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Do you judge by the befores or the afters?

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  • Do you judge by the befores or the afters?

    Greetings all! Just curious about opinions on this and I figured that retouchers would be more familiar with and have had more access to the Befores than the general public who typically only sees the Afters.
    1. When you (personally) say that someone is a great photographer, are you basing that more on what the images look like before retouching or after?
    2. Is your opinion affected if the final images the photographer is known for are all predominantly generated in editing (eg. all of their images are fantasy styled with tons of compositing and the like)?
    3. Is your opinion in either case affected if the photographer is also his/her own retoucher?
    4. And last, if you judge the photographer more by the Befores, what elements are you looking at most to arrive at your opinion?

    As a filmmaker, my goal is always to do what you need to do for the image produced by the camera to be as close to the final image you want to see as possible rather than shooting with the notion that things can be fixed in post. For many of us, when it comes to the visual aspect, post production is more about doing what simply can't be done with a camera than it is about how to improve upon what was done.

    I realized a while ago that I subconsciously brought that approach to my photography. I don't shoot thinking about retouchers. I shoot thinking that I want to be happy with the picture that my camera plops out. Retouching only enters my mind when I'm in a situation where I feel I can't do anything about what's in front of me and will have to do something about it later on.

    Since I started befriending retouchers and watching them work and even just browsing around on the internet to see the Befores of a lot of published Afters, I constantly find myself having these "wtf" moments where I'm looking at the Befores from photographers that are being heralded as amazing and not understanding why anyone believes that.

    Rather, I can see why people would think they're amazing based on the Afters if, like much of the public, that's all they've seen. What I don't get is how people who have seen the Befores and are familiar with just how much was done to get to the final images are still able to say with a straight face that they think the photographer is so incredible?

    Because of the attitude I've rolled over from filmmaking, to me - not saying this is how anyone else "should" see it and I'm not here to debate it - if I would be ashamed for anyone other than my retoucher or someone in my field interested in learning something about the process to see my image as it came out of the camera, I didn't take a good picture.

    I'm not saying that all of my images are prize winning material. I'm saying that when I look at them, I never think, "I can't let a client see this! They'd think I'm a horrible photographer!" Yet when I see a lot of the Befores of many "golden" photographers, that's exactly what I think. That if that was what came out of my camera, I'd hide it from anybody I wanted to hire me LOL

    Anyway, I think I'm having such an adverse reaction to Before images because of the way I do things and that people are seeing something I don't see because they're looking at it from the perspective of elements I'm not giving enough credit for or putting too much emphasis on, so I was curious to know how you all form your opinions and on what?

    Sorry this was so long, I wanted to make sure the question I was asking was as clear as possible by explaining how I arrived at it. I'm not providing any images because I want this to stay about how you each evaluate a photographer's work in general and not have it turn into an opinion fest on specific pictures.

    Thanks ahead of time!

  • #2
    Re: Do you judge by the befores or the afters?

    I judge photographers by their vision and ability to make that into an image. Period.

    X

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    • #3
      Re: Do you judge by the befores or the afters?

      Thanks for the first reply! I'd love to hear others!

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Do you judge by the befores or the afters?

        Cyberphonics, I'm in the same boat as you.

        I'm a photographer. I do my own retouching, but I try to get it as close to what I want in the camera and use photoshop to clean up little blemishes, adjust contrast, and do some color toning.

        Like you, I not saying that I'm an amazing photographer (or retoucher) ... but I have standards of what I would show a client before it's been retouched.

        So, I judge by both.

        People argue that the finished product is all that matters. They're right. Does it matter that the raw file was underexposed, a little soft, with wonky composition? Well if it's right in the final product, then it doesn't really matter I guess. But, being a photographer, I like to have integrity for the craft of photography. So I will do the best I can to get my photos as close to how I want them in camera. There will always be people who "cheat" with retouching, we just have to get used to it.

        Ps. I have huge amounts of respect for the pro retouchers out there. You guys can work some real miracles and I'm sure have saved many careers for slack photographers. I just ... like it in camera better.

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        • #5
          Re: Do you judge by the befores or the afters?

          BTW nice question ...

          As a photographer coming through a classic process where I use to develop, print & retouch my own pictures - I try to get the best result in the camera. This is my master file which I can retouch (with all techniques I am aware off) and then go for postprocessing. But I always keep my retouched muster file for the future.

