Today we’re going to talk about art and the Zen of processing. There are many opinions out there on processing after you get that awesome shot in the middle of nowhere. Some people think that the best picture is completely unedited with no modifications from Photoshop or any other software. Some see no problem with editing and making adjustments or enhancements. Remember as you read this that this is an opinion article. Art is an opinion and if you don’t agree with mine that is awesome because you aren’t following someone, you are making your own decisions in life!
I’m from the opinion that it’s ok to make adjustments or enhancements. We are creating art here and art isn’t about everyone seeing it the same way. When I photograph something I see a wonderful image in my head and my imagination runs wild. I can see ideas about processing and making changes as I look through the viewfinder. Maybe I’m odd that I can see this way but I think it’s awesome!
Art is a very opinionated subject and I really believe that you can’t take someone’s art and say it is wrong just because you don’t like it yourself. There are many many modern pieces of pop art that I think are a waste of canvas, but others love them, and the artist loves his work too. The same goes for photography. When I go out to work I am shooting for my enjoyment. Sometimes if I have an assignment I have to restrict myself to fit within certain guidelines, but usually I just go out and find what inspires me.
When you go back and process you have to decide what you want your end result to be. If you want to represent exactly what you saw that day then you will only need to make small adjustments to exposure and white balance and probably some sharpening and noise reduction. These are probably the minimal accepted processing adjustments to give you what you saw. However, did you represent the image with all your senses? When you are out there you see a place and you can feel the air around you, you can smell the odors of nature, you can hear the birds. While you can’t show smells, sounds, or some other senses; you can portray a big emotional response.
I know how I feel when I see something and I want to overwhelm someone and get an emotional reaction when they look at my art. Rarely with landscapes can you show that with just simple exposure modifications. For example, if you darken a sky it immediately adds a more mysterious and dramatic mood. If you take focus away from distracting objects by blurring something then you can direct attention to a cool part of your photograph.
Photoshop and software similar to it are here to stay. Making adjustments to photography has been around forever too. This isn’t something new to digital. When I used to work in a darkroom I always used dodging and burning and other ideas to produce effects that I didn’t see in the viewfinder. If you look at some of the original negatives from Ansel Adams you will see that many of them are quite flat and dull. He spent hours in the darkroom perfecting his images to the way he wanted his art to be seen. Today our computers are our darkrooms, it’s no different, the only difference is that modern day photographers don’t know what fixer tastes like, ha ha ha ha.