In the 12 plus years I’ve been a wedding photographer, I’ve seen a lot of post processing trends come and go. When I first started shooting professionally, digital photography had just become the norm. With digital photography came the ability for the photographer to manipulate the images in the computer, or “post process.” At its most basic, post processing adjusts things like color and contrast to most closely match how the subject really appeared. Or the photographer can take it further and digitally manipulate an image to reach an artistic goal. 12 years ago, hand tinting (where most of the image is in black and white with one aspect such as the bouquet in color) had become passé and a technique called cross processing was in style. It produced images with high contrast and super saturated colors. After a couple of years, the trend changed again as trends do. Using something called textures became all the rage after a photographer using that technique won several awards at one of the national photography conventions. This technique involved layering an image of something textural over the main image and then tweaking the opacity to get the desired result. You could even purchase textures collections from prominent photographers to use in Photoshop. Everyone was doing it.
For the last few years, the big trend has been tinting. If you’ve looked at wedding photography recently, I’m sure you’ve seen it. It usually features subdued colors and contrast with an overall pink or yellow tone. It strives to mimic the look of when the sun shines in the lens and bleaches out the image, or the bleached out look of a vintage photo. Pretty, right? Well, to me, yes and no. I actually have a couple of big issues with it. One, a big part of any wedding is the colors you choose, and this technique does not correctly capture them. Did you find the perfect shade of off white for your wedding dress? With this technique, in your pictures it will be pink or yellow.
My bigger concern, however, is what happens after this trend passes, as all trends do. Let me put it in terms of fashion. Styles come and go. Bell bottoms, blue eye shadow, mini skirts, maxi dresses, skinny jeans, acid wash jeans, biker shorts, hoop skirts, corsets. Some might have been mistakes, some we might want to come back into style. But while wardrobes can be updated as fashions change, you only get a single shot at your wedding photography. If you had to pick one fashion to have for the rest of your life, would you choose a trend like eighties big hair and shoulder pads or would you go with something classic? Imagine pulling out your wedding album 10 or 20 years from now when all the trends have changed and having to explain to viewers that that “weird” color was the style at that time.
What I prefer to do is capture a wedding as accurately as I can. It should be a visual documentation of the events that occurred, keeping the story as authentic as possible. In my opinion, the better an image is, the less the amount of “fixing” needs to be done in the computer. Too often post processing is a crutch photographers lean on when their technical skills are lacking. A skilled photographer’s images should look good straight out of the camera. Does that mean there is no room for artistic interpretation in wedding photography? Absolutely not! As wedding photographers, we should be both journalists and artists. A good example of this can be found on my blog here: http://www.patriciasuzannephotography.com/?p=13. But I feel it is more appropriate to artistically alter just a few select images rather than reform the entire wedding. That way you have a few striking conversation pieces but the majority are beautifully classic images that will never go out of fashion.