September 18, 2012
I have an excellent friend on twitter, @lau_merritt, who has been very supportive of my photography work since I can’t remember when, but certainly since not that long after I joined twitter. I’m sure she was among my first followers.
We keep in touch, re-tweet each other’s posts and I especially appreciate it when she reposts my blog articles… which I have a funny feeling she’ll do today.
Now the other day the subject of photoshopping came up. Lau, a keen amateur photographer, was struggling with some photos she’d taken on a recent trip. She was frustrated that she’d only just got the camera she took with her, hadn’t had time to get to grips with the controls, and had shot in jpeg mode where she’d meant to shoot in RAW.
It was when Lau came to edit the images that the Photoshop fun really started. I received some messages of frustration and Lau felt she was butchering her images. We joked about the slaughter, the sounds of pixels screaming, red pixels sprayed up the walls – this kind of weird humour appeals to me.
The culmination of our conversation was a rather excellent sketch which Lau drew and which, with her permission, I’m featuring here. After the sketch came the blog article, which you can view by clicking on the photo. I’m hoping for the movie and the musical to be announced soon. The Photoshop Butcher, queue deep, growly voiceover, “In a world where pixels have no meaning, welcome to the slaughter…”
November 2, 2010
I’ve written before on the subject of Photoshop, the pitfalls, dangers and terrors, but “meh”, nobody listened so I thought I’d show a recent example of where I have used some photo manipulation to benefit the final photo.
You see when I shoot for corporate clients, I prefer to get things pretty much spot-on in the camera, rather than taking any old muzzy smudge and hoping I can sort it all out later on the ‘puter. I have heard tales of “professional” photographers who work this way, and it tends to end in tears and a lot of wasted CEO/staff time, not to mention the wasted marketing budget, because by the time somebody has spotted that the Emperor’s new clothes are in fact a figment of the imagination, the cheeky little monkey with the winning smile and the expensive looking camera has caught the next plane to Rio with the company cheque already safely banked.
I digress; back to Photoshop, or to use the verb form, “photoshopping”. Not to be confused with the act of shopping for photos.
In the case where I was asked to get a website cover shot for Clucas Communications the brief was to get a double portrait of Peter and Sibylle Clucas against a white background so the designer could either leave the subjects against white or undertake a cutout more easily. In the event the final shot is used as a cutout against a white page, which works well.
That would seem easy enough, except that the shooting conditions were tricky (to get enough space we ended up setting up the shot outdoors with portable background and lights), so these were not perfect studio conditions. My one compromise then was that I knew I could get the background white-ish, but it wouldn’t be fully white as if we were in the studio with perfect lighting.
Below are the results, and the sharp-eyed among (amongst? amo amas amat?) you will notice that pretty much all I’ve done is go at the background with the dodge tool to lighten the highlights (only affecting those areas which are already almost white) to achieve a perfect whiteness any soap manufacturer would be proud of.
And despite the fact that most weeks I’ll have to listen to some smart Alec or Alice telling me what I can fix in Photoshop, I still stick to the principle that for my work, Photoshop is great for removing the dust spots that are the curse of the digital SLR and correcting the odd colour cast and generally preparing an image so that it is technically viable for either print or web. I’m not going to make a rainy day sunny, or drop the Taj Mahal into the background to make the view from your office window look more interesting. If that’s what you’re after, you’ll be wanting a different breed of photographer. One that will probably be in Brazil by the time you realise those “interesting” photos are in fact junk.
February 17, 2010
I’ll start by apologizing that this subject is so dry, it makes a very dry thing look wetter than a very wet thing. I never was much good at similes. Which brings me not very smoothly to the follow up article on post production (see here) with a few words on photo manipulation.
The question is, when it comes to images shot for your business, when does post production become photo manipulation? At what point does it become unacceptable?
To make better sense of this, I had better define the terms “photo manipulation” and “post production”.
Post production is generally accepted as the process of making an image taken straight from the camera suitable for reproduction in whatever medium it is destined for, as outlined in that previous article.
