Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Digital Composites

Nowadays, digital composites are everywhere. While editorial images should be honest and unmodified, there seems to be no limit with advertising and promotional works. We received a recent example of this when we got our copy of a Russian calendar featuring some of our polar bear photos.

Our photo as it appears in a Russian polar bear calendar

The original photo

I like what they've done by adding a horizon, which breaks up the white-on-white of the photo, and also adds some blue which goes well with the off-white of the polar bears. Take a closer look, and you'll see they also added catch lights to the eyes. When naturally occurring, these are a desirable and attractive element in photography. They add a sparkle to the eye and bring attention to it. However, it has to be believable when added digitally. Catch lights usually indicate a light source, so there should be some shadows in the photo, and this one was taken under overcast skies. They are also pretty extreme in the cubs eyes on top, and perhaps would be more pleasing toned down some.

An interesting thing about catch lights is they are often used to determine if a photo is faked. Sometimes it is obvious, if for example different people or animals in a photo have catch lights in different positions of their eye, or some are missing, etc. In some cases, advanced software is even used to calculate light sources and angles when it is critical to determine if a photo is legitimate.

We sometimes create digital composites and post them on our web site if we think some creative modifications can be made. When we do, we are sure to make a clear statement in the photo caption information, and confirm with the client that it's OK before completing a sale.

Here are two examples:

This totem is not really a composite because it originates from only one file, but so much "digital lighting" is done that we list it as a digitally modified image.

This photo was created from several photos for a request for a commercial fishing boat in a clearing storm. The original boat was photographed on a sunny day, and several layers of mountains, clouds, and rain were added.


Troy Bouffard said...

Nice! The explanation along with the subjects is impressive and easily understood.

Traveler said...

The real question is: Did the Russians pay you for the photo?