Brianna Foster | Before & After: Why Photographers "Post-Process"
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Before & After: Why Photographers "Post-Process"

September 05, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Before & After:

Why Photographers "post-process" & a reminder why you hired us in the first place (even if you didn't know it)

***disclaimer -- there's a better than average chance you'll find grammatical errors in this post. I'm decent with grammar but not excellent. So just remember, I'm a photographer not a journalist...

Remember those old photographs in your history textbook? Where everyone looked like they were on death row because sitting for a portrait took so long that they didn't smile? Behind the camera taking that seemingly solemn picture was a photographer who was paid money to take their portrait. When cameras and photography first came out, it required special knowledge and equipment to take pictures. Because of the need to have someone who knew how to operate a camera, photography as a career was born. But what about today?

With cameras becoming so common and inexpensive (not to mention easy to operate -- ever watch a toddler play with an iPhone? They've got that down pat), it's kind of amazing that photographers still exist. But we do because styles and desires change. If all we wanted today was a picture of someone sitting in a chair looking at the camera and not smiling, all you need is a decent camera and possibly a tripod. Set it to auto and push the button. Check the back of the screen and make sure eyes are open -- and done! But that's not how we roll, is it?

Photography has developed into an art, where we strive to both capture things as they happen and be able to show the world how we see things. Subtle camera settings can make a huge difference, and our learning to master these settings goes on for our entire career (well let's be honest, our entire lives). So along with the knowledge of these camera settings, as well as having an artistic eye, we must master the art of post-processing. Don't get me wrong, having an artistic eye and knowing how to actually use your camera are incredibly critical for a photographer. Thankfully that hasn't changed. Instead now we carry the additional need of editing and processing the photographs into modern works of art.

So what? Why am I bothering writing an entire blog post with multiple images explaining why and how photographers set about their editing process? Simply put, because it's the part that most people don't see and gets forgotten.

When you hire a photographer, you are aware that you're paying for the hour session (or more depending on type of session or event). You show up and see the photographer change settings, move around, and if it's me possibly see them climb things or lie on the ground in weird positions to get "the shot". Those are skills you actively see while they're happening and can appreciate. Maybe you wouldn't have thought of bringing the camera down low, or knew what settings to put the camera on for certain effects. Most people however forget (or don't know) about what goes on after the session is over, when we spend upwards of 5 hours editing photos for just a single portrait session.

Many times I hear people make remarks about "getting it right the first time so you don't have to fix anything". Yes, to a certain extent that's true. If you're working in a studio where you have controlled lighting and backdrop, it's definitely the case. Editing there goes much more quickly and is boiled down to fixing facial blemishes or dark circles under the eyes. However, when you're on location or at an event, things aren't always so controlled. Lighting and white balance changes as you move from daylight to shade, as the sun sets, at events your flash can fire fine in one direction but move too far to one side and the color of the ceiling changes which messed up your bouncing the flash. These are the things we look to fix. Sometimes it's as simple as bumping up the exposure a little for an artistically bright look, or maybe the 1 year old being photographed suddenly played peek-a-boo from behind the shade of a pillar. Maybe a rouge bug flew too close to the camera and created a blur on the edge of the photo, or one random leaf decided to hang out next to your subject causing a distraction.

Sometimes the post-processing can even take on a much more artistic edge, as we mix the perfect levels for a black and white photograph that pulls at your heart strings and creates a timeless feel, or tweaking some settings just right to give it a vintage feel (without overdoing it and attempting to recreate a "filter" from a nameless photo app...). A lot of the time, it's also about turning what we seen on our computer screen into the vision we had in our heads when we took the picture, which sometimes can take some fiddling. Playing with the contract, the clarity, the vibrance of colors -- all of these things are manipulated to give you something special.

Now you may be thinking, "just leave the photograph alone!" but remember why you hired us again? Because you want photographs of you/family/friends in portraits or capturing memories at an event. That have a certain feeling or make you gasp when you see them.  That make you realize how beautiful you are. Because you want a piece of art to hang on the wall.

So the next time you question prices for a photographer, remember we're artists. Trained with both an artistic eye, and a knack for handling technology. And that the "quick" 1 hour photo session you're hiring them for will most likely require anywhere from 8-15 hours of work, mostly post-processing, to make your photos shine.

Check out these Before & After shots of some of my photographs with clients. Can you spot the differences? Can you see why photographers take pride in the work they put into crafting each image? Some differences are subtle, and some change the entire feel of the image. (Yes there are a couple from the same wedding, mainly because they're the ones I'm currently editing and am loving how they turned out!)


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