Retouching - a soul destructing chore or part of the creative process?
Updated: Dec 3, 2018
Which side are you at?
Retouching. A ten letter word that that makes most photographers roll their eyes. Some commission this part of work to other professionals, some treat it as the unavoidable soul destructing part of their work, some just do it without giving it a second thought. There is however a group of us who enjoy it.
Obviously there is a huge difference between spotting or cutting out a simple product shot and creative retouching (like the one presented in a video below). Nevertheless it is a part of the image creation process. No matter how simple or how complicated your retouching task is - it still influences the final result. This brings me to our topic's question: is retouching a part of the creative process? Personally I believe it is. The post production part can be as creative as you want and in today's fast and instant reality I think it should be. Here are few examples of how can we use retouching as a creative tool:
1. The Blob. SXLLM📷📷What comes to your mind when you say the word "blob"? Wikipedia says: "A blob is a shapeless mass". When I think of a perfect blob I see roundness, smoothness, softness in shape. If you have ever shot some make up textures you know how hard it is to get the nail varnish or other liquid stuff into right shape even on the super smooth surface. Here's where retouch comes to the rescue! The liquifying tool in Photoshop is your heaven sent allay. It will help you to get that perfect curve you're longing for. It will smooth those wavy lines. With it you can create that perfect shape you're after. SXLLM📷📷2. Conceptual shots.
When it comes to conceptual shots very often the most creative part takes place after you switch off your camera. It gives the opportunity to achieve results that are otherwise impossible or extremely difficult to get. One of my regular clients - Men's Health magazine, uses a lot of conceptual photographs to illustrate their stories. Here's an example of such a shot for them - a doughnut with parts of different icing instead of a boring pie chart. To get this done I shot a few different doughnuts using the same lighting and background. The rest was done in postproduction. It's a pretty sweet shot.
3. Complicated creative shot.SXLLM📷📷 Sometimes you have a stunning vision but you simply can't get everything in one shot. This particular picture is a perfect example of that. The problems you encounter to get exactly what you want are countless and one thing often excludes the other. I wanted a picture that will on one hand present the beer bottle properly, but I also wanted a halo and clouds. Before I even started setting up I have decided what will be done in camera and what will be done in postproduction. This way I knew what and how I needed to photograph to get the result I was after. You can watch the entire process in the video below. I'm sure that there is a big bunch of photographers who would disagree. Some may argue that a photograph should be made in the camera - the hashtagNoFilter sort of guys. The ones who would tell you that if you can't achieve something without Photoshop, you are not a "real" photographer. Or those who only shoot on film - because it's "so much better". I don't want to go to war with anybody. It's like a vinyl vs CD kind of dispute. There is room for everyone, for every kind of photographer. I say: do whatever you want with your shots! They are yours and only you can limit yourself. If you like to change everything in postproduction - go for it. If you prefer to shoot on slides or use wet collodion - I salut you! There are as many ways of getting the final result as there are photographers. And everybody's right. I believe there is no wrong in the process of creating a picture. As long as you don't steal somebody else's work - you're good.