Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Photo Shop, anyone?


Some of you may remember that I took a photography course this past Spring and Summer. The goal was to get knowledgeable about what my new DSLR could do. It was a wonderful class with a very good teacher and professional photographer. You may have seen his pictures, actually. Do you remember this big prison escape that took place here last year, the two brutal murderers who were out on the loose in Northern New York? As Fate would have it, our teacher, Jon, lived right in the thick of it all and his home is right next to the camp where one of the prisoners was finally shot dead. Since journalists  were not let in and out of the zone, Jon was able to  cut a deal with CNN and provided many of the photos you saw, and definitely the best photos.

While we learned about ASA and exposures and much more, John also taught us a bit about Photoshop. I loved that part of the class. It felt very creative to me. It felt like learning magic. I had a photo editing program on my computer already but this was an entirely different level of manipulation. Above you can see a picture I took of my youngest grandson, Zack, It started out as a full length picture of him on the couch watching TV. I cropped it down and then started playing with filters. I really love how it came out because it depicts the softness and sweetness that is Zack. The editing emphasizes what I want you to know about Zack.

Lately there has been much discussion on sewing forums about using Photo Shop. It is certainly used by the Big Four pattern companies and also by Indie pattern makers.

New patterns are released with their best faces forward. I get that. But in some circumstances patterns are released with grand excitement and they haven't been photo shopped. They arrive on the scene, warts and all. I appreciate the honesty of this as it lets me, the consumer, decide if this is the pattern for me. As far as putting out a photo shopped version of a new design, I get that too. Companies are in business and like everything else that is sold in the universe, you have to sell the "sizzle." A great looking garment on an attractive model sells. We all want to look like her. even if only on a subconscious level.

This does sound contrary, doesn't it? It isn't. Both sides of the photoshop/non photoshop argument have value. But,,,,and you knew there was a but.....what of announcing a new design and then with great fanfare putting up the non photo shopped version? OK, I think that's fine. But,,,,,when the complaints come in regarding the product,,, then putting out a photoshopped version to make it now seem just fine? For me there is a dishonesty in that decision that is an affront to potential and past buyers.

For the record, I pride myself on this blog on showing REAL sewing, the kind that can bring out seam rippers on a regular basis. Do I PS? I think it is important to let my readers know my policy. You deserve to know.  Anyone publishing on the web should do likewise but that's just my personal opinion .

I do photoshop, but it is never to change my figure, make me look younger, or make a garment fit better. For one, I haven't developed that much skill yet. But you know those cute boy bags in the last post? The one with the black border had maybe three little white spots of lint. Drove me nuts. I PS'd them out.  I will do that, what we call "clean up." I will also, but not often, erase extraneous distractions. A classic example is a picture of the bridal couple with a tall, skinny tree growing out of the bride's head. I will brighten, increase contrast, and saturate color to provide you with more detail. I really appreciate seeing detail on people's garments and am glad if they manipulate the pic to show that better. That's what I do, not more , not less. I want you to see the details, good or bad, not have a picture with distractions, and have an honest assessment of fit and design lines.  That's my policy and if it changes I will let you know. Do you edit/photo shop your pictures at all? How do you feel about what your purchasing being a PS'd image?  If I learned anything in my photography class it is to never trust any photo again.  EVERYTHING can made to look better and usually is. Our teacher gave us some incredible examples. What really bugs me about this pervasive  PSing is that we do end up with a perfect vision, a virtual non reality of womanhood. Can we really get a garment to fit that perfectly? Right out of the envelope?  Frankly,  I detest that this perfected vision is out there in so many genres for younger girls to see. It  objectifies women. One of my guilty pleasures is reading the NY Times. I savor their magazine each Sunday. While the pages are saturated with fashion ads showing womanhood in amazing unattainable perfection, the NYT staff photographers can be brutally honest and can show the the true beauty of a person in breathtaking reality. I love seeing men and women shown in this very real way. They are so innately beautiful. Sigh.....

Thanks for letting me share my philosophy and opinions regarding this subject. Thanks for any input.  I want you to know what you are getting here....Bunny  

28 comments:

  1. An interesting and timely post, Bunny. I'm in agreement with you on most points. Photoshop is fine if it reveals more about the true nature of the garment. Photos can lie, and sometimes we need to adjust them to more accurately reflect what we have created. Eg I will often turn up the brightness and colour using Mac Photos as the colours of my fabrics may be presenting incorrectly. I have a friend who works as a wedding photographer who may spend hours Photoshopping out flies, because who wants flies obscuring their beautiful wedding pictures?

    The same goes for pattern companies, no one minds when they change colours using PS or shop out some distractions. But if a major pattern company is shopping out true problems with the design, such as a wonky waist seam or ill-fitting sleeve, then that is deceptive.

