“Do you do any photo editing or retouching on our wedding photos?”
That’s something I get asked often and I suppose because this gets confusing when you’re asking different wedding photographers about their work process. It gets confusing because what I do isn’t necessarily what the next photographer does (in fact, I know it’s not), and even when it’s called the same thing (like “editing,” “toning”, etc.) , it’s done completely different from studio to studio.
So yes, I do editing and retouching. But here’s how I do it:
I want my photography to look a certain way so I have my own proprietary formula for colors, tones, brightness, cropping and other calibrations. When editing, I’m applying these edits to the images.
But let me add first, here’s something you should know about me. I admit to this. I’m my own worst critic. I’m hard on myself. Merciless, actually. I should be kinder to me. But I’m not. It works for me and it’s good for you too because it means I don’t rest on my laurels and I’m not content with “good enough.” In my book, “good enough” is another way of saying “hey, this is mediocre.”
So to get the images to where I’m loving what I see (and I need to because then I’m not happy. And if I’m not happy with them, how can I expect you to be happy with them? Are you beginning to see how my thinking creates nothing but grief and anguish for me?) I need to work on each image individually. I can’t batch process a mass group of images blindly. I need to see each and every image as I work on it. Real time. Batch processing is quicker and less costly to do, but that’s also what you get for your money when you pay wedding factory type operations churning out dozens upon dozens of weddings. They deal in the world of “good enough.” I want better than that. I want better than just “good enough.”
It’s not who I am. I take an artisan approach, not a mechanical approach. I’m not looking to do things the quickest or most economical way, I’m looking to do things affordably, but in the best way. I suppose if wedding photography was a disposable item, not meant for long term use, it would make sense to do things cheaply in bulk. But I believe I’m in the business of preserving memories and crafting heirlooms to be appreciated through generations… and that calls for just doing what’s right. It’s the way I was trained when I went to art school and then worked as an Illustrator. If it was worth doing, it was worth doing right.
So that’s the first stage of editing… for me. Most wedding photographers end it right there. But here’s what I found:
It made sense to remaster all the images which go into the wedding album. No one else was doing that of course but it dawned on me that this was the right thing to do if you wanted a better looking album. Here’s why:
Do you know beforehand which images are going to be the ones which end up in your album? No. Neither do I. But I do know I want the album images to be the absolute best versions so that’s going to require some more retouching (blemish removal, covering over exit signs, things of that nature) and remastering (developing the images to their fullest potential) to make those images cohesive, in harmony with each other and to really stand out as an artistic work.
I want the images to make jaws drop. I want people to look through the wedding albums and breathlessly say, “wow.”
But here was my dilemma: these further image refinements would be cost prohibitive to do to each and every image. BUT… does that mean the wedding album has to suffer for it, consisting of wedding photos which only have the first stage of editing to them? Like other studios do? No. That isn’t right either.
So taking that extra step on the wedding album photos is what I do. I’m forced to. Because…. groan… I’m not satisfied with only “good enough.” Oh, I say to myself, the album’s only going to be around for over 100 years – it’s going to be considered a piece marking this couple’s life, something all their future generations will cherish having… maybe it’s worth going the extra mile for?
I believe it is.
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