I’ve been contemplating the image-creation process this week, as I work on a series of images of Great Falls. I thought I’d share some of my musings about the three essential steps to great image-making:
Step 1: Defining your vision for the image and the message…the story…you want to convey, be it beauty… drama… majesty… sadness… joy… fatigue…pride… This is the photograph you imagine in your mind’s eye;
Step 2: Setting up your camera controls and composition (including framing, angle of view, choice of lens and camera settings), and also posing your subject if this is a posed portrait, in order to capture your vision, and then clicking the shutter; and
Step 3: Developing/post-processing the image to maximize its impact and message. This is the defining moment of your photographic vision.
Although each step is equally important, most often, people focus on the second step – part 2 of the second step, in fact – the press of the shutter – without putting enough thought or imagination into defining that initial vision. And even fewer people realize the importance and impact of the third step, post-processing, on the final image. And as a result, despite the most tremendous efforts in the field to get that incredible shot, the end image falls flat.
Last weekend, one of my photography students and I were out at Great Falls doing a session on high dynamic range (HDR) imaging. Below is a series of versions of the same HDR image, each processed in a different manner. The first image had minimal post-processing, so you can use that one as a baseline. See how different each image is? They each convey a different feeling, despite them being photographs of the exact same scene at the exact same time.
(Click on “view with PicLens” for a full-screen slideshow.)
So even though it means sitting at my computer for even longer periods of time than being in the field shooting, I love post-processing. It’s the defining moment – it makes or breaks the success of the image. It determines whether I achieved my photographic vision. And best of all, it’s such a wonderful creative outlet. So take a little time to revisit that last batch of photos you shot, and exercise your creative mind!