My approach to taking and editing photos

February 01, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

I recently noticed a couple of videos in my social media feeds that show the before and after results from what I'd call extreme photoshopping. This one shows the reactions of a group of women to being transformed into "cover models". I've seen this one the most often and it shows the process of transformation in detail.

Both these videos make me think about my approach to image editing. But before we get into that I need to make a confession; I'd rather be taking photos, playing with my boys or playing soccer than stuck in front of my computer squinting at the screen. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy seeing the work of someone like Lori Cicchini (check out her amazing work here) but my personal style is much less photo artistry, where the photo is just the start point, and more photography in it's classical form with the majority of the work carried out "in camera". 

If you've made it this far I appreciate your persistence so I'll get to the point. When I first began my digital photography journey, after about 20 yrs of shooting on film, I was at a complete loss as to how and what to do with editing and ended up floundering about with Photoshop. A revelation came when I was reading an article about a photographer during the 2012 Beijing Olympics. In the interview he explained that as a contributor to Getty Images, a photo stock company, he was strictly limited as to what he could do to manipulate an image in order to comply with Getty's submission standards. Getty will only accept images that have had limited editing that retains the documentary nature of the shot. This can be summarised as being restricted to adjustments to exposure, contrast, saturation and some sharpening. This approach resonated with me and I decided to follow this approach with my photography as well.

What does this mean? Well firstly, I shoot in raw, the native file format of the camera's sensor, so while I capture much greater detail throughout the sensor's range, the initial image is a little flat and requires some saturation and contrast adjustments. Over time, each digital camera develops some imperfections on the sensor, mainly through minute particles of dust adhering to it. These appear as small round spots in areas such as the sky. I clone out dust spots if necessary. I apply lens corrections to remove distortion and colour aberrations that naturally occur as the light is manipulated through the different lens elements. I will also look to enhance detail in shadows or highlights if necessary (this is one of the great advantages of raw files). The eyes are the window to the soul and are usually the essence of a portrait. The eyes are sharpened to make sure that they capture the attention of the viewer. And finally, I'll remove temporary skin blemishes such as pimples (or for most young kids, whatever they were eating last!). That's it. Nothing else. I won't change the ratios of your face or body, remove moles or straighten your nose. These elements are what make you unique. Embrace them.

So, if you'd like to see yourself like this, give me a call and let's have a chat.

Cheers, Kael.


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