Friday, June 5, 2009

Touch If You Dare!

Well I've finally made the cover of a magazine! OK so it's not Vanity Fair or Vogue, and I've already been on the cover of several national trade mags, but Area magazine normally only use images from campaigns by big brands like Dior, Gucci and Boss. It's quite a coup for an image from a local photographer featuring minor brand clothing to be chosen. The shot was taken in Cape Town, last September, as part of a portfolio series with local model Rouxmia. She subsequently used the image not only on her 'Zed' card, but as part of her “Girl of the Year” campaign for FHM in South Africa. Not surprisingly she's done very well, and made it into the top ten. I did another shoot with her in Jan this year, and Area have taken a couple from that series as well. So keep an eye out for more covers.

Interestingly, for this image, I had to touch up the swimwear to make it suitable for distribution. Of course I prefer the original, but I was pleased, not only by how well, technically, the rework turned out, but aesthetically how well the 'new' swimsuit looked.

Re-touching always seems to spark huge debate among photographers. Some view it with disdain and a cheat, some see it as a way of saving a bad shot. Personally I have always regarded it as integral part of the whole creative process. From shoot to final delivery, everything you contribute as a photographer is a creative step and PhotoShop has simply become an invaluable part of that process.

I started digital image processing in the late nineties and went exclusively digital as soon as I bought one of the first ever Canon 1Ds cameras sold in the UK in Feb 02. However, immediately I got it, I realised I could no longer just consider what I had in front of me to create the image i.e. model, make up, clothing, location, lighting and camera. I had to plan for and consider post production too. Now, I shoot knowing how I am going to be processing and retouching in post production. If I want to treat an image in a certain way in PhotoShop, then it had to be shot to allow that. Moreover, if I am looking at producing a series of images, then what I do during a shoot must be consistent to allow consistent post processing. Small variations in shooting conditions can cause unpredictable effects in post. While you can't always be in control of the light on your subject, when shooting multiple locations and outdoors, say, you have to know what effects these lighting changes are going to have, and be able to correct or work with them. Shooting blind aiming to correct everything in PhotoShop, has never, and will be an option for me.

PhotoShop for me is not there to rescue images, it is a significant part of the creative process, and sometimes, it is the stage with most artistic input. Some images have more input, some less, but I am always considering the post production, especially when I know I going to be doing a lot of it. As an example, this homage image of Giselle's waterdress was shot knowing exactly what needed to be done in PhotoShop. During the shoot I was considering the implications in post of the lighting, clothing (yes, Cass was clothed!), pose, shooting angle and depth of field. Nothing about this was accidental. The whole shoot was meticulously planned long in advance and because of that, it was shot in ten minutes or less! OK, post production took eight hours, but it wouldn't have worked at all, had I not meticulously planned how it needed to be shot in the first place.

Although attitudes are gradually changing, I do find it ironic that while photographers are often trying to class themselves as artists, and many traditional artists try to claim they are not, when a photographer produces an PhotoShopped image (which has a great deal more artistic input than the original photograph), they are accused by some of cheating. The image for them is somehow devalued or tainted by the post production. Thankfully, those attitudes are changing, and as a photographer who has never been able to divorce the process of image taking from the process of retouching, that is refreshing to see. What's more, I do enjoy pointing out that since the advent of digital photography, the whole industry has become much more artistic, not less.