Today I wanted to address the subject of why photographers edit their photos.
I know Ive seen in different forums and groups, brides looking to save some money when it comes to their wedding photography, and might be thinking ‘what if the photographer didn’t edit the photos, that would save them time and surely they can reduce the cost of the photography package?“. That might seem like a straight forward question. But its not that simple.
THE IMAGE THAT COMES OUT OF THE CAMERA ISN’T THAT GREAT
The reason photographers edit photos, is because basically the image that comes straight out of the camera isn’t that great when you technically break it down. Especially photographing weddings where things change so quickly, you can’t always get your exposure exactly spot on (lightness & darkness of image) when you are moving between indoors and outdoors, between bright sun then move to shade. This means you will have to inevitably do some minor tweaking or editing to the images once you load them on to the computer.
ALLOWING FOR CAMERA INADEQUACIES
As a photographer when Im out shooting, because Ive been shooting and editing for years, and I know my camera’s capabilities, I know how to push my camera in different lighting situations where I can either lift details out of shadows or bring down bright sections. So often I am shooting for how I see I will edit the photo later – and why I don’t like showing the back of my camera screen while shooting on the fly, because often it doesn’t look great on the screen, but I know once it’s been edited, it will look ah-mazing!
A photographer needs to know their camera equipment inside out, and that only comes from years of shooting and editing. Yep I know I said that in the last paragraph, but its worth repeating because its so important … not for you guys I know … but Nikon cameras (which I shoot with) shoot differently to Canon cameras. Nikon’s favour shadows whereas Canon’s favour highlights – all this techno babble basically means, you shoot differently depending on which brand of camera you use. Lenses also play a huge role too, but I don’t want to go giving you a photography lesson because thats what you hired me for :).
Just because a photographer can’t capture a great photo in camera, does not mean they aren’t a professional by any means. Even though technology has come along way in terms of digital cameras, digital cameras do have some inadequacies, and they all differ depending on which camera body and lenses you are using. Most professional photographers would be using professional-grade camera equipment such as a DSLR, compared with the average person would be using a consumer level camera like a point and shoot. A general rule is, the more expensive the camera and lens, the better the quality the camera and lens, and the better results you will get. That is true, but so long as you know how to use the equipment, right! Experience, skill and talent makes up for the most part of being a good photographer, and not just the gear!.
THE QUALITY OF PROFESSIONAL WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY
Because us professional photographers are providing a service and charging for it, it falls into the professional photography category and client’s should expect a higher quality product in return for their investment, than from your family friend that likes to take photos on the weekend. And with any professional product, that means your digital images need to be improved and delivered to meet professional photography standards.
BRINGING YOUR WEDDING PHOTOS TO LIFE
Without going into all the technical details of cameras and photography, a professional photographer between their equipment and skills will be able to produce a better photo out of camera, but its the polishing off in the computer through editing, that really brings an image to life.
Lets discuss ‘editing‘ and ‘retouching or photoshopping‘ for a moment as I know this is where many come unstuck. I write this from my own perspective and if you are not one of my couples, then I suggest you speak with your photographer directly as to how they define editing and retouching in their photography business and what is included in the photography package – does it include editing as well as what level of retouching if any.
For me, editing applies to the entire image, for example if I lighten or darken the image, it will affect the entire image. Editing is generally adjustments to exposure (lightening or darkening the image), colour balance (adjusting the colours to either a warmer/cooler tone or saturation) or even applying an effect like a specific style or black & white treatment. Whereas retouching applies to select parts of the image, for example spot/blemish removal, skin smoothing and removal of distracting objects.
My photography packages generally only include editing, however, if there is the odd blemish and its noticeable in the image, then naturally I do remove it. But any excess amount of retouching is not includes. Examples of what is not included, is fixing fake tans, tan lines, definitely no reshaping/thinning down body parts – not that I can’t do this type of retouching, but I feel strongly about beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, and as cliche as it sounds, beauty comes from within. Over the years I truly have learnt that a good personality trumps beauty every single time and that shows in your photos!
All these things we have discussed, play a role in the finished image and can take the image from ordinary to WOW.
Most photographers over the years develop a style, both in the way they shoot and the way they edit. They might shoot with a more candid documentary approach, maybe posing to achieve that fine art portrait look, or using lighting creatively. Over the years we have seen editing styles come and go – and some we are glad to be rid off. We have seen editing styles like vintage (a muddy brown/aged look) emerge and over recent times the look as gone with a desaturated greens and warm skin tones, while many photographers like myself stay true to clean more true-to life, natural colours.
Because photographers spend years developing not only their skills behind the camera, but also behind the computer editing, they can become known for their style and clients choose them for their photo aesthetic. This is why photographers might get a little annoyed when clients or other wedding vendors go putting Instagram filters on their images. A photographer’s reputation is stamped on their images by their style. Say a client or vendor went and put a sepia tone effect on an image and shared it on Facebook or Instagram tagging the photographer – sepia toning has been long outdated and a lot of photographers consider to be an ugly look and wouldn’t dare editing their images with that treatment – well for one it’s not a true reflection of the photographers style and will reflect negatively on that photographer because they aren’t shown to be producing work that is along the lines of current trends. That in turn could harm their reputation and stop them booking clients, and in the long term have an impact on business.
BEFORE AND AFTER IMAGE
I could babble on and on about the topic of editing as I am passionate about what I do, but images speak louder than words, right! So let me show you an example.
LEFT IMAGE ( STRAIGHT OUT OF CAMERA ) – The image on the left is straight out of my camera, taken with a professional-grade digital camera and expensive prime lens, and taken by a professional photographer who has been around the traps for quite a few years. The photo was taken in a forest area near the bride’s house, but because it was a sunny day, the sun reflects the green from the leaves, adding a bit of a yucky green cast to the image – a normal effect in this environment – as well as picking up some shadows and highlighting uneven skin tones. I always shoot a little darker than intended, because my Nikon cameras perform better that way, and I can pull more detail out of the image when editing. If I photographed the image brighter to achieve that airy look in-camera, with Nikon cameras, I would loose detail from my image, and that isn’t a good thing. The left image was quite acceptable wasn’t it before I pointed out some of the flaws? However, with the help of some subtle editing, and I do mean subtle, editing should never be obvious, we can transform this image into something a lot more pleasing to the eye.
RIGHT IMAGE ( EDITED IMAGE ) – Our bride is stunning, she has flawless skin except for a couple of blemishes, which I have removed in the edited (right) image. But with a few tweaks here and there, like brightening the overall image which is great for smoothing out skin tone without doing another thing, and just playing with the overall colours, we have a much improved photo. I personally don’t like yellow-greens, preferring blue-greens in my images, so I have played with the colours slightly to reduce the yellow/green effect, which has also helped make her skin more natural and creamy. In changing the colours, I was able to produce an image that resembles the look of film, light bright & airy, which has been a very popular editing technique over the last few years in the wedding industry. Even for the brides wanting natural photos, a little subtle editing can do wonders to the final result.
So if you are one of those brides that is questioning why do photographers edit wedding photos, I hope I have shared a little light on the subject.
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