28 Nov How a High-End Photographer Makes Sure You Look Good
Posted at 14:12h
The extra steps I take to make sure your photos come out spectacular
What Some Extra work on Your Photographs Can Do
A colleague of mine who is an excellent makeup artist uses the title of the article “You, Only Better” as her motto. And she delivers. The same can be said of the techniques we have as professional photographers to bring you closer to the standards of the cover of Cosmopolitan—and believe me, those people use tons of enhancements. So if you find you can never look quite that good, take heart: no one does in real life.
But photography is not quite real life, though it usually tries to convince us that it is. You know how much you will have invested in your real life look on your wedding day: hair, makeup, dieting, and of course, your gown (and corsets). Some of us photographers take the time and trouble to go further, which is why we have to charge more. But when you look back in 6 months or a year, or 5 or 10 or 20 or 50 years at your wedding album, you’ll say: “My how good I looked then!”—that will BE your memory. You have to judge whether it’s worth it to hire a photographer who knows how to make these subtle enhancements.
The Second Edit
First of all, remember that the extra beauty editing that we do will not appear in your proofs, for the most part. This is intense work and rather time-consuming, so we just can’t do it on every photograph in which you appear. When we work on your album, however, or make display prints for you, this is where we deploy these talents and techniques—the second edit. So you will NOT see these enhancements if you opt merely to purchase the Hi-Res images of your wedding to print them yourself. You must allow your photographer to take those images to the final editing stage, where you’ll see the enhanced results in the end-products that he gives you.
I use several software programs, which give me various effects. The first is PortraitProfessional. I open the photo with your (or anyone’s) face in it, outline the eyes, nose, mouth, and overall shape of the face, and then let it do its work. It removes small wrinkles, smoothes out the skin, reduces skin-shine, reduces blemishes, and then presents the enhanced portrait next to the original, with a stack of sliders on the right side of the screen. If I want to increase any of its operations—take out more wrinkles, smooth the skin more, reduce the shine more, etc.—I move the slider to the right. When I’m satisfied, I have the program save the new version.
Eyes and Teeth; Arms and Waistline
But I’m not finished. Next, I brighten the whites of your eyes and your teeth, but very subtly. Those areas are far from pure white, but often in digital photographs they’re a dull grey. By painting them with a 15% white, I can brighten them just enough so that your eyes stand out a bit more, and your teeth look like you’ve just had a whitening, but not so much as to be unbelievable.
Then, if you have any extra flesh on your arms or waistline, I’ll use the Liquify control in Photoshop to bring them down, but again, not so much as to be unbelievable. Often you’ll look at yourself and marvel at how good you look, but not be able to put your finger on exactly why you look so good. This is exactly the effect I’m aiming for: You, only better.
There are two more programs that provide enhancements: Topaz Clarity and Nik Color Efex Pro 2. Nik Color Efex Pro 2 has an excellent skin softener, that one can use in place of Portrait Professional, but it doesn’t give you as fine control over all the elements that make skin less than soft. This program, however, has some excellent monochromatic toning effects. This produces a black and white image that’s subtly warm or subtly cool, so you can communicate emotional attitudes towards the subject in unnoticeable but effective ways. Topaz Clarity can strengthen small details, if this is what you want. You might want to use this, for example, to make an older man look more authoritative. It can also give you the opposite effect, that is, a practically doll-like skin texture that goes beyond skin softener in the direction of a drawing or painting of your face.
The Power of Monochrome
This brings up the subject of the varieties of monochrome. Many people say they like black and white, but do they know why? Why is black and white, or the many different kinds of monochromatic treatment of an image, particularly powerful? After all, color gives us an unmistakable realism that took a photography 100 years to develop and put into general use. Why go back to black and white?
Color gives us the impression of reality, it is true; but black and white emphasizes the emotion on people’s faces, that color will usually distract from. Moreover, black and white uses higher contrast than color, so it will automatically be more dramatic. The theme or message of the photograph can be stronger in a good black and white than it will be in the color version of the same photograph, simply because color rewards visual pleasure centers, which black and white does not do, leaving the mind to absorb the message of the photograph.
In practical terms, I tend to put the wedding ceremony kiss in some version of black and white. It’s the emotional peak of the entire day, and black and white enforces that power.
See the difference in power of the color vs. the black and white image of the kiss. Cover the image you’re not focusing on to avoid distraction. Which is stronger?
When we speak of monochrome, we’re usually referring to non-color photographs, also called toned photographs, that includes those intentionally given a color cast to enhance their emotional impact. In the old darkroom days photographers used toners to add to the character of images, usually with sepia (light brown), gold, blue (cyan) or selenium (reddish brown). Today all this is done digitally rather than chemically, and the intensity can be precisely controlled. The sepia photographs of 100 years ago have an antique quality about them, which can be effectivetoday in certain circumstances. I have found, however, a very slight sepia effect is very powerful to warm up an image almost below the level of awareness, yet it tends to draw the viewer’s eye into the photograph more than a completely neutral black does. This can be extremely effective in portraits and emotional images.