I recently had a ton of fun taking photos in the 6 or so inches of snow we got here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland! We had a perfect snow day – sunny, no wind, with fluffy, powdery snow.
I photographed three horses and a dog and one of them was a lovely chestnut Rocky Mountain Horse named Nechee.
When I quickly flipped through the images as I was uploading them, this one stood out to me as one I really liked. Obviously, it has some issues though.
Normally, I would skip over a shot like this and find another one that had fewer problems, but I loved this moment enough to see if I could save it.
I was prepared for him to run straight towards me – which he did – but then he veered and went to the side. I was shooting vertically and didn’t have time to switch to landscape before he was going to be past me and in even worse light than this. I was also exposed for the light, not the shadows, leaving him a bit darker than I’d like.
My first thought was to crop in closer, which often works when I have accidentally chopped off a body part. So, something like this.
But that’s a pretty heavy crop and I really, really wanted to save the whole picture. So I looked at the shots taken closest to this one. Luckily, the one right before it had the whole body, tail included.
So was this picture worth the additional time it would take to combine the two images, fix the lighting, and do my normal editing to?? I was hoping so!
I began by doing some basic editing to both photos in Lightroom – like brightening, getting detail back in the shadows, bringing down the highlights, adding contrast and some color. Remember, I shoot in RAW, so these things are not done automatically by the camera, as they are for JPEGS.
In this program, you can literally copy and paste settings from one photo to another – which is a HUGE timesaver when editing large batches of similar photos, like from a horse show. I made a few tweaks to the images, making sure to have the settings identical for both photos so they would blend easier.
I then took the images into Photoshop to combine them.
When I was happy with that, I began to work on the lighting. In the original image, he had turned away from the light and was running away from it, causing his head to be darker than his body. I used selective dodging, burning, and curves to manipulate the light to a better place. It’s fairly subtle, so I put them side by side to compare.
Through this, I also removed distracting elements such as extra hoof prints in the snow and the tips of the fence posts in the back.
Once I finished with the image there, I went back to Lightroom. At this point, the photo was almost finished, but I wasn’t happy with the color. So I went ahead and added some vibrance and depth to the image to make it ‘pop’ more. Last thing I did was decide to go back into Photoshop to add more space in front of him, giving him ‘room to run.’
Combining the images and extending the canvas in the front changed the dimensions of the image, but the addition to the original photo is worth the possible printing headache!