On Aug. 14, the docudrama “Straight Outta Compton” hit the theaters, opening to great reviews. While I want to see the movie for nostalgic reasons (that’s right. Once again: I’m old!), I am also getting a kick out of the trendy images being generated using the movie’s logo. I’ve seen “Straight Outta Murray”, “Straight Outta Money” and even “Straight Outta Toilet Paper”. For me, each time I hear it, I can’t help but think of the perfect photography version to throw into the mix as well:
“What does that mean?” You might ask. Well, it is something just about any photographer can instantly relate to, although many might not want to indulge in it too often. And, if you are a smartphone user foregoing any Instagram filters before posting to Facebook or Twitter, you are already doing it. Basically, it means taking a photo and posting it unedited for all the world to see. For many professional photographers, such an idea would likely be met with a bit of apprehension.
Now you say: “But Patrick, you’ve written blogs assuring folks of a professional photographer’s costs including his or her editing skills and time. Why would you want to even broach a subject like this?” Well, to put it simply: Illustration.
Before, I have written blogs discussing why professional photographers charge what they do for their services (Reiterating the costs of photography in a world looking for “cheap” and The cost of professional photography…It’s a lot more than just pressing of buttons!). Aside from business expenses, there is the talent portion and part of that is knowing how to edit an image in order to bring out its best appearance. And part of that is knowing what to touch up and what to leave.
However, just saying all this still does not make it tangible for the non-initiated. To many, “edit” is simply a quick, four letter word (well, not that kind of four-letter word, but you get the point), however, for photographers, it is a loaded one. It is much more than simply brightening up an image, clicking the yet-to-be-invented “remove pimples” button and sending it on its way.
So, with this in mind, I am now about to break a rule in professional photography by revealing some shots which are “Straight Outta Camera” (SOC). I will show a few examples and, while I will not go into a lot of detail (there are tricks to the trade, you know), visually it will give an idea of what “edit” means to a professional. Let’s start with something relatively easy. This photo was taken at this year’s Murray/Calloway County Chamber of Commerce Business Celebration Dinner:
Truth be told, this was one of my favorite ambience images from the dinner. SOC, it was not too bad, however, a little editing made it much better. For starters, there was a dim, incandescent lighting ambience in the room. With photography, “incandescent” means “orange” images. Now, to be fair, the event’s ambience had this warm glow about it even to the naked eye, so total removal of the incandescence was not the goal. After all, the point of event photography is to capture the event in portraiture the same way one would capture a memory. So, following some exposure adjustments, color shifts and some attention to details, you get the image below. See if you can spot all differences. I’ll start you off: one glass on the left had a condensation droplet. It no longer does!
Next, we have a familiar wedding (well familiar, if you regularly check the blogs). Below is a SOC image taken at sunset at the MSU Arboretum earlier this year (To read more about this wonderful wedding, click here).
I know, I know. Looks great SOC, right? Well, there is plenty of room for enhancement. Exposure is just one subtle tweak, see if you can spot others in the edited image below.
Feel like a kindergartener playing a rousing game of “spot the difference”? If you were to compare these images, you would get points for noticing (spoiler alert) the lack of phone poles/wires and water bugs in the bottom image. And this is to say nothing of the enhanced color and details
Next, we have a portrait…and its a cute one! We took this of our friends’ dog earlier this year when nearby snow drifts were just about over this little guy’s head. Now, snow wreaks havoc on camera light meter anyway. Add to this a highly contrasted dog and, SOC, you get…
The dog has eyes, I swear. If you don’t believe me check post-edit below. Also, see if you can spot some of the other edits: (hint: think color matching).
So, there you have it. A few illustrative examples of what it means to professionally edit images. And I didn’t even get into the more subtle adjustments and personal touch-ups we often perform.
Now, you say “But, Patrick, so you have to brighten a dog’s eyes or remove a phone pole from an image. So what?” Ah, but you are forgetting the repetitive nature of editing: No matter the client or situation, there is always, ALWAYS, something that appears repeatedly in multiple images of every shoot. Examples include upside down boutonnieres, skinned knees, mosquito bites, pimples, scabs, and stray hairs.
So, with this in mind, imagine taking the time to enhance a great image like the arboretum image above. The color, lighting, highlights and shadows are adjusted and phone poles, wires and bugs are removed. 10-30 minutes of your time is invested in this one image and it ends up looking fantastic! Feeling satisfied, you save and close the image only to find…well…a similar image with nearly the same set of issues next in line. Now multiply that several times over.
Are you starting to get an idea of what it is to professionally edit an image? Great! Are you also seeing why the idea of SOC might make some professional photographers’ eyes twitch and blood pressure rise? Even better!
No matter how great the shot (or how great the sampled movie logo above) images are rarely (very, very, rarely) ready to go “Straight Outta Camera”. Thank goodness we have professional photographers to make sure that seldom happens 🙂 !