Improving my old pictures through photo editing

Photography is a skill that requires many years of practice to improve the visual art, or even a lifetime to master the art of seeing. The art of seeing is the most important factor to master in photography, rather than the type of medium one is using to take pictures.

Editing has become a very important work process after i had finished my photo assignment. Uploading the pictures into the computer. I am relaxing in my environment, able to have a clear view on how my pictures are like in detail on a large screen.

Recently i was browsing at the Hong Kong images i capture in 2009. Oh yeah, it has been a really long time. I realize many of the pictures weren’t to my standard anymore. However, i see the hidden potential to improve my old pictures through better photo editing skills that i learned over the years – with the help of Lightroom, a brilliant software to make digital photography editing easier. More importantly, i am able to see how to make my old pictures look even better than before.

The following will be a series of pictures that i have made an improvement using Lightroom only. I am going to highlight some images of the before and after, sharing some technical editing process on how and why i adjusted it.

BeforeAfterI dislikes how the lines were converging. So i adjusted the scene to be more properly vertical. Is more pleasing to the eyes as well.

Major distortion in this Hong Kong styled old building picture. Despite making the vertical adjustment, the top of the building was cut off. Keeping the building straight is my way of photography in the last few years. The original colors were pale, so i improve the colors saturation in minimum. The decision to edit this image is because of the unique facade. This was also the first building i capture in Hong Kong

BeforeAfterImproving on the contrast, saturation, and clarity in this image. I want to clearly see the reflection of the buildings from the tram glass panel. If this picture is printed in a bigger size, you will also be able to clearly see the tram driver too.

Basically, i love how the red cloth and signage is placed in the picture. I like it symmetrical style that time. The picture before was not straight for my liking, i need to make an adjustment to make the scene balanced. Also, increase the contrast a bit more to make the red color more punchy

BeforeAfterTaken in the mid afternoon, the entrance to Tai O village was in shade because of the cloud coverage. Is not possible to have a balanced exposure in the front and back due to the lighting condition in the camera. The entrance was distorted and corrected. I really like this scene because of the fishing village style, and the welcome sign to invite the visitors, this is a very nice tourism touch to it.

BeforeAfterIn this scenic view of Tai O fishing village. I have adjusted the perspective, increase the blue and orange colors to make the scene a bit more eye catching, also slightly increase the shadow to see more details. Increase blue sky by +45

BeforeAfterReduced the highlight to -100 so the sky would not be flat out, as least i can see some layers of cloud. Increase the saturation a bit more to bring out the overall dull colors.

The statues were hidden in shadow in the original picture because of the sun position. The picture was slightly distorted. Colors were pale. By increasing the shadow i am able to see more of the sculptures, the red colors is more stand out as well.

BeforeAfterAdjusted the temple entrance to be vertically straight, increase contrast and saturation. Pull out a bit more blue color from the sky as well. But if you over do it in pulling out the colors, image noise will be very obvious.

Pull out the shadow from the under exposed area, increase yellow to bring out the shine from the sculptures. Next, i import the picture to Photoshop to fix the pagoda distortion due to the wide angle.

Basically to make the scene a bit more saturated. Over the years i saw many beginners would edit their landscape scene in over-saturation, such result is awful and not realistic. 

BeforeAfterFor this night scene, i was using a wide angle of 24mm to take picture of Victoria Harbor, but it was distorted, the horizon was slanted, i lose a bit of sharpness due to the strong wind for the season. Vertical perspective was shifted, rotate the scene to make the horizon straight. Increase sharpness and reduce noise. I also increase a bit of saturation to make it more vibrant.

In order to improve your editing in photography, not only you have to shoot in the subject that you are passionate in. You also need to practice the editing as many times as possible till you are so good at it. It would be great to invest in a good monitor for your picture editing if you do not have one.

I also provide photo editing service to turn your not-so-fantastic picture into a good one, provided i see there is the potential to do it.

If you are not sure whether are you doing it correctly? Or you need help with your old travel pictures editing. You can always drop me an email for advice.

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Winning architecture photo competition in Singapore

Am extremely humble to be one of the many winners of SkyVille@Dawson photo compeition organized by WOHA. I never thought i would have win anything, my objective was to document some really fantastic pictures from various angles and lighting i had observed, post it up in my Instagram account and particpate in the competition.

WOHA is Singapore famous international architect firm behind the design of SkyVille@Dawson. WOHA has also designed many projects that can be seen by the public, naming a few are, Park Royal Hotel at Pickering street, School of the Arts Singapore, Stadium MRT station, Crowne Plaza Changi Airport.

Below are my three winning image and clips created by WOHA instagram. You can check out the pictures in my instagram as well.

Selected for “Most Powerful Story”

Selected for “Most Powerful Image”

Selected for “Best Photographer”

I did not study architecture for a living, my knowledge of architecture is very limited. But belt with more than 10 years of photography experience. My approach towards architecture photography was to capture the essence, in the most profound way from various angles. Spend time to study it, repitive journeys – till i have the feel to “interact” with the architecture.

There is a proverb saying “Less is more”. With one picture, relating the entire story in a single frame, it is very empowering especially in photojournalism, street photography, landscape etc. However, for architecture, there are many way to showcase the building. Using different ideas to compose it, i can opt for a symmetrical format if the design allows, using a long lens to shoot details, using a tilt shift lens to capture is amazing as seeing the building in a non converging manner etc. So you see, there is almost no dead end to it quality if one can see the possibilities out of it. A building is not just a piece of concrete block placed there for it’s usage purpose. But people living and working in it, generate useful ideas to create a better world.

