Last weekend we went out for a trip into London for my sister-in-law’s birthday. I’m still going through those photos, which will be in a later post, but one of the shots I took warranted more editing than usual, and it made me think.
This is the original, as shot, image of my niece Alayna:
I liked it; I had managed to capture her eyes big and wide and bright (even if her expression was a little less than cheery).
However, I felt I could improve the image. Like many of my portraits, I felt it could benefit from being monochromed, but before I got that far, she seemed to have a dirty face, which needed cleaning up.
Wanting to enhance the shot and make it more presentable, started to play about with some of Aperture’s post-processing features.
First, I used the ‘Retouch’ brush to remove some of her lunch from her face.
Then, I monochromed the image, adjusting exposure and contrast in the process.
This is normally where I’d stop when processing an image. However there were still a few things bugging me about it. In darkening the image to bring out the texture of her face, I’d lost the effect of the eyes that originally captivated me about the image.
So, I tried something different. I pushed the levels back up to brighten her eyes…
… then broke out the burn tool to re-darken her face.
I then added a digital vignette, which I often do to give a gentle nudge to the contrast and focus the image.
I still wasn’t happy. The background was a bit too busy; her dad is too much in focus and pulls her face into the background. So I used the blur brush to defocus the background.
All in all, quite a lot more work than I would normally put into an image. To see the images in direct comparison, here is a slideshow:
Normally I wouldn’t put this much effort into an image. It’s a bit of a Catch-22, in that if the image is good as-shot I won’t feel the need to edit it, and if it isn’t I will usually delete it without spending much time seeing if it can be altered into an interesting image. This time, I wanted to fight to get Alayna’s eyes to work, and felt like trying out the capabilities of the software a little more in order to achieve it.
However, I find myself wondering two things: was it worth it, and is it okay to edit a photo so much?
I’ve obviously made a few changes from the original. Is it right to do this much manipulation to an image?
Minor tweaks are quite common; I do them all the time. A nudge of the white balance, adjusting the exposure, straightening the photo – all techniques I have to use from time to time. But there has to be a line somewhere – ‘airbrushing’ of models in photos hit the news a few years ago and it’s still news now whenever someone gets called up on it.
The only answer I have is, as long as the image is not being used to mislead anyone, then any editing is probably fine – even, there are many photographers out there whose specialty is heavily Photoshopped images. This morning I caught this video from TED about one photographer talking about his amazing, digitally altered photographs, and how he still, despite his material, strives for realism.
I also spent a lot longer on this image than I normally would, and I’m quite pleased with the end result. I prefer the processed image, but I often find my readers don’t always agree with my opinions on my photos; they often prefer the images I almost cut from sets whilst not being at all moved by my favourites. What do you guys think? Worth it?