As a rule of thumb, I generally try not to use any of my social media outlets to rant, as I believe there is already too much negativity out there on the internet, but there was something I saw last week that really dug under my skin. I had been going through my Facebook feed, and noticed that one of my friends had been tagged in some performance photos from a recent dance festival. I have cropped the image to keep the dancer (and photographer) anonymous, but let me just start by saying that she is an absolutely gorgeous, young lady, who is also an amazing performer…so imagine my surprise when I saw the following picture:
After having been in the dance-scene as a performer and photographer for the past few years, I am fully aware that there are positions that people can put their bodies through during a performance that do not flatter their physique, and on occasion, as photographers, we might capture those exact moments. But how is it that the abdomen of the dancer in the above pic, belongs to the same girl in the pic below?
No, it’s not because of sudden weight gain, but the culprit is simply the horrible use of filters, and the laziness of the photographer who chose not to take a closer look at their own shots (I’ve seen other pics from recent performances and none of the other photos portrayed her in such an unflattering light). Seriously, how in hell did this photographer give one of the fittest girls I know, grandma belly? There seems to be a recent trend within the dance-photography scene, where “photographers” simply run all their photos through the same Photoshop actions, or Lightroom presets. I can somewhat understand why many photographers choose to do so, as they may have hundreds or even thousands of photos to cull through after a 3 day dance festival. Since many of them are working on their own, they become quickly overwhelmed by the mountain of work lying ahead, and are pressured to provide pictures for their clients (usually the event promoter) as soon as possible. So as an easy solution, they quickly slide into ‘Instagram-mode’, slap on whatever preset filter they think looks best, and move onto the next project.
Now, if you choose to do this with your own personal photos, who am I to tell you to do otherwise? Instagram-it-up til your heart’s content! But for anyone who takes any pride in their work, and especially if you’re receiving payment for your services, I think it’s your responsibility to highlight your subjects in the best light possible. So here are some tips for both beginners and “pros” who have unfortunately contracted Instagram-itis!
1) If you choose to use PS actions or LR presets, take the time to understand what different effects these filters are having on your photos and fine-tune accordingly: I understand that filters and presets can be an incredible time-saving device, but don’t just press a button and move on. You are simply being lazy and are doing a disservice to your client, and more importantly, to yourself. If the filter made the contrast in your image too high…then modify. If there’s now too much magenta in your photo…modify. If you’ve given your subject zombie-colored, grandma belly…pleeeeease modify.
2) Remember that your favorite filter may not have the same effect on all types of photography: That favorite HDR filter of yours may work wonderfully on landscapes and on product photography (where you may be looking to highlight the characteristics of different inanimate objects), but when you all of a sudden decide to slap that same filter on live, human subjects while doing portrait photography, you should realize that the needs and requirements of your subject are now vastly different. You’d think this would be obvious, but what makes a mountain or lake beautiful is not the same as what makes the human form beautiful, so why would you use the same filter on both?
3) When you’re editing your photos, make sure that you zoom in and out a few times throughout the process, as this will give you a very different perspective of your photo and may help you avoid producing unflattering work: This is not to say that you need to pixel peep on all your photos, but take the time to look at your photos, corner to corner at varying zoom intervals as this may help you catch unflattering areas of your photo. A filter that may have had a positive effect on the subject’s face may have a completely different effect on a different part of their body.
4) When you’re finished editing your photo, take a quick second and ask yourself “If this was a picture of me, would I be happy with the result? Would I pay someone for this photo?”: Remember, anytime you slap your watermark on a photo, that picture becomes a representation of the quality of work you will be providing to the public. So take the time to provide the absolute best service possible, even if it means investing more time into post-production.