Wednesday, July 05, 2006

We'll Fix It in Post

In video production, there are five words too-often spoken on sets. Words that chill the hearts of editors and other post-production people. These five words are: "We'll fix it in post."

I guess that "we" in "we'll" is a royal "We" because these words, more often than not, are spoken by individuals who never set foot in the editing bay.

Another way of looking at these words and what they really mean is this: "We're not going to take the time to do it right or we're not smart enough to figure out how to do it right so we'll pass the problem off to the post-production guys and let them fix it."

When I first started shooting digital--still photography, that is--I quickly realized one of the first things I needed to do was to learn Adobe's incredible and versatile image-processing program, Photoshop. I bought and read books and magazines, searched out tutorials and learned from them, went online to find tips and techniques to upgrade my Photoshop skills. In fact, more than three (Adobe PS-ing) years later, I still do most of these things. Photoshop is one of those programs where, seemingly, there's always more to learn.

As I learned more and more about manipulating images with Photoshop, I found myself often throwing everything including Photoshop's kitchen sink at my images. Man, I could gaussian blur and distort and clone stamp with the best of them! So much so, that I found myself unconsciously adopting an attitude of "I'll fix it in post" while shooting. I didn't actually say this to myself, but when chimping my images or checking out their histograms, I'd spot things that weren't right and I knew they weren't right but I also knew I could fix those things in post. So, I simply carried on.

Even when I took the time to shoot the images correctly, I would still find myself applying tons of Photoshop to them. Suddenly, every model needed skin like Barbie. Every fold of her skin, no matter how Yoga-like I bent the model (expecting her to have super-contortionistic skills while shooting her) needed to be removed. I wouldn't be satisfied with the model's hair color, so I would fix her hair. Her eyes and teeth weren't bright or white enough, so I'd make them whiter and brighter. I would dodge and burn everything in the image to improve the contrast. In short, I would regularly over-process my images. The result? Beautiful women who did not look remotely real; perfection in a porcelain doll-like way.

Then, one day, I was looking at my work and I realized that it wasn't my photography that had gotten better, it was my Photoshop skills. And when I say "better" that's a very subjective call because, suddenly, the models didn't look better, they simply looked different, i.e., they looked fake.

That's when I began scaling back my application of Photoshop and became more focused on the photography itself.

Photoshop, IMO, is a wonderful gift to digital photographers. It can be an image-savior. But it can also be a crutch. These days, I think (and hope) I have more of a less is more attitude about Photoshop. Sure, I still fix things with Photoshop. I still enhance the image/model with Photoshop. But I think I do so much more discriminatingly. And, in so doing, I think my photography has improved along with the images I process.

1 comment:

Jason407us said...

I started out doing the same thing...I would take OK pictures, and make them Good pictures with a bunch of Photoshop work.

Now that I have improved my shooting skills, I have noticed a major cutback in the amount of PS time I put in.

I think we all go a little overboard when we get a new toy...but that is how we learn. :)