April One Four Challenge Retrospective

During April, the One Four Challenge team is not posting the usual weekly image editing work.  Our project host, Robyn Gosby, has suggested we use the month to conduct a Review of our past work in any way we choose. Some participants are reworking some of their images, a few are displaying what they have done in one post and others are just having a break.  I am opting to reflect on what I learnt in six months of an absolutely wonderful photography project.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this journey of discovery.  Editing had not been part of my routine.  I was taking photos, illustrating sailing journals with them, submitting a few with articles I published in magazines.  However in the main my images were untouched.  What I took with my camera was what you saw!  But then, I became interested in the process of editing photos.

There is a bit of controversy about photo editing.  Some people call it cheating while others call it getting the most out of your image. I am in the later clan…  Having done some ‘developing’ of black and white images in my uni days,  I think the ‘processing’ we do with our digital images is just like what we did with our ‘developing’ in the dark room.  Only we have far more tools at our disposal.  So to me the term ‘developing’ is so much more apt, because that it what we do with digital photo processing.  We are developing our images and putting ourselves, our emotions and our vision into them.  We can be as subtle or creative as we wish.

And that brings us to this One Four Challenge.  There are several photo editing projects one can take part in on WordPress.  What attracted me to this one, organised by Robyn at Captivate me, was that it invited beginners and experienced “developers” alike.  The promise of sharing ideas and learning in the process was appealing and I took the plunge from the onset of the project.

So what have I learnt to date?


Such a basic thing, but the beginning of every process!  Learning what is important to focus on, what to keep, what to remove, and how the impact of an image can be changed simply by ‘cutting’ and resizing is one of the fundamentals I learnt.  Every month involved some degree of cropping.  But the December crop of the White Tern to focus only on her tail was a good example of how cropping can open up different possibilities.

December Week 2 : Watercolour

December Week 2 – Crop of the white tern’s tail

Filter Effects

When I discovered filters, it was like opening up a toy box!  Experimenting with different ‘special effects’ was so much fun.  The ability to stylise, alter shapes, add texture, turn a photo into a painting, introduce distortions, brought another dimension to photographs.  Here is the first in November, and the last in March.  These might not be to everyone’s liking, but boy is it fun!


What a revelation!   The best example of this was my manipulation of the “White Tern” in December.  It took me for ever to get the results, but it is the single most important element of editing I have learnt.  I used 6 different layers to give the white tern its feathered friends, each time resizing and reorienting the embossed tern.  I used 5 layers to get the tail spin effect and then the blue to aqua graduation.


The ability to download free or inexpensive apps and blend photography with painting was another discovery. With some of these, it really does feel like a bit of cheating.  You choose the effect you want.  The software does the heavy lifting while you watch things unfold on your screen.  Only minor tweaking is needed afterwards.  I experimented with apps such as Tangled FX (used for the spoonbills) and Sketch Guru (used for the white tern) in January and found it quite liberating.  I added the software FotoSketcher to my tool kit in March (used for the butterfly).  No more guilty feeling about “this is not really photography”.  I simply focused on the artistic results I wanted to create in my mind’s eye.


February was about playing with colour intensity.  Sometimes I can be shy about enhancing or deepening colour.  And yet it is so potent to reveal particular elements and intensify what’s there.  So experimenting with not only saturation, but the blend modes of layers such as the colour burn tool was great practice.

Chesnut Teal

February Week 2 – Colour Burn


Another crucial aspect of photography is light and the different atmosphere it creates.  The one image can look so different depending on the light in its environment.  This was a very useful lesson about enhancing, hiding or revealing important features.  By working with shadows, highlights and lighting effects I could bring out beautiful details, hide distracting ones and change the mood of my image.

So there you have it.  My reflections on 6 months of photo processing, using Photoshop Elements 9 and a few apps and plug ins.  There is still a whole lot to learn!  I have only just scratched the surface.  But having subscribed last month to an Adobe Creative Cloud plan with Lightroom and Photoshop, I am on a steep learning curve and will relish continuing my training in photo ‘developing’.


I thought I would end this post with a gallery of my favourites and yours.  Thank you to those of you who provided feedback and suggestions, and for voting for your preferred interpretations.  Click on the first image to display in full screen slideshow.

24 thoughts on “April One Four Challenge Retrospective

  1. Hi Chris – thanks for taking the time to write this. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post – ALL of it. So Insightful and interesting. Reading about your journey so far is fabulous! You’ve tried many things in these past months and Ive loved watching it all unfold. 😃😃

  2. Great post, Chris. I enjoyed it. I liked how you grouped your learning opportunities too. This is such a wonderful challenge for picking one point to focus on or jump in all directions and improve an image. I enjoy it a lot too, happy to have come to know you more through it as well. Enjoy the rest of your month.

    • Thank you so much Carrie. I too enjoy our interactions – such a great way to connect! I appreciate your support and encouragement and live your work. Doesn’t it feel a bit odd this month not to have the usual rhythm!

      • Yes, although I must admit I am enjoying the time off too, hoping it will increase my motivation next month 🙂

  3. Wow! You really picked up a lot during the first six months. And I love what you’ve been doing with the photo apps – there is definitely a place for apps, especially when you are ‘illustrating’ a mood or a story as opposed to the relatively untouched ‘documentary’ photos for articles. Great post!

  4. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this post…..well constructed insight into your learning over 6 months. I’ve yet to write my post, life is a bit earnest and real at the moment 😦

    • Oh that sounds a bit tough Sue! Having written this post, I am now enjoying the break from One Four – way too much work after just a few days break for Easter… Thanks for your feedback.

  5. Wonderful to read about your experiences and thoughts on photo processing and developing. You use some tools I’ve never tried and this makes me want to try some experiments!

    • Oh good! It’s been quite a learning curve and still is, but lots of fun. You would have lots of image you can take further into artwork… your bears in particular! Most images I take just get minor tweaking, but some I know I want to do more with and now I have some tools I can use.

  6. A really good post about getting to grips with editing. I actually think that getting started with digital editing is a lot easier than when I started 11 years ago. It has been great to see your images develop each month.

    • Thank you Ben – you have helped along the way with your insightful comments to me and to other participants. Can’t wait for the next 6 months!

  7. Great review, Chris! I’m so glad that you started ‘developing’ your images, one would never know you are a novice. 🙂

  8. Pingback: One Four Challenge – December 2015 Review | sv-takeiteasy

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