Re-Touching Your Portraits
Retouching has got itself a bad name, yet it has been part of photography from the earliest Victorian photos until today.
I am often asked if I "do photoshop" on my images as if that were a terrible thing to even think about. The truth is that post processing has been done since photography began, it is only recently that extremes of processing have brought it into disrepute.
Adobe Photoshop® is a piece of software that started out as a digital version of what was capable of being achieved in a darkroom. The darkroom was a place full of the smells chemicals, weird red lights and trays of fluid with paper resting in them.
Back in the good old days of film you had a huge range of tools that could help you to manipulate the final look of your portrait.
Film choice - you could pick the kind of film that you wanted - each recipe of film gave a different feel to the final photo. Super saturated or low contrast, grainy, low dynamic range, pushed yellow, and a whole host more! Hybrid recipes were designed specifically for uses such as portraits, landscapes or black and white street photography.
In camera settings - how you deal with your portrait is largely determined by what you do with the camera itself. On most cameras there is a PHD button (Push Here Dummy) that will take what it thinks is a good shot - and it can be great. But someone with experience and skill already has decided what the final image will look like and is setting the camera up to produce that final effect.
Dodge and Burn - once the shot is taken it could be developed more or less (dodge exposes more, burn less) to give brighter and darker patches. Ideal for removing skin blemished, or adding them in when that is the fashion.
The list goes on regarding what could be achieved. Today those same tools have been brought up to date and built upon. In my opinion, where this has gone too far is the filter syndrome - one click automatic enhancements that make people look plastic.
So what do I do?
Firstly I have a plan in what your final portrait is going to look like. In this way I work towards that goal to produce beautiful fine art painterly portraits. My camera and lights reflect that aim which goes a long way to achieving what I am looking for in giving you a great portrait.
Secondly, I capture two images at the same time - one is very flat and is the one I will ultimately work on. The other is black and white and quite contrasty. This is the image I see on the back of my camera once I have taken a photo.
I use a black and white contrasty image as this gives me a good feel of how the light is working on you in your portrait. It is easy to be fooled by colour contrasts and tone changes into thinking that the light is just right. I want to see just shadows and highlights.
If you look at the back of my camera you may be disappointed - a black and white high contrast photo is not flattering at all. What you cannot see is the washed out low contrast colour photo that is captured at the same time which transforms into a beautiful painterly portrait.
Once I get home I use software called Capture One™, which is industry standard for professional photographers. I use this software to even our your skin tone as well as colour and contrast your portrait. Once I have it as good as I can get I take your image into Photoshop for fine editing.
The purpose of my editing is to firstly remove temporary blemishes such as scratches, spots, food between teeth, cat hair on clothing, stray hairs on your face, make-up dust and the like. Then I remove shine spots, tidy your hair and then get down to dodge and burn. This last stage takes between one and four hours per image. It has the effect of evening out the shadows and wrinkles - giving you beautiful (not plastic) skin - like you see in the skin cream ads.
So when you look at your portrait it is a labour of love - no quick fix filter. An average portrait session takes me 2 days to complete, then I leave it a day and come back and tweak!