“To find out if she really loved me, I hooked her up to a lie detector. And just as I suspected, my machine was broken. ”
The above photo is an extreme example of how badly things can go with photoshop. this was done with the portrait pro plug in and this is not a reflection of what this plugin is capable of. I don’t use PortraitPro any more, but I relied on it heavily in my early introduction to retouching and it is actually not bad when used properly.
The last few years there has seen increasing criticism and negative reviews about post processing of portrait photography. A lot of this stems from misunderstanding the photographic process and the belief that photography is more of a documentary tool than an artistic tool. Most serious photographers see themselves as artists, but most of the public does not. The backlash stems from the belief that irresponsible celebrities, magazines and photographers are lying in their images about product capabilities and creating unrealistic goals for ordinary people. Unfortunately a lot of that is true, but that is not the only side to the image editing story.
Photographers have long used tools to enhance or alter the image presented to the public or client. Some of the techniques employed were:
• Using camera filters or lighting to reduce the appearance of wrinkles
• Selecting lenses that provide more pleasing renditions
• Choosing angles and lighting to make someone appear slimmer
• Post processing; One of the most commonly used techniques in Photoshop (dodge & burn) is a direct evolution of the techniques employed by film photographers to add drama to a landscape image or adjust a portrait.
A good photographer painstakingly adjusts lights, poses and his/her own position to create the image that he wanted. For a family or personal portrait then to ensure repeat business or referrals the photograph needs to be as pleasing as possible for his client and audience. As a result there has always been manipulation in all stages of the image making process.
Personally, I like retouching. I think my background in art has taught me the patience to go over an image and fix lighting issues, temporary blemishes micro transitions on the skin; some of these issues are caused by my screw ups or artistic choices when I took the photo. I really want to learn all those awesome lighting and posing techniques that can bring out the best in each person, but I’m still honing that so there are times when I get it less than perfect – thankfully I get to fix in post (did I just say that 🙂 ).
My goal of portrait, fashion, or glamour photography is to create an image that does not appear retouched. I want them and everyone to to not only like it, but think is the best representation of their look and personality. Therefore I make sure to understand what they want and are comfortable with. I rarely liquefy or warp, and if I do it is usually on clothing or if I am asked to do so. I may fix a problem that I should have caught in camera, like having someone arms pressed against their body so that it looks bigger than it actually is. I dodge and burn liberally to enhance mood and lighting and I colour grade and clean up the background to the best of my abilities.
I don’t tell my subjects how much work is done in Photoshop because it is not that much and I don’t want them to think that they can only look good in photos if someone photoshops them. I use photoshop to fix my shortcomings as a photographer and I believe that with the right makeup, lighting, posing and placement they would look just as awesome. It may be that as I improve my photography my use of Photoshop will be less corrective and more creative, but Photoshop will always play a big part in my photography process.
So on my creative photography journey I hope to develop all the in camera skills than make my photos look awesome. However, I will also be working at improving my photoshop chops to get amazing creative effects as well.
Check out this page on retouching in the early 1900’s
Some other references on the topic:
darkroom film dodge and burn old film techniques