Carried out within acceptable boundaries, post production won’t change the meaning or intention of the original photo. It’s much the same as the good old days when you had a photo negative printed at the local lab. They would make sure your negative was clean, and they would also make adjustments for exposure, colour cast etc.
It goes without saying, though I’ll say it anyway, that image manipulation in any news, sport or feature photo is unacceptable. For businesses issuing press releases, the simple rule is don’t manipulate. You can damage your reputation and attract negative press and blog comment (remember this?), which will never go away and will take a long time to repair.
Photo manipulation would cover things like adding to, or removing elements from an image, distorting people to make them look slimmer, taking an ugly sign or street furniture out of a background, adding a logo which wasn’t in the original.
A clear example of over-manipulation would be if I changed a self portrait to make it look as though I had humanoid ears. That would just be ridiculous, and those who know me would never stop laughing.
As wonderful as digital is, and for all Photoshop can do, it’s still extremely important to get the shot right in the camera. Not take any old snap, and hope for a technical fix later.
I do think the rules can shift a little when it comes to a corporate photo for a web site, but I still advise caution. For example, I will happily remove pimples or other non-permanent blemishes, but permanent ones stay. The person in the photo needs to be recognisable.
Dropping people or objects into a commercial image, or removing them from a scene, could cause problems of misrepresentation. If done sensitively and with appropriate captioning, it may not cause a major problem, though it’s important to take context into account, and that’s too much to cover here.
Maybe the best way to avoid disasters is to ask yourself the question: Is this a dishonest representation? What would my mother think? That last question alone should put you on the straight and narrow.
Article and photo © Tim Gander. All rights reserved. The articles in this blog may only be reproduced for non-commercial purposes.
February 9, 2010
Post production is the process that dare not speak its name. It is surely some manner of witchcraft; the sort of thing only the Devil’s nerdy brother would be into. So what is it? And why should you care?
The concept is simple, the practice less so. Post production is what happens to the photos after the shoot, and before they’re delivered. And though you don’t necessarily need to know what post production is, it is helpful if you have an idea of the basics.
The image file that comes straight from a digital camera isn’t matched to any particular use, and is therefore not matched to any use. To explain that a little better; the camera file will normally be the right resolution for web (72dpi) but will be too large a file to upload. At the same time, it will be physically large enough to produce a print, but needs to be converted to around 300dpi for good quality print output. So the file needs to be resized to suit the end use.
Other things need to happen too. Often the photo will need some tweaking to get the colour, brightness and contrast perfect for the intended use. Also, while the image will be perfectly in focus (because I don’t take out-of-focus photos – no sniggering at the back!) it will need a little digital sharpening to make it appear really crisp in print or on the web. That’s just a characteristic of digital.
Digital SLR cameras tend to have a problem with dust getting in through the lens mount (normally when changing lenses) and adhering to the imaging chip. These then show up as grey blobs and hairs on the image which need to be cloned out in Photoshop or they’ll show up in the published image.
Adding captions, applying the relevant colour profile and conversion from RAW to jpeg format are also part of post production.
While some of these processes can be done in batches, some have to be carried out on each individual file. This can add considerable time to the overall process of shooting and supplying images to clients, and that time has to be factored into the assignment fee or charged separately, at which point my client might be wondering what they’re paying for. If I’ve factored it in, where another photographer hasn’t, it can make me look expensive, but then I’m not a “dump and runner”.
A dump-and-run photographer is one who simply writes the image files straight from camera to disk with little or no post production, dumps the files on the client, takes the money and runs. They may look like a cheaper option, but the truth is you’re not getting a professional service or top quality images, and this will be reflected in the final project.
Post production can be tricky and incredibly dull work, but I pride myself in the quality of work I deliver. And while you don’t need to know all the technical details, it’s at least worth understanding that it is a necessary process. And the Devil’s nerdy brother doesn’t charge as much as he used to…