I've been thinking a lot lately about retouching. I've recently downloaded a new software that allows single heads to be edited with the click of a few buttons and the slide of a few rulers. It's cool and powerful, and ridiculously easy to use. The question I am facing is: should I??
As I've looked at a lot of other photography facebook pages lately, I've gotten loads of inspiration and great ideas, and overall I am very impressed with much of what I see. However, there are a few that pop up now and then, and I have to cringe. There seems to be a growing trend to "doll" out the eye balls on living, breathing people! Why is that? Honestly, when I see a photo that looks so overly edited, my first thought is that the photographer is new and overwhelmed with all these new tools at his/ her disposal! (I know that feeling well!) But surely that's not the image we want to project to the world on our public pages, is it?
For this post, I've taken 1 photo and created 4 different versions of it. Zach was helping me test lights one night (free labor is awesome!) and this is one of our shots from that session. So, number one is straight out of the camera, two and three are Adobe tweaks in Lightroom and Photoshop respectively, and the last is the new portrait "makeover" software that I have. Also, let me add that until a few months ago, I only edited in Lightroom 98% of the time. I love the adjustments in Lightroom and rarely felt the need to manipulate much further but now as a charging photographer, I accept the need to make the work as top notch and quality as possible, and certainly, PS offers many more choices.
So this first image on the left is straight out of the camera (SOOC). Of course I love my little guy just the way he is, but a little tweaking in Lightroom and his eyes will pop, we can fix the exposure a bit, etc.
The photo on the right is just Lightroom adjustments. I've upped the exposure by +55, contrast +20 and softened his skin a bit by decreasing the clarity. In the past, if this was just for me, for my wallet or desktop background, I probably would have stopped, as a hobbyist. However, as I've mentioned, clients are looking for whiter teeth, brighter eyes and more.
Now for the photoshop edit:
Once I was in photoshop, I decided I'd gone too bright in Lightroom so I made an adjustment layer to tweak the levels a bit. His eyes got a highpass filter of about 50%. His little chicklets were whitened using an adjustment layer and desaturating the yellows while slightly lightening as well. Then I used a combination of clone stamp and healing brush to get rid of the little saliva lines (yuck!). I know there are actions to download and super brushes to do a lot of this for me but as I am learning Photoshop on my own, I do not like to take shortcuts for now... I want to know exactly how, what, why! I am sure as I take on more clients and my editing time increases, I'll start taking advantage of those! I did not brighten his eye whites and he was a bit blood shot that night so please ignore that for now =)
Finally, I opened the photo in the portrait makeover software that I have. As I mentioned, it's very easy to use and really does A LOT! But how much is too much?? For the record, I would not use this on a child typically! For this little test, however, I wanted to keep the photos consistent. So, here's my boy all "Glamour Shots"! (Mid 80's mall photo joint!) To be honest, this just creeps me out! Yes, I've exaggerated the bounds of this program on Zachary's eyes, but look through Facebook and you'll find this look over and over and over. Some even more contrived than this! In this example, I had turned "off" all the skin altering sliders, but you can tell that he's still missing some freckles. When I look at these webpages, especially photos of children and definitely of graduating seniors and **I** can tell they don't really look like that in real life, I have to wonder, where the value is in having a photograph of your child that doesn't look like your child!? In addition, the software did a horrible job on his teeth compared to using a simple few clicks in Photoshop. That said, It's not bad software... if used correctly. I just want to make a banner that says, please do not slide all rulers to the far right!!! Look, I know myself, I've gone through really bad editing phases and I am a long way from perfect today. When I look through my catalog of 33,000+ images, I can see when I was really into over saturating, or totally over doing the blacks, or, on the other hand, completely desaturating anything and everything. You live and you learn... I just hope this doll eye trend fizzles out quickly!! Who is buying it?!
So, what do you think? Am I falling prey to it myself? Have I brightened eyes too much in the photoshop version?? Maybe only 40% highpass would have been better? Or are you a fan of the doll eye look and think I am way off base?? I'll be the first to admit I'm learning every day. Let me know your thoughts!