Only a few of you read my response to Lousy Canuck and Biodork’s take on how Photoshop contributes to ruining people’s perception of beauty. I don’t mind. It was long. And I got a little snarky. Okay a lot snarky.
The long and short of my “argument” is that techniques predating Photoshop have been used since long before Photography was invented to enhance photography. Photoshop is not the enemy of beauty or our perception of beauty. Ignorance is the enemy of what’s beautiful. Often, as adults, we need to be shown and taught was is and is not attractive. And often, what’s considered “ugly” is considered “ugly” based on a lack of knowledge.
A couple points came up while Tina and I were discussing the topic:
- Our grandparents’ wedding photography used techniques that smooth the skin and create illusions of better images.
- To further one point, a baby doesn’t need to be taught to groove to music. A baby will “dance” to music at early ages. A baby isn’t taught to know what is beautiful, but you can tell that babies are attracted to certain people and not others. These mechanisms are evolutionary based. You’ve seen babies flirt. The Point: we “know” from an early age what is and isn’t attractive. Children have no filter and can easily distinguish — quite vocally — what they approve of and do not.
- In the cases of commercial photography/Photoshop, everyone needs to become educated about techniques used and to meet models. It really helps.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a female image that I wanted to show at the moment, so Aaron gets to be my guinea pig today. I was looking at some work I did to the above photo of regular reader and my best and oldest friend Aaron. I’ve known the guy since we were five or six. The above image is different than the one I posted here.
Click on the image above to enlarge.
I’m not saying the work on the image is stellar or amazing, but it shows a point or two. I like where it went. But like all art, it’s subjective.
The first image is straight out of the camera. I used my flash with dome diffusion. I didn’t have a stand with me, so I had Tina hold the flash. I didn’t mind the shadow on this shot, because it mimicked the line from the staircase. The image isn’t bad out of camera. But it needs some sharpening and color enhancing.
Another aspect of the original image is that Aaron’s jeans were a bit baggy. He’s been running his ass off … literally. And if I didn’t have him stand the way he is, you’d tilt your head and wonder. It was our job to take Aaron’s person and adjust it on set. You wouldn’t know it if I didn’t tell you (maybe). My point is that it’s the photographer’s job to enhance, to trick you, to add, not take away.
And then Photoshop comes in
I’ve been using a variation of a set of steps I learned from an Adam Elmakias technique that Bill Whitmire introduced me to. You can see that by the time you get to the Photoshopped dodge and burn step that the textures in Aaron’s clothing are popping. The contrast is starting to give Aaron an edge, and it’s bringing out the graffiti as well. Aaron’s skin is a little more smoothed out.
But if you start looking closer, check the gravel on the ground. Trash never looked so cool as it does in this photo. The art isn’t great, but it works. The depth in the brickwork is more pronounced. Hopefully it’s more subtle than abrupt, which is key to image enhancement. But I don’t want this image to be completely “subtle.” I want it to smack you in the face, whether you like it or not.
Last step, I like to play in Lightroom with some presets once I’ve done a few steps in Photoshop. The preset I used above is a variation of one I found called, “Wet Chrome.” I like the edges vignetted and how it alters the color to a cooler version of the original’s warmth.
I promise I’ll put together a version with a woman soon. I had an image of Tina that I recently worked.
I’m a little more sensitive about the work I do to women’s images, though, so it’s a bit harder.
Thanks, Aaron. I didn’t have permission to do this, but I hope (and pray) that he’ll understand.