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Bright car tail lights distracting attention - how to avoid/fix?

Discussion in 'Image Processing' started by Panut, Feb 15, 2012.

  1. Panut

    Panut Mu-43 Regular

    52
    Dec 25, 2011
    Finland
    Hi all,

    I wonder if anyone would have an idea on how to avoid the problem of bright colored lights in the photo distracting the viewer from the main subject.
    Where I usually come across the problem is when the shot includes car (tail) lights or traffic lights in dusk or dawn. See example below.

    At smaller degree, I'm sometimes having the same problem with brightly yellow-red colored traffic signs.

    If you cannot help having those in the photo, how to make the problem smaller? I'm posting this in Image processing forum, but I welcome all ideas, starting from composition, shooting, camera settings, to post processing, or anything.

    The simple thing I have made is to do some local post processing, decreasing saturation and luminosity on those spots. I've also played around with red eye removal tool, and sometimes it does the trick, unless the artificial result is too obvious for the viewer.
    Anything else? Or any recommendations on how to do this post processing?

    Thanks in advance!

    Panu

    Here's one example:
     

    Attached Files:

  2. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    You could stop down to make the lights more restricted and crisper, rather than letting them balloon out. That will require a longer exposure, so you should be on a tripod.

    Of course, if you stop down enough and let the cars move on, then you can get some nice light trails instead of cars. If the street is your central subject, then this will pretty much eliminate the cars. I don't know what the photo is supposed to be concentrated on, though.
     
  3. WoodWorks

    WoodWorks Mu-43 Regular

    180
    Oct 10, 2011
    Ashland, OR USA
    David
    In Photoshop you could use the magic wand tool and select one tail light, then click "select similar" to select the others, and then use the curve tool to dim them all simultaneously. But like Ned, I'm not sure what subject the tail lights in the above photo are distracting from.
     
  4. Panut

    Panut Mu-43 Regular

    52
    Dec 25, 2011
    Finland
    Thanks Ned!
    That's a good thing to note, really! It would have never occurred to me in this context to get around the problem by turning lights into trails! Stopping down could also help a little with urban landscapes involving immovable buildings, but those those annoying traffic lights. You would likely stop down there anyway, but now even more!

    As for the photo, it's not supposed to be concentrated on anything, it's just a good example of tail lights standing out. :)

    Thanks again!
     
  5. Panut

    Panut Mu-43 Regular

    52
    Dec 25, 2011
    Finland
    Thanks! That's good to know. With a photo like that, that'll be very handy.

    As for the photo - you're correct, I see I used a "bad good example". There's nothing to be distracted from there, just posted it for it displays the bright lights as an example.
    Where I would normally bump into this problem actually would be street photos, with subject in the foreground and cars in the background.
     
  6. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy
    I wonder if a polarizer would nuke some of the light coming off the cars?
     
  7. speedandstyle

    speedandstyle Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    I like the photo myself , not distracting to me. Several good suggestions given already so nothing really to add except if I were using the full photoshop I would use the "select color range" and then click on one of the taillights , saves a step or two{this feature does not exist in PSE}.
     
  8. meyerweb

    meyerweb Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 5, 2011
    You could convert to B&W.
     
  9. edmsnap

    edmsnap Mu-43 Veteran

    430
    Dec 20, 2011
    Edmonton, Alberta
    The tail-lights are just reflecting sunlight, so a polarizing filter as Promit suggested should completely eliminate the problem for you.
     
  10. speedandstyle

    speedandstyle Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    What!? Taillights are not reflecting sunlight , they are lights. A polarizer would work on any light that is reflected off the smooth surface but they would do nothing for a taillight that is on.
     
  11. edmsnap

    edmsnap Mu-43 Veteran

    430
    Dec 20, 2011
    Edmonton, Alberta
    To my eyes, none of those lights are "on." They're just catching the light.
     
  12. Panut

    Panut Mu-43 Regular

    52
    Dec 25, 2011
    Finland
    Sorry, yes they are "on". The sun is only just rising from where the cars are heading to. :)