Before and After: Road Less Traveled

Since I haven’t posted a Before and After in almost a year (Part 5 was posted in February 2011), I think it is time!

My aesthetics is to have my images look natural, but polished.  They shouldn’t look over-processed, but they also shouldn’t look flat, which some straight-out-of-the-camera images can look.  Yep, even a “fancy camera” can produce images that look hum-drum.

A great image is a combination of so many factors.  It’s about how you frame and compose, it’s about the lighting, it’s about the camera settings, it’s about the emotion or the story you’re capturing, and it’s about the post-processing!

I know many pros who transplant faces from one image to another.  MANY pros do this.  The reason for this is because you may have a perfectly great shot of a group, but one person blinked or maybe doesn’t have a pleasant facial expression whereas everyone else looks utterly delightful.  So what do you do?  Discard that shot or transplant the eyes or the face?

Many remedy this by transplanting in Photoshop.

For me, I remedy this by shooting a lot.  I rarely get an image where I think:  “Shucks!  I wish I had gotten the second before or the second afterward.”  I predict situations where a lot of movement occurs — either by me or by my group of subjects — and I’ll shoot a lot at that time.  Shooting a lot means I take more time going through the images after the shoot, but I think it’s worth it in the end.  That’s just me though.  Many pros pride themselves on how few images they take per shoot.  So there are various methods of shooting out there.

My advice is: do what works FOR YOU.

Don’t worry about what camera you own, what lenses you have (or don’t have), what settings you used, how many frames you take, and what you do with post-processing.  If you love the end result (and your clients do too, if you’re a professional), then I give you a high-five!  So don’t compare yourself to other photographers and always take criticism with a grain of salt.

The Road Less Traveled (by me)

So this past weekend, I had a shoot where this one grandparent (who had poise and was ultra glam!!!) temporarily stood apart from the rest of the group.  She started talking to me, and I kept shooting her.  For this one moment, she looked down.

Instantly, I could envision the shot I wanted, but unfortunately, it didn’t include the other people in the background.  I quickly squatted down to get most of them out of the frame before my subject moved, but I couldn’t get them all out of the frame because I wanted to include her arms as well as not look completely up her nose!   ;)

If I asked the group to stand aside and my subject to look down again, the image wouldn’t have been the same.  What I loved about that particular moment was the way she looked down… like she was embarrassed that I was photographing her.

So I took the shot.

In post-processing, I could’ve chosen to crop the image into a vertical one, thereby getting rid of the background people.  However, I intentionally composed the shot to have her on the side, so I could see the pattern of the columns beside her.  So I chose not to crop.

[FYI:  I rarely crop my images, unless it's just a tiny bit.  It reduces the image quality and restricts how large my clients or I can enlarge their prints, so I try to get the image "right" in the camera.]

So I took the road less traveled — by me, that is — and Photoshopped the image to my heart’s content!

BEFORE

ATP_Portrait_Vision_BEFORE

AFTER

ATP_Portrait_Vision_AFTER

Here were my post-processing steps:

First, in Photoshop, I cloned out the people in the background.  Then I retouched my subject’s skin — just a tad, so it is smoother, but still looks like skin!  (I usually do this with close-up portraits.)  Then I did some oomphing to make the image pop!

The end result is EXACTLY how I envisioned it when I took the shot, so I am happy as a clam!  It’s a little more editing work than I usually do, but sometimes you have to venture into unknown territory.

Who knows….maybe one day I’ll even transplant a face in Photoshop!  Nah, who am I kidding?!!

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9 Comments

  1. I love that you post this kind of stuff. Not only the technical side of things, but the very real side of things! Your work makes me aspire to learn and do better! Thank you!

  2. Gauri Webster

    Thank you so much for all your tips and posts. Your work is amazing and really gives me confidence that I could maybe not be that bad, after all, either;). Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Thank you for your comments, Kristin and Gauri! Knowing that any part of my work (an image, a blog post, a tip…anything) helps someone makes me feel really good! It is from hearing these comments that inspire ME to be a better photographer, so I can continue to inspire or teach others. So thank YOU! :)

  4. What a lovely pic, thanks so much for sharing, I love following your blog, it’s very inspiring and your posts are always helpful.

  5. Thanks, Moira!

  6. You’re awesome, Annie…

  7. I love the work on the second one, but I don’t even think she needed “smoothing” on her face. The first one is how she really looks…and it’s amazing. That isn’t, however, to say, I don’t love what you did with the shot because I do. It’s gorgeous!

  8. Florence lee

    Ditto Moira’s comment! You’re awesome Annie! Love it!

  9. I agree, Lisa. She is stunning all on her own. I believe EVERYONE is beautiful just the way they are! But even myself… I don’t mind a “digital facial” in closeups! I do this for most of my closeup portraits as a courtesy, regardless of how gorgeous they look. So far, I haven’t had anyone tell me they wanted more wrinkles in their photo! ;)