“If just one setting on your camera had been correct, this image might have been salvageable”

It was 2005. I had been in business for about a year. My specialty: Kids. I got a referral for a new client, two adorable kids – about 9 months and 4 or so.

I was feeling pretty good about how the shoot was going when the mom mentioned that they really would love to have a family photo. Inwardly screaming in panic, I reminded her that I was a kids photographer and that while I photograph interactions with parents, formal family photography is not my expertise. Expectation-setting disclaimers out of the way, I gave it my best shot, pun intended.

I raced to my computer when I got home, to see what I had. Two sweet children with huge bright eyes. Check. Two attractive parents, looking good. Check. While I wish I had suggested the dad sit up just a little bit straighter, pose not bad. Check. BUT, the image was blown out (light) and uneven in its sharpness.  I have to admit to freaking out.

I made an emergency appointment with my photography “coach,”  Page Carr.  “Joan”, she said, matter of factly, “If just one setting on your camera had been correct, this image might have been salvageable.”

If I was panicked at the notion of taking a family photo, imagine how I felt about having screwed it up completely.  The family was moving in a few days, so no time for a re-shoot.  I had messed up their one opportunity for a family photo before moving to another state.

Working with Page, I reviewed my Photoshop options to determine what “fixes” might be possible.

1) If a picture is blown out (light) and/or not tack sharp – black and white is more forgiving.

2) If you know how to use layers in Photoshop, you can go selectively sharpen and blur – to even out the sharpness.

3) You can do the same with brightness, contrast and exposure, all of which can impact dark and lightness.

4) When a family is this cute, anything is possible.

Many hours and versions later, here’s where I ended up:

Tragedy successfully averted. It was their holiday card that year and they ordered a 16 by 24 canvas.

Five or so years later, while I will admit to occasionally getting a setting wrong during a shoot, I’ve never again got ALL of them wrong at the same time.

Note: I hope when the family reads this story behind their family photo, they appreciate and love it even more!

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2 Responses to “If just one setting on your camera had been correct, this image might have been salvageable”

  1. Tammy Kennon says:

    Nice save!!! But what were all the wrong settings and what would have been the right ones? Don’t just leave us hanging out here! 😉

  2. So sad… The worst of what I did wrong was that I was shooting on a very bright and sunny day…at F2.8 (wide open – shallower depth of field so nothing everyone was in focus and more light in, contributing to the blown out-ness) and had my ISO set at 400. I should have been around f8 or f10 at 100 ISO.

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