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5 Things to Avoid When Editing Photos

5 Things to Avoid When Editing Photos

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Editing photos is magical.  It takes an image that already has your fingerprints all over it, from lens choice, to angles, to lighting, and it gives it that final dusting of you.  It can be absolutely enchanting to watch your vision come alive as you edit, but sometimes as we first start out (and even as we have been doing this awhile), the photo can pass the magically perfect stage and start to veer into over-edited, fake-looking, or just plain wrong.  Let's look at a few things you can avoid to help you keep your editing expressing YOU.

1)  Selective Color--I know.  I did it as a beginner.  Crystal did it as a beginner.  It's a rite of passage.  But the problem is that it usually brings you right out of the image and shifts the focus away from the image to something that is only part of the image.  The bright blue shirt takes away from the beautiful gaze.  The colorful beach ball takes away from the beachy fun happening on vacation.  Even the piercing blue eyes can overwhelm an image.  Usually the hours of masking don't turn out to really give MORE to the image.  Usually the story told is either strong enough to stand on it's own, or it's not worth the hours of selective coloring.  

2)  Overcontrasting--A little contrast to an image is like music.  It makes everything in the image richer and more alive.  But once to much is applied the image begins to look overbaked.  The whites lose their texture, the shadows turn into solid black mush and everything looks like it was taken by a cheap Brownie camera.    So, watch the contrast and use it with a gentle hand.  If you need to, walk away in the middle and come back and look with fresh eyes to see if they image is too contrasty.

3)  Oversharpening-- With the earlier iterations of the digital cameras and digital cameras paired with lenses developed for film cameras there was a LOT of digital haze surrounding images (there still can be to an extent) and it meant that a light unsharp mask layer was often applied.  And of course, with social media, images get web-sised and sharpened abundantly.  And in general, this is a great thing.  It wipes out that mushiness that Facebook can add to an image, and it lifts an image from a slight digital haze.  But like all good things, there can be such thing as too much.  It becomes readily seen when an image is oversharpened, because the sharpening starts to leave artifacts and hair and fibers can start to look really "crunchy" and straw-like.  Also, eyes can get a strangely alien look when they are over sharpened.  So a little sharpening can go a long way.  Be sparing and watchful.  In today's time of increasingly sharp camera bodies and lenses made specifically for the digital medium, images often are very sharp to begin with and don't need a lot of sharpening if the are in focus to begin with.  If an image is out of focus, over sharpening won't help.  

4)  Over Softening--Just like with sharpening, skin softening can be a fantastic tool.  Sometimes lenses are so sharp that every pore and skin blemish can appear magnified on camera.  So a gentle, judicious skin smoothing and retouching can be fantastic for making a client feel comfortable with their images.  But if you over smooth an image, it can quickly go from lovely to plastic.  A skin without an texture and no lines looks like a doll and really unrealistic.  So watch for that line and dial it back when you smooth skin.  We feel like our totally unique Pure Retouch technique and set is a perfect answer for getting enough smoothing to make a client feel fabulous, but not lose that lovely texture to the skin that gives the subject charm, realism, and vitality.

5) Adding too much saturation--Vibrant, beautiful images are the goal of many photographers.  A lot of times, especially when shooting RAW, the colorful scenes we see while shooting come back feeling a little flat.  Often that is a combination of needing some contrast and boosting the blacks, but when we first start out, we think we need to crank up the saturation slider.  I'll tell you a secret (lol, just you and me and the rest of the internet now...), even though Pure is know for it's vibrant color, we very very very rarely touch the saturation slider.  It quickly pushes colors out of gamut (what a screen can read and render correctly), and it messes with the reality of the color.  Skin turns red, leaves are blue, shadows turn purple.  The saturation slider should always be approached with caution.

BONUS: Working on an uncalibrated monitor-- If you are going to edit your images, you need to know what colors your screen is actually showing.  Most screens arrive from the manufacturer with color issues.  In general, most are a lot cooler (more blue/cyan) than they should be.  Macs tend to be closer, but most are not spot on either.  So if you start manipulating the colors and the exposure of your images and then want to print or view them on a different device, a lot of times the colors will surprise you if you are not calibrated.  What you thought was just warming up a cool image, suddenly becomes a vibrantly orange image, because you were correcting the overly cool monitor color.  So, getting a calibration device can really help you to know what your images really look like.  These calibrators also work off an international color standard, so a professional, dedicated print company will use the same profiles, which means you are making sure that your images will print just the way you see them on your screen.  When I send my photos off to Millers I know I will be getting back exactly what I saw on my screen when I sent it in.  While it does cost money to buy a calibrator, a few messed up print orders will quickly eat up any savings you get from not calibrating your monitor.  I personally use ColorMunki by X-Rite*, and Crystal likes Eye-One Display Pro from Xrite*  (Both are fabulous.)  (Another fabulous and cheaper version is the ColorMunki Smile)*. Many of our colleagues also really like the Spyder products* for their calibration needs.  When you have the calibration software you can also run it every few weeks to a month to make sure that as your monitor is used and ages, the calibration does not slip and change.  So, having a calibrator is a fantastic and important investment in photography.                                                                           

PS!!  Don't forget that our entire store is on sale for 50% off!  You can also purchase our entire store for only $99!  HURRY!  Ends this week!! 

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