A few words on post-processing

I constantly struggle with the amount of post-processing I use on my photos. On one hand, I want to bring out the best of my subjects but on the other hand, I don’t want to portray a false image. Most of the people I shoot wear makeup to hide flaws / bring out features. So in essence, before I even take out my camera, I have already created a hyper-reality. So what’s wrong with a little extra help here and there with Photoshop?

That’s the slippery slope I find myself on. I’ll remove blemishes, but I won’t remove weight (yes, there’s a Photoshop feature that can make you look 25% less, scary isn’t it?). I can brighten you smile with few clicks of the mouse but I won’t fix a crocked smile.

Photography has been around for ages. Photographers back in the days used the most rudimentary technology available and were still able to capture stunning photos. To me, those photos symbolized the true artistry and mastery of the craft. No offense to instagram, but it takes more than a few filters to take a great photo (but sadly, I admit that it’s a fun gadget to play with).

I have mental checklist that I use during my post-processing:

1.       Lightroom – To me, this replicates everything one can do in a darkroom with chemical processing. This means dodging and burning, adjusting for exposure, etc. Almost all of my photos are processed in Lightroom.

2.       Blemish removal – I’m not going to go crazy and remove every single blemish, but one or two is fine.

3.       Creative experimentation – black and white photos with selectively colored objects. HDR photos, etc. These are obviously processed and I hope the audience realizes that it’s almost impossible to create a completely de-saturated setting. Unless you’re this girl.

4.       The extra “pop” – This is where it gets a bit tricky. If you look at magazines and shopping sites, models look extra sharp and colors are crisp. In real life, images don’t have that HD look right off the camera. Certain adjustments are done to make the eyes “pop” or the smile brighter. But if you go too far, then the person’s smile ends up looking like a Crest commercial (which reminds me of that episode from Friends where Ross gets his teeth whitened and it glows in the dark – not a good look.)

Even though I do minimal post-processing, some subjects expect that polished look they see on magazines. The perception of what a photo “should” look like and what it “actually” looks like is flawed. Recently, Vogue did a photo shoot with Lady Gaga. This is the finalized cover, and next to it is the original non-photoshopped version.

   Click for the article

Click for the article

At what point to we say “Stop, that’s enough processing, she doesn’t even look like herself anymore”. At what point do we, as photographers, draw the line between capturing reality and painting a picture?