TIPS

Photography Retouching

Once you have your best photos, they’ll need some retouching. Retouching and colour grading will achieve the best result possible. To stand out from your competition, we highly recommend the investment.

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A professional creative retoucher will bring your images to life and add the professional result your business deserves. Ben Greenfield, is a creative retoucher in Sydney and head of CGI and retouching at Prodigious. Ben doesn't simply make any image look a bit better, his creative input would always take the final image to the next level and deliver unexpected results. Ben has a remarkable eye and ability to craft the lighting, texture, form and final composition of everything he works on. Ben created the image below for Virgin Australia airlines along with No Vacancy founder, Nick Bonney. It took over two weeks to construct and they used at least thirty different photographs and various 3D computer generated elements to achieve the stunning result.

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Ben says, “A good business will maintain a consistent approach to their imagery. Inconsistent images, in terms of colour and quality, look sloppy and rushed and not the association your brand wants. Avoid cheap tricks and effects, they often look tacky, for example too much motion blur, flares, high pass or depth of field. It’s easy to get immersed in a particular style, especially one with a hyper real feel. Unless you are an experienced user, try to avoid this look - done badly it can be off putting. Again, the less you do, the better the result, so a light touch is best.

Always respect the lighting of the original image – an overcast sky cannot be turned into a sunny day, the shadows and colour remain all wrong. This is usually scene in real estate ads, where they replace the sky with something completely unnatural. Badly retouched jobs are often spotted by the lighting differences, for example, a person comped into the landscape, but the focus isn’t quite right, the lighting is off, blacks too heavy compared to the background all indicate a bad comping job. Care needs to be taken with putting two different images together, it’s the easiest place to make errors."

We asked Ben for his tips on interiors. "Generally, interiors should be well lit – clean whites (yellow casts look like stains) erring on the cool side works for most.”

Ben did this test below of a living space at Kuma Lodge. The image is directly from the camera and the short video shows the final craft in consideration of lighting and colour balance.

 ABOVE: Original RAW image directly from camera

ABOVE: Original RAW image directly from camera

When composing an image made up of numerous shots it's important to get a few things right if you don't want an obviously 'fake' result. Ben says, "I use the available images to composite what will become the final image. Starting from my hero shot, selected above, I use the extra shots taken to extend the image where required, and use alternate shots to replace other areas where there is need to – this can range upward of 10 images for more complex compositions. For instance, there might be an interior shot where the furniture is arranged in a more pleasing way, or in a landscape image, a shot where there are no people to patch an area where there was a crowd gathered, or more commonly, a new sky is stripped in from the days shoot which has the best cloud and colour for the final layout."

If you absolutely can’t afford the investment into a professional retoucher then Ben adds, “It’s important to realise that an awesome grade can only fix so much if it’s a poorly lit scene or bad composition. Anyone with access to Photoshop can create a colour grade. Of course it all depends on the skill level of the user. It takes time and experience, as well as a keen eye to know what makes a good grade, and what tools to use to achieve them. 

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Filters do provide a way to create a certain look, but often lack flexibility to make adjustments, meaning you are locked into that grade. Also the filtering process does not take into consideration the particulars of an image, whether it be too dark, has a colour cast etc. This means that to achieve consistency, the photos need to be in a similar colour range, so post filter they look right. If filters are to be used, and used correctly, they can achieve fantastic result. The best approach would be to really focus on the lighting and composition when the photo is taken. Consistent photos in, mean consistent photos out. The best middle ground I can suggest is use a good photographer, or learn to use a Digital SLR camera, the better quality the capture, the less work you need to do in post production, and the better chance a filter works the way it’s supposed to.

Most people know what images look good and what they want to achieve. There is nothing wrong with, especially for a beginner, using those sources as inspiration for a style, until you get enough confidence to start exploring different styles, and breaking the rules.”



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