Singapore Industrial Photographer’s assignment on site

I was approached by Jason Marine Limited in Singapore to execute an on site industrial photo-shoot. My client’s idea is to show their engineer working on the field. The purpose is for the cover of Singapore Marine Offshore Oil & Gas Directory 2014. I even sit down with the chairman to discuss about it, as it is really important for the company, the pressure is on!

After listening and understanding the client’s requirement, with a few questions throw back. Next step is to quickly determine the date and location. Initially it was planned to do it overseas. But the timing of the execution and delivery of images was closed to due date of submission. Not forgetting the logistics and traveling time through and fro. In the end it was arranged locally.

The challenge is client’s wants me to execute the shoot on the pre-determined date. Hence, it gives me no time to scout the place for potential shooting sites. Secondly, there is no art director for input. I will be required to generate my own experience to do the art direction, follow by actual photography. Very busy man i was on that day!

You might be thinking, if there is no time to scout the place for potential photography sites (in this case is on a ship), how would i actually determine where to shoot? Is important to have a pre visualisation for potential background. It is the basic and most important factor to start. I start clicking my camera if i noticed a scene that is potential, rather than walking around the ship to pre-determine the various locations. For this assignment, i started to arrange the engineers when we stepped on board. Telling them clearly exactly what i wanted.

Playing with various angle and composition on deck for the first batch of images.

I always enter into the work site without any expectation. Not expecting the place to be spotless clean since is an industrial shoot. I don’t expect the weather to be friendly as weather here in Singapore is usually sunny, average temperature is 30°, my wear will be soaked if staying out for a prolong duration. Plus, industrial photographer must gear up in industrial clothing for safety purposes like many others working on board, everyone takes safety very seriously here in Singapore.

Inside the cockpit where the engineers check on their equipment.

Luckily the engineers were not stiff, i arrange them in a working manner so they are more comfortable, i don’t think is right to request them to pose like a model, since they are not, and it doesn’t work for what client had in mind. Anyway the two engineers were fantastic to work with! I have to emphasise again that is it important to work towards the client’s objective. It is a bonus sometimes to be more creative during the process. For this assignment i totally love it. Check out the various creative composition below.

At the bow for more pictures.

The client is not on site with me during the shoot, an experienced photographer normally have the initiative to capture more images. More images is better in this case for the client to choose. After the shoot is wrapped, client would love to see the initially batch of images soonest. I quickly uploaded more than 300 low res images onto my website for client download or viewing. Vetting is done by their management, follow up with the final edit of the selected image. Upload high res image onto my website for client to download again. This saves me productivity time to go to their office for discussion and back to editing table.

Final image

If you have notice a similarity in all my images, i focus on my client’s company logo. Hope readers who read this have a rough idea what life out there for an industrial photographer. If you have any question do drop me a message.

Composition technique

I always wanted to share my thoughts on composition technique. This objective is to share with you what i saw in order to capture that golden frame i had visualised.

I was traveling solo in Kathmandu, Nepal in 2012. It was my virgin trip to this very unique country. Where it is famously known for Mount Everest for the climbers. Many tourists visited the country for trekking/hiking purposes, admiring the stunning landscape our earth offer. My goal was to do travel photography. Exploring the capital, visit several UNSECO sites, soaked into local culture, food and shoot stunning images for my Asia travel stock library for sales.

Here i was wandering around Patan Durbar Square, situated at the site of Lalitpur City.

I came across this street in Patan Durbar Square, Nepal. I had instantly visualized how i want to fill the frame. Because it was fascinating to observe the different type of doors and windows, how it were design and structure. First thought was to compose the scene tightly so the viewers can study the entire space comfortably.

1. Compose in a “leading line” format where the side of the building leads you to the background details.

2. Breaks off from the rule-of-third. Divided into 3 vertical sections to study different elements, hence each element is treated equally.

3. The only element missing is a moment (my personal style). Example, a person walking across the street. I looked around to see was there anyone going to walk across my frame. Fortunately a man riding his bicycle was coming from my back. I quickly start snapping to capture that moment i wanted.

And now my picture is finally completed in this sense. Hope you like my write up.

Composition tip #1

Robert Capa once said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” This statement to me weighs a lot of importance, a good picture, or a poor picture does depend how close one can get close.

In event such as seminar, conference, sport photography, Photographer is require to get a close up image of the person expression or the athletics in action. It create an visual impact for the viewer, understanding and feeling the person emotion or the dedication and explosiveness of their body of the athletics.

For street photography, beginners and some most amateurs i observe would deploy a telephoto lenses. Secretly, sneakily to snap the moment without disturbing the subject. Hoping for the best result. A wide angle lenses would capture the entire scene, usually a landscape and cityscape.

For me, i choose the specific tool that is needed for the shoot. Even if my lenses doesn’t zoom in enough, or not wide to an extend. Usually it will not pose any problem for the professional, depending on the location and situation.

I was in Dalat, Vietam for a short holiday few weeks back. I only brought a 24mm and 50mm prime lenses. As i wanted my visit to keep it as light as possible, so it will not cause me much fatigue for my leisure trip. Yet as an Asia travel photographer, visiting a new place is always exciting. No matter what must shoot, talk about occupation hazard.

I was wandering around the Dalat Cathedral church, i spotted this scene where people making their prayer inside. I was captivated by the beautiful warm light falling through the window inside the church, the lady closest to me was wearing a green jacket. Giving it some contrast in the scene. Immediately i frame it nicely and took a shot.

Picture #1

However 1 picture is not enough, i quickly look through my review panel, instantly knew it was not a great image. I quickly move close to get a better image that already form a visualization in mind.

Picture #2

See the different? Am not really a big fan of cropping in photoshop. As much as possible everything is frame nicely through my viewfinder. I choose to move in closer to get the final picture i want. I hope the quote and my illustration help.

Hope you like what i wrote. If you have question do drop me a message. Cheers!