Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Photography with Jessica - Post Processing - How Much is Too Much?

In the next few posts I'd like to start delving into the subject of post processing.  In today's digital world, a photo is rarely left as-is straight out of the camera.  Post processing refers to anything that is done to enhance the photo after it has been taken.  It's such a fun and interesting subject and we have such great resources available to us to use that sometimes it can be difficult not to get carried away!  So before we start learning about the "how's", I'd like to spend a little bit of time talking about the "why's".

So, why do we post process an image?  With photography our goal is to capture the world around us, and the goal of post processing is to enhance that reality and make it even more beautiful.  But I would caution that there is a line between enhancing and distorting.  Of course, photography and post processing are art forms, and as with all art, there is much room for creativity and interpretation of what is considered "good".  So what I have to offer today is just my opinion of how post processing should be used, and I realize that there may be those who disagree with me... and that's ok!

I think our culture is kind of making us feel like everything and everyone needs to be PERFECT!  Real life is beautiful and vibrant and wonderful... but it is NOT perfect, and I think that photography should reflect that.  When I first started out with post processing I did so much to every image, just because I could.  It took me a couple of years to learn to back off and leave some life and reality in my images.

When you first meet a person, your impression of them includes so much more than what they look like.  You take in their voice, tone, attitude, mannerisms, facial expressions, and everything that makes them who they are.  When I first meet a client, I don't notice if they have some flakiness on their chin or some puffiness under their eyes because there is so much more to them than that.  But photos are different.  When you look at a photo all you get is the visual aspect of the person, and so the little "imperfections" are much more noticeable than they are when you see a person in real life.  So when I'm post processing the client's images, I'll go ahead and get rid of the flakiness and the puffiness, because in my opinion those are just visual distractions of what your real impression would be if you were really with them.

What I don't like to do is extreme skin smoothing (makes them look like a doll, not a person) body shaping or slimming.  Don't get me wrong, I'm just like every other woman out there, always wanting to lose 5-10 pounds, but I think if we regularly alter what we look like in photos it just tends to reinforce the unfortunate cultural pressure to be perfect and make us feel like we aren't good enough.  I also don't like to go crazy with the color enhancing.  Upon viewing my images, I don't want the first thing to pop into the viewer's head to be "Photoshop!"  I want the beauty and life of the subject to be what grabs the viewer's attention.  So in short, that's what guides what I will or won't do with post processing.

In the next post I'll start to teach actual post processing techniques, but in the meantime I'd love to hear what you think!