Professional photo editing | What hiring a professional photographer is all about
Professional photo editing takes as much time as taking them in the first place. Or sometimes longer, depending on what needs to be done to get the photo to its finished state.
When you hire me to shoot a half day for you, for instance, that means I’m with you for up to 4 hours taking photos. What that also means is that I’ll spend another half day working on those photos for you. From culling the images (i.e. selecting only the best and most appropriate ones that match the brief) to cropping, straightening, brightening and editing the shots, it’s a long process. But that’s what you want from me – to make the photos look their very best.
I have a client I shoot interiors for regularly. She has often said that what she loves about what I shoot for her is that all the rooms look so bright. Partly that’s down to how I shoot them in camera, but it’s also because I take the time and trouble to edit them afterwards so they look like that!
Here’s an example of the difference that editing makes to an image. This is a recent commission to shoot some headshots for Farleys Solicitors in Manchester.
The brief included the instruction that the images needed to be on a bright white background, to match other existing images.
What you need to understand is that you don’t get a pure white background just by having a white wall or paper backdrop. For very complicated reasons which aren’t worth going into, any camera will try to make it look pale grey (see the first photo). To make a white background actually white you need to fire bright white light at it. So, one way I could have done this was to take an extra pair of lights with me and aim them at that white wall. That would have done the job, but introducing additional lights would have also created problems elsewhere in the photo, as some of that light would have been landing on the subject in places that didn’t want extra light. Not to mention the extra kit needed to be brought along and set up, which would add time and expense to the shoot.
The alternative, and the method I chose to use on this shoot, was to shoot with my usual lighting setup, to get the best light on the subject, and to deal with the background later.
If you look at the first photo, you see the photo as it was captured in camera i.e. with no editing done to it. It’s a bit dark isn’t it, and there are things that need to be removed to make it look right. But the basis of the photo are there.
The second photo is the result of a bit of lightening and cropping. Shadows are lifted, the colour balance has been adjusted, things have been generally cleaned and tidied up, leaving the overall image looking better and brighter. For a lot of purposes this could have been nearly the end result, leaving the background a pleasing pale grey/off white, but removing the two vertical lines (actually shadows as the area is a shallow alcove) and cloning out the picture hook.
The third photo is the finished result, with the background removed and replaced with a pure white one, to match the brief. Of course, it’s entirely possible to drop any colour in at this stage. If you’ve a brand colour you want to use, then that could go there. Or something to give contrast and make the image stand out on the page (a bright cherry red, for instance, sky blue or yellow – you get the idea).
Of course, this doesn’t just apply to portraits. All the photos I shoot are professionally edited with the same intended outcome – that you don’t know I’ve done it. Every photo that I send to a client has been edited so that it’s the best version of it that it can be, but not so that you’d notice the editing. It’s a fine line to tread sometimes, but one that I’ve tried to do for years.