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Making Salable Photos out of Lemons

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Copyright Scott Bourne 1998 - All Rights Reserved

By Scott Bourne

I was photographing a wedding for a friend. She picked June because it’s typically a nice sunny month in Seattle. Unfortunately, the Sun didn’t get the memo and was in hiding. The outdoor lighting was terrible. I had all my strobes set up in the church and was outside taking a break when I spotted this cute little ring bearer. I knew the light sucked, but made the shot anyway and came away with the first image.

Great pose – great look on his face – terrible light. Here comes Photoshop to the rescue.

I imported the RAW file into Photoshop and quickly realized I had little to work with, so I decided to make the image a black and white photo. I used the Channel Mixer to create a monochrome image on a layer. Channel Mixer gives you far more control over your image than simply converting via IMAGE > MODE > GRAYSCALE. After a bit of tweaking – the image came out greatly improved. See picture two.

But it was still missing something that made it sing. Aha! I made the correction on a layer so I simply made a Quick Mask and erased the top layer over the boy’s flower. (I just did it freehand – no need to make a fancy mask or selections.)

The final result is the last image.

Copyright Scott Bourne 1998 - All Rights Reserved

The ultimate judge as to whether or not this little exercise was successful was the boy’s father. Fortunately, he and the bride loved it. She paid it the ultimate compliment by ordering more than a dozen enlargements of this one image.

The lesson is simple. Don’t be too quick to throw away that so-so photo. If the pose and expression are good, you may still have a money maker.


Written by scottbourne

March 23, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Posted in Sales

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19 Responses

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  1. Looks great in B&W. I can’t tell you how many salvageable images I’ve found by going back through my photo library. I guess I don’t trash anything. Also the reason my 8TB Drobo is full!

    Scott Stuart

    March 23, 2010 at 2:47 pm

  2. great work! You couldn’t be more correct – although it definitely depends on the case, you can “save” those photos you didn’t think were up to par. Thanks for the writeup.


    March 23, 2010 at 2:48 pm

  3. the same technique can be applied to some blurry photos as well. As many here have confessed I too have salvaged some questionable images by processing those images into black and white thus granting them another chance to live as a print instead of my recycle bin.


    March 23, 2010 at 3:04 pm

  4. Great post. I would love to see more before and after posts.

    Dave Dugdale

    March 23, 2010 at 4:30 pm

  5. Excellent work Scott!

    Yeah, I’ve tried B&W technique couple of times under same kind of situation. 🙂

    Aqeel K

    March 23, 2010 at 4:37 pm

  6. OH yes the black and white with the red rose is awesome! Great save!


    March 23, 2010 at 4:50 pm

  7. Ummm… is it just me? I don’t see anything wrong with the original. It’s awesome.


    March 23, 2010 at 4:56 pm

  8. Great reminder! Loving the new site, great work guys.



    March 23, 2010 at 4:57 pm

  9. I learned this by accident playing around with a photo I was very disappointed in. This:

    Kevin, Carriage Tour Horse

    The original was flat, with the horse not standing out from the background. The trees were dull, and it just stunk. I decided to play with the sepia feature in Aperture before nuking the image — it is now among my favorites.

    Bill Read

    March 23, 2010 at 5:39 pm

  10. Thanks, Scott! Converting to B&W is something I don’t hardly (ever!) think of when trying to save a photo – hopefully now that you mentioned it, it’ll be something to think about more often…


    March 23, 2010 at 8:15 pm

  11. Great save. Love the red rose. It’s amazing how much clearer (less blurry) the subject looks in B&W. Another reason to learn Photoshop asap.


    March 24, 2010 at 10:37 am

  12. I had to take some photos inside a dark church with no ability to use a flash. I was using my 20D at the time (wish I had a 5D2) and pushed ISO to 1600 already. I ended up making those pics to B&W..


    March 24, 2010 at 8:51 pm

  13. Oh how I love me some Photoshop! 🙂

    Rob Byron

    March 25, 2010 at 8:42 pm

  14. I’ve done the black and white thing on a few occasions. Mostly when my focus was just a little off so things ended up a little too blurry. Often it seems to give things a very vintage look, and I’ve found that seems to make people happy.


    March 30, 2010 at 9:29 am

  15. After adding the adjustment layer, it appears to me that you did more than just one thing. The original is quite noisy and your final b/w is super smooth. What all, specifically, did you do to get that final image?


    March 30, 2010 at 11:21 am

  16. @slonkak I don’t recall what if any additional changes I made – the point of the post was not a lesson in Photoshop but rather to show you that you can save so-so pics and make money on them. I might have used Photoshop’s built-in noise reduction. I took this picture before modern-day tools like Noise Ninja were released. However, in the case of certains kinds of noise, you will indeed notice a major noise reduction simply by converting to B&W.


    March 30, 2010 at 12:06 pm

  17. VERY true. I’ve learned the same lesson when something doesn’t appear to work out. There’s always options – and sometimes it ends up better than what you were going for in the first place.

    Chris Horner

    March 30, 2010 at 4:04 pm

  18. As it’s been said, When your camera gives you lemons make lemonade. …er adding sugar like this really sweetens it up!

    John Erdovegi

    April 23, 2010 at 8:11 am

  19. Great reminder! I have several photos that just don’t seem to be working–but I have a feeling a bit of tweeking in B&W will make some of them pop.


    April 26, 2010 at 6:26 pm

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