While on social media recently, I ran across a posts that gained quite a bit of attention relating to how images are processed by photographers. Some models complaining that images may be over processed through third party products, lighting issues, and even failure to edit images to their satisfaction to be appealing. Obviously this is somewhat of a sticky subject, but here are some of my thoughts on the subject.
Art by its very nature is subjective. What one person feels may not be appealing, others may even pay thousands of dollars to purchase. I recently attending a lecture on NFT's (non-fungible token) in which the images that sold for large amounts of money appeared as though they were very low resolution images.
Any project should start off with the end in mind. To that point, there are hundreds of thousands of images in Pinterest that could be sourced for at least a starting point for a concept. Regardless of trade or paid shoot, all parties should have a reasonable idea what the end product may look like. The photographer of course is responsible to assess their skills, knowledge, and equipment necessary for that concept and practice. The model should determine if this concept meets his or her needs, how it may affect their brand, and where the final image may be displayed.
There are hundreds of possible combinations of lighting set-ups with vary not only with the style of lighting but also with the equipment used itself. Sometimes a few inches placement of light can alter the final product dramatically. Hard light or even Rembrandt lighting with modifiers may not be flattering to a subject and may bring out harsh facial features that a subject may not find appealing.
Editing of course is very subjective and to some extent depends on the concept. Some editing may involve extreme effects, while some editing may go for a more natural look. A professional image editor may often require that the client describes what look he is she is moving toward. Editing may be as simple as removing an unwanted blemish in 10 seconds, or could take an hour or more to achieve a certain look. While some photographers may move toward commercial products, it is important to take a close look at the final product especially if processing a large amount images.
Some models may want to have the ability to edit images themselves for various reasons. This could be as simple as a crop, or as involved as skin texture. This gets into a complex discussion beyond the scope of this post, but could easily move into some serious legal issues. Generally the individual who pushes the shutter release owns the image, and if the image is significantly altered from the owner, then a question may arise as to who actually produced that image and it rights were violated. The subject of a image certainly may want the image to represent the picture in a positive manner. A discussion of usage rights should become part of the process and appropriate fee negotiation should be made to the owner if the subject wishes to alter the original image. Model releases are almost a must when working together regardless of whether the images will eventually be published or not.
Events such as shoot-outs (photographers and models randomly working together) can be problematic. Each party may not have worked together in the past. Concepts and skill levels of each party may vary dramatically and often time and resources are often very limited at these events. While shoot-outs can be valuable for networking purposes, final results are uncertain to say the least.
In the end analysis, it may be down to planning and communication. What is the end result? Does the model have the correct look and skill level to achieve the end results? Simply because a model is popular does not guarantee a polished product. Does the photographer have a solid concept and a portfolio strong enough to pull off the final concept. Again, popular photographer does not assure one will end of with a product that a model wishes to be displayed publicly. Either party should be comfortable enough to say 'no thank you' if a concept is offered and possibly even recommend another person.
Once an image is released, unless openly defamatory, the subject often has little recourse if a model release has been obtained. There are even certain cases such as if an image is newsworthy, has educational value, or taken in a public venue where the subject may have few rights even if a model release has not been obtained. During events such as tradeshows, a wide variety variety of professionals as well as casual photographers could be making images. Depending on the nature of the photographer, an oversight could be corrected if approached in a professional manner. A public rant will in most cases, while gaining sympathy from some will almost be viewed unfavorably by many.
Being in the public light can be a challenge for all parties involved. Careful planning is almost a must but the occasional unexpected event will likely occur when we least expect it.