Wednesday, October 10, 2012

After the Shoot

One of the biggest misconceptions professional photographers seem to run into is that once they take a picture their job is done.
While most of my clients understand that's NOT the case, I thought I'd take a few moments today to show my "behind the scenes steps" to help enlighten anyone who isn't familiar what happens after their session.

In the simplest of terms, a professional digital camera (Digital Single-Lens Reflex or DSLR) is capable of shooting in a RAW image format.
These are equivalent to "negatives" in the film world, the data is unprocessed.  (Standard point-and-shoot cameras convert the data to JPG format in your camera for you.)
The top left SOOC (Straight Out Of Camera) image is a RAW file.
Since the data hasn't been developed RAW images are more flat and darker than a standard image.
A professional photographer needs to use special software to convert the RAW file into a file that can be viewed by a standard image viewer. (Usually a Jpg or Tiff file)
The LR image on the top right is what the original file looks like after some tweaking and conversions in Lightroom.  Notice that the image has a bit more depth and contrast.
When shooting RAW more image data is captured and the photographer gets to decide what they want to keep, versus the camera deciding for you.
(This comes in handy when a white wedding dress is involved, as you can actually retain the detail, whereas the smaller, compressed Jpg file might not.)
Photographers that shoot in automatic or only shoot Jpg would end up with a picture similar to the one above.  (The "developing" is done in-camera.)
Many people are quite happy with this look and stop at this point. To a photographer the image is still too flat and dark, and could use a bit more processing.
Blemish Removal
The bottom left (PS) image is after some basic edits in Photoshop. (For me "basic" includes lightening, eye brightening, skin touch-ups, and color adjustment.)
In the image above I am working on removing slight blemishes which include anything from dark patches to pimples.
I then soften the skin ever so slightly and reduce the fine lines and wrinkles.
The process for men is much less pronounced than for women but you can still notice a bit of difference.
In babies I also work on the cradle cap and patchy skin color if needed.
If your teeth are shown in your smile, I create a layer and adjust the brightness and remove any evidence of your coffee or tea habit.
I also need to adjust the skin tones and color.  I may brighten the eyes, take some shine out of the hair, remove specs from shirts, etc.
This shot was taken during the color correction process, it's looking brighter and more life-like, but I still have a few more steps to go before this photo would meet with my approval.
This screen shot shows my workflow, it takes about 7-15 different layers in Photoshop to achieve the results above. 
(Now imagine I need to edit the faces of a family and multiply my process accordingly.)
My final steps include removing any distractions from the background (in this case a bit of the "wrinkles" in the fabric) and cropping the image for printing.
The CROP image is of the final image which has been "trimmed" to a standard 5" x 7" size.
I then need to re-size the images for the web and include my watermark before uploading them to my client's gallery for viewing.
Which image would you like your photographer to provide?
These "basic" behind the scenes steps are applied to EVERY single image that I show to my clients.
Every photographer has a slightly different process to get the results they desire, and I encourage you to find a photographer that's final look is something you like.
Take a look at their portfolio and see if their style is the right one for you,
and then remember that in all likelihood they had their own "behind the scenes" processes to get there, and their work is just beginning after your session is complete.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, this was amazingly insightful. I have had a hard time trying to decide what editing I like better. I know photoshop rather well, but I like the presets i can create in lightroom. Yes, so much work goes into the editing of portraits, your work is beautiful!