Those who know me and the way I work, know that I consider the images I capture to be works of art. Because of that, you won’t see me make my raw or unedited images available for public consumption very often, if at all.
Having said that, I like my clients to be informed that I do in fact spend a significant amount of time in the digital darkroom, tweaking and polishing these captured frames. Now, just saying this is sometimes not enough to illustrate the point. So, today, I thought I’d show you. Below, is an image which I have retouched and would deliver to a client. If you hover your mouse pointer over the image, you’ll see it as it was originally captured, without any manipulation.
The first thing I will do with an image is to remove anything distracting from the overall aesthetic; things I cannot control in the actual session. You’ll notice people up on the benches; I couldn’t in good conscience ask them to move, and I wanted this specific vantage point and angle in the photo, so I took them out in post-production. The several thousand pieces of debris on the sand? Well, who has the time to pick all those up? Again, gone in post. There were a few areas on the wood that I found a little dark and distracting, so those were lightened. A small amount of effort went in to smoothing out the spray tan on the chest and thigh. Finally, a little brighten of the shadows under the eyes and the removal of the white tag on the swimsuit bottoms and we’re done!
I logged about 2 hours of work on this image, and I’d consider it to be “middle of the road” on how much time I spend on an image that I absolutely adore. If the tan had problems (as spray tans often do) this could have increased the time spent dramatically (and it often does). Sure, I could give this work to my makeup artist and have her smooth out the tan before I take the picture, but honestly, I’m faster at doing it in post. During makeup or afterward in the digital darkroom; it’s still manipulation, right? So I’ll give Sarah a rest and do it myself. ;)
Retouching is an art form in itself and is subject to the individual. Some like a lot of work and some are purists who don’t touch a thing. I tend to fall in the middle. As a perfectionist, I like to fix, but at the same time take care not to cross the line. Where’s the line? For me, it’s the point where in the first second of looking at an image, I discount it as looking unnatural in one or more ways.
So there’s my opinion, and a look at the work I perform on any given image. Retouching is a hot topic these days and I would love to hear your opinion on it. Use the comment box!
My next post on the topic of retouching will showcase a video of me actually performing the retouching. You won’t want to miss that!