Post Processing in Wedding Photography
It is generally best to undertake sufficient preparation so that your wedding photographs require as little post-processing as possible. However, there are times when it is necessary to spend some time working on a photograph in order to provide your client with the best possible images. People are meant to be seen in motion. A photograph captures, flattens, and makes still a particular instant in a continuum. This stillness can sometimes cause a person to look unnatural or distorted.
Editing a Person
When editing a person in a photograph, my philosophy is that you should edit the photograph as if the person in the image is sitting right next to you. In other words you should be sensitive to another person's perception of self. It is important to keep in mind that you are trying to make the person look as beautiful as they naturally do – not turn them into a supermodel.
The most common things to edit post-processing are strange shapes on the body created through arresting movement of the person in the image. While someone may look absolutely radiant when they laugh, there are a multitude of stages of movement that look bizarre when paused and taken out of context. Clearly, if the person looks too odd then the photo is simply not usable but if the image is otherwise perfect using a tool such as liquefy in Photoshop can help you push things back into place.
Spot Healing Brush
Another really helpful tool in Photoshop that can help you make minor adjustments is the spot healing brush. A smudge of eyeliner or the famed wedding day zit can be easily removed. There is no reason to preserve the skin blemish that is transitory anyway. Or, if you captured a fantastic photo of the bride's mother laughing only to realize later she had a piece of cilantro stuck between her teeth! These are all things that can be altered without being untrue to the images.
The spot healing tool can be used to help soften lines around the eyes, to erase strange stray hairs, to snip flyaway strings, and even to remove sweat stains. The key is to work in small areas rather than to attempt to modify large spots in one sweep. This will prevent the selected areas from becoming blurry and minimize the visibility of any corrections. When using this tool to diminish the appearance of lines under the eyes, it is best to first create a duplicate layer and then, after removing the lines completely, reduce the opacity of the edited later by as much as 50% in order to prevent the skin under the eyes from looking plastic and unnatural.
Modifications should not be Noticeable
While it may be tempting to whiten everyone's teeth you have to remember that you want to produce natural looking photographs and any modifications should not be noticeable to those who know the people in the photos. In addition, you have to carefully plan the amount of time that you will be dedicating to post-processing modifications and whitening the teeth of every guest at a wedding that was attended by several hundred people means that you will quickly find yourself working for less than minimum wage.
In other words, while these tools are available, they come with responsibility and require careful thought. Most of all, your images should capture the feeling of the wedding as primary rather than aim to create an unreal and bland perfection.