    Your photo of your grandson is beautiful. Like you say, I can tell so much about him just from that picture.

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    1. Aw, thanks, Siobhan. He's a special little guy.

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  2. Definitely agree.

    Cleaning up to make an image more attractive makes sense and is fine. "Fixing" fit issues as a pattern designer isn't okay. That's just dishonest. So dishonest.

    I would think it weird if hobby sewers heavily photoshopped their photos but that's their business. Selling a pattern and changing the lines of the garment via PS? Just not cool.

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    1. Oh and yes to no longer trusting photos. They're all taken with a grain of salt (especially non-sewing "factual" photos).

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  3. That's one of the reason I like seeing blogger's photos before buying a pattern, I like to see the real pattern. And not just for photoshopping reasons. Even regular photographs don't tell the whole truth depending on the angle or how the model is sitting, and can obscure quite a few problems. I think your photoshop policy is just perfect Bunny!

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    1. Good point. I always go on Pattern Review and check blogs when I consider a new pattern. I like seeing the pattern on real women, so helpful.

      One thing to be really aware of when photo cruising is body position which you mention. I've seen this in lots of Indies and Vogue does a bit of this as well. The biggy, IMO, is when the hair is all pulled to hide the armscye. Weird positions are taken to make the garment appear to fit better than it really does. So it's not just photo shop. Watch body and hair placement as well. In one Indie designer it is so deliberate and I see it with nearly every pattern introduction.

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  4. Talk about hitting a sore point with me... photoshopping models so they are more perfect than ANY human, including the model herself, will ever be. I SO appreciate that you keep your photos honest - and I don't mind getting rid of lint! LOL!

    Sigh... so many girls/women (and some boys) developing eating disorders, and the "more perfect than perfect" pictures are a part of the causes. My daughter is currently in a residential hospital treating eating disorders. At 5' 11" and 130 pounds she felt fat, even though she was no such thing.

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    1. My heart goes out to you. We have a family member with an eating disorder and it is so difficult to watch her struggle. She's our favorite niece and a beautiful girl but she doesn't see herself that way. I pray your daughter comes out of her treatment ready to face a healthier life and self image. I know it is extremely difficult and wish you the bes.

      This is what is so awful about all the PS. The unattainable images our daughters are surrounded with present a "normality" that doesn't exist. If I had a child the age of my grandaughters I would have The Talk about body image and reality. It's important.

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  5. Beautiful picture of Zack. so creative, it really speaks to how you feel about him.

    Yes, I edit my pics...as you do, mostly exposure, contrast, backlight, light balance, saturation, color cast removal, white balance, etc. And of course size - all my blog pics are sized at 800x800 pixels or less, so that they load quickly on my blog posts. The small bit of editing I do makes up for my amateur status with a camera and lack of a professional photographer to help me out. And of course I remove lint! I use Photoscape and Picasa, because they're in my budget...free!

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  6. I've used Photoscape and really like it but rumor has it Santa is bringing me PS, at least if I'm a good girl. It truly is amazing what it can do. One of the things I like was how you could take a specific item in pic, remove it, do all sorts of dazzling things to it, and then pop it back into the picture. This and so much more.

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    1. One of the things we did in class was PS a picture of a bridal couple outside. We blew up the faces, then the eyeballs, made them whiter, gave them a sparkle, then popped it all back into the original picture. You would never know the photo was touched but it really improved the look.

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  7. Interesting viewpoint. As an Influencer(aka blogger) and blog follower, am looking for sewing details or an overall view, e.g., lengths, proportion, garment ease. A face is irrelevant other than fun to meet fellow bloggers.

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    1. Frankly, I like to see a front, a back and a side view that is unobstructed by cascading hair, scrunched shoulders, etc. I totally appreciate those who strive for a more artistic viewpoint and I do like to look at those photos as well, but you still better have the front, back and side if it's a sewing blog, IMO.

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  8. Great post Bunny (and I am glad you are back with your thoughtful, philosophical posts). And your Zack portrait is charming and so sweet.

    I tend to think - it was ever thus. Whether it was Egyptian grave goods that flattered a King, a portrait of a Belgian princess for Henry VIII, a beautiful drawing of a willowy lady of a 1930s pattern envelop, 1950s padded bras, or a shopped super model - we have always made ourselves look better than reality. I can't photoshop or even take a great photograph but I still try to make my pictures look as nice as possible in terms of background, lighting and the expression on my face! I don't go to a great deal of trouble, but I do have some consideration for the viewer.

    Now you raise the question of what we are buying when we buy a pattern. I think sometimes you have to be rather a detective - looking at pictures on PR or the internet, considering the technical drawings, carefully analysing the photos, and using your skill and judgement to decide if it is for you. On the whole we expect (in the UK) that the Advertising Standards Authority will protect us from being sold something different to what we see, but I can only say "buyer beware!" Don't believe everything that you see or hear.

