Why A Photographer Is Like A Chef
Serving Up Your Images – Would You Like Some Editing And Retouching With That?
You can cook a meal yourself at home. Sometimes, however, you just want the taste of a chef-cooked recipe with the ambience of a restaurant and none of the washing up!
You can take your own snaps at home. Sometimes, however, you just want the artistry of a photographer’s images with experience of a family photoshoot and none of the technical hassle!
So what do a chef and a photographer have in common? Well, as with any professional service, both can offer you something which you recognise to be extra special. That something which makes you go “wow” because it’s a cut above what you could achieve yourself. As a chef can offer taste, a photographer can offer style.
But what exactly is style? It’s a bunch of things but in this blog, I’m going to be discussing some of a photographer’s key ingredients – editing and retouching.
Do you ever wonder how I edit and retouch photos after the photos have been taken?
There’s much to be said for getting an image right ‘in-camera’. This takes knowledge and experience to get a good shot to begin with. Is the subject in the best position? Is the light at the right angle? Are the camera settings correct for the scene? There’s a lot to consider…
But photography is as artistic as it is technical. With this comes a set of tools, both in and out of the camera which help us to create our finished image. Here, I’m going to walk you through some of my post-processing journey. Not the all the techie parts but rather the arty side where the magic happens…
What exactly does editing and retouching involve?
The terms ‘editing’ and ‘retouching’ are used fairly interchangeably in the industry, both meaning more or less the same thing – digitally manipulating an image to change it in some way. Personally, I like to think of editing and retouching as different elements. For me, editing as the initial process whereby I go through each image and decide whether it needs straightening or cropping, whether I need to adjust the exposure to make it feel lighter or darker, reduce or add contrast and alter the colour tones. Retouching, in my book, is the next step where I focus on altering a person’s appearance or on adding or subtracting elements to or from the image.
Post-processing offers an extension of what photographers achieve in-camera. It’s just like art. There are so many variables! It’s exciting to experiment with additional possibilities. We can totally influence the way we perceive an image.
Eventually, photographers develop a preference in the way they like to finish an image. Consistently editing in a particular way eventually leads to a recognisable style. It’s this style which makes one photographer distinguishable from another. Style is also a major reason why people choose to go to a professional photographer because their photos look different to those which can be shot at home.
I have grown to prefer a light and airy edit but others prefer a more dark and cosy feel. These elements of editing affect the mood of an image which can radically alter how we understand it. I often aim for a pastel or pale feel to make my images feel more innocent and whimsical which really suits my child subjects. The same image could be edited completely differently and create a totally different response.
When people ask whether I edit the images, they are actually most usually referring to the alteration of a person’s appearance, from removing blemishes through to changing body shape. I tend to call this ‘retouching’ but you might also think of this as ‘airbrushing’ or ‘Photoshopping’.
Whatever you call it, this aspect is such a controversial issue in today’s media-driven society, particularly when it comes to body image.
I know you probably think you never look nice in photos. I can’t name a single person I’ve worked with who hasn’t described this feeling. Most of us feel insecure about our appearance for one reason or another.
Yes, we should learn how to be happy with ourselves exactly as we are but even the most confident amongst us aren’t immune to a bad day with the odd spot, frizz, bloating and dark circles, all of which leave us feeling less than our best. If you haven’t got your own personal photographer on tap who can be on-hand in the very moment you feel amazing, then there’s always an element of ‘risk’ when booking a photoshoot…
It can feel like such an overwhelming effort to actually go and have a photoshoot that you put it off because you’re worried about looking half-baked and feeling disappointed. So many mums put it off to some imagined time in the future. The truth is, we never feel slim enough, look less tired than we feel, or have enough time to get our hair and make-up just right… but if not now, then when? Will we then just start telling ourselves we’re too old?
So, my opinion on retouching is therefore everything in moderation! I try to retouch the images sensitively so that you feel they look like you on a ‘good day’. If this gets you to exist in photos with your children, then I’m all for it. You are far more likely to regret NOT having had those photos taken because in the end it’s about so much more than how you look.
