Anatomy of a Photo: A Scenic Shot on a Windy Day

I recently finished editing photos from our first con of 2019, MAGFest. (I will post more on those soon, but I am behind on event recaps, so I need to catch up first.) The weather this year at MAGFest was a little warmer than normal (the con takes place the first week of January, typically), which meant we could do some photos outdoors around National Harbor. But it was pretty windy at times, which made for some interesting logistical challenges in getting the best shots. I was able to come up with a couple solutions after the fact through editing, and I thought I would share the results.

Here is the finished final photo. I wanted a vintage-styled picture of me contemplating the water and looking slightly windswept. Accent on the slightly windswept.

However, the strong breezes down by the water had other ideas. Most of the shots we got looked like this one, with way more billowing fabric and blowing hair than I wanted.

To counteract this, I tried turning my body into the wind relative to where Mike was shooting, but then, as you can see from this photo, that brought the Capital Ferris Wheel into the frame, which was not the look we were going for.

Thus, I ended up with just this shot to work with that had the right amount of windswept-ness and the right background. This is the original, with only lens corrections applied.

Obviously there are a number of issues with the raw photo. Besides being underexposed, the biggest problem is that we had not framed things with enough room to my left, because we had been struggling with the strong wind blowing in our faces at the time. I also had been fussing with my hair in the breeze, which meant that this shot caught me mid-head turn, instead of looking into the distance. But this photo has the best billowing effects on my dress, so I still thought it was the one worth building from.

Here is the photo after some basic Lightroom adjustments, mainly exposure and cropping. We still have the composition issue with the left hand side of the image and my inappropriate head positioning, which I dealt with in the next step.

I brought the picture into Photoshop for some more drastic edits, summarized here.

First, to fix the composition, I increased the size of the canvas on the left and top. Then I used a combination of the content-aware fill tool and the clone tool to extend the sky, clouds, bridge, water, and rocks to fill the larger canvas. Now the photo actually has some distance for me to look off in to.

Second, to deal with my turned head, I went back to look at the other images we shot to find one that had a better head position. I ended up choosing this one. The billowing of the dress here is less what I wanted, but my head position is perfect. I copied just the head part of this image and placed it in the photo I was working on, blending the layers together using the masking tools.

Then I did some more minor touch-ups, like removing the highway signs on the bridge. Here is the result.

After I was done with my Photoshop work, I brought the image back into Lightroom to do some additional exposure, contrast, and color adjustments. I ended up producing two versions of the final photo. One that is more natural, and another that has a more vintage photo feel.



6 thoughts on “Anatomy of a Photo: A Scenic Shot on a Windy Day

  1. Nice job, and a great example of why to take several shots in case you need to combine elements of several to get the perfect shot. (I totally change up heads on photos where necessary too!)

  2. Thank you so much for breaking this down! I have never thought to use photoshop to re-frame something by extending the canvas, and it’s such a good idea!! It’s so hard during events to frame images perfectly, both because of environmental factors like signs (or wind!) and because usually there’s only a few minutes to get something shot. I really appreciate seeing all of your photography work, so thank you for sharing it 🙂

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