I'm sure alot of you are curious about what goes on behind the scenes - other than the boring, but essential promotional stuff as well as admin! I won't go in to the whole process about how I market my business as I don't think this is the place for it, althouth in the past I've helped several people, giving them some ideas about how they can market their business. Although I can't claim to be an expert here, I'm only passing on what I have learnt. You can find some great examples online which are written way better than I could ever do. Or you could join this great group, if you are an equestrian business owner: https://www.facebook.com/groups/896200333811333/
Here is Phoebe - I thought it was a fitting "behind the scenes" image to start things off with as she's helped me on countless ocassions making sure horses are looking the right way, helping owners with last minute hair/outfit problems and even carrying my bag around!
For more behind the scenes videos and photos, follow me on snapchat: daydreamequine
What I wanted to focus this blog post on was the exciting stuff that happens during and after a shoot! I'm hoping to put together a short video at some point with some footage from a shoot, however you'll have to wait a few more weeks for that. This blog post will be about how I narrow down the images for editing and then appearing in the final gallery that a client will view.
So, as soon as I get home I plug my card reader in to my computer and download all of the images in to a named folder for each client. I will then go through and delete any obviously bad ones whether they be too light or dark or perhaps I accidentally took a shot of the ground etc...
Next, I open the images up in batches in Photoshop. I only use PS (CS6 currently) and haven't ever used Lightroom, although I know lots of people who use both. Once the images have uploaded I have a good look through them, usually looking at batches from the same area/pose so I can narrow down the best. I am looking for the subtle differences between an "okay" and a "great" photograph. I cull any images where the horse is looking grumpy - ears back, looking the other way, eyes closed etc. Next I have a good look at the owner, if they're mid-movement in one photograph I remove that one.
I may take sections from one photograph such as an ear, eye or even sky from one image and overlay them on to another image. This helps create a nicer image where in some instances the owner may be looking lovely and happy, but perhaps the horse has his ear back or mouth open ... The clone/feathered selection tool is great for doing this. The great thing about photoshop is that you can work in "layers." This allows you to alter part of the image without removing sections from another section/layer. So, for example, I will duplicate an ear from one image and layer it to a nicer image. I will then use an image with a low "hardness" to slowly blend that ear in to the layer below - the nicer image. I'm not very good at explaining things so I hope that makes sense!
So, as you can guess by now, only the best images go forward to the actual "enhancement" stage. One of the things I do on each of these images is zoom right in and remove any flies/dirt/snot/froth and most importantly - where possible, I will remove anything that's distracting or annoying in the background. Most commonly, electric fencing is something that I do my best to remove. (Original image is above)
In this image I also removed some of the sticks/grass piles from the foreground too. As well as darkening the background behind to enhance the white horse on the hill. And most obviously, I turned the image black and white!
I may have also used the burn tool to enhance the clouds in some areas to reduce the amount of negative space above. As you can see, the removal of the electric fence really changes the image! That's just one example of many things that I have taken out and removed. I've even been known to move trees around haha!
... or just to be extra fussy, I've even filled in some of the gaps in the hedge that were distracting me!
Another thing I do is play around with the cropping of each image. I love working, using the "rule of thirds." The easiest way to explain this is by drawing a 3x3 grid ontop of each image:
You want the focal point/subject of the image to sit across the thirds either to the left or the right, rather than in the centre. Here is another example:
Using this, not only shows off the beautiful scenery around the subject but it's also more asthetically pleasing. Although, it's all about knowing when to use this particular crop. As with any other art form, photography being no different, it's very subjective so down to the individuals preference. Some images cry out to have the subject centralised, for example: looking down a long drive way, using the running lines through the image from the drive way to frame the image. It's all down to how you view the image and how your eye thinks your image looks best. I often play around with several crops before I press the big tick to confirm the crop.
It's amazing how something as simple as cropping sets off an image.
On the subject of cropping, something I always pay particular attention to is making sure the horizon line is straight. Be it using a fence line, base of a tree line or the horizon itself. Whilst I try and make sure this is corrected at the time of shooting, I can't always be spot on with this, so again it's where Photoshop comes in handy!
Once all the fiddly little bits are out of the way, I move on to my favourite part - enhancing the image! I have a particular set of actions I use on my images, and before you all ask, no, I'm not going to give those away to you haha - I've got to keep something a secret!
Basically what these do is enhance the image, boosting the colours and correcting the contrast. All of these elements are editable within the action itself, however I've altered my actions to give myself minimal adjustments as most of my images are exposed to similair lighting levels. Of course, without the aid of actions, this enhancement can be done manually using the "brighten/contrast" or "saturation" tools in the dropdown menus. Some images don't have much alteration, on the image above, cna you wpot the alteration, it's quie subtle! Whereas, on this image below, I've played around with enhancing and decreasing shadows on the horses face, as well as adding a matt black and white effect.
And here is the original image, for comparison to show what I mean about enhancing the facial features:
A question at this point is why would I turn the image black and white when the vivid yellow colours from the flowers are in the image? Well, firstly, I presented both the black and white and colour image to Jacintha, as I do with every image I feel would work well in black and white - to give the option of both. Secondly, the images i turn black and white are the ones that really show a connection between horse and owner. Be it when they are hugging, kissing their nose or the horse perhaps nuzzles the owner. A particular quote that I love is:
So, with that in mind, I hope you can see why I tend to change some images black and white, perhaps this illustrates my thought...
When you photograph people in colour, you capture their clothes. When you photograph people in black and white, you capture their soul.
It leaves more to be thought about, imagined and dreamed about, just like reading a book. It makes you really think, rather than being distracted by the colours in the background, instead it leaves you with shapes.
So, here's one image straight from my camera. I've not had to straighten or crop the image as I am happy with the way it appeared on screen. I've (note the blue arrow) zoomed right in and removed some marks from the horses coat. Next, I've increased the contrast of the image and added a vignette. The final image is what I presented to my customer. The image on the very right has had a "warm matt" finish applied. This is just personal preference, I wanted to remove the very darks within the image and also add a softer feel with the aid of the matt just reducing the darks and adding a warmer tone to the image.
I am sure there are hundereds more points I can make about the editing process that I undergo when choosing which images to show my client, I only let the very best go through. I've stopped worrying about making sure each client has "x number" of images to view, or that they may have wanted a particular pose in a particular location. Always remember - it's quality over quantity. (With that being said, please don't panic, you will always have plenty of images to choose from!) It's my job and I've been entrusted to capture these memories so I only want the very best images to go forward to the gallery.