Subtle Adjustments Make all the Difference
Every photo needs some amount of adjustment to enhance its presentation, even really good photos can benefit with the right adjustment. However, if you ask 5 different people what needs to be done, you’ll get 5 different answers, or worse, no answers, simply, “it looks fine!” Things become really difficult when there is no obvious problem. There are simple things to check for, like making sure there is a good black point (and possibly white point) in the image to insure that there is maximum tonal range. Other choices are purely personal, according to taste, or creative choice, but careful consideration can often reveal a correction strategy that can bring out the best in any given image.
I think most photographers have a hard time stepping back from the moment of capture in order to really evaluate the image as it would present itself to a viewer who is not intimately connected to the experience of taking the photo. We remember how good our subject looked in our minds eye, and this alters our perception of the collection of pixels that is the result of the picture making process. The truth is that the photo we take elicits a response that is dependent on our memory of the experience – when you take that memory away, as it would be for anybody who was not there at the moment of capture, the response is only dependent on the photo. This is one reason it is so hard for us to edit our own work! Its almost impossible to be objective enough.
I have found that careful attention to basic color correction principles can help re-calibrate our subjective evaluation of an image to a point where effective adjustment choices can be made. I also find it extremely helpful to get as much practice as possible working on other people’s images, as this helps us become more objective about our own work! I have the good personal fortune of benefiting from the work of my fiancé, the amazing Bobbi Lane, who happens to be a really extraordinary portrait photographer! I will examine my decision making process in a recent color correction of one of her images in the remainder of this post.
Here is the image as it was given to me, already processed into a Tiff file from the original dng: