Sports photo critiques

Pit crew

I love the original photo of the pit crew below. I especially love the angle and the view of being in the pit lane. You get a real sense of the fast pace that the team work to.  There are however a few minor issues I'd change in the photo. Every photo can be improved right...? 

(1) First and foremost has got to be the clean up. I've ringed these in dark red circles. These tiny elements make my eye wander around the frame too much. I started with the two nuts lying on the floor Then I move anti clockwise around the frame with the spot healing brush, removing the things ringed in red.

(2) Now the photo is free of extra distractions my attention is turned to the red object ringed in green. To me the brightness and saturation of it makes it look fake. It's only the light hitting the object, but I think it needs darkening slightly. So I make a new curves layer in photoshop and drag the curve downwards. I then invert the layer mask and paint over the object with a white brush and around 30% opacity. The opacity of the layer itself is then adjusted to make it look more 'natural'.

(3) The previous two steps are arguably the easiest to fix. Especially in camera. For example, the nuts on the floor in step one could have been picked up when on location. That would save the removal of them in post. But fixing the crowd, or more the lack of crowd is a little harder. I made a new layer and used a combination of clone stamp tool and the healing brush tool with varying opacity. Special care was taken to make the crowd look natural with no obvious repeating patterns.

(4) Global adjustments. We now have our basic image all tidied up,it's now time to make it pop! The original photo for me lacked a little Oomph! Namely contrast. I used a photoshop plugin called color efex pro4 for this photo. The procontrast feature is one of my favourites for adding punch! I added around 50% dynamic contrast and another filter on top called brilliance/warmth. This was to add more warmth to the photo. I took the yellows slider up slightly, then the perceptual saturation slider up until the photo looked good to my eye. Lastly, a vignette. Still in color efex, a draken/lighten filter was added with the default settings used.

(5) Lastly, and back in photoshop, the crowd was darkened. The layer was duplicated with the blending mode set to multiply. A layer mask was added and inverted to allow me to paint in the darkness. A soft brush with around 30% opacity was perfect. Darkening then crowd takes attention away from them and draws more attention to our subject, in this case is the pit crew.

(6) The crop. We haven't cropped this image in any way, this is more about in-camera cropping and watching your frame. On the far right of this photo, can you see the pit crews feet? Notice how one pair are half cut off? If the photographer took one step to the right no feet would have been cut off. Is this minor thing an issue? It depends. As an editor, it drives me crazy. A deliberate crop halfway up the limb is fine, because it is deliberate. As resale-ability goes, the footwear brand also probably wouldn't buy this photo for the same reason. Just be mindful of your crop.

(7) Ok, so this one is more the background and timing. As a photographer, you don't get much control of a situation unfolding around you. As an editor though, it's one of the main things that get looked at. In this photo, a lack of cars racing draws attention to the pit crew. But, it shows a lack of racing... I don't know if the photographer had a certain amount of time in the pits, or if this was even a real race etc but if the photographer could have waited a second or two longer before getting this shot, then the red car under the 77 sign would have been further through the frame. Thus indicating more cars and action/racing going on. 

So there we have it. Check out the before and after photos to see what we did to the photo in steps 1 - 5. 6 and 7 are things to be mindful of and possibly fix when shooting. 

Note: We're basing this critique on personal work as some publications will not accept edited or modified photos, such as removing elements present.