Photoediting and
Photo Restoration Services

At Graphic Fusion, I try to make a wide variety of services available for all of your your photoediting needs. Among other things, I am a very experienced graphic editor who can work the necessary magic to turn ordinary photographs into something quite presentable, if not framable. Similarly, I am skilled at restoring torn, scratched, spotted, and faded family photos. In fact photoediting is my specialty. I have done extensive work with computer-aided graphic editing since since 1996, mostly in the capacity of web authoring, then in amateur photography, and finally as a professional photographer. Prior to that, my image experimentation dates back to my early teen years, when I would superimpose images in the darkroom, work with burning and dodging techniques, experiment with image distortions in radically modified cameras, and combine hand editing with contact proofing techniques to create dense "fog blankets."

Unlike too many graphic professionals today, I have a keen awareness of an image's "information" content and have developed a workflow that maximally preserves information. Editing sessions are substantially pre-planned with a minimum of strategically ordered steps. The result is sharper images with greater detail, less noise, cleaner edges, and smoother color transitions.

What can be accomplished with an image? Just about anything, so long as it has enough information. "Anything" includes color correction, brightness level correction, cropping, resizing, retouching, deletion of items/features, addition or substitution of items/features, change of position of items/features, perspective corrections, correction for some lens defects, some degree of compression artifact reduction and digital noise reduction, multitudes of special effects, addition of lines and text, soft focusing, diffusion, and many, many more things. Although some of these manipulations are easy for amateurs to do a reasonably well (but usually not optimally), many are very technically challenging and require an intimate understanding of editing software, as well as extensive experience in image editing. This sort of understanding often comes from direct communications with the software programmers, extending well beyond the level of information provided in the user manuals. With images of reasonable quality, I can perform radical manipulations that look realistic, not stiched, patched, and hacked together.

Shown below are some of the examples of image editing that I perform everyday. Please examine them to see what I can do for your graphic images. If you like what you see, please contact me to discuss your graphic editing needs. I think you will find my rates to be competitive and my work to be of a high caliber.

Sarah Fox,
Graphic Fusion

"Gods of the Harvest" is an excellent example of colorization and background substitution. The objective of the image was to be a somewhat surrealistic parady of the stone gods of Easter Island, at least as they are commonly portrayed. This required saturated colors, clear blue skies, and no trees (which were cut down on Easter Island). The image was separated into three layers: the hay bales, the grassy field, and a stock sky shot taken in another location. The hay layer was colorized, and then carefully feathered and cloned to eliminate the choppy appearance of most cut jobs. Grass blades were added individually to the grass layer to overlap the bases of the bales, and the horizon line was softened for realism. These are the results. Note the high magnification detail shot, which shows the success of the blending methods.

Before... After...

"Stroll in the Snow" was another difficult photograph. I saw these two strolling down the street in front of this historic building just a little bit too late. By the time I could get into position for the photograph, these two had walked too far down the street for proper composition of the photograph. I took the photo anyway, knowing that I could correct the problem later. This is a classic example of rearranging a photo. To achieve this, I had to selectively copy the people, rescale them appropriately according to calculations made on the photograph (high school trigonometry!), paste them into the correct positions, again assisted by mathematical computations to preserve proper scale, and then clone over the original figures with snow. Those were the easy manipulations. Surprisingly, the most difficult manipulation in a snow scene is adjusting the brightness curve to keep the image "blustery" but still maintain brightness.

Before... After...

"Carolina Girl" was taken during a heavy snowfall. The exposure obviously wasn't optimal, but I had to shoot very quickly, because my lens was getting wet. Once the color and contrast corrections had been made, I had a very boring photograph, because the sky was washed out. I couldn't manipulate the contrast curve to bring out any drama in the sky, because too much of the foreground was the same lightness as the sky. To solve this problem, I created two versions of the photo. In one, the foreground was virtually black, but the sky had drama. In the other, the foreground looked right, but the sky was white. Then I loaded the images into two layers and meticulously blended the foreground layer to remove background light halos. The drama still wasn't what I wanted, so I created an intermediary layer of driving rain/snow, with each flake hand cloned in random positions and in an assortment of sizes. Then I motion blurred to create a driving motion and blended with the appropriate opacity. The result is a very dramatic image of what was once a rather peaceful (and boring) scene. Note the natural appearance of the cut lines in the detail image.

