It happens to the best of us. You are photographing a quick moving or unpredictable subject, a moment occurs and you take the shot. Unfortunately your framing wasn’t perfect. No big deal. You took lots of photos so you shouldn’t need that one. That missed shot turns out to be one of your favorite images ignoring the bad framing. Fixing missing edges in Affinity Photo is not that hard.
During this shoot with Eryn from Ballet San Antonio and Claire Bear from the Taylor Animal Shelter, I was trying to capture some cute interaction. Working with regular animals (that is, not animal actors) is tough. They aren’t all that predictable. In this case Eryn’s movement also surprised me. I was shooting with a 105mm lens at f/2 and stayed tight. When she started the movement, my focus point wasn’t in the location it needed to be to frame the image correctly.
Is it Saveable?
Salvaging this type of photo can be easy (as it was in this case) or nearly impossible. Which it ends up being depends on your source material, your subject and your scene.
How complex is the background? In this case the dog and ballerina are against a relatively uniform brick wall. To make things easier, it is out of focus because I was shooting at 105mm f/2.0. If she and the dog had been against something more geometric and complex, effecting the repair could have been much more complicated (time consuming).
Do you have the right source material available? I’m a photographer, not a digital artists. I can cut apart and reassembled images, but I don’t have the skill to draw a new hand or tutu from scratch and make them look realistic. In this case, I had frames directly after this that have the needed elements. I brought the hand in from one photo and the dog’s tutu from another.
The Repair Process
Having a plan of attack is actually the most important thing for an edit like this. I used only a couple of basics tools: copy & paste, masking, curves and in-painting. It is how I employed them that matters.
The first step in this edit is to find source material. Which images could I pull various elements from? That was relatively simple for me since I had a sequence for 10 or so images shot in quick succession as Eryn tried to interact with a disinterested (and confused) Claire.
With these 2 sources images I had all the complex elements I needed: her hand and the dog’s tutu.
I first expanded the canvas up and then to the left filling in each area using the source material. Don’t worry about aspect ratio at this point. I simply gave myself enough margin where I would have options to square and crop the image later on.
I copied and pasted the source information from the source images. In one case I used the lasso tool and in the other the rectangle selection tool. It really doesn’t matter which you use in the end. The pasted material will get feathered in using a mask layer and soft brush to make the edges less obvious.
Once the new elements (tutu, hand) are aligned and feathered in, it is time to make them match tone and color wise. In this case, the images were shot in a quick sequence under consistent off camera lighting and conditions.
Working in layers is key to much of this process. You see me go back and tweak things I had previously finished. With layers it is easy to improve previous steps as needed. You can even throw out part of an edit by simply turning off or deleting a layer if it turns out to be a false set.
As a final step I merged all the visible layers into a single pixel layer so I could use Affinity Photo’s In-Painting tool to magically fill in missing background edges. In-Painting works on pixel layers. The individual layers of this edit contained only portions of the image. In this final step, I needed to work on the otherwise finished image as a whole.
You can watch the entire process in real time here:
Not Obsessing with Flaws
In the end I’m happy with the result. I had to be careful not to obsess with the flaws. Because I (and now you) know where the seams are, it is possible to see things that look like defects. That said, most people will never notice them or will take them for natural variation in the background, which there was a lot of.
Let any art, this type of edit is never finished, only abandoned when it is good enough.
He is a self taught experiential learner who is addicted to the possibilities that new (to him) gear open up. He loves to share the things he has worked out. Andrew started with a passion for landscape and night photography and quickly branched out to work in just about every form of photography. He is an ex-software developer with extensive experience in the IT realm.