There is a framed picture in our home that is so absolutely hilarious I cannot bring myself to take it down. When we had built our first, simple, one-page website, we put a picture of ourselves front and centre. Being home, living far from our friends and family with cameras, and no one but us and our cat, Milo, we had to do timer selfies. As though this wasn’t time consuming and frustrating enough, the camera was broken and it had to be recharged between shots and then we had to edit the photo quickly in order to launch our website.
I took on the task of editing our photos. Usually, this isn’t a big deal - I have a lot of Photoshop, Lightroom, and Adobe experience overall and I edit photos regularly for clients and their websites. However, hilariously, in the process of this edit, things spun out of control. I don’t know if it was the lack of air conditioning in that apartment, the allergies brought on by Milo, or if I had a momentary lapse in judgement, but the picture turned into an awful and over-edited mess…. and I had unfortunately saved over the original. Now, this image hangs up in our house and everyone who sees it for the first time comments on it. An otherwise good picture, ruined by over-editing (and by saving over the original, I can’t even explain that move). Let this be a lesson to you!
Things not to do:
Short of cutting out your subject from the background, or purposefully focusing on one small area, try not to edit at a zoom. Editing in full zoom means that you are not seeing how your colour changes look in comparison to the whole image. When I decided that I was going to whiten our teeth, I was zoomed in completely to our smiles. As far as I was concerned, the teeth were never white enough! By the time I had zoomed out, I couldn’t even see how contrasted they were to the rest of the image, my eyes were entirely focused on that bright, Colgate-level smile. Take time to zoom in and out during the process to see how your changes are effecting the overall image.
While in the out-of-control Photoshop session, I also thought it appropriate to use the burn effect on the skin because, I felt, we had a way-too-pale complexion left over from the winter and I wasn’t having any of that. Again, too zoomed in to understand what I was doing, I began applying what I believed to be a nice summer glow. I literally would have looked less orange with a fake tan. And I know this, because I had a phase where I was addicted to those spray booths.
Finally, in an inexplicable lack of judgement, I was completing and saving these edits over the original. As opposed to taking advantage of Photoshop's layers and saving a proper PSD file, I simply saved a JPG, deleted the raw files off my computer (possibly because of the space the photo was taking on my laptop???) and voila! One mess of an over-edited photo was all that remained of our onerous photoshoot.
Things to do:
We have all made mistakes in Photoshop, and I've learned that saving over the original, or losing the original file, is unfortunately common. A good idea is to do everything in layers. This way, so long as you save the PSD file, you will be able to go in and remove or edit layers that you don't love at second glance. Also, name your layers, I constantly shout at myself. I've had Photoshop files exceeding 50 layers and, for some reason, refuse to name them.
A great way to get the best perspective on your work is to step away from the computer. If you’ve been editing one photo that has only minor edits for longer than an hour, A) Ask yourself what in the world you are doing that is taking this long and B) take a break. If I hadn’t gotten carried away and had taken some time to maybe get a coffee, I would have come back to the computer and hit that Control Z button a million times over. Another option is to send the partially completed file to a friend for a second set of eyes.
Finally, don't be afraid to play around with colours! You can easily brighten certain areas or colours subtly to give it a pop. I edited our white background and Milo’s fur to be a bit more stark and I focused on the greens (shirts and Milo’s eyes) to stand out a bit more, and it would look great if I hadn’t gone overboard on colour editing and if you could see anything past our damn teeth.