Before... After...

"Two Friends" was carefully shot, with plenty of time to plan the exposure. The challenge of the picture was to sort out foreground from background, particularly to emphasize the little tree, which is a very important part of the picture. Because of the black and white nature of the building, I wanted the photo to be in black and white, which made the task all the more difficult. A simple gray scaling would have been devoid of important details. To separate out all of these elements, I carefully studied the information in the photograph, finally concluding that I could not satisfactorily achieve my objectives with individual alteration of color channel contrast curves. Rather than work with RGB channels, I then studied hue, saturation and lightness. Lightness was useless in this case. Saturation information would not distintuish the roof from background foliage. Ultimately I derived my image from a hue map, which distinguished beautifully between red and green tones, with the added benefit of exaggerating the contrast of the white surfaces (provided I did the right amount of hue shift prior to taking the hue map) and minimizing the contrast of the background foliage (which would otherwise be a distraction). When I did this, unfortunately, the foliage from the tree was not well distinguished from the roof, nor was there adequate contrast in the trunk. I remedied this by doing some radical color curve transformations that emphasized (whitened) the foliage, while darkening the trunk and branches. Then I overlaid this image over the hue mapped image, carefully blending and feathering the features. The easy parts of this photograph were the removal of the ladder at the base of the tree and the removal of the hanging gutter.

Before... After...

"Waterfall Fantasy" is a composite of two photographs from the same area. I was careful with both shots to take very long exposures (1/4s and 1/10s) to get a nice motion blur in the water. This was possible with a steady hand and image stabilization capabilities. (I didn't carry a tripod on the hike.) Both of the original photographs are pretty and have potential, but neither one is a "great" photo by itself. The primary weakness of the photo with the foot bridge is that it was too late in the season, and the trees had lost their leaves, leaving a bright white sky in the background. Clearly the background had to be substituted, but with what? The answer quickly became obvious -- with the other waterfall that had its own problems (including blown out highlight on the water and inadequate detail in the shadow regions). I adjusted the colors and contrast of both photographs to resemble each other, and I kept the blown out highlight in the upper waterfall to emphasize the sunlight at the upper level and give depth to the photograph.

Before... After...

"Quail at Sunset" is another example of a composite photograph. The two images on the left were taken within a half hour span of each other on the same mountaintop, but they had to be combined together to create the perfect perspective. That's because as sweet as these little birds are, they aren't cooperative enough to stand on their designated mark, on cue, within precisely the 10 or 15 second time window when you're ready to shoot. This sort of image can be created relatively easily from two shots but would be almost impossible to find in a single shot. Of course combining two images requires much more than simply sticking them together. A lot of tedious mouse work is required to isolate the elements of the photograph, to separate them into different layers, and then to blend the edges for a natural look. In this photo, I had to hand-paint all of the tiny feathers that were ruffling in the breeze.

Before... After...

"Regatta": One day I had the pleasure of digging through Earline Thomas' 35mm negatives that she had shot in college. One of her images was the one shown below. Unfortunately it was grossly underexposed, and it was even done on Tri-X (very popular in the day, but not my favorite film). Nevertheless I thought it was a very interesting photograph. I did a better contrast on the photograph, which yielded the boats and water that you see. However, the sky was completely washed out. To fix this problem, I went through my digital sky images. (I collect sky images for doing things like this.) I found what I thought was the perfect sky for the photograph and substituted it for the washed out one. Most people think this is an easy thing, but it actually takes some careful masking to do it right, so that there are no harsh edges or weird contrasts in the picture. Furthermore, I had to duplicate the harsh Tri-X grain in the smooth digital sky. After I was finished, I still had to do a bit of hand work to re-create the stays on the boats (the cables that go from the decks to the tops of the masts). They were completely washed out and invisible against the washed out sky. The result was the photograph on the bottom. Earline was pretty impressed, but she said they would never be sailing with that sort of looming sky. She's right of course. I still like the photograph the way I did it for her.

