Andy Hawthorne

Thoughts, stories and ideas

Trying Out Photographic Manipulation

An interesting project to try is photographic manipulation of normal things.

Photographic manipulation is a contentious subject. There are those who hate it because the photos are not “real”. And there are those who believe it is a way to unlock true creativity.

I thought I’d give it a go in a way that was obvious. Because that way, I could test my Lightroom skills and learn new tricks along the way.

The first task was to pick a subject. I chose road signs. I thought: they are everywhere we look. What would happen if I disconnected them from their posts and poles?

In the photo above, the sign hangs there, disconnected. The more you look at the photo, the stranger the effect is. Your brain is saying: it’s a sign, boring, move on. But then, something makes you look again. And the disconnected nature of it is unsettling.

Another sign of of photographic manipulation

It’s the same with this one, right? Yeah, it’s a sign – big deal. But then, wait a minute, what’s going on? I took out the posts that the signs connect to the ground with. A little bit of Lightroom magic and there you go.

A sign

Here’s another one. Same effect. It does raise another question: is photographic manipulation an ok thing to do?

I’d argue it is, when it’s being doing for creative purposes. Like in these photos. But when the manipulation is deceptive because it’s subtle, then that is questionable.

Another sign

This one was a bit more of a challenge. It was outside a pub and there was more stuff to remove to get the right effect. I like the fact that there is a lady standing at the bus stop. It creates a point of reference to normality. When the photo is not normal at all. You might think this sign was standing on the street. On pegs into the ground or something like that.

No, It wasn’t. It was on a metal frame standing clear of the ground. It had two legs connecting with the ground. The fact that the bottom of the sign aligns with the pavement behind is not a happy accident. I moved position until it did – when I took the photo. Because I could see how this photo was going to work before I’d done the manipulation.

One more sign

That’s one of the things I discovered. You need to plan photos that you want to manipulate like any other photo.

Once I started taking photos of signs, I got into the concept. And when my mind settled on it, I was able to see the photos in their finished form.

That’s a a good photographic skill to develop in general terms. But for manipulation practice, it’s vital.

The main Lightroom tool I used was the healing brush. A combination of that and some patience did the job.

Photographic manipulation is controversial. But it is also fun. You can come up with all sorts of projects to try out your Lightroom skills with. It doesn’t have to be Lightroom, any editor with a healing tool will work.

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