Ask The Expert- Photographer Jeff Haden: Photoshop

Posted by Azure on October 8th, 2009
About Jeff Haden of Blackbird Images The Q:How much does a photographer use Photoshop on wedding photos. And now much should I expect my pictures to be ‘Photoshoppped’? Thanks, Kaylie M.”

The A: There are three answers to your question. Answer 1: No matter how hard any wedding photographer tries, some images aren't perfect. Stuff happens.

"Problem" images – under-exposed, with incorrect white balance, with an odd hue due to light sources or reflections – can usually be corrected, at least to a degree. Normally we don't need to "fix" images. We're good at what we do and we often take a number of shots of the same pose or moment just in case. But still… stuff happens.

Like in the photo on the left, above. Just as the shutter tripped a lady with a red umbrella blocked a strobe and another light source. Not only was it under-exposed and muddy but it also had a pretty bad orange/red cast.

It was definitely fixable, though. In the middle you can see the same image, in black and white, after about 30 seconds of digital corrections including adjusting levels, curves, and some selective dodge tool work.

Not bad. On the right is the same image in color, after extensive corrections. This version took almost five minutes to fix; the main difference in the black and white and color versions is the need to ensure skin tones look natural, which can be a whole lot trickier than it might sound.

Obviously we don't need – or want – to do this amount of work to every image, but sometimes we capture a moment or expression we'll do just about anything to save. Answer 2: I’m convinced I can always do something to make an image a little better; cropping, levels, adjusting saturation or hue…something. So I do. (Compulsive, maybe?) I normally don’t spend more than about 30 seconds making a few corrections before saving an image as a proof, but if the image seems worth it I’ll spend a lot more. So in our case you can safely assume all your proofs will have been edited/retouched before you see them. In other words, they’ll be print-ready. Some photographers don’t edit proofs; they wait until their couples have seen all the photos, then edit the photos chosen for printing. Saves the photographer some time… but makes it a little harder for the couple to choose their photos. We want our couples to select photos knowing exactly what those photos will look like. So – to find out your photographer’s process, ask! Answer 3: Occasionally a couple will want effects applied to individual photos: black and white background with a color bouquet, interesting lighting effects, removing/adding people to the image, etc. (I once had a bride ask me to make her look “thirty pounds lighter” in all her photos. And I did.) We assume we’ll create a few special images within the cost of a package; if a couple wants a number of photos with effects applied, we’ll estimate the time and cost required and let them decide how to proceed. Basically we can do anything… but since “anything” can often take a lot of time, don’t expect for all Photoshop services to be free. Again – ask up front so you’ll know exactly what to expect. As with anything, setting and understanding expectations up front keeps everyone happier later. And don't forget, ladies- now you can have ANY and ALL of your wedding questions answered by our panel of experienced experts! Just send your question(s) to!
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