Most jobs are a bit mysterious from the outside, and I guess photography is no different.

You’ll have heard that most of a photographer’s job is editing, so I thought I’d help explain what we actually do. 🙂

BASIC EDITING

Most photographers shoot RAW files. These are ugly files but they also have lots of data.

So, the first step is making the colours and exposure look nice. I like a painterly look, which means that all my photos get a basic tweak to curves, saturation, split toning, calibration etc. This part of the process is what makes every photographer’s work look subtly different.

After that, I open each image and give it further tweaks. Usually this takes up to 5 minutes per photo.

In a way, it’s not too different to Instagram filters. You have your basic photo, but it always looks nicer with some TLC.

Before-and-after example of colour grading, all done in Lightroom.
Before-and-after example of colour grading, all done in Lightroom.

PHOTOSHOPPING (THE EASY STUFF)

Most photos stop there, with a basic edit done in a RAW editor. But Photoshop is the next stop when you have to do things like:

  • Head swaps
  • Removing things from backgrounds
  • Fixing simple skin blemishes
  • Extending backdrops
  • Filling in textures (e.g. if the grass is patchy)

 

Most photographers are usually happy to do a bit of this stuff per wedding. Personally, I’ll Photoshop anywhere between 1-50 images each wedding. Usually it’s things like a cell phone in a groom’s pocket (nothing forces you to pay attention on a wedding day like fixing one of those!) or a tourist in a background.

Photoshop is amazing… but it also takes time. Even simple things like these can take 10-20 minutes to get looking right.

(Just as an aside, occasionally someone in the bridal party will have a black eye or a weird tan line. It’s ALWAYS cheaper to hire a good makeup artist than to pay a retoucher to fix each photo afterwards!)

After a basic edit, his took about 30 minutes in Photoshop to extend the frame, dodge and burn and hand-draw bulbs into the missing lamps.
This took about 30 minutes in Photoshop to clone out the flash (not pictured sorry!), extend the frame, dodge and burn and hand-draw bulbs into the missing lamps.

PHOTOSHOPPING (RETOUCHING)

Full retouching is a super slow and super detailed process. There aren’t any magic buttons to make skin look good – just hours of zooming in and out and clicking. A proper retouch can take anywhere from 1-20 hours. No kidding!

If you see a big fashion campaign all of them will use a professional retoucher. And they pay through the nose for a good one, because it is such an art form.

Examples of things that can be done in Photoshop (but take ages!) are:

  • Getting skin looking model-smooth
  • Fixing hair flyaways
  • Erasing bra or undergarment lines
  • Redrawing jewellery (e.g. if a necklace has rotated during a shoot)
  • Redrawing clothing
  • Fixing skin tones (e.g. between a sunburnt chest and face)
  • Combining multiple exposures
  • Removing or entirely redrawing backgrounds

Most wedding photos don’t need this level of treatment. You already look amazing on the big day. However, if a couple have paid for a Vanity Fair style family portrait, or we’ve done a high-concept shoot… that’s when a few extra hours in Photoshop will definitely happen.

Note: Because this level of retouching can be quite private, I couldn’t find an example to share today. But will update this post the moment I have a good example for you. xx

I hope this helps you understand a bit more about editing, and what “can you Photoshop this?” really means! xx