I joke a lot about all the random things I will photograph like the corn from last week or the number of flower pictures I have on my computer. I literally have thousands of images on my computer. As a matter of fact, the last time I emptied the trash bin on the computer there were over two thousand items deleted!
One of the reasons I take so many pictures is the idea, I believe, that beauty is and can be found in the most random of places and if we train ourselves to look for it we are better off humanly speaking. Cultivating an eye for the things that are pleasing to see can help ward off a lot of ingratitude. It’s hard for me to be fussy about dusting, one of my least favorite chores, when I take the time to notice the way the light looks falling through plant leaves and across nick knacks.
Taking pictures, for me, is another way for me to practice and train myself in the tenets of my faith. Being grateful, being mindful, viewing little as much and the simple as valuable, life coming out of death…these are things that anchor my life to something more than the here and now and is what enables me to withstand the chaos that we experience in daily, especially in these crazy times. It reminds me that there is much more to this world, to my life, than just what I feel or think.
So I practice seeing when I get behind my camera. I practice looking at things from different angles so I can get a bigger picture of what is going on. I practice looking at the insignificant so that I can recognize what is significant.
“Our failure is not that we chose earth over heaven: it is that we fail to see the divine in the earth, already active and working, pouring forth grace and spilling glory into our lives. Artists, whether they are professed believers or not, tap into this grace and glory. There is a ‘terrible beauty’ operating throughout creation. If Christ announced his postresurrection reality into the darkness, even into hell, as the Bible and Christian catechism suggests, then, as theologian Abraham Kuyper put it, there is not one inch of earth that Christ does not call “Mine!” ― Makoto Fujimura
I recently came across this meme and it made me laugh a little bit, “The next time someone looks at your work and says “Wow, you must have a nice camera!” Reply by saying, “Yes…and Van Gogh must have had one heck of a paint brush.”
There is a bit of a misconception that what really makes a photographer good is the equipment they use. I have heard the above scenario also in relation to cooking…”Wonderful dinner! You must have an amazing stove” Or, “I just finished Dandelion Wine…Ray Bradbury must have had a fantastic typewriter!” All said tongue in cheek but making the point that as Ansel Adams said, “You don’t take a photograph. You make it.”
A lot of things go into creating a good photograph and not all of it happens inside the camera or is based on the eye of the photographer. Those are just tools but not even the only tools. Obviously, the better the tool in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing is significant but I have seen people do some crazy photography with a simple set up. Another tool is what can happen after the click of the camera. I have a very minimalist approach to post processing but I do some stuff to my images. Sometimes it is as simple as straightening the horizon or smoothing out a blemish, etc. but there is power in the effect of post processing and I thought I would share a little bit of how it can change the look of an image.
First, let me show you an image sooc…that is photographer lingo for straight out of camera. I cut my picture taking teeth on photographing flowers and it is still a favorite thing for me to photograph. The only thing that has happened up to this point with these carnations is that I have uploaded the image from the camera to my computer.
With this image the first thing I am going to do is get rid of the distracting corners in the frame. I want the flowers to get all of the attention but our eyes automatically seek out light areas so they have to go. I wanted to keep as much space around the flowers though so I can only do a slight crop.
You can still see those pesky corners and that means I need to clone them out. Cloning is simply a tool that allows me to copy one area within the image and basically paste it over what I want to hide. I have a very basic skill level when it comes to cloning but I know people who are amazing at it. (My friend Carmen once cloned out some mamas who were holding onto their children in a picture we took and it made it look like these three little fat babies were just hanging out in a tree all on their own. Man, did we get some flack despite saying up front that at no time were the babies just sitting on their own. She’s really good.*) But back to my limited ability…I cloned out the corners and upped the contrast and exposure just a tad. Overall I am pleased with the look from just these basic edits.
But here is where the magic really happens. There are all kinds of effects and tricks you can do to an image that can give it a totally different vibe. Here I have brightened and lightened the whole image by adjusting my levels and playing with curves. Quite a difference, isn’t it?
Really you can just play with light and shadows, the warmth or coolness of the color and make some minor adjustments and you get a seemingly completely different image. Remember these images are the exact same at their base but notice how the one on the left looks as if the flowers are bigger and closer somehow. The one on the right has a flatter subdued matte finish.
This time I lightened the whole image but also added a film grain that softens the overall look. I also pushed the reds up slightly on the wooden table.
I love black and white images and find them to be more emotional, even with inanimate objects, than their sister color version. This particular kind of black and white is an old school Hollywood style that has some silver and green undertones. Not every image holds up well to it but man, I loved how it looked on these flowers.
You may not have noticed that green tone until you saw these two but it is unmistakable up against traditional black and whites. The image on the left has more of a slight purple undertone and is lighter overall. The image on the right is more dramatic with darkers shadows.
So one image edited eight different ways. The really cool thing is that as a photographer I have crafted something that will ideally appeal to a broad range of people who have different tastes and preferences.
Light and airy. Dark and moody. Romantic. Dramatic. These are some different buzz words used to try and define a particular style of a photographer. And it can be helpful and really important to like the style used if you are trying to choose someone to do portraits.
I don’t know how I would describe my style exactly. I like bright and clean images but sometimes find that a little more shadowing and darker tones might suit a particular image better. I like for skin to look real and eyes to be normal. I don’t like using overlays on my images. I want consistency and I want my clients to see their portraits and see the love and connection between the people in them. I want to draw out personality and to communicate character. I want to tell the story that is unfolding in your life at that moment and if that is a toddler who won’t look at the camera so be it. I want to capture the interesting and ordinary beauty that we live with everyday and sometimes overlook.
So, which edit do you prefer on our lovely carnations? I will happily gift a 5×7 print to a randomly chosen commenter.
*One of the mamas still had a copy of the babies hanging out in the tree…isn’t it hilarious?