How do we do it?

We are often asked how we manage to photograph remote locations without long hikes?

The answer?

We don't. People assume that the locations are remote because they don't see people in the background. I make strategic decisions to create the scene, then use post processing software to remove distractions. A recent photo session with Anika was a perfect example of these techniques. We wanted a few photos at a popular spot by the river. We're careful about social distancing, so we wanted a location that wouldn't require a lot of driving or walking on narrow trails. We knew that any river spot would be popular for swimmers this time of year.

So we chose a place downstream from most of the swimmers. This placed people well into the background of the scene. The first step was taking a photo for the overall composition of the scene. Below is the Straight-out-of-Camera (SOOC) image (no edits). And the same image after my edits for color and contrast.

Straight out of Camera

With edits before corrections in the background

The first step is getting the image looking pretty. Then you see plenty of people around in the water and shore.

One technique that I employ when we are on location is to make sure that the subject (Anika) isn't overlapping with distractions in the background. This makes removing distractions so much easier. Especially around hair. If you can avoid distractions right near the subject, it's far easier to remove them later. I also knew that this scene would be easier to work with because the background has a lot of texture. Symmetrical lines are a lot harder to use for hiding distractions.

So, on the scene, we look to place distractions farther back into the scene. It's harder to "hide" someone that's taking up a large chunk of the frame than small little shapes in the distance. We try not to have distractions right up against the subject. And we take multiple frames so we have more to work with in post processing if we need them. For example, in this scene, I wanted more space off to the side where she looked, because it felt a little off balance to have more space on the right side of the frame when she looked off towards the left side of the frame.

My first post-processing plan used a separate image to build more space along the left side of the frame. I use Photoshop and masking to blend two images together. Maybe I'll write a post about that later if people are interested.

Image A where I want more space on the left side of the frame

Image B gave more space on the left side so I could use it to build the scene

Once I had the composition the way that looked good, I removed distractions in Photoshop. I use the healing brush to clean up the shores and water. Luckily this scene is forgiving with all of the textural elements.

It's also important to heal reflections in the water so that streaks don't draw the eye to elements that don't make sense (like bright blue reflections with no blue above it). The human eye is very good at sensing discrepancies in an environment. We may not know why it doesn't look right, just that it looks "wrong" somehow. Fortunately the water also has texture that makes healing easier.

And thus, the final image:

Anika off in the middle of nowhere without another soul in sight :)

Of course, the model needs to be okay with being seen out and about. In our case, it was fun because we did pass a group that said, "Oh, wait, are you Katara?!?" And then hummed the theme song to Avatar, The Last Airbender.

Learning ways to make photography magic gives me tremendous flexibility for making artwork that shares a story with all elements contributing to that story. Each part of the process has a learning curve. Bringing it all together is fun to create. And share!

If you have an idea, yet struggle to make it happen because distractions keep getting in the way, let's schedule a session to take photos together. Magic is fun to share :)