An Editing Walkthrough

When I started participating in contemplative photography classes and reading some books about this approach, I discovered a term: wabi sabi. It’s a Japanese philosophy of see the “perfection” of the imperfect, of recognizing the impermanence of things. It’s not about the defect itself, but about the beauty that is present there. During the last few weeks, my zinnias have been blooming in abundance, and the butterflies are covering those blooms. When I can sneak up on them, I can get a some images. And twice, I’ve found some butterflies with torn and battered wings. There is beauty there.

This is yesterday’s image of the “wabi sabi butterfly.”


The more I looked at the image, the less I liked it. It’s fine—in focus, exposure is good; black and white points set acceptably. But I thought the background was too much—too much texture in contrast with the red zinnia and the butterfly. This morning I played a bit.

After importing into the Photoshop CC, I duplicated the background layer. The I used the Quick Selection tool to select the butterfly, the zinnia, and that bit of stem connected to the flower itself.


It took a few tried to get the selection made! It’s not as easy as it looks. The I used the Inverse to select the background by going to Select > Inverse (The shortcut is Shift-Control-I on a PC).

Next I selected the Gaussian Blur filter and set the radius pretty high to get the background nice and blurry. Then I added a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, moved the saturation slider to 0, and adjusted the opacity to give it a hint of color.


Then, I flattened all layers. I still wasn’t terribly pleased with the result. I duplicated the background one more time and cropped the image to a square. The problem I had with the edited image above is the feeling that the flower is just floating there, unattached to the ground or the background. I tried several things, including brushing off some of the blur and brushing the color back on. The subject still felt disconnected.

That’s when I decided to crop the image to a square (1:1 ratio).


The result is better. I’m not sure about that pink flower in the background. It’s still a bit “colorful. I tried desaturating that one area (not!), and adding more blur (uh-uh). Cloning wasn’t helping either, so I tried applying a Content-Aware Fill Layer. (Layer > Fill. Choose Content-Aware  from the drop-down menu.) There is just a hint of color from that pink flower, but I think I like the results better.


I’m almost satisfied with the image as it is. I’m going to leave it alone for now and see how I feel later.


Let me know what you think in the comments.

By Olivia Fulmer

I am the OliviaIrene of OliviaIrene Photography. I am a photographer, a teacher, a story teller. I use this space to tell stories of life, family, and faith through words and images. I'd love to share your stories as well. Join me in this journey.

I love conversation, the close, intimate kind amongst friends. Won't you join me? I look forward to a good coze.

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