I rarely write in first person but because this is a topic I feel very strongly about, I want to tell you about my personal experience. When I was reminiscing with my wife about the one thing that changed my photography, it was the day I saw the light. Literally. The only way I was able to conceptually grasp light and the way it works was because I started retouching. There is no way to deny it, as I mastered retouching my photography was taken to the next level.
The purpose of this article is not to inform on the importance of actually retouching an image. Rather, retouching can lead to a greater awareness of what makes a portrait good and what makes it, well, not so good. By becoming cognizant of what constitutes as a quality image, it becomes possible to become a better judge out in the field on a portrait session.
Dodging and Burning is a fascinating technique. Personally, after spending hours and hours of watching videos on YouTube and practicing on my images for even longer, I realized that there is no possible way to fix bad lighting (harsh, blown lighting) in post-processing. As such, the next time I was on a shoot I became hyper aware of soft lighting. When it came to selecting and editing the photos, I instantly noticed the images that had good lighting and the portraits that were poorly lit. For more information regarding good light check out this link: What Your Mom Never Taught You About Natural Light
After a few months of looking for soft light, I noticed that things still didn’t look right despite the soft light I had. This is when I googled where to dodge and burn. I learned then that Dodging & Burning is similar to what makeup artists do when trying to contour the face. When you light a person whether it's natural or artificial light, you must make sure the light is hitting specific areas on the face. A Makeup Tip I wish Someone Had Told Me When I Started Photography
With time, as I sat in front of me screen with Photoshop running, I analyzed portraits and it opened mind to new things constantly. One of the coolest experiences I had was when I studied the human eye. It truly is fascinating and after spending years retouching it, I finally learned how light travels through the iris. It made me conscious on how to make eyes pop when shooting. In this article I discuss the human eye. Did you know the pupil enlarges in the dark and becomes small in brighter locations, exposing more color? I now ask my models to stare at the sun or a bright light right before I take a few pictures. This makes the pupils small and the iris bigger making the eyes look brighter and colorful.
I took the image below for a jewelry line in a studio last week. By no means am I a beauty photographer and I rarely use strobes. Despite my lack of knowledge for artifical light, I was able to apply my knowledge from retouching to setting up my lights and modifiers in the correct position.
As you can see the purpose of this article was not to convince you to become a retoucher or to edit your images. But it’s important to remember that retouching can and will open up your eyes to things you can use while on a photoshoot. The more awareness you have, the better the images.