The Most Horrible Photo Words

I dislike two words that are common to the photographic lexicon:  “editing” and “retouching.”

Editing implies a business-like cutting away of elements.  The main goal is removal of elements rather than the building up of elements.

The original image of musician Jessica Kelly and one with about an hour of post-work done while sitting at Burger King. Background simplified, multiple textures added, dodging and burning on the figure, monochrome treatment applied, Nik software tone mapping and Silver EFX Pro applied, layers mixed.

Retouching is primarily associated with making a more commercial product for an ad.  It’s easy to imagine retouching a model or actor’s skin, or a product shot, to make it as appealing an image as possible.  It’s harder to imagine, say, Barbara Krueger creating her political slogan collages via “retouching.”

In sculpture or illustration, you start with nothing and add elements.  Video and photography, you create a recording and try to create the best version of the recording through blending elements.  Music is somewhere in-between- songs don’t exist until you start adding elements, but then you create the recording.  The best description I’ve seen for manipulating recordings is post production or postwork.  It better describes the process of creation than mere cogs in the wheel like “editor” or “retoucher.”

Those words apply to the creative side of photography.  On the business end, there are a few words that are like nails on a chalkboard.  I get a lot of emails asking to “collab,” which is text-talk for “I want you to help me create my ideas for free.”  Best not to go down that rabbit hole.


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I'm a multimedia artist in Phoenix, AZ. Main Site - Instagram @primordialcreative + twitter @dbmillerphoto

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