For the most part, I try not to do significant retouching and manipulation to photos. My enhancement process is more about enhancing emotional impact and drawing the eye through a photo by carefully “painting” areas brighter and darker. I compose carefully on the wedding day itself in order to get it right in the camera.
But there are times that Photoshop becomes a necessary storytelling tool and I’m forced to “fix” reality.
For example, at Tom and Cecilia’s wedding reception their cake was positioned right in front of a banged up door in the corner of the room. As packed as the tables were, there was no other angle that I had access to. I didn’t have a tablecloth to drape behind as a backdrop. And, while I took a number of closeups and details that made for much better photos, this was the only full cake image that could realistically be captured in the time and space available.
To a large extent, I’m always at the mercy of the environment that is in front of me. Thus a little Photoshop work later and the background distraction is taken care of. At the same time I removed a few wrinkles from the tablecloth. I could have removed the table entirely and placed the cake in a virtual infinity backdrop like a full page magazine ad, but that’s way too much. I still want the photo to represent something close to reality. This is what the cake looked like. It was on a table. It wasn’t glamor lit. Some of the glaze drizzled on the napkin.
There’s “fixing” reality and then there’s creating a whole new reality.
Remember, I’m not a news photographer, I’m a storyteller. The story I tell is much like our memories: the best reflection of reality, if a bit idealized. Our minds tend to forget the messy backgrounds and focus on the ideal that we want to remember.