Photo Tip: Creating space when post processing

When shooting wildlife, many of us use the center focus point to make sure we get the very sharpest and in focus image we can.  In case you don’t know, for many camera’s that center focus point is a ‘cross type’ focusing point whereas many of the other focus options on the camera focus based on a single axis.  While this may give you the sharpest image, it really doesn’t allow one to optimize composition.  In addition to this not helping composition, we are encouraged when possible to ‘fill the frame’, which essentially means to get as many pixels as possible on the main subject so you will have better potential for editing, sharpening and, most importantly, printing.

While both of the above points of advice are great for getting the shot, they sometimes present limitations when post processing your images.  An example where I have had this problem is shown below:

Way too centered and no room to crop

Note that though it’s a nice shot of a baby elephant, it’s just too tight.  A stronger composition would have room to the right for the elephant to ‘move into’.

Well here is a very quick and neat way to add in some extra canvas, and fill it with original picture information so it matches the rest of the image perfectly. It takes 30 seconds and requires no fiddling with the clone stamp and paint brush – which also makes this technique ideal for Photoshop beginners as well as more advanced users.  Note, I use CS3, but expect commands will be similar in CS4 or later versions.

. The way a lot of people would tackle this is to extend the canvas and use the clone stamp and paint brush to try and put some detail back in the shot. This method is fine but quick cloning usually creates a repretion pattern and blending of colors or shades in afternoon light can be trick.  I probably could have cloned on this shot, but we are trying to show a quick simple alternative options.

Step 1: Extend the canvas
The first thing I want to do is extend the canvas so I have some room to work with. I do this by going to Image – Canvas Size and entering the new measurement in the Canvas Size box as per the image below.

Note the original size is shown at the top of the message and I have plugged in a new size below. Also note that I have shifted the position of the original so the canvas only expands on the right.

You can add as little or as much as you want.  Note that  you can select where to ‘anchor’ the original.  By clicking on the left of the 9 box matrix, the canvas will only expand to the right side.

Step 2: Make your selection
Instead of cloning some of the image on to the new bit of canvas, we are simply going to use some of what is already there and stretch it across a little. To do this I need to first make a selection of the area I want to extend across, and I will do this with the Marquee tool – which looks like a square made up of dotted lines. It can be found top left of your tool palette in Photoshop.

By right clicking on the marquee icon, one can select a round or square marquee selector. We want square.

Now, what I have done is highlighted the area I want to stretch, there isn’t much space to play with as the duck is so near the edge of the frame, but there is just enough to make a usable selection.

Tip for larger images: The bigger the area you can select to stretch the better as if you stretch a section of image too far it will start to pixelate, so keep an eye out that you don’t take things too far.

Note the 'marching ants' indicate the area selected with the marquee tool.

Next you will want to copy that selection and paste it into a new layer.  There are shortcuts, but the basic way to create a new layer from a selected areas is shown on the path below:

While there are advanced copy and paste methods for creating a new layer, this is a basic path for creating the new layer

Step 3: Extending the selection
Ok, so now I have made the selection and copied it to it’s own layer. Next I want to stretch it by going to Edit – Free Transform in the drop down menu at the top of the screen or by hitting CTRL T on the keyboard.  A note of caution, always glance at your layers prior to selecting to make sure you are on the correct layer.

Make sure you are on the right layer before selecting the Free Transfom option

The selected area now has six little boxes around it, these allow me to drag the selected area in any direction. I want to click and hold on the right hand side middle one and pull it across to the right – not too far but just enough to give the duck space to swim in to.

Tip: You can drag the box in any direction using the little squares, so you can stretch your selection in diagonals too if you need, not just in straight lines.

My screen capture doesn't show this, but when you hover over the perimeter lines on Free Transform, directional arrows will guide you on your options.

Once I have stretched as far as I need, I hit enter to confirm the transformation and turn the transform function off.

And that’s it, all done! Now all I need to do is flatten the image (Layer – Flatten Image) and crop to taste. The whole process takes about 30 seconds from start to finish and gives a much cleaner look than cloning does as you’re using picture information that is already there so it looks natural.  Below is my finished image with the new crop.

Now our little guy has a little more room to 'walk into'

2 comments for “Photo Tip: Creating space when post processing

  1. Kayla Stevenson
    March 30, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    What a great tip! And easy too. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Kayla Stevenson
    March 30, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    What a great tip! And easy too. Thanks for sharing it.

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