Yesterday, I made some quick shots of a friend's daughter at church. The little girl was sitting in a seat with all kinds of gizmos attached designed to keep a baby amused. From any angle, there was some brightly colored, oddly shaped piece of plastic intruding into the frame, or appearing to protrude from the baby's head. There was also the problem of mixed lighting: fluorescents overhead, and daylight streaming in from a large window to my right. That combination can make for some strange color casts, especially on skin tones.
Original, out of the camera version
On first viewing the photos when I got home, the distracting background and weird color casts made me cringe. But that smile! It would take some work, but I believed I could "fix it later in Photoshop". Had this been a deliberate portrait session, I certainly would have chosen a better shooting environment, but remember, this was just a quick grab-shot. In this case, Photoshop is a legitimate salvage tool.
Distracting backgrounds are the most often occurring ruination of people pictures. Those plastic attachments appearing to grow out of the baby's head had to go! Careful use of the clone tool made quick work of that. That print on the white border of her chair was bothering me, so I zapped that too. I also cropped a little tighter to give the composition better balance.
The next problem was that awful color cast from the mixed lighting. I tried every trick I know of, but I couldn't get the colors to look like they should. If I got the skin tones close, everything else looked wrong. I finally got one version that looked close to being right, but it still wasn't quite good enough. Finally I decided to punt and go with a black and white portrait. After experimenting with several options, I finally decided that the "Pumice Golden Girl" filter in Virtual Photographer was most to my liking. I don't know how they come up with these names for filters, but this one did a good job for me. It gave me nice, warm tones, and a little bit of a soft focus effect. I thought the look this filter gave helped change the photo from a snapshot to a legitimate portrait. (Click on photos to enlarge.)
I agree that the "I'll fix it later in Photoshop" attitude is a bad one for any photographer to take, but I'm glad that option is available to keep a great smile from losing out to less than ideal shooting conditions.