Monster Mash

Some of the most powerful images show little to no detail of the subject. Silhouettes, with their strong contrast draw the eye like few other images can. This dance called “Incantation” was all about power of the supernatural variety.


A picture of a dance performance where the dancers are mostly in silhouette.

This shot was taken at a dance rehearsal just as the lights were coming up or going down. It was quite dark in the house even when the lights were up full. I was, therefore, shooting with high ISO so as to capture motion with a minimum of blur and still get the histogram near the low end of acceptable. Since it was a rehearsal, I was able to move freely around the space, but that also meant I was shooting hand held. Another reason for high ISO.

Here is what I did in post with PS CS5:

  • I created a selection to separate the dancers from the background. This was not too hard since the dancers are red and the background is green. I think I did a calculation using red channel and subtracting green. That left me with little clean-up to do and a nice selection
  • I then used a Gaussian blur on the background to get rid of the noise. I was fairly heavy-handed in using the blur.
  • I did a much softer blur in the foreground. This left the dancers fairly clear, but got rid of some of he noise from the high ISO.
  • I used a curves adjustment layer on just the dancers to make them darker. I liked emphasizing the outline and not the features of the dancers.
  • I tried lightened up the background, but ultimately decided against it. The moodiness of the shot is what I liked so much, so I left well enough alone.

Here is the original image for comparison purposes. Follow the link and zoom in to full to see the noise problem.


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