Exercise- Selective Processing and Prominence

Exercise Specification: For this exercise you will use the digital processing methods that you have available on your computer to make two new versions of this image. In one, make the figure less prominent, so that it recedes into the setting. In the second, do the opposite, by making it stand out more.

Selective processing to increase the prominence on either the subject or background is a technique which I have been implementing right from the start of my photography study, after carrying out detailed research into processing and editing techniques. Therefore, this was a great exercise which aided me in explaining the techniques that I use, and showing how these effect my images. I selected this relatively simply image below. The mother and son are sitting on a bench looking over the ocean. This image was taken for my next assignment, but simply didn’t make the cut in final selection. I love the serene feel to this candid image, which captures a moment in these two anonymous figures lives. See the original image unedited below.

Original Image-


Prominent Background- In order to place a greater emphasis and prominence on the background I followed a few simple steps. Firstly, I selected the two figures, and refined the edge through feathering in order to ensure a smooth blend of layers. I then inversed this selection- thereby selecting the entire image except the two figures. My next step was to create a new curves layer, using this to increase the contrast of the selected background. I experimented with further decreasing contrast on the two figures, but this resulted in too much of a variation between the depth in the two elements of the image. I find with editing that experimenting with different techniques is hugely important. When editing an image, I make a few different variations, which I then re-visit at a later date and select the strongest version. In the image below, the background is nicely contrasted; therefore ensuring that it is quite prominent. The contrast has also saturated the colours, creating a bright and vibrant background with seemingly dull figures that somewhat blend in to their surroundings.

IMG_6653 (1)

Prominent Subjects- For this version, I wanted the subjects to absolutely stand out from the background. I use this technique regularly whilst processing portrait images. Firstly, I followed the same steps to select the subjects as previously described, and then simply increased contrast on just the subjects. Following this, I inversed my selection and created a curves layer to decrease the contrast of just the background. Still excluding the subjects, I then created a fill layer of very light grey, adjusting the mode to soft light, and layer opacity to 30% (I used a higher opacity than normal in order to clearly show my technique for this exercise.) This results in a washed out and flat background, with a prominent subject. Hereby making the subject the focus of the image.


Editing is a simple way to choose a select part of any image which one would like to stand out. It enables the photographer to manipulate how the viewer sees the image; by picking and choosing which elements of the image they want the viewer to notice first.


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