Our Creative Process
The mighty goals of photographers who are serious about the art is the quest for the perfect image. An image that invokes an emotional response in the viewer.
You must have heart and mind, understand how to translate what you see in 3 dimensions into a 2 dimension representation of the emotional stirring scene, knowing how to operate their cameras and lenses to get the most out of the scene in camera, and how to enhance raw files in such a way that the final image represents your personal representation.
Many photographers in this day and age are self-taught. That means they do a lot of reading, a lot of shooting all the time, perhaps join field trips and workshops geared to their love of photography. The gear they use is so good that one can never really blame the camera and lenses for poor performance. I make sure I understand their capabilities as well as their limitations. Understanding those things also pours over to the photographers themselves. Understanding ones abilities and limitations gives you a pretty good idea of how much you may still have to learn or relearn.
Many years ago when film was king, there were also dark rooms and speciality labs. They brought latent images to life. Without a doubt these chemical processes simply first created an excitement because magically an image appeared that the photographer had realized in his or her camera.
But as time went by and the process became more streamlined photographers realized that images could be further processed with techniques of burning and dodging and temperature control on parts of an image. Then came “Polycontrast papers” which gave some control to contrast and dynamic range so to speak. So really photographers have been manipulating images for a very long time.
Jump to the present where almost everything is digital, software has evolved to the point where image enhancement is a given. There are more ways to change the look of an image to the point of abstract. It is all about individual vision.
There are many photographers who have taught themselves software like Adobe Lightroom for post processing images. How much they have practiced with it and retained will determine just how good their final image will be. There are lots of subtleties to be learned and first learning ALL OF THE MECHANICS of the software will go a long way to producing an incredible image. Brian Zwit has been doing up to date Lightroom classes for years and is recognized as one of the finest teachers for this wonderful program. Okay. That’s a plug but a honest and accurate plug.
Once the mechanics are learned then like the days of wet chemicals and photographic enlargers, then come the intricacies of the process. At some point you will develop your signature process but getting there can take a while, a long time so getting a head start is not a bad thing. And this brings me to the final part of this discussion. The use of well designed presets. Now remember this. I am saying well designed presets. A preset is a combination of different settings designed by an experienced photographer who in his search for the perfect image decided to share his or her methods of processing an image. This would include close to everything Lightroom has to offer in one form or another.
There are a lot of companies and individuals writing these presets, but in many cases they are beyond reality for black and white and color processing. So many are exaggerated that ultimately you will stop using them.
Well designed and written presets are STARTING POINTS from which you can produce some very fine images, but also learn exactly what sliders were used and to what degree each was moved to produce the effect. I consider these wonderful learning tools. Most of the problems in individual images is the under or over application of operations which make an image quite ugly.
What is important is that even if you are using these presets, you can go in and modify them with the sliders to match more of a style you want to create for a particular image. But I have found that having this starting point provides me with some very creative options.
I know that a lot of people who have had the time to work with a program like Lightroom have mastered a good part of the program and that is terrific. But for those who either do not have the time, patience, or inclination to give into the learning process, presets can be very helpful.
When you think about it, modern digital cameras are loaded with presets that you are using all the time and don’t even realize it.
The presets I have found recently that seem to be the cleanest I have produced images with are from a nice gentlemen in Ireland who is a professional photographer. I have purchased at reasonable prices his Monolith Black and White and Vivid Extreme, and downloaded free stuff as well embedded in his blogs.
What is impressive is that each preset I purchased gave me a large amount of options within the presets. By studying the effect of the presets and looking once again where it was applied in the sliders, brushes etc. I am learning more and more. First learn the mechanics so you can understand what control does what and then what the presets are doing. Once you do both, you should be well on your way to creating fantastic final images.
Think about it!