Sunday, April 20, 2014

Fantasy Personalities

We spend our entire lives being told that 'it's what's inside that counts' and that who you are inside is the 'real you'.

I think this is complete and utter horseshit.

At best, the person you are 'inside' is the person you want to be. The way you act and the way you behave is the 'real you'.

To put this in an overly cynical way, the world is only interested in what it can get from you. It doesn't matter if you have the heart of a saint and the best intentions in the world if you never act on them.

Basically, if you act like a good, caring person, you are a good, caring person. If you act like an asshole, you're an asshole, plain and simple.

For example, let's say one of your co-workers gets a phonecall that a family member has been in an accident and needs someone to cover so they can go to the hospital. If you volunteer to cover, that means you're pulling a 14 hour day.

Who is the real nice guy? The person who actually volunteers to stay, or the person who keeps quiet but is full of sympathy and feels really, really bad about not volunteering?

The person who kept quiet is sitting there thinking "If everyone knew how bad I feel about this, they'd know what a nice guy I am."... but the truth is, you're really not a nice guy... because when someone was really in need, you decided you'd rather go home at your regular time than work a few extra hours to help them out.

The nice guy is the guy pulling the extra 6 hours to help someone out. It's what you do, not what you think.

Basically, who you are inside is the fantasy, ideal version of yourself. The person who's always willing to help, the person who'll step up to defend a stranger...but if you don't act on it, it's a fantasy.

The 'real you' is the person you are, not the person you want to be.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

To shop or not to shop...

So, after a couple of successful photoshoots for work, my boss (technically my Boss's boss) casually mentioned to me that the whole UK division of the company could use 'standard, professional pictures'.

The words 'train journey'' and 'visiting offices' were mentioned...and that maybe I should start bringing my camera gear into work every other week for the corporate inductions.

I laughed and asked where to send my invoice.

At first, my Boss thought I was joking. I explained that I wasn't. His point of view was that I'd be taking pictures during work time, so I was getting paid. I pointed out that that would be fine, if my job started when I set up my gear, and ended when I clicked the shutter.

Without going into details. my most recent shoot was around 25 people, which meant about 150 actual images on my memory card. After sorting, cropping, color correcting and a basic retouch job, I was looking at around 8 hours of my own time to edit the images.

Then the question was asked: Why do I need to do all that? These are corporate headshots, so why would I photoshop them?

My other Boss was beside himself. Why edit anything? The pictures should look exactly like the person, not an 'idealised version' of them. Photoshop is 'cheating' anyway.

I sighed inwardly. It was time for the Photoshop debate.

Here's the deal. A camera lens and the human eye are not the same thing. For one, the human eye is a lot more sensitive than a camera and, secondly, it has a lot more dynamic range (take a picture of a window from inside a room during the day. Either the window will be blown out white, or in inside of the room will appear much darker than it actually is.)

When I edit an image, my goal isn't to change the person in the image, it's to make the image closer to what the human eye actually sees.

For example, if I'm taking a portrait, more often than not, I'm lighting it with a couple of flashes. Flashes are really bright. A flash puts out approximately 1.4 million lumens in a split second. For comparison, a 60 watt light bulb puts out about 800 lumens.

If you were lit by nearly 2000 lightbulbs, how would your skin look?

Then we have the dynamic range to consider. For example, one of the women I was shooting had pale skin and really dark hair. My camera shat a brick. If I expose to get her skin tone right, her hair will look like a featureless black blob. If I expose to get the hair to look right, her face is going to be a big white void with a set of eyebrows.

(Yeah, I know, I could fix that with my lighting setup, but I had 2 minutes to set up in a small meeting room...I had a couple of speedlights with shoot-through umbrellas)

So I can either split the difference and hand her a crappy looking picture with an over exposed face and underexposed hair, or I can shoot in RAW and use lightroom to balance it all out and a got a shot of what she actually looks like.

Then we have white balance to consider. Sunlight is blue. Incandescent lights are orange. Florescent lights are green. Your eyes automatically adjust for you so everything looks 'normal', but cameras aren't great at this. If you have a mix of different coloured lights, it can be a nightmare.

Finally, there are the actual changes, when you actually 'alter reality', so to speak...but I don't see the problem with this if it's not overdone.

My philosophy (at least for corporate headshots) is 'here today, gone tomorrow'. If something is permanent, it stays. If it's temporary, I'll remove it.

For example, one young lady walked into the room looking like thunder, I asked her what was wrong and she just pointed to a huge spot right in the middle of her forehead and said 'typical.' She didn't have acne, she was just unlucky enough to wake up with a huge zit on picture day.

"Don't worry," I said, "Photoshop."

She suddenly looked a lot happier, and I removed the zit in post. After all, why should I immortalise a spot that will be gone in a couple of days on a picture she'll probably be using for five years?

On the other hand, one of the guys had a very prominent mole on his cheek. That was there for life, not just a few it's still in the picture.

I find the idea that this is 'cheating' to be a little bizarre. Most people who turned up to get their picture taken had obviously made more of an effort to look nice. Plenty of ladies who usually turn up to work with their hair in a ponytail and no makeup arrived looking like they were dressed for a first date. Guys who usually turned up in wrinkled shirts turned up in full suits.

If it's wrong for me to remove a zit, should I have forced everyone to wear their normal work clothes and wash off their makeup?

That's what editing is, and that's why I do it, and why it's necessary.