Image Editing Oversights to Help You Spot Indifferent Wedding Photographers
The following is a breakdown of two common image editing oversights that should help you spot indifferent wedding photographers. You do not need to be an expert sleuth or have eagle eyes to spot these signs of lazy image editing.
1. Not removing small distractions
Failing to notice and remove small and straightforward to correct distractions is a common image editing oversight committed by wedding photographers that are indifferent to their craft.
The idea for this article was a series of photos I saw on a competing Toronto wedding photographer’s website yesterday. Specifically, there was a gallery that featured two lovely portraitures of a bride seated in a chair beside a window. The photos were nearly identical except for the bride’s expression and where she was looking. The composition was spot on, the light was magical, and the bride was stunning. You could almost say it was perfect. Almost. Unfortunately, perfection was not written in the stars for these photos because there was a distracting dot on the wall over her left shoulder. Normally, such imperfections are not a problem because backgrounds are rarely so uniform; however, the dot was emphasised by the overall absence of shadows, picture frames, curtains, or stray beams of light falling onto the wall. In other words, the dot was the only element breaking up the wall’s uniformity.
Why was the dot not removed? I can only speculate here so pardon my cynicism: the wedding photographer editing the images was either too lazy, inattentive, or indifferent. There is no other good explanation.
It’s easy to remove small distractions in Adobe Lightroom:
Hit Q on the keyboard to activate Adobe Lightroom’s Spot Removal Tool (I’m 100% certain they edit in Lightroom because of the VSCO-like skin tones), increase the size of the brush to cover the dot, and click it once. I would repeat the process on the second image. All in, this would be 10-15 second fix across both photographs.
2. Crooked photos
I am obsessed with shooting photos that have a level horizon. Oblique angles in images drive me nuts! Despite a tremendous conscious effort to keep my cameras aligned with the horizon, I always walk away with several images that are surprisingly crooked. It is incredibly frustrating, but it is also something I correct during the editing process.
Unfortunately, it seems that my obsession with correcting slanted images is not shared by many of my peers in the wedding photography community. I have found crooked photos in the portfolios and blog posts of many (probably most) Toronto wedding photographers. Canted angles are most prevalent in post-reception photos of the dance floor where the technique seems mostly deliberate and is frequently coupled with using an on-camera flash and dragging the shutter. It should go without saying that using a technique deliberately does not equate to using it correctly.
We are wedding photographers, not Rick Mercer’s camera operators. Intentional canted angles are not refreshing and are rarely used effectively. Not fixing unintentionally slanted photos is a sign of superbly lazy image editing. That is because a version or two ago, Adobe introduced a one-click solution for automatically levelling images in Lightroom. The tool is incredibly sophisticated and even works in the absence of any horizontal lines. When relying exclusively on vertical lines in the image, the software correctly straightens photos faster and more accurately than I can with manual inputs. I suspect this is because it averages the angle of the vertical lines to determine the accurate angle corrections. This is done with the click of a single button.
It’s simple to straighten crooked photos in Lightroom:
This is the definition of a one-second fix: click the “Level” button in the Lens Correction panel of the Develop module in Adobe Lightroom. Done! Lightroom will correctly level the image nine times out of ten.
For the one in ten times that the automatic Level tool fails: click R to enter the Crop Tool and then hit Command (on Mac) or Control (on Windows) to activate the manual Straighten Tool, and align it with what you know to be an accurate horizontal or vertical line. Done in five seconds, at most.
Wedding photography contracts can limit the extent of image editing
Wedding photography contracts generally limit the describe the scope of included editing to contrast, tone, colour, and white balance. In such situations, removal of distracting elements would go above and beyond the guaranteed service. For reference, my agreement states the following concerning image editing: “Images delivered digitally are edited for colour correction, contrast and tonal adjustments, and conversion to black and white (if applicable).” The language is limited on purpose; it is meant to protect the business from potentially unreasonable and burdensome requests such as removing every pimple, wrinkle, and scar from every person in every photo. It is not meant as an excuse to avoid performing a ten-second correction that would vastly improve a key photograph.
Despite all of the above, it is difficult for me to imagine that a service-oriented wedding photographer would follow their policies so strictly and mindlessly that they would avoid doing what is right, both for their clients but also for the reputation of the business. So I speculate that the wedding photographers committing these common image editing oversights are either indifferent or inattentive.