Behind the Scenes: Editing – What on Earth does Jen do to my photos?
Welcome to the wonderful world of “post processing”! Ever wonder “What happens to all those images before they are delivered to me on those really cool USB thumb drives”? Well wonder no longer, for we are about to take you on a behind the scenes tour of what happens to your photos once we say good-bye from your engagement session or wedding.
NOTE: To make sure “credit is given where credit is due”, and as much as I (Travis) would like to take credit for most of the wonders you will discover below, it is really Jen who is the true artist and queen of post processing. This article uses the term “we” a great deal but it is really Jen who is amazes me daily with her photography and post processing skills.
Before we start on our journey, let me preface this discussion with two primary points. The first being, we like to exercise what is called “in camera” techniques. This means we try to get as much right as possible IN camera so there is less work to do back at the office. This is a combination of properly exposing the images, using off camera lighting, and posing/positioning our subjects in a way which flatters and is natural. As many of our clients know, we are happy to show images directly off the back of the camera and we do not hide behind Photoshop. Second, most of the editing you are going to see in this blog is what we do when are creating works of art. But all our images get an extra boost of love when they get downloaded to the computer at Uncorked Studios Headquarters. (SOOC stands for straight out of camera).
Once we arrive back at Uncorked Studios headquarters, all of the images are loaded on to our industrial grade, dual disk failure redundant servers. Travis worked many years as an engineer working with “large data problems” and insisted we follow industry standards when it comes to our data storage. Once the images are loaded onto the server, they are again uploaded to a cloud data storage service. This way we have offsite copies off all your image incase a catastrophe strikes the Uncorked Studios office. After the data storage process is complete we rename and cull the images. Culling is when we look through the images and remove any duplicates, out of focus images, mistakes, unflattering images, or things which just did not come out right. We then backup again to the cloud.
So what does culling look like? Below is an example of the culling process. For this recent engagement session (which is still in our que to be edited) we traveled down the Jersey shore and had a great time photographing on the boardwalk. As we photographed our clients, people walked in front of us, the lighting changed, and we altered our composition slightly. The top three photos were all images which were removed (culled out) from the series and the bottom image is final chosen image.
Once we have our chosen images we baseline edit the images. During this process the color, exposure, and contrast our adjusted producing a standardized “baseline” of images. From this baseline all additional editing is performed. A great analogy for image post processing is comparing the process to cooking. Culling is like looking through the produce to find the perfect pieces while rejecting others. Baseline editing is like washing, prepping, and cutting the produce preparing it for cooking and seasoning.
We like to pretend everything which comes our of our cameras has perfect color, but sometimes when our couples are being absolutely adorable, we forget/do not have time to correct our color balance and we end up with an amazing moment, but not perfect color balance. Take for example this image of a perfect family moment between Uncle Travis and our three-year-old niece. Jen was so fixated on the fact that Sophie was not scared of Zombie Uncle Travis (and she knew this moment would be fleeting), she forgot to set the white balance of the camera.
As can be seen in the image, the fluorescent bulbs produces a yellow tint to the image drastically altering the color temperature of an image. Through color correction in baseline edits the color temperature is corrected making “whites white” and skin tones correct. Once the images are baseline edited, they are uploaded again to the cloud data storage service for safe keeping (if you haven’t noticed already we take data storage and management very seriously). It is at this point the real magic starts. Through the wonders of the Adobe Creative Suite we are able to add a pop of color here, straighten a horizon there, and “kick our images up a notch”. This is when art is created and fun happens!
We are often asked “How/when do you decide to take an image and convert it black and white?”. Honestly, its a combination of several factors. Normally, when we click the shutter we have already decided if the resulting image will be converted to black and white. To help with post production, our cameras have the ability to “tag” an image with a press of a button. We use this capability to quickly mark the image for conversion as soon as the shutter is released. When deciding if the image will be converted (in post production or on the spot) we look at the exposure, lighting, and composition of an image, but more importantly we look at the emotional impact of the image.
Color images are fantastic and deliver a large emotional impact but black and white images, strips parts of an image which deter or obfuscate the true/desired emotional impact. Take the images below for an example. The top image is in color and a good photo. Taken moments before the bride was about to walk to the ceremony location she had a true “Bollywood” moment where she was playing with her dupatta (a traditional indian head covering) and starting hiding her face from the camera. The picture is so full of wonderful color, however the true emotional impact of the image is held in the bride’s eyes. By converting the image to black and white, along with cropping the image, the brides eyes become the focal point of the image delivering the desired feel and impact of the image.
