The Art Of Distortion


1          Correct lens distortion



2          Remove or reduce panoramic stitch distortions


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3          Modify proportion globally including the aspect ratio of the frame



4          Modify proportion locally within the frame

5a_Antarctica_2009-CII copy


5          Change proximity



6          Enhance gesture

We accept the distortions angle of view and lens choice create without a second thought yet rarely do we give a second thought to the possibilities of expressively distorting our photographs during post-processing. The dazzling array of new tools at our disposal begs us to reconsider this. You need to know what’s possible, whether your goal is to correct the distortions introduced by the tools you use or to aesthetically refine or expressively enhance your images, a little or a lot, or to simply know what other photographers have done so that you can understand their creations better. Learn to see with new eyes and a vast new horizon of possibilities will reveal itself to you.
Awareness of the distortions produced by an angle of view and lens choice is the beginning of using them creatively. Curiously, permission is the beginning of using distortion in post-processing creatively. Many people have been told that it’s inappropriate to do so. Why? Why accept an unintended mechanical bi-product but not a consciously intended effect? Why take such a powerful tool for expression off the table? While you can, you don’t have to distort your images to the point that they look like they’re being seen in a fun house hall of mirrors. Even the subtlest applications of distortion can produce powerful results. Once you understand what kinds of distortions are possible in post-processing you’ll frequently find yourself changing your angle of view or repositioning yourself during exposure.
6 Strategies For Using Distortion In Images
Here’s a short list of six strategies you can use when considering distorting your images creatively.
1          Correct lens distortion; straighten a horizontal or vertical while correcting barrel or pin cushion distortion.
2          Remove or reduce panoramic stitch distortions; undistort edges or smooth out uneven horizontals or verticals.
3          Modify proportion globally including the frame; make images more or less horizontal or vertical or even turn one into another.
4          Modify proportion locally within the frame; adjust the height and width of both objects and areas.
5          Change proximity; push together or pull apart items.
6          Enhance or change gesture; make a leaning object more tilted or straighten it out.
Photoshop's 11 Weapons Of Mass Distortion

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FADP Highlight – Svetlanda Tepavcevic – It's Printmaking Not Just Photography

Svetlana Tepavcevic makes abstract black and white images of waves that look like ink paintings.
We discussed the importance of scale and presentation agreeing that classic photographic small scale matted approaches reduced the impact of the images. A larger scale with a different presentation format will highlight the more painterly concerns of these images. So will appropriate materials – something matte and fibrous.
The source files aren’t super high resolution, but that’s a non-issue because the treatment of the subject supports substantial upsampling. It’s another case of how the “rules” are only useful guidelines that identify significant considerations and raise important questions but there are always exceptions. They say “Exceptions prove the rule.” And, there’s an art to knowing when to make them.

See more of Svjetlana Tepavcevic’s work here.

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Printing – Ideal Viewing Distance

Scale changes ideal viewing distance.
To see a 4×5” print you have to get close to it. You can’t see anything but its shape and color from the end of a long hall. To see a 6×10’ print in its entirety you have to stand well away from it. If you stand very close to it, you won’t be able to see the whole image, much less anything else.
The rule of thumb for determining ideal viewing distance is to stand at three times a print’s diagonal dimension. This tends to place the entire image well within a viewer’s field of vision in such a way that overall general detail can be resolved at once, minimizing panning and scanning.
Of course, zooming happens. Both artists and viewers tend to view works of art from many different distances; examining details closely and evaluating a total composition distantly. Viewing distance changes perceived scale. Viewing distance subtly changes the quality of the viewing experience. So viewers tend to compare a variety experiences, dynamically forming a total impression of a work of art.
What do you think the ideal viewing distance for prints is? Comment here!
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Printing – Test Scale

When it comes to scale, there are many factors involved – aesthetic, practical, commercial. To determine what scale(s) is most appropriate for your work, you need to weigh all of these factors and their importance to you. Only you can determine this. My recommendation is to test scale with your work. View your work (projected and/or printed) at many different scales. If possible, make side-by-side comparisons. Do this and you and your work benefit in many ways. There’s no substitute for actually experiencing what scale can do to or for your work.
Do you have to settle on one size? Certainly not. If you choose to present your work in multiple scales, that is a statement in itself. An artist makes many choices in order to craft a total statement with his or her work. Your choices determine what your work becomes. Make your work even better. Make conscious informed choices.
Do you have a favorite scale for photographs? Comment here!
Check out my Printing downloads here.
Check out my DVD The Art of Proofing here.

Find out about my The Fine Digital Print Workshop Series here.

Printing – Big Prints

Scale can have a dramatic impact on the way images are experienced.
We’ve been printing up a storm here! All the prints are made on an Epson 11880. The prints can be very large. Up to 64″. How big do I typically print? Generally under 30×40″. Would I like to print bigger? Yes! Why don’t I print bigger more often?
Here’s the problem. How do you handle them during production? How do you present them (framed or unframed)? How will they fit in the exhibition space? How do you store them? When you get really big, all of these practical considerations become really significant.
New possibilities bring new opportunities and challenges.
How big have you printed? What did you do to overcome these considerations? Comment here!
Check out my Printing downloads here.
Check out my DVD The Art of Proofing here.

Find out about my The Fine Digital Print Workshop Series here.

Appropriate Scale – Fine Digital Print Expert Workshop

One of the many things that it’s valuable to test is optimum scale. Images affect us differently at different scales. Small prints draw you close to them providing an intimate experience. Large prints envelope you in an immersive experience requiring a greater distance to see the entire image. One of the things my workshop students do is find optimum scales for their images. While there are many practical considerations that may modify their final choices (like final presentation space), determining an optimum scale reveals an artist’s intention and the nature of their work more clearly. How do you determine optimum scale? Test it! There’s no substitute for fully experiencing the effects of changing scale. Make different sized prints and compare them side by side. Alternately, projecting an image on a wall at different scales can be similarly revealing. Here, again, side by side comparison reveals more. Then, put your impressions into words – verbally or in writing.
Here veteran professional landscape and garden photographer Roger Foley shows two prints of the same image at different scales. While he feels a larger scale is ideal for his imagery, he’ll sometimes make smaller prints to accommodate smaller presentation spaces and client requests.
Find out more about Roger Foley here.
Look for my upcoming article on Scale in Photoshop User magazine. Find out about PSU here.
Find out about my Fine Digital Print Workshop series here.
Find out about The Fine Digital Print Expert workshop here.