun for a gal like you!

  3. This is BEAUTIFUL Donna!!!! I'll have to check out those tutorials!
    You have a sharp eye!!! I'm still trying to figure out mouse- overs!!Hahaaaa
    I'm slow!!

  4. This is exactly why I like playing around with photos so much. Yes it's great to take a perfect picture but it's so much fun to play and see what you can do with a so so picture. That is really awesome.

  5. This is fantastic. I love how you stuck it out and ended up with a great result. Good for you.

  6. Awesome, Donna. Oh that I would have that much patience, and skill.

  7. Miracle worker !Way nice maybe I should send you picture of me !

  8. OMG Donna that is so amazing what you did!! You are my inspiratiion!


  9. Good grief! That is spectacular! I must admit I scrolled down to see your creation before reading how you did it! Huzzah!

    And I'm dazzled by the gritty glows too. Just so you know.

  10. What a neat story! and wonderful transformation! Someday....I'll get a good camera and some photo editing skills....but for now I'll treasure the skills of others like yourself.

  11. Just happened by your blog by way of your barn cupola. What a fun site. I just started a Photoshop community education class and am learning so much. It was fun to see what you have done with photoshop. Jeanne

  12. WOW! Very dramatic difference and also..very cool!! Great job!

  13. All my photos look like the first one. But that's okay...

    WOW!! Goodness gracious you're good!

    And...he almost looks like a BEAR!!

  14. OK, that does it! I'm stopping to by PhotoShop on my home from an appointment later today! You have convinced me, my friend, and I can't wait another day! Your photo transformation is incredible. Love what you accomplished from an old photo. I'll be back to ask questions, most likely. Will be looking through your blog again to observe what you have done. Again. Thank you for the inspiration.

  15. Absolutely LOVE IT! Some of my best shots were ones I took with my little casio point and shoot. It's amazing what you can do with a little help from photoshop!

  16. Awesome! I think you have a new, really cool header there :)
    xo, misha

  17. VERY cool!! Wow, what a difference some creative editing can make!

  18. Yes, happy endings are the best! What wonderful results! I've been looking at the woodpecker and the old time postcard photo technique! You are very skilled with photos! I love working with them, too...but don't have photoshop! I'm going to put your blog in my favs! I love visiting you! ♥

  19. I love it. I must start editing my photo's more often it is so much fun.

  20. Talk about happy endings! WOW!

    ♥ Gentle hugs ♥

  21. oh i love that!!!! amazing..and i just almost get depressed cuz i STILL haven't done a dang thing about learning any of this stuff!!!! is gonna keep em coming!:-)


Marty, here! Donna loves comments, and I faithfully pass them on to her. Thank you so much for visiting!