Some photos get a little more intense treatment…
With that being said, this part of the blog is hard to show. It is kind of like a magician showing how they perform a trick. We want you to remember the connection you had with the photo when you saw it, not what it looked liked before going through editing. However, and more importantly, we want you to remember the moment the image was taken. We want you to remember the moment when he whispered in your ear, or when you were about the break into laughter because she said something funny, not the weird tourist wearing a Speedo and making a funny face in the background of your image. We do not want you to remember our staff holding lights, or power lines, or exit signs. We hate exit signs….
So how do we make all those things disappear in your images? Well we can’t give away all of our secrets, however we do use use Photoshop. More importantly, Photoshop can’t fix everything. When we take images, like the ones you see in this post, we determine ahead of time if something in the background requires removal. We then frame and expose the image in a manor allowing for removal of the object . Photoshop can do amazing things, but if the images is not taken correctly, certain objects and situation are not resolvable.
How do we decide which photos get a complete makeover? Typically this decision is made on location before the image is taken. Also, if you have ever wondered what we are talking about frantically while you are waiting to have your picture taken, you are about to find out. When taking an image we know is going to require post production work, we rapidly discuss the finial vision of the image along with the best way to achieve this vision. This includes determining technical details of taking the image such as f-stop and shutter speed, but also things like posing, location of lightening and staff, and if there is anything the background of the image which might need to be removed or altered later.
One thing we would like to add is everything in the photos you see below are naturally in the image. For example we did not Photoshop in a new sky at the top of the Philadelphia Art Museum. What you see is the way the sky was that day. We used Photoshop to enhance the sky a little. We pride ourselves and our ability to capture the natural “awesomeness” of our couples and their surroundings. We never add anything through the wonders of Photoshop, just enhance slightly what is already there.
Now for “a look behind the curtain” with some “before and after”. The samples you see below are created with multiple layers of Photoshop enhancements designed to enhance the image without causing the image to look “fake” or “Photoshopped”. Sometimes the image just needs a little help, like extended the wings on an angel.
Sometimes an image needs a little more work. In the example below in order for the lighting to be correct the bridesmaids were forced to to the left of doors. This resulted in the last bridesmaid standing in front of a white/cream wall. Clearly this is very distracting for it is a huge contrast compared to the rest of the girls standing in front of the cool louvered doors. So with a little help of Photoshop, and an image of the doors before the bridesmaids got there, we were able to replace the white/cream wall with a louvered door. This is a great example where through the powers of Photoshop we are able to deliver the image we, and the bride, had in mind even though the situation didn’t allow.
Leeann and Matt thought it would be awesome to do their engagement session in a movie theater… so we did! The Colonial Movie Theatre in Phoenixville (The “Blob” theatre) was the perfect setting and allowed for some amazing photos. Once we saw the empty theater we knew a composite image would be epic. This image is achieved by placing the camera on a tripod and then placing the subjects in difference position. Executing this type of image takes a lot work during the session, but also in post production! While on location it takes time for it is critical the couple never overlaps themselves. This requires a lot of direction, communication and “flipping” through the images. In post, we need to make sure the photos seamlessly composited as if Leeann and Matt each had eight identical siblings.
This composite technique is the used in a lot of our images including the one below. We assumed Andrea and Brian wouldn’t want Travis or his reflection in their engagement photos.
Sometimes an image just needs a “pop” of color and a filter. We were so fortunate to have an amazing location provided by Colonial Gardens, along with professional grade make up by created by our intern, Alexis. The make-up and location created great photos right out of the camera, but a pop of color and a filter intensifies the feeling delivering the desired emotional impact. We enhanced the details in the clothing. Also look closely at Destiny’s (the zombie on the right) legs. We may have digitally added a little bit of makeup to her legs.
Since all of our editing is done to RAW images, there really is not anyway for you to view the image. So the final steps of post processing include uploading the edited images to the cloud storage service, exporting the RAW image to various size JPEGs, uploading those JPEGs to the cloud, and finally uploading the images to our website gallery allowing you to view them anywhere in the world. Images – signed, sealed, and delivered….
Thank you for taking the time to go on this journey through post processing! If you like taking a look “behind the scenes” let us know and we will continue push the curtain back on the crazy world of Uncorked Studios!