Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Smoothing Skin - The Big Fail In Photoshop

Smoothing skin, airbrushing, making wrinkles disappear... How much of these is OK and how much is too much? Where do we draw the line when we retouch the photo?
Let me go back a little bit and tell you what got me literally enraged. First of all I love photography because when I do things right I get a positive reaction in people that I've never even met before. It's the thing that provides perpetual energy for me - as long as I make people happy with my skills they will keep making me happy back and I will go on taking nice photos. Second, capturing a certain moment requires knowledge, practice, skill and trusting your gut. Taking great photos does not require any Photoshop skills, however Photoshop requires nice big files that can be edited and retouched to look more enticing and interesting to the eye.
Having all this in mind, I keep looking at online galleries of portraits, wedding shots, advertisements and what not photos of people and keep getting disappointed. I see all the pretty colors, nice composition and, to my disgust, the flat, toneless, poreless skin!
Here's some advice on taking photos so you won't have to retouch too much:
  1. Set your lights properly. This means that you should watch for shadows and burns on the skin.
  2. Set the exposure right.
  3. Set a proper ISO. This will give you less grains in the shadowy areas so you won't have to fix that later and lose skin detail there.
  4. Make sure you use a good angle so you won't show too much of any skin imperfections.
The general idea is to take a photo at optimum conditions so we won't have to spend hours airbrushing and trying to recover or hide what we didn't do right with the camera.
Once we get there and load the photos into our editing software here's what I'd suggest:
  1. Do NOT blur it all out! Not even newborn babies have porcelain skin.
  2. Leave some pores. Skin has pores and they are everywhere! This is what skin is all about.
  3. Do not sharpen the eyes in exchange for blurring the face. This will make the blurring look even worse.
  4. If you soften the image then soften the entire photo. If you are sharpening some areas make them look natural
  5. Think about what's aesthetic and not about what's smooth.
I had to write about this because I saw a wedding photo where the husband had his 5 o'clock shadow (no retouch there) and the wife was pale and smooth as porcelain. Come on, who are we fooling? People know what they look like and photographers can't fix that. We can only fix what the photos are like. Let's try and stay real and not cross the thin line between smoothing and wiping. Of course, if our models asked us to wipe their faces clean from pores and wrinkles and we get paid for that... but that's a different story.

Think of a great idea, do a nice setup of lights, find a nice spot... all the rest is less than significant or a matter of chance.

Kind regards,

Kamen Kunchev