Can't You Just Photoshop It?
Wedding Photography Editing Styles
By Jeffrey House Photography
Photoshop is a mystical force that lets you fix anything and everything!
Well, not exactly.
At least once a wedding, someone will say to us, "you can just Photoshop that, right?"
While it's usually said in jest, there are many that believe Photoshop can fix any issue that exists. Don't get wrong, Photoshop is an amazingly powerful program and I suppose if you were given enough time, and resources, it's likely you could fix anything. Wedding photography editings styles and post-production is important. So, when you search for a wedding photographer, look for photographers that give editing the respect it deserves.
Finding The Balance!
Finding the balance is something every photographer needs to discover for themselves. What do I mean by "finding the balance?"
Professional image editors for high profile magazines like Vogue or GQ will literally spend 3, 4 or even 5 days retouching the male or female featured on the cover. Unfortunately, wedding photographers do not have this luxury as we are delivering hundreds of photographs.
If we spent even a half day retouching every image, can you imagine the price of wedding collections? Or how long it would take to get your photographs? Wedding photography would literally die - it would be insane!
Most people don't realize that a photographer spends the majority of their time in post-processing. On average, a professional photographer will spend approximately 30 hours editing the photographs from an 8 hour wedding!
"Balance" simply refers to the amount of post-processing necessary to make you and your images look their very best.
If you hire a "cheap" photographer, you should expect the editing of your images to be severely lacking. You will have to decide how much you're willing to gamble on your own wedding photographs.
If a photographer spends 30 hours in post-processing and the average price for image retouching is $50 per hour, that's $1,500! So, the question now becomes how are these cheap photographers charing $1,000 - $1,500 for an 8 hour wedding?
Keep in mind this doesn't even account for their time to photograph the wedding, prepare products for delivery, travel time, etc. It also doesn't account for their business expenses - insurance, phone, office supplies, etc.
A lot of corners are being cut and in most cases it's with the editing of your photographs.
What about professional photographers? Many of them have a respectable retouching process, but I also see a lot of professional photographers doing the bare minimum. They literally spend less than a minute on each image in post-processing. The essentially color correct the image and it's done.
If you were to question them about their process, they would say something similar to, "I get my images right in camera so I don't have to edit as much."
"Getting the images right in camera" simply means it's well exposed - not too light and not too dark. Yes, getting a correct exposure in camera saves time in post-processing, but every photographer strives to get their images as correct as possible in camera. This is not a revelation.
However, getting the exposure correct in camera doesn't solve other editing needs - blemish removal, spot removal on attire, skin smoothening, removal of distracting objects, etc.
Unfortunately, there's not getting these details correct in camera.
We Shoot Raw!
Let me get a little geeky for just a moment.
When photographers photograph a wedding they either capture their images in a "jpeg" or "raw" format.
I know what you're thinking - phewwww, am I glad to hear that!
So, what does it mean and why should you care?
The format in which a photographer captures their images can have a substantial impact on their editing capabilities and the appearance of your final photographs.
Let's boil it down to the important details.
"jpeg" images are smaller and contain less digital information. Because they contain less "digital information," their ability to be manipulated in post-processing is also less - meaning less creative control.
"Raw" images, however, contain a lot more digital information and the photographer has a ton more creative control.
Regardless of what any professional photographer tells you, they do not capture perfect images every time they click the shutter. This is especially true when photographing weddings because it's not a controlled environment - the conditions change quickly, frequently, and often times drastically!
If you're capturing images in jpeg, it's not uncommon for images that are too dark or too light to be severely compromised, if not unusable. However, those same images captured in a raw format can be saved in most situations.
We personally capture our images in the "raw" format because we love the creative freedom it offers us. Using raw allows us to fine tune every image precisely.
As you interview potential wedding photographers for your wedding, it's certainly worth asking what format they use to capture images. This will allow you to make an informed decision that best meets your needs and preferences.
Because we capture our images in raw, we have a lot of creative control. As we begin retouching the images they will be reviewed for white balance, temperature, exposure, contrast, highlights, whites, blacks, sharpening, vibrance, saturation, and cropping.
Once these details have been addressed our retouching accounts for the following issues:
Temporary issues include removal of bruises, pimples, blemishes, bugs, dust, spots on attire, etc.
This would include scars, tattoos, etc., however, we do remove these features unless our client makes a specific request.
Distracting objects is a very broad term and it encompasses a lot of different situations. Whenever possible, we will remove distracting objects from photographs that clearly devalue the image.
Obviously, your photographer can't remove every little object from the images, otherwise, it's going to add a lot of time to the editing process and drive up the price of their wedding packages. However, there are often obvious objects that need to be removed and those should be addressed.
For example, all wedding venues have those red "exit" signs above the exit doors in case of emergency. They are required by state law and can't be avoided, however, they are very distracting in wedding photographs. Most wedding venues have soft warm lighting that create a romantic ambiance. Glowing exit signs immediately catch your eye; therefore, they should be removed unless there is some significant reason preventing it.
Dodging & Burning
Within Photoshop, we will often use the "dodge and burn tool." These tools allow us to further manipulate the exposure in specific parts of an image.
We also color correct every image. While cameras today are amazing pieces of technology, they don't quite capture the world as seen through the human eye.
Our color correction and enhancement process just ensures the colors in your photographs are restored to their natural state - as you would experience them in real life.
Black & White
Every wedding collection we offer includes a copyright release of the high-resolution color images. However, as we retouch your images we are always evaluating images for conversation to black and white. For those images that support black and white, they will be included along with the color image at no additional fee.
The human eye is naturally drawn to the brightest part of a photograph; therefore, in most instances we will include a vignette to the perimeter of each image. It essentially creates a slight shadow effect and draws the viewer's eye to the subject.
This is a subtle and professional technique for creating more compelling images.
Lastly, the image undergoes sharpening in preparation for print or online sharing.
You can view Photoshop tutorials online and they do a great job of making everything look extremely easy. They do these masterful changes that take a minute to complete. Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that in the real world.
We often get requests to change backgrounds in a photograph. The actual process of placing someone on a different background is not overly difficult but there are several issues to first consider.
One - we will need an actual image of the background. Sure, you can probably find one on Google, but that raises licensing issues. We can not use images without a license, otherwise we could face legal ramifications. This is not something any photographer wants to have associated with their business.
Second - assuming we resolve the licensing issues, we then need to address the actual background image. The biggest concern is lighting - Rarely, if ever, does the lighting of the background image work well the lighting of your image. This results in an image that looks extremely fake.
Bringing It All Together!
We have just given you a general overview of our signature retouching process that's applied to each and every image we deliver our clients. Obviously, those images with people in them require more attention - especially the artistic session of the newlyweds. These images are often displayed in homes or given to parents as gifts - it's essential they look perfect!
As you can see, getting the image right in camera barely scratches the surface of a comprehensive editing process. I know a lot of photographers don't like the editing process or they feel it's their job to be capturing more images, but editing is a big part of the final product. It's part of your brand and your reputation, and it deserves the same attention as capturing the image.
A contractor doesn't build you a house and leave you with a wood structure. They add shingles, siding, trim, etc. It's a complete package. It's all part of what makes a house a home.