"Sedona Mountains 1" is an example of a pre-planned, uniquely digital photoediting solution to an extremely difficult shooting situation. The challenge: I'm in the desert without a tripod. Why? Too much bulk to bring on the plane. It's sunset, and the light is very dim. It's even dimmer in the foreground, which is being shadowed by a mountain to the left rear. I need 1/30 sec or faster to shoot handheld, and I need f/8 or smaller for the required depth of field. Shooting at a higher ASA wouldn't help, as light can't be created. At ASA 1600, for instance, the camera would count every photon as 16 photos. That would only achieve a better exposed image for the viewfinder, but the end product wouldn't be any better. This solution would only risk "blowing out" highlights. My decision was to shoot at ASA 100, approximately 2.5 stops underexposed, and then to make the necessary adjustments during photoediting. The unedited image is shown on the left top. After an initial luminance curve manipulation, with a mild gamma applied, I got the image in the middle left. Obviously the shaded foreground lacked detail, which I expected would happen. It was then necessaty to disect the foreground from the image and to apply a steeper luminance curve, resulting in the image on the bottom left. This layer was ultimately desaturated slightly to compensate for the high color contrast. Finally, I blended the bottom and middle images, using careful cloning and feathering over the edges to make them appear natural. The result is the image on the right. I won't claim that the image couldn't be obtained without digital methods; however, it would require a very elaborate flash setup, probably with at least 6 or 8 flashes judiciously placed around the foreground, with gels to warm their light and scrims to even out their light distribution. The shot simply wouldn't be worth that sort of heroic effort. I "got away with" a lot on this shot. I took the 12 bit color depth of my camera and "squeezed" it down to the critical 8 bits in the foreground, but that's all it took.

Before... After...

"A Struggle Lost" is another example of having too much dynamic range in the real life image to be represented on print. The original of this photograph is shown at the top. Modern solutions include HDR processing and tone mapping (developed only after some of the other image examples on this page were created). Unfortunately HDR often results in vulgar, cartoonish depictions with a disturbing uniform "gray" quality, halos around highly contrasted edges, and skittles-like color mixed in with the din of gray. Even when it's done well (subtly), it creates halos that really bother me, and it leaves the image lifeless and gray (to my eyes). I guess it's obvious I really don't like HDR. It's not because I don't know how to use it. (It's quite easy.) It's not because I haven't tried it. (I have.) I just don't like it. An exmaple of an HDR/tone mapped image is show in the middle image, using Photomatix trial software (that I didn't purchase). A much better approach, used by the more careful graphic artists, is to blend differentially contrasted layers, as was done in the Sedona Mountains photograph. I wanted to do a differential contrast on some of the more shadowy areas, such as the engine compartment and the underside of the roof, so as to have a more grotty, sinewy, skeletal feel to the image. I also wanted to keep the image bright, to emphasize the unforgiving desert sun. I carefully blended these contrasted details into the normally contrasted image and did an unsharp mask customized to the diffraction pattern in the original image. The result is shown in the bottom image. Note that it does not have ugly halos like the HDR image. It's not all gray like the HDR image. And finally, I even get better detail where I want it. In short, there is no shortage of whiz-bang, slide-around-the-sliders solutions for people who seek quick, out-of-the-can results. However, getting good results requires a bit more finesse.

"Missing Her" is another example of a photograph that required rearrangement. My intent was to capture a candid photograph of the elderly gentleman and the dog. Unfortunately it seems either the gentleman (someone I knew and who knew me) would look back at me, or the dog would look at me, or the dog would turn his tail towards me as seen below. The closer I got, the more this would happen, so I had great difficulty even framing the picture. In the end, the image really mattered to me (and to the gentleman's daughter), so it was worth the effort to combine two photographs to make the image work. The two originals are shown on top, and the final result on the bottom. Note that a great deal of work was done to patch and paint new grass. Furthermore, a detail that might be missed by many photographers, it was necessary to "colorize" the dog. Green grass reflects green light, so the white dog appeared green. One can't simply remove the green, or the dog will be gray. It was therefore necessary to repaint the dog in his correct color.

