Last time we looked at the role of image enhancement when applied to a photo that was pretty decent straight out of the camera. While the majority of photos I capture fit that category, there are some that need special care.
I shoot carefully, but fast. I’m not setting up poses, I’m reacting to moments that are happening whether I’m ready or not, sometimes with less than the blink of an eye to get the photo. If I see a perfect moment I’m not going to miss it by fiddling with my camera.
Here we have Heather and Bohan, very familiar faces to those who visit frequently. This photo was not posed. In fact, they had no idea I took it at all. The ceremony had just finished and they were greeting the receiving line when a little break allowed them to have this wonderful moment. The area outside the chapel was pretty dark while candles burned on the table directly behind them. Terrible light for photography!
I was photographing guests in a much better lit direction when I saw them out of the corner of my eye. I turned and shot very fast to capture this wonderful interaction between them. But if I’d have taken the time to adjust the camera, maybe turn on the flash, that moment would be gone forever. So I shot fast, in bad light, with a camera set up for different conditions. The result, as you can see, was pretty ugly.
It’s terribly back lit, leaving the two of them dark. I had just spun 180 degrees, so I didn’t have the most perfect composition with the corner of the wall a distraction on the far left. And that flair! The flair is the result of the candles in the frame. Now, the camera did its job. We have a good range of tones from the brightest of whites to the darkest of blacks, but cameras have no idea what they’re looking at, so it made its best guess.
By the way, this is what you get your if CD contains “digital negatives” or if your photographer doesn’t do any enhancement. Most couples wouldn’t see much potential in that dark image, but let’s do some enhancing and see what we can make of it.
Here we’ve gone a long way to making something pretty nice. The distracting corner to the left was cropped away and the happy couple has been brightened up significantly. I cloned out the terrible green flare spot on Heather’s cheek, but I rather like the flare near her chin so I left it alone. It looks like a toothpaste ad. – Gleam! – Moving on… Notice I also softened the hard edge of the back corner directly over Heather’s head.
This is about where I stop at the regular processing stage and move forward. That’s already a significant improvement and most couples would be quite happy with that. However, that’s not always the end of the story. For my Signature package (and any prints I make regardless of package), I give the photos an extra bit of oomph.
Above we see the result of that extra oomph. Our couple is manually painted brighter while bringing out a three-dimensionality that the regular enhancement lacks. Notice how the shading is a little more intense, adding some roundness and shape. I warmed up the colors a bit. The background, too, gets a bit of vignette, again adding a sense of depth to an otherwise flat and featureless area. Finally I softened the hard-edged shadow that ran down Heather’s neck and shoulder.
Yes, I agree that it’s always best to get it right in the camera. This example is a worst-case scenario for sure while the majority of my images are adequately framed and exposed at the time of capture.
But when moments happen in the blink of an eye you have to shoot fast or risk missing it entirely. Would you throw that photo away just because it wasn’t perfect straight from the camera? Should the photo have never been taken at all just because the camera was ready for different conditions?
Capturing the moment is everything.