Monday, 28 December 2015

POV: Retouching Photographs

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy- All Rights Reserved

Since starting on my photography trajectory some 15 years ago, I've been consistently adamant about not spending much time on post processing my images. Whether it was Photoshop, Color Efex (and its derivatives), Silver Efex or even Lightroom, I resisted the lure of "improving" the photographs I made whilst leading my many photo expeditions-workshops and solo assignments.

It's an aesthetic decision coupled with a genuine disinterest in spending time poring over digital images and pixel-peeking. I just don't have the patience to do what other photographers seem to revel in.

With the advent of Color Efex, I softened my resistance. With just a click or two (or three) on a preset filter, I could change (and improve) the photographs that I liked... and that was almost a revelation to me.

It was easier. I liked the results. I didn't have to spend an hour over a single image.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy- All Rights Reserved
And then earlier this year, I started the long journey on my personal project "Hầu Đồng: The Spirit Mediums of Viet Nam"; researching, documenting and photographing the Vietnamese religion of the Mother Goddesses, and the practice of mediumship. The project is currently taking shape, and ought to culminate in a book, combining photographs and text.

As I progressed and added more photographs to my inventory, test prints were made, and I was generally pleased with the results. 

I also just chanced on a photo retouching software program, and as Hầu Đồng ceremonies involve women mediums, colorful brocade costumes, a degree of exotic background pageantry and rituals, dance and songs, it certainly has a connection with fashion photography.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy- All Rights Reserved
Fashion photography? Yes, I'm serious. And fashion photography needs retouching I put two and two together, and acquired the software*. Boom! Another revelation of sorts to me. 

It proved to be a cinch to use. A click here and there, and I could tackle the facial and skin imperfections that I would've normally have had to fix in Photoshop, or more probably just ignored. The key is to avoid overdoing the degree of "fixing" as it would alter the physiognomies of the subjects I photographed (as in botched face-lifts), and pushed to the extreme would render them unrecognizable. We've seen this on the covers of fashion magazines, and we wonder if it's really Julia Roberts or not.

The usefulness of this retouching software will be proven or disproven when I run a few test prints. I'd like to see whether it is a non-destructive image editing software  (it claims to be) before I run it on the Hầu Đồng photographs.

* PortraitPro...