          The other question is how to get your muster file into your camera? In the old days the photographers should be aware off a zone system (developed by Ansel Adams) which gave you a way how to deal with the contrast of the captured scene. It affected both - the positive & negative process. I still have this on my mind and I am applying this on a digital file as well - if needed ... So if you see some of my files which came straight from my camera - you will ask a lot of questions

          The most famous photographers are famous as they are able to bring original feeling to the photograph and for ability to deal with the technique as well as with the stress on the set (I mean commercial photographers). And if you watch The September Issue movie you will see how much power over the final result they have

          Today we can se a lot of compositing. But if you want to create a good picture you have to have a good source.

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          • #6
            Re: Do you judge by the befores or the afters?

            As a photographer who learned my trade in the era of film I agree with others about the "get it right in camera" mantra but only to a certain extent.

            I have always regarded post processing as an essential part of photography, whether that is pushing film at the development stage or dodging and burning at the printing stage.

            I therefore think there are some adjustments which are an essential part of the process - these include correcting color balance, cropping, dodging and burning. Cloning out blemishes comes in this category as well.

            There are other processes that should not be used IMO. These mainly come under the heading of "rescuing bad shots" and include exposure adjustment, and disguising blown highlights or blocked shadows.

            So I do judge by the after, as the artistic vision, accurate exposure and good focus cannot be created in PP. Most other enhancemants are a legitimate part of the process.

            A final point - sharpening will never be able to rescue an out of focus shot. Sharpening is fine to improve the print quality of an already sharp image and can be used as a creative technique but cannot be used to rescue a bad shot.

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            • #7
              Re: Do you judge by the befores or the afters?

              Btw a photographer with VISION doesn't fix the images in Photoshop

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              • #8
                Re: Do you judge by the befores or the afters?

                The finished product period...

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                • #9
                  Re: Do you judge by the befores or the afters?

                  Originally posted by Godmother View Post
                  Btw a photographer with VISION doesn't fix the images in Photoshop

                  X
                  That depends upon what you mean by "fix"

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                  • #10
                    Re: Do you judge by the befores or the afters?

                    Originally posted by fraiseap View Post
                    That depends upon what you mean by "fix"
                    Resquing a bad shot

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                    • #11
                      Re: Do you judge by the befores or the afters?

                      Originally posted by Godmother View Post
                      Resquing a bad shot

                      X
                      Agreed. Too many people think Photoshop can do this but it can't.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Do you judge by the befores or the afters?

                        I'm not a photographer, but I can tell when a pic is good (I think, hehe). I guess the responses on this thread are related to beauty or fashion retouch. I guess it all depends on the target or purpose of the photo. Both can be good, bad, maybe 1 is good and the other not. Maybe the original is better than the processed one. I agree with Natalia about judging photographers by vision and ability. But for instance if you are going to do an HDR work you need to process the photo even if you are a purist, either with an HDR program or not.

                        In beauty retouch, (commercially speaking) you always need to do at least some post process, like stray hairs and small blemishes, etc. So my bottom line is this, both are important, if I'm wrong, then why do photos need to be retouched?, if they are so good, they can go directly from shooting to magazine production...

                        Retouching is like music, in a recording you don't just record and take it directly to CDs reproduction. It needs a final mix down and a mastering before you can hear it on the radio or sell it. And as I said before, the better the base, the better the results.
                        Last edited by Boneappetit; 01-10-2011, 07:54 PM.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Do you judge by the befores or the afters?

                          Being a proffessional photo restorer to me both are equally important. No matter on the skill of the photographer things can still happen be it problems with the elements,flaws to the model or anything. you need us as much as we need you. You need both aspects for a picture to fully work we work side by side and there is no shame in that.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Do you judge by the befores or the afters?

                            I would say is the final image as well... photoshop should be seen as a part of the process, just as another tool to get where you want as a photogrpaher.

                            and we all know that there are no miracles in photoshop... a shit photo will always be shit, even if 'touched to death!

                            I do appreciate the craft of photography and I work the hardest to get my photos as near as possible as the final image in my head, but I guess this appreciation for craft is something that only us "photogeeks" appreciate...

                            so, back to my answer, the final image is what it counts!

                            xx

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                            • #15
                              Re: Do you judge by the befores or the afters?

                              Assuming that someone is paying us to come up with the goods, the end result is all that counts. The photographer is the 'tool' of the art director and the retoucher is the 'tool' of the photographer. Everybody brings something to the party.
                              R.

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