My "Uncertainty" photograph is an interesting illustration of why a novice cannot take a "professional" photograph with even a "professional" camera. In fact the type of camera a professional uses really doesn't matter nearly as much as his or her skill in using it. I've gotten many compliments about the great pictures my cameras make. That's a bit like a novelist getting compliments on what wonderful novels his typewriter makes. A camera is nothing more than a tool, just like a typewriter.

So that people will understand what I'm talking about, I'm offering up one of my favorite portraits. The original is on top. It was taken with a professional digital camera, a professional lens, and a professional flash. I'll interject here that part of what makes the portrait work is that I knew where to position the flash (which wasn't on the camera), where to aim it, and just how much to use it.

Most people will find the unprocessed image very uninteresting. However, having worked with these sorts of images my entire life, I could see the image that lay beneath, and it was a very exciting one. The editing on this photo was not particularly elaborate. Rather, I simply had to know what to do and how to do it with the finesse it deserved. After quickly editing out the "Stars and Bars" on the gentleman's tee shirt, I started in on my grayscale conversion. That's not really a simple thing. I broke the image into red, green, and blue channels, and contrasted the channels separately to emphasize red tones (e.g. skin tones) over other hues. I then blended these channels to achieve the final grayscale. Next I contrasted the grayscale image with a broad sigmoidal contrast curve to replicate the feel of an older panchromatic film. Finally, to de-emphasize distracting elements and highlight the key elements of the photograph, I created a mask for burning the background, and then I did some hand dodging and burning, just like I would have done in the days of darkroom photography. The resulting photograph takes on an entirely different character that draws viewers in and shows them the elements I feel are important about the image. It's a bit like the difference between a good story teller and a bad one. They might both tell the same story with the same details, but only one of the stories will be interesting.

This isn't to say that I can turn any dull photograph into something special. The photo must first be taken correctly, and there must be a good story in it.

Not all of my images are generated from photographs. Some (very few) come straight from the computer. For instance, I designed this graphic to display while an image is loading, in part as an attention-getter. The image was created in numerous layers, so that the individual elements could be manipulated independently. It took approximately 90 min to create this image. I ultimately didn't use it, but it was still sort of fun to make.

Some graphics are partially photographic and partially composed. For instance, the banner at the top of this page and the button panel at the top left were created by photographing a camera lens and one corner of a bakelite electrical meter. Then the images were chopped up, manipulated, mangled, and reassembled to form the final image. This was the image that started it all:

Examples of my work can be seen on the web. I did all of the photography, photoediting, and web authoring work for, a web site used for selling a beautiful, up-scale home in Upper Arlington, Ohio. The brass plaque is an example of a radically modified image. It is actually a derivation of the home page photo of the house.

I also did the web authoring work for Farrell Piano of Tampa, Florida. The owner of the site took almost all of the pictures with his digital camera, and I did all of the photoediting work. Note that the web site is not yet completed, pending the owner's providing a couple of requested photos and some descriptive text.

Susan Eisenman, an adoption attorney from Columbus, Ohio, is one of my clients under management. You can see the web site and photography I did for her at By the way, I drew the little drawing of the couple and their baby, as well as the buttons. The objective of the website was to be professional, warm, and inviting.

Of course the best example of my web authoring and photographic/photoediting work is the Graphic Fusion web site itself. I will note that this site underwent a major revision in 2010. I sought to simplify it for aesthetic reasons. The prior site had very sophisticated JavaScript functionality with dynamically modified PayPal buttons. It also featured framing and mat selection, whereby a sample image would be dynamically framed and matted on screen, per the user's selections. However, I decided I really didn't want to do framing and matting anymore, so all that functionality had to go. The one feature remaining from the prior incarnation is the slide show which randomly orders the catalog, minus retired images, and downloads them in advance of their presentation on screen. At the time I did that, others were writing scripts that would show the download on screen, rather than have it occur in the background. Eventually other programmers came around to my way of doing it.

Please contact me to discuss how Graphic Fusion can meet your photography and photoediting needs.

Sarah Fox,
Graphic Fusion

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