Photoshop, little changes for a big impact
I've been processing a lot of photos lately, between my ongoing work with Shutterstock and the wedding I was recently honored to be the photographer for. Most people don't realize how much work goes into a professional level photo or why photographers charge the rates they do. So I decided to try and explain my process to help people see what they are truly paying for. The photo taking part is the fun part of photography. Being out in nature focusing on something beautiful you want to capture or in a lively wedding, sharing in all the love and good feelings that fill that special day are wonderful things. It is the training and processing of the pictures that take them from something anyone could take with a good cell phone to something that can be enlarged to 8 x 10 or higher and retain resolution and clarity. Given that a normal photo shoot results in between 200 to 300 pictures, the first thing I do is go through and delete anything that is obviously a bad shot. If only backs are visible, if someone's eyes are closed in a group shot, if a shot makes someone look bad, out it goes. That normally drops the 300 pictures down to about 150 or so. Then I run those through Lightroom. For a single picture, I normally spend around 10 minutes adjusting color, balance, exposure and other settings. If I have two to three shots of the same subject, which I try to do with every photo, I pick between the shots until I find the one that I like best. After running the pictures through Lightroom, I normally cut the number about in half again. So now we are down from 300 pictures to about 70. The next step depends on the project. For Shutterstock, I do very minimal editing in Photoshop. I will remove extraneous background items that I couldn't cut out of the picture and adjust size until it is at a minimum of 4mgs. For the wedding photos, I went a bit further and also cleaned up fly away hairs, glare on glasses, a light touch of beautifying because these are wedding pictures after all and resizing. Then I walk away from the project for a few days. I really like to come back and look at the final photos at least twice more before I submit to Shutterstock or release them to the happy couple. I often catch little things by taking the time to review them a couple of times with space between to see them "new" each time. Here are two shots from the wedding I did. One is after LightRoom, so the colors and exposure have been adjusted. The second is after Photoshop, so that you can see the difference. It took me probably a half hour in Photoshop because I want the changes to be something you really don't even notice unless you compare the two pictures. In this case, I removed a lot of stray hairs from the picture. I removed the hairs on Tracy's forehead and the hairs near Jim's mustache were both cleared out. I evened out skin tone just a touch to balance some of the shine and resized it to look good at 8 x 10 size. All told, for this one image, I spent about 45 minutes. I'm sending the happy couple over 2 dozen finished, Photoshop images and about 140 pictures that were run through LightRoom. Adding in the 4 to 5 hours I spent at the wedding, that's about 18 hours of work. So.. what may look simple and easy only looks that way because of the time, attention to detail, and most importantly, training I've invested in. I love photography but getting that perfect picture really is a lot more work than most people realize. I hope this is helpful in some way. If there are any questions, please let me know. I love sharing the things I've learned, sharing knowledge in no way diminishes your skill or value so pass on the lessons you have learned!