It usually happens in Photoshop but has migrated to Lightroom users too. It can happen to nearly anyone who does post production work on their images.
Over-saturation and sharpening are the most noticeable, followed by spot color. It’s easy to do, even by an experienced post- production person. You are working on an image that you want to really pop. So you tweak the saturation, look at it for a bit, then tweak it some more. Your reference is the last tweak, so your eyes get used to that. With the second or more tweaks, the pop seems more impressive until you see the colors actually begin to shift.
A good practice is to work with a copy beside you or with layers you can turn off your changes to see the original. It brings you down to earth very quickly.
Ah, but some say ”I use the defaults and the plugin software should know best.” In this case what most plugins or programs do is default to the very strong side. The programmers explained a plug-in program to me this way; they don’t know where on the scale the image is, so by starting at the strong end it is easier for the user to back the effect off to their taste.
Sharpening is a little different. Some photographers over use sharpening to correct an out of focus or soft image. That will not save it. It’s out of focus, let it go or go artsy so it becomes really out of focus. The nugget to know with sharpening is, it depends on usage and output size. For example a large image that seems fine with the final sharpening applied becomes annoyingly sharp when shrunk down for Facebook use. Yet when printed, the image still seems too soft.
Really knowledgeable instructors will advise you to leave sharpening for two stages in post-production. First, adjust it very mildly when the raw file is opened to compensate for the camera’s low contrast. Then again, if necessary, just before final output so the sharpening is matched to the output device. Think of the monitor as an output device. After output is done, they will often remove the final sharpen layer so it’s ready for the next usage.
Software programs don’t actually “sharpen” the images. They increase the contrast on the pixel edge to give the appearance of the image being sharper. If it goes too far the result is a very distracting image that seems cluttered. On people, pores seem to be accentuated and a mild white line around edges can start to appear.
When prints go in for judging at the professional or even semi-professional level, both of these heavy-handed production issues are noted and can kill the print’s chances of hanging. Your client will just be uncomfortable without really being able to put their finger on what bothers them.
The good news is, once you start recognizing when something has gone too far, your hand will never get heavy again.
Mark Laurie map, spa, FellowPPOC
Mark is a photographer, instructor and writer. His 35 yr old Calgary based studio specializes in photographing women. Mark has had his own TV show, written 3 books plus 4 limited edition books. His Revealing Venus experience workshops run out of Italy.