This time we decided to focus on such an important for high quality retouch topic as the criteria of evaluating the original image. Here we will not talk about artistic techniques, styles, or about any other subjective criteria for assessing the quality of photographs. We will focus on the technical aspects of photography, on those characteristics, that if missed, can cause even the most interesting and creative photos to lose their artistic significance. It's no secret that the better the quality of the original photo, the wider the possibilities are for the retouch and the more high-quality result we can get. So here, we will write in more detail on the technical aspects of the high quality original images.
We identified several of the most important criteria that can help to evaluate the original photo and predict the result of retouch, as well as the time that will be spent on it.
1. File format: the most common format of the retouched final images is JPEG, however, as a source, it can be useful only if it is of the highest quality and does not have any distortion because of compression, which is assumed by the format itself. It is worth noting that when compressing a photo to JPEG, often not only the important details are lost, but also unwanted elements appear, such as coarser details and pixilation. Also, it is recommended to store the final files in a format that does not compress the original image and contains all the details - TIFF. And the most high quality and deep retouch can be done with a raw, uncompressed file – in the RAW format. RAW-file is a collection of pure signals received directly from the camera matrix, which means that it stores absolutely all information for each point of the frame during the entire exposure time of the matrix, it preserves absolutely the entire color coverage of the camera. This is what allows you to have the most extensive retouch options for all sorts of manipulations with the photo, and after the end of the work it can be saved in any other image format.
2. Image size: based on the previous paragraph, the logical pattern is that the larger the file size, the higher the photo resolution, the more details there are there and, therefore, the more of the possibilities are open to the retoucher. Modern digital SLR and even mirrorless cameras have a huge range of choice of quality of the original images from big and small JPEG compression to zero RAW compression. And if you are a fan of medium-format cameras whose matrixes exceed by one and a half times the matrix of even full-fledged DSLRs, then at the output you get such a large, high-quality and detailed image that it makes sense to process it only from the Advanced level and above.
3. Detailing: in each frame there should be a well-drawn detailed area, usually it is the face and eyes for portraits, the entire frame for landscapes. For commercial object photography, as a rule, the detailing is very important throughout the frame.
4. Focusing: if insufficient detail can be compensated to some extent by computer processing, with the mistakes of focus, retouching cannot cope, therefore it is very important that the main part of the photograph is accurately in focus.
5. Noises: they usually appear when too high ISO values are used and are most noticeable in dark areas of the photo, but can also appear in bright areas where they are even more undesirable.
6. Lighting: this is probably one of the most important aspects in photography, in general; if we stop purely on the technical side, in any photo there should not be too brightened, burnt out light areas, as well as those that are darkened. In general, there must be reasonable balance between them, and the light must be coordinated, the background and the main subject of photography must be clearly lit.
7. Chromatic aberrations: they are a natural satellite for shooting under difficult conditions, but they are less evident when using better lenses. Most often they appear on the boundaries of contrasting objects in bright light, with a wide open diaphragm.
In the art of the professional photo retouch, a high quality original image is a guarantee of the best result; the amount of possible manipulations that can be done to the image, improving its properties, and not deteriorating the quality, depends on it. And remember that not all errors that are made during the shooting can be corrected with the help of retouch, even with the highest quality of the original images!