Every picture tells two or three stories. At least.
If you aren’t a photographer, you may not think about processing. But I have learned, over the past two and a half years, just how important those decisions can be. Everything from the basic choice of how to crop all the way to what kinds of heinous digital fuckery to employ – trust me when I say that it isn’t the picture that tells the story, it’s the decisions that get made once the picture has been taken.
Let me illustrate. I took a pleasant little shot of an orchid not long ago. Here’s the raw photo, edited a tad for balance. It’s underexposed because that’s what I needed in the raw for what I had in mind.
Orchids, I’m learning, are just incredible plants. So I decided that I wanted to explore that interior – the lips and callus, which can be powerfully sexual and just a tad sinister, depending on the light and your personal psychopathology. I cropped in really tight, aligning to the top right intersection in the standard law of thirds grid. Then I did some heavy processing, aiming (as is often the case with me) for high contrast, stark shadow and heavily saturated bold colors. I used Dfine to take out a slight bit of noise, Viveza to illuminate the interior, then a touch of Pro Contrast, followed by another Color Efex Pro filter to focus on the center and dramatically darken the border and then a bit more fuckery to explode that red/purple and deepen the greens.
Check it. Fun, huh?
This got me exactly what I wanted – an image that suggests something utterly alien and probably evil. Beautiful, but deadly. Also, PRETTY COLORS! All kinds of tension and inner conflict and ambivalence.
But then, I got to thinking. What happens if I drain the color and process to a high contrast black and white? Aha. This, which I find positively terrifying.
Moral of the story: there’s a big difference between taking pictures and doing photography. Even beyond the technique associated with the actual pointing and clicking, there are strategic decisions that get made at every point of the process – starting well before you even grab the camera bag and continuing on through what is a damn near infinite number of choices that you might make in processing.
As I learn and grow as a shooter, I can’t tell you how gratifying moments like this one really are.