Good evening to you all,
I thought that today would be a fantastic day to talk a bit about how the professional wedding photographer process your wedding images in this digital age, before delivering them to you as digital files in high image- quality. You have very likely come across expressions such as “image editing” or “all post production time included in package” when browsing different photographer’s web sites. But not being a photographer yourself, it might be difficult to comprehend exactly what this means. So I thought I’d shed some light on that for you today!
What is “post production” ?
Post production can easiest be explained as the term which embraces everything that the photographer would do with your images after the shooting stage at your wedding, such as:
- Downloading all the images from the camera, go through them and delete the ones that don’t make it for the final selection.
- Open your images one by one in their professional photography software and for the photographer to apply their own personal post production techniques – or with other words “to process your raw files in to final images”. This is also called to apply “the signature editing style” amongst photographers and is very personal to each photographer, since it is their “stamp” on their work and every editing technique has been developed and personalised by the photographer him/her self, and may entail years of perfecting different skills.
- Apply “retouching” which is a more detailed work of individual images and includes actions such as retouching of the skin, removing something (like a sign for example) from the picture, or add something to the picture, etc.
- Give all your images suitable file names, apply the correct profiling and write all your files to a disc or a memory stick.
- Perhaps upload copies of your images for a personalised online gallery, or create a gallery on your disc/memory stick.
What is “image editing” ?
Image editing is probably one of the most important steps in the post production process for professional wedding photographers. And this is such an important process, since it totally sets photographers apart from one and other! I’m not going to go too much in to detail, simply cause I can’t – there are probably a million ways of editing images, which is why each photographer has developed their own unique style. But these are what I would call the main principles behind image editing:
- When the photographs come out of the camera they are in so called “Raw files”. The raw file has a certain amount of information in them, depending on how well the shot has been executed. The photographer can adjust the image, with the information that is in the file – easiest explained is that the photographer can adjust exposure, colour, sharpness, etc – but there are very varied techniques for all these adjustments, so these things can be done in very professional manners as well as in very basic ways.
- Editing is not just about “fixing mistakes” which people sometimes presume it to be. Editing is much more about processing a shot according to a photographer’s own style and using the information that is in the shot already – it all goes together: the photographer already knows that if he/she uses the light and composition a certain way when taking the shot, then certain settings will work afterwards to bring things out of the shot. So the editing is more in symbiosis with the shooting style, rather than a “fixing of mistakes”.
- Image editing is also used to “fix mistakes” of course, or to help photographers when a shooting situation has been close to impossible – such as for example bringing the exposure up afterwards, from a pitch dark ceremony where no flash was allowed.
- It’s during the editing stage that images can be turned in to black and white as well. You probably won’t believe it, but there are actually so many ways of making an image black and white. Again the photographer will use certain techniques to make the image “pop” in their own style, and create a certain “black and white look” for your images.
Image editing has always existed! And has always been an important part of the process…
Image editing is actually not something new that suddenly happened with the digital revolution. Before photography became digital, cameras where loaded with negatives and once the negatives had been processed, photographers would expose light through them and this way create an image on to paper. But it wasn’t simple as that – there where actually loads of techniques to it…
- For example, photographers used to cover some parts of the paper to expose some parts of it for longer and some parts of it for less time, in order to make some parts of the image darker and other parts lighter.
- The light inside the actual easel that exposed the light had different settings to it! So the photographer could make the picture look more “mild” and flat or set the light to make the photograph extra contrasty.
- In fact, the very “top pros” where experimenting with different techniques on to one and the same piece of paper, really bringing out the details in the shot.
