Sometimes You Can


I hadn’t planned on another photography post so soon — but as I was getting some photos ready for my personal blog, I came across a photo that was priceless to me. My son’s expression is exactly what I see in my head when I think of him, but the photo was BAD. I mean really, really bad. But it captured the essence of who he is and so I rescued it. And as I did it, I wrote this post so you can see that SOMETIMES YOU CAN save a really bad photo.

There is a difference between portraiture and getting some great pictures of your kids. As I have advanced (little by little) in my photography skills and knowledge I have a tendency to want every shot to be a “perfect” shot. I can spend too much time messing with my settings, getting the kids eyes faced the right direction, and making sure there are no boogies present that I miss the moment. I think most professional photographers will say that the one thing they struggle with after going pro is continuing to take photos of their own kids and/or the desire for every shot to be good enough to blow up on 30×40 gallery wrapped canvas. But there is definitely a time and place for “snapshots” that will fill our photo albums and scrapbook pages. Not every picture has to be perfect.

I am usually a proponent of “don’t fix the photo, take a better one.” I don’t advocate trying to salvage tons of really bad photos. The many hours spent editing bad photos could be put to better use in learning to take better photos. But you know what, we all have our days or moments and we get great photo that’s bad. And sometimes, you CAN save a bad photo.

The other day my sweet Levi was running around like a crazy boy. He saw my camera was out so he ran back and forth through the living room and out the front door while I pretended to “get” him with the camera. Ever changing lighting conditions and a fast little kid resulted in this awful photo.


The picture quality is horrid but the expression was priceless. It is just so “him” and I knew it was worth saving. And the end result was much better than anticipated. Here is what I did.

1. Duplicate layer and change the blending mode to the duplicated layer to SCREEN.


2. Duplicate the SCREEN layer until the lighting in the photo is more “normal”. In my example, I ended up duplicating six times for a total of 7 layers.


This was the result of the screened layers. The picture is definitely better and I could stop here, but my perfectionistic tendencies wouldn’t allow for it.


3. Add a brightness/constrast adjustment layer and adjust to taste. Due to the repetitive screening, some of the photo (especially his face) is washed out. I added a brightness/contrast adjustment layer to fix that.




At this point, I could stop. The photo is perfectly good for a photo album, my scrapbook, or for sending to grandmas. But since I like my photos to look I took a great picture straight out of the camera, I was bothered by something: The noise in the photo. Noise in photos is caused by two things:

1. A high ISO (used when there isn’t enough natural light)

2. When a picture is underexposed.

In my photo, the ISO was set to 400. On my camera that level of ISO does not usually present noise. However, it obvious that my photo was severely underexposed. And therefore, I got lots of noise. Here is a 100% crop of part of the photo and you can see what I am talking about.


So, how do you fix it? Photoshop has some native noise reduction filters but I much prefer a program called Noiseware. Noiseware is a Photoshop plugin or standalone program that greatly aids in noise reduction. There is even a free standalone version for people using Windows (scroll down to the bottom where it says Noiseware Community Edition Standalone). Sorry, but us Mac girls have to buy it. But it was totally worth it!

Just open your photo, go to Filter >Imagenomic and a noiseware window will pop up. I have not even attempted to play with the settings because the default ones that come up are so good.


Just click okay and your noise is gone! See the difference?

noisebeforePHOTO BEFORE with noise

noiseafterPHOTO after running NOISEWARE

See! Sometimes you CAN save a really bad photo. I will cherish this photo for a long time. His personality, his smile, his dimple, his blankie…it all just shines through…thanks to Photoshop.