So many times I see a great photo and examine it: the lighting is great, the subject is adorable, the composition is beautiful, but then…
There it is.
You know, that thing that totally throws the entire photo into the trash.
That THING that the photographer should have noticed.
I want to scream Why?! Why did you not fix this!? A photo that could have been gorgeous is now ruined. Okay, sure, you can use Photoshop to edit plenty of errors and enhance all kinds of beauty, but something like a big chunk of hair in someone’s face can be somewhere between incredibly difficult to impossible to fix, thus rendering the photograph unusable.
I understand that it is literally impossible to fix certain things in the moment. If you’re photographing a wedding and the bride’s hair blows out of place during the vows, you’re definitely not going stop the ceremony and fix her hair while she’s saying her “I do’s”! However, even though it’s not always possible to fix every last detail in the moment, I do find that 90% of the time I DO have an opportunity to fix problems before I start shooting.
Whether you’re a professional photographer or whether you’re someone who has lamented the picture that could have been…. you might have witnessed these blunders before. I have had hundreds of clients specifically comment on this over the past decade as one of the main reasons they switched photographers. They tell me that past photographers never took time to straighten their hair, fluff their dress, make sure their necklace/tie/whatever were straight and tidy. With that in mind, let’s figure out a way to take notice AND take action – so that these blunders become things of the past!
Let’s talk about the top 8 things that can ruin a photo:
1. Out-of-place hair
Seriously people, LOOK at your subject’s hair before you go about taking their photo for thirty minutes. If it’s funky, FIX it!!! For the love!!
That being said, I realize there are situations when this is not practical. (If you have an 18-month-old toddler who truly can’t cooperate and runs everywhere–then stops for a split second and smiles– do this: just take the photo! Then try to adjust for the second and third shot AFTER you’ve captured the split second that they smiled. In most situations though, fixing hair before you begin is completely do-able.
2. Crooked tie, clothing or jewelry
Before you press the shutter button, pause and evaluate. Does anything jump out at you when you look at your subject’s wardrobe or hair? Is his tie sideways? Is a shirt buttoned incorrectly? I’m amazed when I see other photos (or watch the ten o’clock news) at how many people don’t notice that something is really crooked! Let’s just all take a minute to check ties, jackets, clothing, and jewelry before you start shooting.
3. Hair accessories on the wrist
Hey… I get it… Every girl with hair long enough to throw into a messy bun just loves to keep a hair elastic/band close by. I mean, it’s a necessity! While that’s great for everyday life, it needs to come off before your photo shoot 😉 This one can be a somewhat simple fix using the spot removal tool in Photoshop, but who wants to Photoshop 100 files? Not me! Instead, I’d rather take a hot second and look for hair ties and then politely ask my clients to remove them from their wrists–wouldn’t you?
4. Wrinkled clothing
I wish I could count on just one hand the number of times someone came in for their photo shoot and promptly plopped a plastic grocery bag down full of 10 wrinkly shirts and said “here you go!” Clients tend to pull out this wadded mess of clothes and casually say: “You can Photoshop all of those wrinkles, right?” Cue the anxiety.
Do you have any idea how long it takes to Photoshop wrinkled pants and shirts (annnnd to make the material, patterns, and shadows look right?) It is possible, but so is flying to the moon, people. It’s much easier to take five minutes to iron clothes before shooting. If you’re at a location where it’s feasible to iron, be sure to bring an iron and ironing board in case your client shows up with wrinkled clothes. Or hey, even better: Be sure your client irons those shirts before you arrive at the shoot. It’s best to send your client a list of items they should do to prepare BEFORE the shoot. If your client hates ironing, ask them to pay the local dry cleaner $2 to iron their photo shoot clothing. They can tell the dry cleaner “iron only,” which is so much cheaper than paying for the dry cleaning– a cheap and easy fix for perfectly pressed, photo-shoot-ready shirts.
5. Random crap in the background of your photo
I have a lot of friends and family who live far away from me, and I am not able to do their photos. When I see their photos pop up on social media, I get excited to look through them and see how beautiful they turned out! Sometimes, though, I’m a little disappointed in whoever took the photos. At first glance, the photo is super cute : everyone is smiling and everyone’s eyes are open (a miracle in itself with large families). But what’s that in the background? It’s usually some random and horribly distracting element right behind them (or in the foreground!). This could be anything from a person walking through the shot, a dog taking a wiz on a fire hydrant, a giant green trash can in the way, or an electric pole with wires.
If you know you’re about to take a photo, pick a background that is visually pleasing and does not have distracting items in in the background or foreground. If there is something in the background that you simply cannot move (let’s say you didn’t notice it until you arrived), then just position your clients to block it. If the camera can’t see it, you’re gold.
Girls, it’s not easy to Photoshop your bra, bikini, or cami straps that are clearly visible under your shirt, especially since you have shirts, hair, jewelry, or a baby layered over those straps! Adjust your straps and have everything in place before the camera starts snapping!
7. Guys- Keys and phones
Guys, I know that you use your pockets just as much as I use my purse. I know that your pockets hold more than lint and a wallet–you’ve got your phone and your keys in there, and I know this because I see this at photo shoots! I can only say that these items make for some odd bumps in your jeans…and they certainly make for some rather awkward Photoshop editing (who likes editing people’s crotch-atle area? Not me!)
Take those phones and keys out of your pockets – pretty please 😉
Makeup can be a super tough thing to Photoshop. If your subject’s lipstick is cake-y, their foundation is too orange or dark (and doesn’t match their neck), or their mascara is running, it can be a very time consuming fix. Take a moment before beginning to not only look at their makeup, but I recommend taking a test shot to review with your client. Showing them a test shot before you start allows them a chance to change any makeup before the shoot starts– and avoids big problems in post processing.
A beautiful, perfect, amazing photo can quickly turn unusable when mom’s bra is showing or hair is covering someone’s eyes. If you’re a photographer, try to stop before you start shooting and notice the scene and your subject’s hair and clothing. If you can re-program yourself to pause and evaluate before starting a shoot, your clients will thank you again and again.
P.S…. Thanks to my sweet friend Meghan for voluntarily taking bad photos… LOL! If you’re in the need of any Rodan + Fields products or want to check out her fitness journey, be sure to follow her on Instagram @meghan.emily.3 !
Krista Lee is a Nashville, TN based portrait and wedding photographer. See her work and professional site at www.kristaleephotography.com
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