If there were one genre of photography that you could do without retouching then that genre would be – wedding. The union of two people for life is the most auspicious of moments and it is but understandable that they would want to look their best. As their wedding photographer it is but your responsibility to make them look their very best. This is where you have to be extremely careful when retouching wedding images. We have compiled the following guidelines for retouching wedding images –
But first a few aspects prior to post-processing your images.
Importing and backup up the RAW files
This step is not associated with the actual process of editing the images. However, these are nevertheless extremely important because they are good habits to have if you are going to have a successful career as a wedding photographer.
I would suggest that you take a back-up of your RAW files as soon as you reach home / work after shooting a wedding. Always safeguard the SD cards as if your life depends on them. If you have a back-up plan already that’s excellent. If you don’t create one.
Either way import the RAW images to your computer and then create a back-up of them on your back-up system.
Labeling, culling and shortlisting of images for editing
This is the second step. This step is best handled if you have Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. It involves, culling the misfires (images which are out of focus, where the subject blinked, or poor posing and those sort of things).
Lightroom gives a very quick option to cull and sort your images. You can label your images based on how many stars you would give to each one of them. This is helpful when you come back to make the final selection for post-processing before delivery.
1. Not culling images which are unworkable
Don’t feel afraid to cull images which you think cannot be worked with. I wouldn’t physically delete them from the hard drive. Simply delete them from the library so that they don’t appear the next time you open the folder. Bad images take a lot of time to ‘correct’. No point wasting time on them.
2. Watch out for the skin tones
Getting the skin tones right in all the images is of paramount of importance. The skin tones and the general white balance of the image sets the tone of the image. I know it is difficult at times when you are shooting in mixed lighting situations, to get the skin tones right in camera. Most photographers prefer to use a visual reference card. They shoot a white balance card before getting on with the rest of the images. But even with that getting the skin tones right can be a challenge during post-processing.
3. Overdoing the Clarity Slider
Nobody likes the clarity slider when it is overdone. The last thing that you would want to do is to tweak it more than it is necessary. I normally keep it unchanged, unless I can see that the frame has capture a bit too much detail on the face than either me or my clients would love. Remember these are wedding images and no one likes to have skin blemishes showing up, even with make-up on.
In any images much of the getting ready images of the bride would need to be softer and with as less contrast as possible. The lighting should be flat. In other words harsh shadows area no-no. To achieve this you need to ensure that the final post-processing does not defeat the whole purpose.
4. Overdoing the process of retouching wedding images
Another mistake that photographers tend to do is they tend to go overboard when retouching wedding images. Stuff like the clone stamp tool or the spot healing tool can sometimes create what is commonly referred to blobs. One part of the skin sticks out from the other. It gets more horrible as you try to ‘correct’ it. Finally, you end up converting the image to black and white to avoid getting caught. You don’t want to do it.
5. Not keeping the image as flat as possible in camera RAW
Photographers don’t realize, and this happens far too often, going in from Camera RAW to Photoshop / Lightroom the image has far too much contrast. The idea is the exact opposite. If you want contrast, don’t try to achieve that in Camera RAW. This is because if the image has too much contrast going into Photoshop / Lightroom there wouldn’t be room to work with later on.
Ensure that the image is as flat as possible. Check the tone curve to verify if the highlights and the shadows are near about the same range as the mid tones. This will give you a lot of room to manipulate when going into Photoshop / Lightroom.
6. Overdoing the Post-crop Vignetting bit
To some extent vignetting can be interesting when you do it the right away. Whether or not vignetting looks or not in a particular image will depend on image to image basis. You have to take a call on this. Overdoing it can well, make things appear over the top. By all means avoid using post-crop vignetting in all the images or entire batch of images. They don’t look nice in every situation.
7. Don’t process all your images in black and white
I am not against black and white images. I love them and sometimes I feel the only way you can do justice to an image, an emotion is when you strip away the unnecessary colors from it. But just like post-crop vignetting, you shouldn’t be using it in every possible situation. You have to make that decision on a case to case basis.
Let’s say that the bridesmaids were wearing colorful clothes and the wedding itself was a destination one with lots of natural colors around. The last thing you would want is to convert your best images to black and white. Why would you do that? After all, all those colors and all those beautiful hues would make any image look beautiful.
But then again there are moments when I feel that colors tend to take away the focus. Let’s say a drop of tear, a moment of touch that means the world, a look. These are moments which can be best expressed in monochrome. Strip away the colors and that will bring the focus on the emotion that is portrayed in the frame.
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