“That’s pretty close to straight from camera”
How many times have we all heard that when asking other fellow photographers how they went about achieving the final image? I dare say i heard this at least 100 times within the first weekend. I have come to learn that post processing in one form or another is not something to be ashamed of but rather something to experiment with and all images presented to the public or to clients have gone through some kind of post processing.
Photoshop / Lightroom / Aperture or whatever post processing application you favour can be used to fix your mistakes, sure. This is the exception to this whole post, i will be concentrating more and more on the images you capture correctly and then enhancing.
So you have an image you love and now want to make it pop further and wow viewers. Well the idea is not to download a plug-in suite and run all the cool affects in their default mode and say “ta dah!” If you do this, you will suck at Photoshop (collective word for all post processing tools).
One of my main gripes about actions and plug-ins is not that they are an easier way to get to a result, I’m all for easier actions to get results. It’s the user the often uses these, has little or no idea on how to control the plug-in to suit or what the plugin did to end up at the result it has. Why does this matter i hear you say, well it matters because if you don’t know how to utilise it or know what it did, you can’t know how to selectively apply the tool, or know the tool is not going to work in all situations.
So what to do? Use filters or not? No, definitely use filters. But take some time in learning how to achieve the result without the filters (or as close as you can). This will make you understand Photoshop as a platform and bring you additional skills however this will also give you the ability to not heavily rely on someone else’s knowledge to get a result.
If we take skin smoothing as an example of skin smoothing, there are a million different techniques on how to get to an end result of smooth skin, some are terrible and some are acceptable. In its purest form however, to smooth skin, you are not actually planning on smoothing out the skin, you are removing distraction from the skin (i.e. moles / pimples / blemishes / wrinkles and so on). If you are manually able to do this to an acceptable level you will notice that the majority of the “skin smoothing” work has been done. There are then further steps to take in enhancing highlights and shadows by toning the skin etc. but we won’t get into this in this post.
Most skin smoothing filters / plug-ins / actions are doing exactly that mentioned above. The filter finds a difference with colours on a pixel levels and uses some very clever algorithms and technical enquires of the pixels surrounding the pixel in question and replaces this with the average of the surrounding pixels thus removing the pixel in question which in turn removes the blemishes.
Pretty much the message is here that Photoshop has many purposes. I only utilise the photography section and tools available to od the majority of my work in Photoshop and i know that this is only scraping the barrel of what is available within the whole suite. There are some very very clever people out there who can use the whole application, i hopefully someday will learn some of their knowledge from them to utilise in my own workflow. Until then its learning, learning, learning and listening,.
Due to the nature of the application there is many ways to achieve the same result, take time to learn these different ways as there is times it maybe more suited than your preferred way. I strongly encourage you to visit the following sites for outstanding tutorials done by some of the world’s best teaches:
Remember what you spend on your education (at least in aus) is claimable against your income therefore learn up 🙂 Obviously this will provide you with skills above to produce images of a higher level to your customers too.