The picture above shows a 1939 Delahaye 165 Cabriolet automobile which was on display at the 2009 Meadowbrook Hall Concours d'Elegance in Rochester Hills, Michigan. This car won the Best in Show - Foreign award at that show, an award I feel was well deserved.
I love taking pictures of classic automobiles, unfortunately I'm mostly limited to taking pictures at shows, and shows aren't the best place to get great images. The lighting is dependent on the weather, you have crowds to deal with, and the cars are generally placed close together which makes it difficult to get a great shot. I was lucky on this shot. The car next to this one was being driven as part of a 'pass in review' which gave me more room to get this shot. There were still issues with people and the background, but I managed to find a way to eliminate or at least reduce their impact on the image.
The image below shows what the picture looked like out of the camera. There were distracting elements, such as the information placard in the front of the car, the cars behind the Delahaye, and of course the people.
Here are the steps I took to convert the raw image to the finished image you see at the top. If you mouse over the images below, you should see the effect that step had on the image.
Step 1 - Improve Contrast
Raw images almost always need some sort of contrast/white balance correction and this image is no exception. The color balance wasn't too bad, but the image was sort of flat. I used a Curves layer to add a bit of an 'S' contrast curve, pushing the image just a bit darker. I liked the added contrast, but later on I worked to brighten the image up a bit. I also decided that there was too much grass in front of the car, so I cropped the image.
Step 2 - Remove Distractions
In the process of cloning out the distractions I used a couple different layers. I used a combination of the Clone Stamp tool along with the Patch tool to eliminate the information placard, some crud in the grass in front of the car and some dark elements along the left hand side. On one of the cloning layers I used a layer mask to eliminate some bleed-over which occurred on the hood of the car. I think I used the patch tool to get the grass the way I wanted, but that affected the hood.
Step 3 - Brighten Image
The next step I took was to brighten the overall image. I used the Topaz Adjust filter to add crispness and adjust the brightness of the image.
Step 4 - Simplify Surroundings
This next step made the biggest change in the image, at least to my mind. There were too many people in the shot to do any sort of cloning, but I felt that unless I did something the background would be a distraction competing with the car. I've starting using the Topaz Simplify filter to 'simplify' distracting elements. I find the filter does really nice things with grass, trees and even people. If used on a whole image, it can give the appearance of a painting, but I didn't want a painting.
When I use the filter, I generally use the 'BuzSim' preset and make changes from the defaults used by that preset. Most of the time I just leave the settings at their default. Once the filter has been applied, I then create a layer mask and mask out the parts of the image that I don't want 'simplified'. Sometimes I'll also reduce the overall opacity of the filter to let some of the underlying elements come through. In the case of this image, I wanted the car to be sharp and everything else I wanted to be 'simplified'.
Step 5 - Adjust Saturation
At this point I was mostly happy with the way the image looked. The only thing that bothered me a bit was the color of the car, I felt that it was just a little to red. I used the HSL tool to desaturate the reds and yellows a bit and to my eye it looks better.
The steps I took to get the end result may not have been optimal but I like the end result. What do you think?
Comments and feedback welcome.
Image and text Copyright © 2009 James W. Howe - All rights reserved
Please visit my Automobile Details gallery at ImageKind to see this, and other automotive images.