I can reduce how much ‘Photoshopping’ I do by getting as much right in-camera with good lighting and angles. We both want you to feel comfortable when looking at the photos, secure in the knowledge that it’s mostly as shot but with a little helping hand to eliminate any temporary or circumstantial issues such as blemishes or shadows. I want you to recognise yourself but be pleased about how flattering the photo is whilst not being able to pin-point exactly what’s changed! I’m not going to go making your nose a different shape or altering less temporary aspects of your appearance because that’s who you are and it’s not for me to make those kinds of judgements or decisions.
Making alterations to a person’s appearance is the most controversial aspect of editing because attitudes vary widely as to how far we should go. What do you think?
What about children?
When it comes to children, I tend to avoid any obvious retouching to their appearance. Children come as they are and I enjoy capturing their unique character and natural innocence.
I draw the line at bogeys though – they go. Many parents ask me to erase temporary scratches and bumps but others may view these as signs of an adventurous childhood! This should totally be your choice though most families are very happy to leave it to my discretion.
So how does editing and/or retouching look in practice?
In the first trio of images below, I show the stages of my post-processing. Remember, for my own purposes, I like to make a distinction between editing and retouching…
Already a little cutie, this edit merely brought the image in line with my style by lightening and reducing the contrast. Then to retouch, I eliminated the temporary red blemishes to bring the attention fully back to his gorgeous eyes without distraction. Crucially, he still looks like himself and this is really important.
Below are some straight ‘before’ and ‘after’ edits.
I took these images near noon when the sun is at its highest and most unflattering. As is often the case with little ones, they dictate the session and I can’t always be totally in control of their positioning. This meant that the original images were shot at an awkward angle in the light. This caused severe contrast between the highlights and shadows on mum’s face which are quite distracting and not as flattering as had I had more control at that precise moment. I also didn’t like the shock of bright green which cast a greenish glow on mum’s face.
However, I couldn’t reject such lovely moments so it was a case of trying to save the images in post-processing. The main aim was to even out the lighting to create less contrast and a softer finish. Reducing the contrast means bringing down the really light parts of the image whilst bringing up the darkest parts. In this way, with the second image, you can see more of mum’s eyes and gain a better sense of her expression. Therefore, we have more of a connection to the photo. Secondly, desaturating all that green made the image feel softer and lighter in accordance with my style. I then added a hazy effect to really emphasise the beautiful, dreamy moment amongst the grass between mother and daughter.
In the next images, I followed a similar process of lightening before adding a little magic! Bring on the bubbles and the sunlight lens flare! As you can see in the first image on the right of the picture, we were blowing real bubbles! However, at this particular moment, they had drifted just slightly outside of the frame. However, the expression was perfect and I knew that a little overlay of bubbles in Photoshop would recreate that moment. Voila! The light patch I added inthe first image helps to make sense of the light in the bubbles.
Hopefully, in the ‘after’ images, you’re starting to recognise my style. Something distinguishable from the ‘straight-out-of-camera’ images on the left which are much less recognisable as belonging to a particular photographer. The editing and retouching post-processing enables me to create additional elements which reflect my own style.
So there you have a whistle-stop tour of my editing process! It takes time. Time to develop the technical know-how to both shoot and edit. Time to develop an artistic style. For me, clicking the shutter button on the camera is only one part of the journey towards creating beautiful images. I just adore the magical potential of editing and retouching!
If you’d like to take a closer look at my style, please check out my galleries! If you’re getting married, you might also like my wedding photography!
“Hi, I’m Kate, a family photographer in Kent. If you'd love light, natural, relaxed photos in your family gallery, captured whilst you enjoy just being together, then I might be the photographer for you! Fancy an outdoor family photoshoot on the beach or in the woods? Let’s create that timeless collection of images for your family before anyone grows any older! I’d love to meet you and capture the memories you’re making along the way…”
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