It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post. Busy with clients and editing, which is a great problem to have! Another reason I’ve gone quiet is that I really haven’t had anything remarkable to say. But now, I do. I’m going to explain my philosophy on interpreting my images. So that we’re clear on what I mean, just about everyone else would call this editing or retouching. I think both of those terms imply a mistake or imperfection of some sort. So I use the term “interpreting.”

When I make an image, I very rarely consider it finished straight out of the camera. This conviction has nothing to do with lack of technical skill; it’s about my artistic vision. I see you a certain way before I even reach for my camera, and interpreting the image is the second to last step in that completed vision (which is the printed image). In my image interpretation service, I mention that I offer different levels of intensity. For our purposes here, I’ll focus on the detailed interpretation, which is reserved for portraits and headshots.

Detailed interpretations take an hour or more to complete. The first step is an evaluation of how I’m going to go about bringing the image to life. Shadows, toning, and perceived focus come into play here. Although introduction of these elements is the last step in the process, I have to begin with the end in mind. And, so working towards that end, the next step is to remove blemishes. When I mention that I offer magazine-quality retouching, I mean it. And when it comes to people, the magazine industry purports symmetry and smoothness beyond that which nature can provide. Therefore, so do I.

Every pore is considered. However, I don’t remove any defining features, unless I’m asked to. Veins in the eyes, tartar on the teeth, chapped lips, and cold sores are all removed as if they never existed. Everything but flyaway hairs are removed… and even they can be dealt with using my “nuclear option” service. But it’s typically much less expensive to hire a hair stylist and maybe even a makeup artist as I charge on a per image basis. The play of light on the skin is also taken into consideration: different face shapes look better when paired with specific light patterns. Sometimes, my time with a client and the expected number of images prevent me from relighting the face for every shot (which is my dream situation). And, so I have to introduce light and shadow patterns to both flatter and emphasize what I want to feature in the image.

It’s been stated, probably too many times, that the eyes are the window to the soul. Special attention is given to eyes and lips because they are the most expressive features of the face. I can’t share my secret sauce with you, other than to say that there is a definite difference between my basic and detailed interpretations. That’s another reason I can easily say that my basic retouches rival the best work of my colleagues, and my detailed retouches surpass their best work by far.

The entire process is so intimate because I spend so much time looking at details that nobody else would notice. I get to anticipate the unique curve of an earlobe or the depth of a jawline over the course of several images of the same person. So, I guess the intangible ingredient is a sort of affection. I haven’t worked out whether it’s an affection for the subject of the interpretation or for the actual process of retouching. But I really enjoy what I’m doing and I’m thrilled with the end results. From my experiences, so are you.