Happy Birthday, Photoshop (Part 2)

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or…“When Reality Just Isn’t Good Enough, There’s Always Photoshop.”

When someone outside of the advertising/photography realm things about using Photoshop in photo production, he probably immediately thinks of a digital artist enhancing a product beyond any connection with reality. The truth is though that the goal of most digital retouching is to make the item look as it is intended to look. We discussed a few of these techniques in the previous blog…now let’s look at some more complicated matters.

1. “We Don’t Have a Table for 4″ Sometimes a vendor may only have a couple of the total items needed for a photo, especially if it’s a new product. It’s not uncommon to have to shoot photos a few times to get the number of chairs (or nightstands, pillows, etc) that the shot calls for and in the correct position. (see the example at the end of this article)

2. “Plus It Comes in a Variety of Colors!” The manfacturer may produce an item in a range of colors and finishes, but only sends one piece to be photographed. They rely on the digital retoucher to alter the finish of the subsequent pieces to smaller samples. One sees this technique a lot in clothing ads, where the same T-Shirt is shown in a line up of color samples.

2b. The corellary of the statement above is “It Shouldn’t Come in a Variety of Colors.” Differences in stains, woods, dye lots, and positioning and lighting on the set can cause pieces which should all have the same finish to photograph as if they don’t. Part of post-production retouching eliminates these differences and matchs all the pieces together.

3. “You Can Get There From Here” The photographer may have to shoot an item at a time of year or in a situation that is not what the client or art director has specified. Because of printing and mailing scheduling, the studio may have to shoot an item out of season (summer products in the winter, for example) and the retoucher works with the photo to replicate the warm hues of summer. Or an outdoor shot may actually be done in the studio and later enhanced with a dropped in background and and hue/lighting enhancements.

The common theme with all of these examples is that the product itself is not altered. It still exists just as the manufacturer produces it and the retoucher changes only its variations or setting.

So, before thinking that all digital production work involves ‘covering up’ or making something ‘better than reality’ think of Photoshop work as an essential part of making your product appear as it was meant to appear to your audience!

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