Last week, a friend was giving me her assessment of a photo in the blog and pointed out a simple mistake that I usually don't make. You can see, below, the green gourd in the center of the photo is sporting a price tag. I could come up with excuses, but she was right - I should have removed it. It took me less than a minute to fix the problem.
How do we find these distractions? We need to "proof-read" our photos before we show them to others. Look for small errors that distract the viewer; detract from the image; and are easily fixed. Like proof-reading a document to ensure you haven't made grammatical errors, you need to carefully review your images. The processes are very similar. Move slowly through the image, searching for any mistakes or distractions. Ask your friends to look at the image and point out things they find troublesome. Like editing documents, the more you practice image proof-reading, the better you'll get at it. Practice it in your camera's viewfinder, and make it part of your habitual workflow. You'll make better photos and have fewer errors when you get to post-processing.
Our goal as photographers should be to make images that are at their best. We're supposed to shoot the image with better skill than the average person who takes photos three or four times a year. When you can't change the scene inside the camera (the proprietor may have been unhappy with me removing a price tag from his products), I believe you should make the correction in post-processing. Practicing photojournalists are restricted in image alteration, but I'm not a photojournalist, shooting a story about the farmer's market. The prohibition against altering images does not apply to me.
We've discussed altering images before, but I continue to hear arguments from some against the procedure. My opinion is: I don't want to leave any distractions in my images unless I put them there for a specific reason.
I guess I could have rolled the gourd over and hidden the price tag. By doing that, I'm still altering the image - I'm just doing it before I shoot the photo. And what if you can't change distractions in your shooting location? The wires in the train image cannot be brushed aside, but they can be brushed out.
In the next photograph, the model was in a doorway when I went in for a close-up. I captured part of the frame in this image. The sliver of frame ruins the photo, in my opinion. The eye is drawn to the white frame in the original, and the elimination of the frame makes the photo much more pleasing.
A slanted horizon line is another common error. The image below is from a real wedding. My primary focus was catching the couple's kiss, and I, obviously, tilted the camera a bit. Again, this is a simple thing to correct. In fact, I did correct the horizon after the ceremony, in the posed shots. This fix was done in Lightroom in less than 10 seconds with a slight rotation using the crop tool.
Sometimes the cure is more extensive. This flower image was taken on a photowalk, a spur of the moment shot. I knew it wasn't perfect - most flowers outside a greenhouse aren't. I took it into Photoshop and cleaned it up. Here, I made alterations on a larger scale. I still have no problem with the changes. Keep in mind that, except for a few exceptions, you decide what changes you will, or will not, make. My rules do not apply to you.
If I had done a better job of proof-reading the image of the gourds, I would easily have caught the price tag before I put the image on the blog. Practice proof-reading your images, and you'll be happier with the final photograph.