This is the second blog in a series to help you understand PhotographerSpeak better. You can read the first here.
Digital images begin their life as a mass of electronic data from the camera’s sensor when you click the shutter. What you see when you download your images is an edited image. All the editing has happened in camera, from the information the sensor received.
So why do photographers need to edit images if they are already done?
Are your “straight from camera” images always exactly as you would like? Has your camera misinterpreted the saturation of colour; are areas too dark, or are crisp whites a shade of grey?
Good photographers will compose, choose correct exposure and white balance in camera, pretty consistently. But photographers don’t leave editing decisions to their camera; they always do some editing to ensure your images are as you want them.
To do this, most photographers choose to record the image in RAW. RAW isn’t exactly a file type, like JPEG is. A RAW image is all that data collected by the camera’s sensor. Even camera manufacturers can’t agree on how this data should be presented! That’s the reason that photographers get antsy when you ask for the RAW files – that’s all they are, a mass of data that needs interpretation. And that interpretation is what you have hired a photographer for.
While the photographer should be able to compose, select white balance (the colour of the ambient light) and exposure fairly consistently, RAW allows them the freedom to select just the information they want to result in an image that is how the photographer and the client would like it to appear. It’s sort of the equivalent of dark room work with analog film.
The photographer’s first job after a session is to select the best images from the possibly hundreds taken. This alone can take a few hours. Images are rejected for many reasons other than just technical. After this, its time for that first round of editing.This first round is dependent on software, and can be done relatively quickly, and often in batches. After final tweaks are made and the images are ‘cleaned’ of stray bits that deter from the image – flyaway hair strands, a lamp post, a face blemish – they are converted into a smaller, easily read and shared format (usually JPEG) and loaded onto your USB. This whole process should only take a few days and the images will be perfect for social media, photo books and small prints. To get your images to you quickly, this is the minimal editing a photographer will do. This work shows the photographer as a craftsperson.
If you want images to make unique and memorable prints, the images will need more than this basic editing. Further editing is where the photographer can really process each image individually, so each photo has continuity in the collection and with the photographer’s style, which is most likely why you chose the photographer you did.
This is where smaller less obvious distractions are also removed, skin is smoothed and images sharpened and individual images can take an hour or more to perfect.This is where the photographer shows you their art, not just their craft. And that takes time. The time taken is worth it for the images you will want to print and display.
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All photos © Pink Ginger Photography 2015