- Also of course, all different types of film had different features. You could choose a certain film already in advance – some film might have a more magenta tone in the shadows, while some where more bluish or green, some would be more contrasty and others more flat and natural – then there was the slide film for achieving a strong colour punch. Also B/W film had their different properties when it came to contrast and grain, and just by choosing a certain speed of the film, the colours and grain might totally change. (Today the choice of film has disappeared – all photographers have RAW files which are fairly similar to one and other across the different professional digital SLRs – but with post editing techniques, digital images can be brought closer to the different results that where available with film)
- Once shot, before getting in to the light room to expose light on to the negatives, the negatives had to be processed in chemical liquid, and even here the photographer could add their artistic mark! They could let the film expose for longer or less time than recommended to get a certain look, or the film could be cross- processed to come out with colours that where “off” or opposing to how it would naturally be.
- When it comes to colour photography, each and every colour could be worked at in a photograph for hrs through the machines in the dark room, to get the right shades that the photographer was after.
- Then after everything had been processed and printed, there is yet another step that the photographer could take to add their artistic mark: tinting of the actual print to get a colder or warmer photograph.
- Even way back in the day, before colour photography even existed, photographers would paint negatives with actual colours before exposing them to light on to the paper – and this way create photographs in colour!
What is “Retouching”?
To retouch an image is to work on an image a little bit more ” abrasively” and make actual changes to parts of the photograph – most commonly using tools in Photoshop. Examples of retouching would be:
- Take out/ tone down aging skin or acne.
- Tone down the look of tiredness and red eyes.
- Make people slightly slimmer
- Take objects/obstacles out that seem to be included by mistake – for example a sign
- Add something to an image
- Add effects
In recent trends the retouching of photographs has actually trailed off a bit, compared to a few years ago. It is no longer trendy to kill all the details in the skin, making the bride look like a doll, or to add loads and loads of false vingetting (dark borders or round edges inside the image), or to turn everything in an image into black and white – while keeping just one details such as a flower in colour. And not every photographer will take out a glowing exit sign. At the moment modern wedding photography steers towards either a natural or a fine art look – with changes or adjustments blending in and being tasteful rather than being easily spotted and look fake.
So to conclude…
I hope that this article has helped sort out the different terms a bit with regards to post production in wedding photography. The most important points that I would like to put across, is that the elements of post production are absolutely vital in professional wedding photography. It’s not something that “bad” photographers do to save “bad” images. It is something that professional photographers do to complement their photography style and artistry. And actually, it is something that has to be done to your photographs to make them ready for professional printing! As history shows us, the photographer has always put their artistic marks and “edited” the images even before digital age. A Raw file that is just converted in to a Jpg for you without any editing, is in a sense less advanced than a negative was 10 years ago – since it wouldn’t even have any of the individual qualities that camera- film used to have. (As mentioned above – now in the digital age, these qualities has to be added afterwards in the actual editing process.) So editing in the digital camera age is highly vital. To conclude, the most important reason for image editing, is for the photographer to enhance and put their style across: “The signature style” of each and every photographer is: Their shooting technique combined with the techniques they use for image editing.
How much time a photographer spends on the post production process, and what level of skills are used for your images is up to each individual photographer and their professional level. There are photographers who spend 5 hrs on the post production from a full day wedding, and there are other photographers who spend 50 hrs or more. Of course, when you look at different photographers, you will probably be able to tell that there are different levels and styles for post production. Judging by different price levels available in modern photography – you will find evidence that everybody set aside different amount of time and use different sets of skills for your photographs. I hope you’ve enjoyed the article! And if you have anything you’d like to ask me, I’d love to hear it – please just click on the link below, to pop me an email.
I’m a contemporary wedding photographer based in London. And I sometimes also write articles! Having completed 4 years of professional photography studies in 2008. I studied photography just as film and digital where crossing over, and was jumping between darkrooms processing film – in – to – negatives – in – to – prints the old school way – and being behind a computer, learning the skills for modern digital editing. It was really interesting for me to see how the Modern and Old school techniques actually aims to do the same a lot of the time, which is why I wrote this article – and hopefully this will give you more of an understanding for what image editing and retouching is in modern wedding photography.
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