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  9. You are such an inspiration. I love equally the picture of your grandson and your description of your process in creating the picture. Thank you too for your thoughtful discussion of PS.
    I know I am a fool for saying it, but I wish companies could take a longer view. When you sell the sizzle for a product that is undercooked, you might sell more copies of a pattern, how do you build a following? (Oops, i forgot who might be buying the pattern -- but that is why we need you, Bunny, with your generous and patient explanations of the vanishing art of fitting.) many thanks.

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  10. Many of those committing the worst offenses proudly cater to the newbie sewist. As long as there is a steady flow of new sewists who don't have a guiding mentor, which is probably most, these companies can exist. However, this following is growing in skills and expectations of the patterns they use which is great. It improves the quality for all of us when they demand more. I am not sure there will always be a new generation of sewists that will keep pattern companies alive if there business model is one of only catering to the less experienced. There has been much movement in the FB groups I frequent as newbies turn into novices and expect more. There has definitely been expressed a need for honest photography and better pattern drafting. It has been interesting to follow. They don't want PS'd pictures and this is one thing that has inspired this post.

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  11. What a great post; thank you so much for your insights. I use Photos, which is on my Mac, only for lightening, cropping, that sort of thing. I agree about the various shots of a garment. What drives me nuts are the bloggers who use their phones to take shots in a mirror. The lighting always seems to be bad, and the arm sticking out holding the phone distorts the garment. Please, get a tripod! Use the timer!

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    1. YES! Those pictures rarely tell me anything about the garment. Love it when they twist the arm to get a sideview and it totally distorts the garment. Phones can take great pictures but those mirror shots leave a lot to be desired. An expandable tripod goes for 18.00 at WalMart. I have one.

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  12. I too edit my photos but only to clean them up. I sometimes brighten them so certain details can be seen more clearly and that's it. I love what you have done to the photo of your sweet grandson, Zack. It looks like a sketch! How cool is that!

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  13. There are some amazing filters out there. Thanks, Tomasa.

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  14. We have a lot of men's sewing patterns from the 1940s forward, and it amuses and exasperates me how much the cover drawings reflect the fashion of the time, not the reality of the pattern within. Particularly our fave pattern, which features men very much in the Tom Selleck and Burt Reynolds style, including broad shoulders and narrow hips. However the shirt pattern is not cut like that at all! It fits my husband perfectly, who is tall and slim and tubular.
    I use pixlr online, and all I can do and want to do is crop, resize, and autofix the colour balance as my grasp of taking a good photo to begin with is pretty rudimentary. I am so lucky that I get photographed by professionals all the time!

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  15. Yes, so true.
    I need to improve my photos. Not PSing, it starts before that. At the moment, I crop to remove extraneous background or to focus on a detail, and rotate. Nothing else.

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    1. If you need some good, FREE photo editing software, Photoscape is one I'd recommend. It's fun just to take a photo and run through all the filters to see what happens. Most of the time it's not what I expect. Playing with the color options is lots of fun as well. My friend who does bridal photos can take a so so photo of the couple, change it to black and white and it looks spectacular. Lots of fun!

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  16. Thank-you for tackling this subject.

    I edit photos sparingly. I color-correct when my picture doesn't match what I see in daylight. I lighten photos of dark object to help show details.

    I've been known to remove a small blemish or piece of lint with the magic wand. But, that's pretty rare.

    There is so much perfection on the internets, it's daunting for average Janes. I'm not selling anything on my personal blog, so I think it is my civic duty to inject a little realism to counter the perfect commercial images.

    At work, and on my work blog, we are very careful to track everything that has been done to the data before it reaches the researchers. It's necessary for reproducible and reliable science.

    Do you read photoshop disaster?
    http://www.photoshopdisasters.com/

    It's good for a laugh.

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    1. Ooo, I'm of and running to check it out.

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  17. I really enjoyed reading your post. I've always been aware that magazine photos are often severely 'doctored' but I was saddened to see that it is being use by some pattern companies to hide flaws in drafting or workmanship. Maybe all that glitters is not gold.

    Having said that, I must confess that I spend a lot of time editing my photos as I turn myself into a drawing for privacy reasons, but I always leave the garment as-is

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  18. I appreciate your privacy concerns but even more the fact that you turn yourself into a drawing, sort of like I did with Zack. I do have to tell you, something that really really bugs me is people who are showing their nicely completed garments and use a smiley face head on top of their own. I get the privacy thing but it is so distracting I can't bear to look. I know that's awful but with the effort it takes to put up the smiley face on top one could easily do something more presentable. Pixels I can handle, smiley faces, no.

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