As a corporate portrait photographer, many of my contracts involve visiting an office to do a series of portraits in one day. This is a time and cost effective way for both the client and photographer to get the job done, and helps ensure consistency with the images. However, as with any people based business, even if corporate portraits often follow specific conventions, occasionally a subject steps a little too close to the lens, or too far away, or the crop is a little tight and suddenly a problem is created. While all the other photos show the top of the head, in one or two a tip of the subject’s head was cut off. This happened to me on a recent shoot but it is an easy problem to solve.
It’s important to take more photos than you will use when shooting portraits for a few reasons. Primarily, clients will want a selection to choose from period since it is their portrait after all. It is also, however, important for the photographer to have a few takes that can be used to “harvest” from, in the case (as above) where you may need to perform digital surgery. While the first portrait in the above series showed the requisite amount of head, the more interesting portrait didn’t. No problem.
The first thing I did was extend the canvas size of the selected image so that I would have some space to “stitch” the missing head piece onto. Then, using the lasso crop tool and feathering the selection to about 15 or even higher, I selected the amount of head I wanted to add and dragged it over to my destination image. Since I was creating black and white portraits, once I had attached the head tip where it belonged and (using the Transform tool) slightly resized it to fit the new head, I added a new layer for black and white and made any final touchups necessary to blend the two pieces into one.
There are many other cases where having more than one portrait to choose from helps get the job done, like fixing glare on eyeglasses, or even adding in an eye on an unfortunately timed blink. It is all part of a professional portrait photographer’s tool kit and having an extra set of images in store helps ensure delivery of one final portrait for the client. These kinds of edits are best avoided of course, but sometimes can’t be helped. Ultimately, the best portrait is the one the client likes and will use for its intended purpose whether that is an updated website or a holiday card going out to clients at the end of the year. The job of the portrait photographer is to ensure that the client gets what he or she wants, even if it takes a little surgery in the digital darkroom to make it happen.