Thursday, May 21, 2009

My Photoshop Skills, i.e., My Lack of Them

Yesterday, one of my Twitter peeps, Almus, of PlayVice Photography, asked, "Do you ever do any blog posts on your processing technique? and/or before/after samples?"

I tweeted back: "Don't consider myself much of a PS processor. Certainly not enuff to spout expertly on my blog."

And it's true. I ain't a Photoshop expert. I barely consider myself above-average and/or professionally competent when it comes to PS image processing. Yeah, I know how to do a few things in PS. And I spend a fair amount of time attempting to increase my PS knowledge. But expert? Not even close. That's why, for the most part, I don't write much about my Photoshop endeavors. I ain't qualified. It's as simple as that.

It's also why I don't overly process my photos. Sometimes I do a bit more and sometimes much less. But if, as a rule, I heavily processed my work, for the most part I'd muck it all up!

In my line of work, leastwise in terms of what happens to my pics after I snap them, processing the photos I make is a job (best) performed by someone else: Someone who actually is a PS expert and who has mad skills when it comes to image processing. BTW, that "someone else" is usually some professional graphic designer (who I rarely get to meet) who takes my pics and works them into DVD cover art, marketing and advertising materials, magazine and web art, etc.

In a sense, I work for those graphic designers. At least, partially I do. No, they don't write or sign my checks. But if their jobs are to make my photos sing, my job is to deliver the best I can give them when I'm in production.

The "best I can give them" includes good focus and exposure, picking appropriate places to shoot the images, directing and encouraging the models to "sell" the goods, framing and composing and lighting in ways that gives the art guys some latitude and options, and more. Call me old school but I consider myself a photographer first and, sometimes, an image processor second.

The faux schoolgirls in the nothing special diptych at the top are Nicole on the left and Krista on the right. I shot them this past Tuesday at the same location house in the Hollywood Hills shown in yesterday's update. Per my Twitter friend's request, I provided before and after examples.

The photo on the left is right out of the camera. I did, of course, resize it for the blog. The image on the right is the same pic but after I performed some minimal processing on it. That processing included cropping, some tweaking of the levels, contrast, and color, some very minor burning and dodging, a small amount of sharpening and that's about it.

Whether you process your own images or someone else does it, my best advice is to do your best to get it right in the camera. Don't rely on post-processing to frost a turd!

As a side note, besides photography, I've also spent a fair chunk of my career as a video editor. (In addition to my work as a photographer and/or as a video shooter.) I always cringe when, while editing something, I hear some off-camera-asshole say, "Don't worry. We'll fix it in post." It makes me look around the room for the person connected to the voice. But guess what? The only one there is me! Somehow, the "we" in "we'll fix it in post" always turns out to be a big fat freakin' lie! I'm the person who ends up having to fix it in post! And I know enough about shooting and production to also know it wouldn't have taken much work to do it right in the first place, rather than counting on the editor--i.e., making the editor work harder--to "fix it in post."


Paps said...

Hey Jimy,

I've got another reason to get it right in camera: I've taken up shooting in the good old analog days to get *away* from the computer. Irony hit me right in the face with a tablet and photoshop ;)

So I agree with your conclusion to get it right in cam, but for a completely different reason :D

Frank Wise said...

I hear ya Jimmy, loud and clear. Get it right the 1st time

Almus said...

Thank you for this post. Your photos as great and this is a great look into your process. I agree and understand the goal of getting the best image possible out of the camera before doing any PP. As an amateur, the jobs I get generally require me to do my own PP which is why I was curious. Also in your original "schoolgirl" post you mentioned the difficulty of getting the exposure right on the white shirts and I was at that point my curiosity was piqued about what the "before" image looked like (had getting the exposure correct on the shirts required you to underexpose other parts of the image, etc.) Anyway, my questions are answered and I appreciate your time making this post.

Thank you,
Almus (Bob Lopez)

joshua said...

Hell, my own philosophy is to "fix it in camera" and I'm usually labeled the retouch nerd.