Elements of Retouching

Hi there,

 Just a few simple touches have been applied - slight cropping, contrast and exposure correction.

Just a few simple touches have been applied – slight cropping, contrast and exposure correction.

This post will have rounded up some bits of advice regarding retouching in photography. It will be directed mainly towards photo journalism so it means not too many of special effects or significant changes.

We can split the topic into two parts – one obligatory, the other more optional.

First, let’s assume that our retouching is done on photos already downloaded onto our computer. For this you need an application that can ‘talk’ to the camera (usually supplied with our camera).

At this stage, it is a good idea to properly archive our photos – putting them into comprehensible folders, subfolders, etc. Later on we will avoid long hours spent on useless searching for some shot we might need. It is definitely worth the time.

Then we might wish to fire up our retouching software. My personal favorite is Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. It does it all for you – downloading, archiving, categorizing, tagging, tuning, retouching, presenting photographs in a variety of ways.

A bit more aggressive treatment of the photo - extensive cropping, contrast, plus B&W conversion took place here.

A bit more aggressive treatment of the photo – extensive cropping, contrast, plus B&W conversion took place here.

Whatever software you use, the steps will be similar.

  1. Initially we could crop the image to ensure only the intended content remains in the frame.
  2. Then we should take a look at any color casts that may appear in our photos. Then we should check and correct exposure and contrast. Color first as it affects contrast or shadow areas.
  3. Resizing could well be our next step. It is always done with respect to what we intend to do with our photograph. If we want to print it, say at 8×10, this when it should happen. If it is meant for Web presentation, we should proceed accordingly. (Print – recommended resolution 300 dpi, Web – 72 dpi.)
  4. The last thing we need to do after any resizing is sharpening. Here we should do it with caution – all depends on the output – for print sharpening is more aggressive, especially for matte paper, for Web it is more subdued. Too much and you quite probably destroy the impact it might have.

Now let’s move on to a couple of things that are rather inadvisable for journalistic purposes. Namely we could try a few additional steps in order to make our photos even more powerful such as more creative/aggressive cropping, cloning (perhaps in order to clean up our frame), more decisive changes of the tonality, color, hue, saturation, etc.

These require a more careful approach as they change the context, tone, message, content of the original photograph. This is absolutely unacceptable in journalism. Reporters report reality, not alter it.

One thing however should be done before publishing – digital make-up in the case of portraits. It remains arguable, but in my humble opinion we should apply some make-up to most portraits. All in the name of preserving our perception of our subject. Normally we do not notice some rashes or acne. Photographs oftentimes tend to unnecessarily emphasize such things. Thus it makes cloning out the acne or rashes a desired alternative as normally we do not pay attention to them.

What do you think? Do you agree? I’m sure I left some things out so let me know in the comments what your uptake is, OK?

Yours truly,

nd

PS

Here’s the link to the PRESENTATION I tormented you with… 😉 If you like, you can view it, download it… etc.

Advertisements