The 24-Hour Rule

Uh-oh.

I posted the before/after shots of a photo restoration I did a few days ago, but then realized I had broken my own “24 hour” rule. The rule is to let it sit for 24 hours, and then come back to see if I need to do more (or went too far). I was so excited that I could do ANYTHING with that photo, as soon as I picked up the paper from Staples, I ran off a print for my neighbor and took it over to him. Then I came back and looked at it on screen. Really looked at it. Nope, not good enough. <Sigh> Over-enthusiasm made me miss these mistakes:

1. I over-sharpened it. I love a touch of high pass (don’t we all?), but I’d gone a little nuts with it with too many repeat layers. This made some areas of the skin shadows blobby with hard edges. I didn’t really see it on the first 5×7 print, but I sure saw it on the screen when I went back home. Ick.

2. I was timid when enhancing the details. The more I looked at the photo, the more I was able to determine the blobs of light and dark as hair, ear, etc. and paint back some detail. My neighbor assures me the corrected version still looks like his mother. The skin had picked up a weird texture too.

3. There was some sloppy cloning. I missed a double image from the realignment of the torn area. I also found I’d picked up a blob of schmutz with the clone stamp and repeated it! No excuses.

4. The composition was a little off. The subject was drifting to the upper right corner and didn’t look grounded. Why didn’t I crop it the first time? I was too timid to change the original photo too much. Why?! Just fix it! Who’s going to be mad about a few lost pixels of blurry foliage if the end product looks better?

I thought I’d done the best I could, but I hadn’t given it time to cook. I’m still learning to recognize when I’m being too conservative in some areas and when I’m going wild in others like a Bull-in-a-[Photo]shop. But the most important thing I have to remember is to force myself to take a break, 24 hours if possible, and then revisit whatever I’m doing with new eyes. I just can’t see what I’ve missed until after the dust settles in my brain. I have known this for years, and I still don’t always do it!

So, yeah, the 24 hours had indeed passed, but I hadn’t looked at the image again because I was in too much of a rush to print it off and deliver it. It’s still far from perfect, but now I’m going to leave it alone. It turns out tomorrow is his mom’s birthday, which he did not tell me until today. He’s decided to give her the new print framed as a present. I’m glad I could help, and really glad I caught my mistakes in time.

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