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Jan 03, 2018
It's 28 degrees out this morning - 28!
Listen...I know that's not cold compared to some places, but that's absolutely freezing to me.
I don't like it.
I went back through this summer's beach photos last night to give myself some warm thoughts. I have many beach photos that need editing, and it got me thinking about something.
A friend and fellow photographer told me she has friends (who aren't photographers) who believe that great photos are never edited.
In other words, a great photographer should be so technically proficient and his/her eye for composition so perfect that there should be no post-processing required.
Let's Talk About Editing
Back in the days of film, it was important to get your lighting and composition as perfect as possible, because it was a lot more costly and time consuming to change these things after the fact.
Even now, many elements of a photo can't be fixed in Photoshop if they were initially captured poorly.
It's definitely a plus and a sign of an experienced photographer to get a great photo right out of the camera.
If you know your craft well, why wouldn't you get those things right in-camera?
Conditions aren't always perfect when shooting a photo, and there are often technical limitations with the equipment.
Before digital, photographers edited in the darkroom.
Believe me, they did - all the time.
And it wasn't because they didn't know their craft.
Ansel Adams, one of the greatest photographers of all time, edited and manipulated his photos in the darkroom.
Mr. Adams' famous finished shots look quite different than they did printed straight from the negative without darkroom manipulation.
He took advantage of whatever technology offered to bring about the vision he had for his photos, and he was an extraordinary photographer.
When I was in college, I spent hours upon hours in the darkroom.
I miss that aspect of photography, because it was so hands-on. I loved the moment when the photo began to reveal itself in the chemical bath.
But it was tough to get the results I envisioned, even when the photo was technically good right out of the camera.
It could take me all night to get one photograph exactly the way I wanted it. And the expense and waste! I went through a lot of photo paper in the learning process.
The tools you see in Photoshop today are digital replicas of the darkroom - dodge, burn, crop, spot removal, etc.
In many ways editing is easier, but not always - Photoshop is a robust and complex program, and it can be difficult to obtain the desired result.
And that Brings Us to RAW
Most professional photographers today shoot in RAW format. It records far more information and levels of light than JPEG.
RAW is an uncompressed digital file that retains the most pixel information available. If I want to enlarge the photo (say to an 8 x 10 or bigger), resolution and quality are retained (at least to a certain point).
A JPEG file is compressed - so some of the pixel information is lost. I can't enlarge a JPEG as much without losing a lot of quality. And I can't manipulate a JPEG to the extent I can a RAW file.
In the old days, the larger the negative, the higher the resolution.
Today, the more pixels (the higher the megapixel - MP), the higher the resolution. That's why a 24MP camera costs a lot more than a 12MP camera - the quality and resolution are much higher in the 24MP camera.
I Shoot in RAW
I shoot all my photos in RAW with a 24MP camera, so instead of recording 256 levels of brightness (JPEG), I'm getting between 4,000 - 16,000 levels!
When I take a photo, the first three elements I think about are the subject, the composition, and the light.
For instance, the chairs on the beach in the above photo caught my eye. They looked intimate, and I could picture two people sitting in them, leaning slightly toward each other, sharing a conversation.
It was as if the chairs were still doing that, even though the people were gone.
The chairs told a story.
And I loved that the chairs were empty on an empty beach - the sunrise light painting its colors onto the water.
I took multiple exposures of the same shot with different angles, shutter speeds, and aperatures.
The particular shot I settled on was slightly overexposed to give it a dreamy vintage quality.
Because I shoot in RAW, the photo had to be edited, even if only minimally.
I could never post a 24MP photo on the internet - it's way too big. It wouldn't upload onto this website, Facebook or any other social media platform.
Additionally, an unedited RAW photo is bland. At the very least, it needs to be sharpened.
The photo of the two chairs was sharpened, and I played with the highlights and shadows and adjusted the color balance ever so slightly in Lightroom.
What's My Point?
Photography is an art.
And editing is part of the art!
Yes - photography is very technical, and a good photographer understands the technique to get the best possible photo in-camera, but there's a lot more involved.
When I shoot a photo, it's because something in the subject attracts me. I bring my vision to life through capturing the photo and again through post-processing.
I love editing my photos. It's the darkroom without the chemicals.
It's where I get to make the photos mine - to reflect my vision.
It's great to be educated in the technical side of photography, but it's bringing all the elements together - light, composition, subject, technicalities, and post-processing - that make a photo a work of art.
I love that.
And I'll continuously work to understand all the aspects and improve my craft.
Here's to you honing your skills at whatever it is you love to do!
I wish you happiness and high hopes for 2018!
And, see you between the raindrops!
Ecuador, Ecuador, Ecuador!!! Wanna go in May? Shoot me an email - firstname.lastname@example.org
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