To be honest, I’m not sure what happened. I can’t remember if I had a headache. Perhaps I was just a little tense. Whatever the reason, when I got my grad photo proofs back I looked like the person behind the camera had been aiming a gun at my head and shouting, “Smile!” My eyebrows were cocked funny and I looked extremely tense.
This wouldn’t do. I had a mother to make proud, after all. And while I knew my mom would say I looked nice regardless, I was going to spare her the pain of pretending to like the originals. So I called New Paramount Studios and scheduled a retake. I had to commute all the way down to St. Clair West and Bathurst, but for the opportunity not to look like a distressed deer, it was worth it.
I got there about half an hour early. The person at the desk, Selina, was the friendly woman I’d spoken to over the phone about booking a retake.
“So what was wrong with the photos?” she asked.
“Nothing except the fact that I look like a madwoman, and I want to make my mom happy.”
She told me that once the set was free she could take my photo. Fair considering I was early, but I had gone over my data and had nothing to keep me busy, so like a child I started asking a bunch of inane questions.
How do you pose people in a way that looks, like, natural?
How do you decide how to position people? Do you prepare in advance or do you just know?
“How did you get all these babies to sit up at the same time?” I asked pointing at a photo on the wall. In it were roughly half a dozen babies sitting up, in a row, and looking up at the camera.
She laughed. “That’s photoshopped. Their photos were taken separately, and then they were put together. There’s no way you’d be able to get all of them to sit up like that.”
“Photoshop,” I repeated. “That makes so much more sense. I’m sorry, I’m asking a million questions, and you’re trying to work.”
She waved her hand and then gestured for me to come over to her desk. “Since you’re so curious, come here. I’ll show you something.”
On her screen were two copies of a black and white photo of a woman. One had a piece missing from the bottom left corner and the other copy was complete with everything from the woman’s clothing to her intricate necklace seamlessly continued all the way to the originally non-existent corner.
“You did that?” I asked.
“Yup. With Photoshop. We do restoration work, too. It takes time, but it’s doable.”
She clicked around and then opened another file with wedding photos. “This family had one member who was so busy taking care of one of the smaller children that he was barely in the photos. So they requested that we edit him into some of the pictures.” She pulled up one group shot with an adorable flower girl standing in the front with her hands held behind her back. Selina pointed at the girl. “She was photoshopped in.”
I looked closer. “Yeah, I’d never be able to tell. So what random details do you have to take into consideration to make it look legit? Obviously you make the edges neat and stuff, but beyond that what do you have to think about?”
She motioned for me to look closer at the photo. “You see how she has her hands behind her like that? In the original photo, she was holding someone’s hand, and that had to be cut out. But then I had to edit her arm’s muscle because it would look different if she actually had her hand behind her back as opposed to reaching up to hold someone’s hand. And then obviously, we need to account for differences in lighting. If you’re inserting an image from a photo taken indoors into a photo taken outdoors, the lighting will be different so you have to fix that.”
“So can you edit the glasses marks on my nose out of my grad photos?” A stupid question considering she’d just talked about manipulating people’s anatomy through photoshop – of course she could airbrush my face.
“Yup. That’s included in the price if you choose to buy a photo. People get rid of a lot of things. I’ve removed someone’s braces from their photo for them before. And it’s cool to see how many people use Photoshop themselves. When I saw Kate Middleton’s family photo it was obvious that it had been photoshopped.”
The photographer using the set had since finished, so it was time to take some grad photos. Selina stood up.
“Okay,” she said, smiling. “Let’s make mom happy.”