Is this fair to highly edit and retouch an image like I did below and enter a Photography contest? Just curious what you all think. I never edit like this BTW and enter, so you might guess how I feel about it.
Those of you that have no clue what I will be explaining here can please vote just to voice an opinion. But if you have little clue how to photo edit, your answer may be no on principle.
I will show you the steps to create the finished image on the right.
Here is the actual jpg original, my worse shot of this statue taken on a bright, sunny day. See how I make it acceptable.
What I did first was crop the image. I did this mostly for working on a close up shot.
Then I selected the statue to isolated the background. I used the Magnetic Lasso tool.
Next, make a copy by hitting Ctrl J to make a new layer and name it statue. Turn off your new layer by clicking the eye to the left of the layer. Hold down the Ctrl key and click the new layer button at the bottom of the Layers Panel. With the color picker, make the selection R 202, G 158, B 119, then click Alt backspace to fill the layer with the new color.
Now on the layer filled with this color, go to the Filter menu and choose, Render>Lighting Effects. Now, if you are on a new Mac like I am, you must change to 32 bit from 64 bit to add the Lighting Effects to the menu. You Windows people no problem. I am giving Windows key strokes, BTW.
Use the default settings. This creates the new lighting background for your image on this separate layer, just like the little preview to the right.
Now we enhance the image itself, not the background. Select your Layer, statue, and hold down the Alt key and go to Adjustment Layer and choose Levels. Check the box to use the previous layer as a clipping mask. This only applies levels to the layer below. Set levels. See the vast improvement?
Choose Curves for increasing contrast. Adjustment>Curves. Set to Strong Contrast for maximum contrast or move the curve until you are pleased. The wavy line moves. Try it. I used Strong Contrast, though.
Now merge all the layers. The keystrokes are Alt+Ctrl+Shift+E to merge into one layer. Name your new layer Final.
Go to the Image menu and scroll to Apply Image. This allows you to control light and color by Channels. I will let you experiment here because it gets a little complicated to try to graphically show you this step. Make sure to be in the RGB Color mode though.
Make a layer copy and choose Convert to Smart Filters. Go to Blur and click Gaussian Blur. Set a value you like. Mine was 2.9.
Change the Blend Mode to Screen and set the opacity to 40%. We softened the lighting with the Blur. Then you merge all the layers again.
Here it gets much more complex, but we can simplify and stop here. I did a few more steps after Flattening to clean up the image. I added a 4 px inside stroke to contain my lighting.
What do you think is fair? Which do you prefer? This is a technique from the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP), called From Simple Images to Creative Ones. I, of course adapted it to one of my images and changed it up a bit.