The retouching in this photo of Gloria Steinem and Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider is more heavy-handed than the technique I use now. Unfortunately, I cannot yet show you the technique I’m using now, because it’s all work-for-hire and not mine to share.
I’ve been shooting donor/subscriber receptions for a non-profit arts program. During a break in the action at a recent event, my contact at the organization praised my work, saying that everyone in her office was impressed by my shots. That was a lovely compliment, but it’s not the one I want to brag about here.
No, that came a little later, when in the course of conversation one of her coworkers noted that their patrons look very good in my images. I explained, “I retouch every photo.”
My contact was shocked to hear this. And her surprise is the greatest compliment my work has received.
Matrix metering really doesn’t know what to do in a situation like this. It’s up to us to manage exposure, but we need the right tools to do so.
It’s confession time. After the frustrations of the December dance concert, I traded in one of my D7000 bodies for a D610, believing a full-frame camera would finally deliver the high ISO performance needed for dance.
Like many of my recent purchase decisions, this one turned out to be the right horse in the wrong race. The D610 is a marvelous camera that improves many of my images, but it does not solve my dance performance problems. Continue reading
A very pedestrian bored-at-dinner shot turned into something a little more compelling by clicking a few buttons and moving some sliders. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, if you like the end result.
A friend in the Photo Club recently asked that we disqualify one of his images from our Annual Awards because he did a lot of post-processing and it is his personal belief that a photograph must come straight from the camera. That doesn’t explain why he submitted the image in the first place, but personally, I tend to tune out any discussion of “what photography is,” because I’m still trying to understand what photography is to me. And that changes sometimes.
Earlier this week, in a fit of insomnia, I opened a long-ago downloaded but never used iPhone app called Snapseed. I modified some old images from my phone’s library. I never thought I’d enjoy playing with all the heavy-handed photo filters I see on Instagram and Facebook, but I do. I like being able to turn weak or outright failed photos into something odd, and with more potential impact. And it lets me playfully experiment with composition and color and lighting even when I just have a few spare minutes to noodle on my phone. Here are some examples:
This tree clings to the edge of Bryce Canyon. The original photo was interesting, but his adds a nice surrealism.
This was a boring, pointless shot of tomatoes. I don’t even know why it was on my phone. Now I like the painterly feel of it.
This one also springs from an okay original, but in my opinion the effects here add all sorts of mystery to an otherwise very straightforward shadow.
Not my favorite model, but the most available. And I can get him to do almost anything.
This morning, I wandered outside with what I might consider the opposite of my phone: Nikon D7000, 70-200 f/2.8, TC17IIe teleconverter. I spent some time with my favorite subject: Backyard birds. I shoot in RAW, and the objective of my post-processing in Aperture is to recreate what I saw with my own eyes. It’s quite different from what I’ve been doing in Snapseed, and I cannot imagine myself layering a “grunge” filter onto one of my nature shots, although I might just to see what happens. It’s all photography to me. And a pure joy, too.
Too much sharpening, too much sepia, too much micro-contrast
Sometimes I over-tweak images until they lose their simple power… Do you?
For every frame like this…
Many years ago, an automotive journalist invited me to join him for a photo shoot. I showed up with my camera and a couple of rolls of film. He showed up with his camera and a giant garbage bag full of rolls of film. He told me he’d noticed that the difference between the professional and amateur photographers he worked with was the fact that the professionals were not afraid to burn a lot of film to get what they needed. After all, he pointed out, the client was paying for the film.
…I get about fifty like this.
Now, before you start lecturing me about shot discipline, let me just tell you: I’m not listening. I’m working on shot discipline all the time, but the subjects I photograph – mainly birds and people – move. I have to shoot in burst mode in hopes of catching the moment, and digital lets me do that without going broke or second guessing each trip of the shutter. I call this the premier blog for lazy, disorganized, impatient photographers, and digital makes our very existence possible.
I can fire off a couple hundred frames during a few minutes of shooting in the backyard. In my film days, such extravagance might have cost me fifty bucks and leave me at the mercy of a third party processor.
Plus, I don’t have to work in the darkroom anymore. In fact, I processed the photos in this post while eating berry pie and drinking coffee. Hail to digital photography!
Focusing on small birds is difficult. Thank goodness I can afford to make mistakes now.
Digital allows me to explore and experiment in ways I simply could not afford with film.
Digital frees me to make pointless photos for the sheer pleasure of making them. Of course, they’re not really pointless, because I learn something about photography from every one.
Editing hundreds of frames like this gets mighty frustrating, but I’m mindful of Robert Frost’s observation that…
…”Out of quantity comes quality.”