The photo editing process is unique to each photographer. That being said, there are simply some things photographers do that look horrible and are an attempt to cover up poor quality work. I’m not talking camera settings, I’m talking the entire post-process.
At the end of the day, these are nothing but opinions. You do you!
1. Fake eyes
Sadly this has become more and more common. It’s become a daily occurrence where I come across a photo that the eyes of a subject have been replaced with overlays.
While I am not against presets, overlays and brush packs; they are constantly pushed in the photography market. This push has led people to utilize them far too much. The unrealistic doll look is not visually pleasing for most individuals.
Capturing the eyes should be one of the photographers highest priorities next to proper exposure. It’s one thing to clean them up and another to replace them altogether. Most eyes are more than beautiful without any fancy-schmancy overlay.
2. Cranking saturation to full blast
Colors are beautiful. Cranking the saturation to full blast to make them pop isn’t. Some greens and blues simply do not exist in nature. Making them exist in your photos is not going to make for better images.
I think this ranks pretty high up on most photographers no-no list. I was guilty of doing this when I first started editing photos. Among photography forums, it seems like its the new guy thing to do. It has its uses, but keep it limited.
3. Smoothing criminal
There is nothing worse than seeing an image of an individual that has been smoothed to death. Making your subjects look like a porcelain doll is not pretty or even artistic.
It’s important to leave some texture on the skin of your subject. This particularly applies if the skin of your subject is up close. Cleaning up blemishes, major wrinkles, and other imperfections are all fair game. Softening your subject to death is not.
4. Digital drag queen makeup
This falls in line with fake eyes and even smoothing. Super blushed cheeks, poorly painted on eyebrows, porcelain skin, over applied lip coloring… it’s all bad. This looks extremely tacky and makes your subjects look like a drag queen at times.
There is no problem with drag queens, but people don’t often want to look like them. I think people that do this try to have a whimsical look to their portraits, but it misfires badly.
5. A bad case of Vignetting
Vignetting has its rightful place in the editing workflow. It should be somewhat subtle. It adds a great look to portraits when used correctly.
Unfortunately, this is incredibly overused and often time a cover for bad image quality. It’s also overused much like saturation where users oftentimes crank the effect to the max.
6. Improper image filesize and compression
Probably the most overlooked thing with beginners. Image file size and quality are extremely important in advertising your services or providing your customer with a great final product.
A website that is dragged down by photos that are not compressed enough lead to a horrible experience. Receiving digital prints that look poorly when they are printed out can lead you to develop a bad reputation as a photographer.
The user experience fully revolves around image size and quality. I found this fantastic write up by what photography gear that explains everything in-depth for those of you that just need help or a refresher.
Bonus: Over sharpening
I sharpen most if not all my images. This is critical in making your subjects stand out. A lot of people oversharpen photos leading there to be a loss of overall quality, artifacts, and what appears to be noise. Another tutorial I like to share is by Anthony Morganti Sharpening and Noise reduction.
Please do not mistake this as an anti-editing article because it isn’t. If anything, it’s a fun challenge that tries to get you to think outside the box and try to take photographs in a matter that minimizes the need for editing while encouraging good editing processes.
Making some mistakes is just fine and part of the photography process. Post can bail us out and make a horrible shot into a great one, but use caution to avoid going overboard. Post-processing should never take place of good photography, but it is crucial in making every image as good as it can be.