Miami Product Photographer | Photoshop – A Useful Tool, Not Divine Intervention

Post-production of photos is extremely important in product photography. In this blog, we will examine Photoshop and its uses and misconceptions.
What Photoshop is NOT: Photoshop is not divine intervention to airbrush your photo and make it suddenly incredible. There is a common misunderstanding that by using Photoshop, any photo can magically become amazing. This is most definitely not true.

What Photoshop IS: Photoshop is a wonderful tool that can help make great photos even better by modifying certain facets of the photo.

It is crucial to begin the post-production with an effective photo that conveys a compelling story relevant to the product. The old saying “garbage in – garbage out” is a very basic way of saying that if you begin with a poor photo, no amount of Photoshop in the world will be able to make that photo great. As a photographer, I do not cut corners during the shoot. I take my time and focus my energy to create the best photo possible. I am then able to enhance this photo with the various tools available in Photoshop.

Here is a list of things that Photoshop cannot fix, taken from the blog “Six Things You Can’t Fix in Photoshop,” by Shutterfinger:

  1. Camera position – if the camera is too close to the product, it is impossible to “back it up” in post-production
  2. Lighting direction and quality
  3. Focus
  4. Blurred image due to motion of the camera or subject
  5. Lost data
  6. Lack of creativity/spark/intent

Miami Product Photographer | Raw Image Files – Better Known as “Digital Negatives”

The term “raw file” is often mistaken or misunderstood. Nowadays, with everyone taking photos on their phone and sharing them with the world, the idea of a digital photo seems relatively straightforward and easy to comprehend. But that is not really the case. If you don’t fully understand the difference between a raw file, a processed file and a retouched file, don’t worry, you are not alone! This is a common issue that I hope to clarify here.
It is essential to distinguish between these three terms (raw files, processed files, and retouched files) in order to get exactly what you need and can use from a photo shoot. Sometimes clients will ask me for the raw files from the shoot when they actually meant to ask for the processed files (they want files that have not yet been retouched, but that are in a format that they can use).

So let’s start with the basics. First of all, it is important to know what a raw file is. Believe it or not, raw is not necessarily what you think it is. Many people think that “raw”simply means that it hasn’t been re-touched or edited using Photoshop or a similar program. This is not the case. To clarify, a raw file means “camera raw.” But what does this mean exactly?

Consider this: years ago when you wanted to shoot photos, you had a roll of Kodak film, for example. You placed the roll of film in your camera and began shooting. After you shot all 24 or 36 photos on the roll, you would typically take the roll of film to a photo center to have it processed. The roll itself was no good to you until it was processed. What you got back from the photo center was the developed film (as negatives or slides) and prints (if you opted to print them). In terms of the digital world of photography, think of the raw files as the undeveloped roll of film that has been shot, the processed files as the developed film and the retouched files as the prints that you would get.

Part of the reason we shoot tethered (with the camera attached to the computer by a cable in order to send the files directly to the computer) is so that we can show the client a preview of a processed file that doesn’t actually exist in reality yet. It hasn’t been processed at this point, but it can be viewed as if it were. Shooting tethered is a great way to give the client a general idea of what the photo is going to look like when it is processed. If I were shooting to a CD or memory card, you would not be seeing the hypothetical version of the image. You would be seeing the raw version which is hard to understand unless you know how to read them.

So, after the raw images are shot, they need to be processed. Clients hire me because they like my work and part of that work is file processing. It is the part of post-production that occurs after the shoot, where I make sure that when I give you the files, they look exactly like they are supposed to. In the past, when using film, photographers would shoot photos with the idea in mind of how we were going to process it. Pushing or pulling the film during the development process was a way to adjust what we shot in order to create the best image possible. Now, with digital images, this is done in the “digital darkroom” or in the processing phase of post-production. Some of the things that can be done during processing are (from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raw_image_format):

  • decoding – image data of raw files are typically encoded for compression purpose, but also often for
    obfuscation purpose
  • defective pixel removal – replacing data in known bad locations with interpolations from nearby locations
  • white balancing – accounting for color temperature of the light that was used to take the photograph
  • demosaicing – interpolating the partial raw data received from the color-filtered image sensor into a matrix of colored pixels.
  • noise reduction – trading off detail for smoothness by removing small fluctuations
  • color translation – converting from the camera native color space defined by the spectral sensitivities of the image sensor to an output color space (typically sRGB for JPEG)
  • tone reproduction – the scene luminance captured by the camera sensors and stored in the raw file needs to be rendered for pleasing effect and correct viewing on low-dynamic-range monitors or prints
  • compression – for example JPEG compression
  • removal of systematic noise – bias frame subtraction and flat-field correction
  • dark frame subtraction
  • optical correction – lens distortion correction, vignetting correction, and color fringing correction
  • contrast enhancement
  • increasing visual acuity by unsharp masking
  • dynamic range compression – lighten shadow regions without blowing out highlight regions

And after the images are processed, they are typically retouched.  Retouching is a digital way to make your photo look even better. Sometimes, in order to produce the best shot, you have to shoot multiple images and put these images together into one photo. This would occur in the retouching phase of the post production work. Jewelry photography is an excellent example of this.

So, as you can see, just as in the days of “old school” film, digital photography involves multiple steps that all lead up to the final, usable image. And hopefully this clears up the difference between a raw file, a processed file and a retouched file.

If you are still a little confused, here is another photographer’s explanation

Click here for more info on Miami Product Photographer Kate Benson

Miami retoucher | Kate Benson Photography | An old favorite

Last night I ran into an old friend/client that feel out of touch. It’s part of life, but this stirred up some old memories. Jorge (my friend and editor of about a million magazines, scaling from local to international) was always fun to work with, but that didn’t mean we didn’t have our share of hard times. I had to laugh remembering what it was like working with him and the publisher, Alex. After every photo shoot,  Alex and Jorge would spend hours going through images to find a favorite. Not uncommonly they would disagree on which photograph to use. Alex, undoubtedly would love the face of one shot and Jorge would love the pose of another, hence “Frankenphoto” was born. In order to move forward, often I would find myself compiling many parts of an image into one final shot. One particular photo was the poster child for “Frankephoto”, the first cover shoot for “The Most Beautiful People” issue of Key Biscayne Magazine. What happened, (and Alex & Jorge, correct me if I get any of this wrong as it has been years..) we shot certain images expecting them to be placed in particular parts of the article, but go figure, the cover they decided they really wanted was not the cover we shot. So I began one of the largest Photoshop marathons of my life. Today, this would take me almost no time, Photoshop has come a long way as have my skills, but if I remember right, there were phone calls, arguments, Star Trek (don’t ask) and eventually 26 hours of retouching madness to create the iconic cover. In the end, I felt more bonded with the boys. We all together created something great, without their ideas of what it could be and motivation to go for it (“Never say it’s impossible!”) we wouldn’t have had it. I still think about this cover, something so beyond what I knew how to do, and use it to remind myself that even when I don’t know how to do something, I can find a way. So Alex and Jorge, this post is dedicated to you. So to start, the boys picked 5 images they loved and wanted composited together for the cover, rollover the image to see the before and after’s of each picture: (*sorry, have to throw in this disclaimer: please remember, all these people are truly beautiful before retouching, however today if I were retouching -this was 2008, I would be more conservative in my work, for example, I wouldn’t worry about waistlines as much)

Before

After

and the final version of it all put together of course!

Not going to lie, being able to see the before and afters of my retouching work is one of my guilty pleasures and now you can see it too! Love it!