I often find myself admiring the work of other photographers and going ‘ahhhh! this is SO good!’ You know the ones – the people who seem so damn talented that you walk away going ‘what am I doing wrong?!’ and ‘why don’t my images look like that?!’ Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret (and it’s something I have to always keep reminding myself) – most photographers’ have to do a whole bunch of work after they click that shutter button to make the final image look as amazing as it does.
First I’ll start by saying that it is incredibly important to get your images looking as best as they possibly can SOOC (straight-out-of-camera). While I’m out on location and shooting I’m constantly checking the LCD on the back of my camera to check for things like exposure, shutter speed, sharpness and depth of field. From shot to shot, conditions can change drastically and therefore camera settings need to be adjusted accordingly (and fast!). For example, just recently I had a photoshoot with a beautiful black lab on a bright sunny day in the middle of the afternoon. She was a fast as a bullet (as most young labs are), and therefore she was darting around the park – running in and out of spots of dark shade and patches of bright, direct sunlight. I shoot in manual mode – which means that the camera doesnt make any automatic decisions for me. In order for me to have complete control over my images, I don’t want the camera to choose what to focus on or what to expose for – I want to choose it. So I’m always observing the light and colors around me and turning knobs and clicking different buttons to change settings while I’m shooting. Sure, it’s a lot of extra work but it also ensures that my images will turn out exactly the way I want them to.
That said, even the best SOOC photos can use a little post-processing to help brighten them up, correct colors and make them pop! So I am going to share a few ‘before and after’ photo combinations to give you an idea of what I do in the ‘digital darkroom’ after I load the files into my computer. I use Adobe Camera RAW, Photoshop CS5 and Aperture 3 to process all of my images.
First, check out Boomer! He is a sweet little Corgi mix that I had the pleasure of photographing earlier this winter. I tend to slightly underexpose my images so that I don’t have any blown out highlights or ‘clipping’. Then in Camera RAW I can pull the exposure up just a bit to brighten the photo. I always sharpen the eyes first, and then the overall photo. (Since eyes are the window to the puppy soul – they always need a bit of extra attention!) Another thing I spend alot of my time doing in post-processing is leash removal. Not every one of my clients feels comfortable letting their baby off the leash in a public place – and since their safety is absolutely the most important thing – I rely on my Photoshop skills to take care of leashes after the fact! …
This next photo is of Molly, a gorgeous Fox Terrier Mix who I photographed while volunteering at the MSPCA. She is adoptable and waiting for her forever home so I thought she could use a glamour shot! 🙂 This edit of Molly is very basic – but my primary focus was pulling out the gorgeous spring colors. In the before, the colors seem drab and dull to me – and her eyes don’t really pop the way they do when you see her perfect face in person. So I sharpened and color corrected to accentuate the true way I saw her when I was there. Also – that bandana of hers was just fantastic so I spent a little bit of time working on the colors there…
Next up are my beautiful niece and nephew, Nala and Simba. This photo was taken deep in the woods in the middle of a New England snowstorm. Shooting in the snow is tricky if you are using automatic mode because when the camera looks around and sees so much white, it is tricked into thinking that the atmosphere is brighter than it really is. Situations like this are another reason why I always shoot in manual mode. It goes to show you – as amazing as the brains of the cameras of today are – they will never ever be as good or as accurate as the human eye.
So, with this photo – I brightened it up quite a bit and removed the green color cast. And since my devious little niece and nephew can be sneaky off of their leashes, I decided it would be safer to take care of the leashes in post-production than risk them getting into trouble off the leash. (Later in this photo session however, I thought Id give them a try off the leash and Simba decided the thing to do was to go swimming in pond that we passed by in the arctic temperatures of the snowstorm. Needless to say, the leashes went right back on and Simba was immediately taken to the parking lot and defrosted by the heat vents in the car before we were able to go back out. Haha!)
So there you have it! It’s always kind of a vulnerable thing as an artist to show work that isn’t 100% absolutely your best (which of course is what the ‘before’s are). But I think if it helps viewers and aspiring photographers perceive and appreciate photography in a different way than it’s gotta do some good! So, keep in mind, when you see a great photographer’s work and you start to get down on your own – it most likely didn’t come straight out of the camera looking like that. When my favorite photographers share tips and tricks about their editing process I get so excited! In a way, it helps me feel closer and more connected to their work.
I’m thinking I may try to share one of my favorite ‘before and after’s with you all once a month or so. What do you think? 🙂
Until next time!