Photoshop For Brides ~ An Honest Explanation

Why do I use Photoshop?

I wanted to create a post for my bride and grooms about the use of Photoshop in wedding photography. I have often had brides say to me ‘Oh you can Photoshop that out right?’ So I thought it would be interesting to explain a little bit about what Photoshop means to me and what I mean by ‘editing’ and ‘retouching’ images. Some of the examples here are from a styled shoot and therefore the level of editing is a little more than it would be for a real bride, I want to make that clear,  but it demonstrates what I want to discuss. This is what I do, although I cannot speak for other photographers.

The last thing I ever want to do is to make you look like somebody else.

First of all let me just say that you are unique, there is no one else on this planet that looks like you and when your fiancé looks at you he sees nothing but loveliness. On the day that you marry him you will look utterly stunning and radiate an air of grace and beauty. The last thing I ever want to do is to make you look like somebody else. My aim is for you to see yourself in my images and see how amazing you looked, not see heavy handed Photoshopping!  If I have done my job properly I expect that you won’t even realise that I have done anything, that’s really my aim.

What do I actually do?

OK so why bother? The camera equipment I use is so advanced compared to your typical compact camera that it will quite literally pick up everything, even things you may not see when you look in the mirror. When I look at a person I am drawn to their eyes, well aren’t we all, but when you look at a photograph you will no doubt take in more of the detail. So what do I do? Well shall I start by saying what I don’t do? I don’t change the colour of your eyes and I don’t morph you from a size 12 to a size 6. What I will do is smooth out imperfections, remove any cheeky spot that dared raise it’s head on your special day and I may lighten your teeth a little, if you would like me to. I will whiten tired eyes and remove the odd element such as fluff and spillages from clothing, and the odd ‘exit’ sign in the background or object that would look better gone, such as a hose pipe that a venue has failed to tidy away from their grounds. This is not editorial editing, it’s not celebrity ‘retouching’ that gives an airbrushed look and changes body shape, and in fact it probably sounds a lot more than it is, just think subtle, enhancing, barely noticeable.

Take model Chloe here, she’s beautiful, her eyes are amazing and look at those luscious lips?! The picture on the right still looks just like Chloe but her hair is a more uniform colour, her skin looks fantastic and her eyes pop and shine. She was clutching her dressing gown which detracted from the composition so the second image was cropped and any remaining dressing gown removed.

Colours and emotion

But my work in Photoshop is about much more than beauty enhancement, it actually helps me define my style as a photographer, this is where so much of the post wedding day production time comes in.  Here you can see Tracy and James as they appeared straight out of my camera. I love the composition, it captures James’s love for Tracy and Tracy’s happiness on their wedding day perfectly, but it’s still not really a Juliet McKee image. Now the second image, that is what I am talking about!:) It’s vibrant, full of life and packs a bigger punch. That is Photoshop, and that is my interpretation of how it felt at that moment in time. Photoshop has helped me to bring out the colour and emotion of Tracy and James wedding day. I am all about the colours and emotions of the moment, Photoshop gives me the tools to be able to express this.

Black and white or colour?

Another element of my Photoshopping involves converting colour images to black and white as I always shoot in colour.  Converting to black and white can be as simple or as complex as a photographer likes to make it and I take each image on an individual basis to decide the look I wish to achieve. As I explain to couples who book me, sometimes an image will look brilliant in colour, and sometimes it will look better in black and white. Sometimes, like this example, I just cannot decide whether the colour version has it or the black and white pips it at the post. What do you think? Even now I am looking at these two images and I cannot decide. This is an instance when you will receive both versions of the image.

How do I decide what looks best?

So when I edit a set of wedding images I will use my judgement to decide which version you receive, it will often be both, it will sometimes be just one! I am known for my vibrant style of photography but I also love love love monotone or black and white image. Sometimes a ‘mono’ version will capture the atmosphere in a way a colour version just doesn’t. I particularly like black and white images of the bridal preparation stage and sometimes as in this landscape example, the black and white processing adds a certain drama which I love. Suddenly colour seems to complicate the images, once converted it becomes a study of shadow, light and form.

And so…

I hope this has helped my bride and grooms to understand a little more about what the ‘Photoshopping’ part of my work involves and what I do behind the scenes to ensure I deliver you a beautiful collection of images. Of course I didn’t get around to discussing all the other essential qualities that make a good wedding photographer; knowing a camera as if it’s an extension of your arm, vision and creativity in the moment, diplomacy and people skills…. but that’s for another day! 😉

Model: Chloe, Shoot DHS Models.

Hair – Martin Pinkney

Make Up – Clare Pinkney

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Claire Guest - March 11, 2012 - 9:45 am

Loved this article Juliet. So clearly explained and loved seeing the subtle but impacting differences. Cx

Holly - March 11, 2012 - 11:17 am

I really enjoyed this article, all your images look lovely before as well as after. Think I definitely prefer the black and white one of Chloe though :)

Lydia - September 30, 2012 - 11:45 am

As a wedding photographer in Johannesburg, South Africa I must commend this and say this is a lovely high-quality post. Thank-you for sharing.