At the moment it’s time to retouch, because these are exactly the things that do not belong in the photo. What is retouch? By retouching we remove inappropriate things and add appropriate things. This archaic definition is close to the truth.
It all starts with an idea. Whether in my head or the client's head. We have a common idea that we will try to approach. This is how every subject of the film production begins, any music or any photo. And it doesn't matter if you capture girls in the park or climbers in the Himalayas.
All this is preceded by research, production, and then you just have to pull the trigger. But what if the photo fails? What if I'm on the site sure that it works, but when I pack the equipment and send the models home I find it doesn’t? That happens to me more than I want. It happens to everyone. The author is himself the greatest critic. I created an unreal world or captured something very real, spent bambillions of hours of study and traveled far. To find out I have a softbox in my shot, a plane, or my 18th-century grandmother forgot to take a cell phone out of her pocket.
At the moment it’s time to retouch, because these are exactly the things that do not belong in the photo. What is retouch? By retouching we remove inappropriate things and add appropriate things. This archaic definition is close to the truth. We just have to go deeper. What should our photo represent? Where is our story happening? Do we want to draw attention to something or is it a great product? All this must be taken into thought in our decisions. That's why we remove planes, phones, dust, or acne from photos. Therefore, the photo corresponds to the reality that we want to create.
Do we need to make a night from a day? And why? I thought we could capture the dark and cold atmosphere of the mysterious Budapest castle. I just failed to travel in time and there are hundreds of tourists in the castle.
We can achieve anything by retouching, but where is the border? How do I find out by myself? We have already said that we are removing or adding what needed. I capture the reality of the late 19th century somewhere in the north of Scotland, the hard working process of noble distillery masters. Can I find things that bothers me and remove them? Not exactly. We can do the opposite. I will find my intention and tell myself what distracts me out of it. In this case, the intention is my hero. I have uninvited guests in the picture and the wall is too dark behind the hero. I want to see copper stills and they won't stand out when the wall is green. And that's where I stop. I can find many other mistakes. From a dirty wall to an uneven railing. I can exterminate the hero's skin. But why? That's where I have to ask where my intention is, where my role is. Just as the actors in the movies and their improvisations can help the movie, they can as well hurt it. I have to be the director who watches if my photo came out of the role.
Is it still a photo when it's retouched? Many would say no. People retouched from the beginning of photography, only it was much more difficult. Even the greatest masters of black and white photography retouch their photos. And why? Not to impress or show they can. Great photo has always been and always will be about emotion, atmosphere or story. And it doesn't matter if I take pictures of girls in the park, forest or setting sun. The photo will always affect me. My job as a photographer, narrator, is to take the viewer to this place and show him the way I see him. And the eyes are a much better tool than the camera chip. Retouch helps me make this difference a little smaller.
Let's agree on one. The best retouch is the one that is not visible.
We can start retouching on the site first. Watch out for equipment, standing chairs or unnecessarily colored clothes. It will help us a lot with retouching later. And then it is up to us in which direction we go. What tool we will use. Because it doesn't matter. Anything that helps us tell our story, show the viewer our intention, or just please grandma with a nice grandpa photo.
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© 2023 Marek Dvorak / Photography