I admire the Florida-based photographer called Christa Watson, she has a fantastic eye and her people pictures express a certain truth that has always seemed to elude me. Her recent blog post encourages photographers to kick out the crutch of editing by trying to capture a great scene with only the camera. It seemed right up my alley considering I have been caught in this sort of over edited haze, and I am anxious to shake it. This challenge seems like the perfect opportunity to address the problem.
I approached the challenge pragmatically, the scene I had in my head was a simple shot from my garage. North light pours in over stone steps, across a weathered green door, onto an old ladder. The scene is only 10 feet from my desk so it met the convenience/laziness requirements as well as the interesting lighting requirement. I wanted no editing whatsoever. I set the ISO to 400 to reduce the noise while still being able to shoot handheld. I opened the aperture of the 12mm Sigma to 7.1, enough to accomplish a deep DOF without reducing the shutter speed (1/40th) to a point where I couldn’t control it.
Here is the shot:
Now, it’s not bad. Jen likes it. I wanted to capture the softness of the light with the texture of the wall, enhanced by the subtle green door. After looking at the shot for several minutes, I came to the realization that while it has a certain tone, it needs more attention. The cement wall texture was not clear enough, the details in the dark parts of the ladder were lost in the shadows, and the colors were flat. The more I tried not to think about it, the more the thought that the shot needed editing kept creeping into my mind. While grilling tonights chicken I kept thinking how a nice 4×5 crop and a little added contrast would go a long way to capturing the tone of the image, and a targeted increase in the saturation/white balance adjustment in the door would make things pop a bit more.
The fact of the matter is, for me at least, is that the editing is at least as important as the capture when it comes to expressing the feeling behind a photo.
I like it better. But I think that it’s entirely in my head. For years I have loved photos that people have been indifferent to, and I have been embarrassed by shots that people ended up loving. I still have no idea how to purposely target an emotional response from someone, I generally let my heart do the work and people seem to respond.
I loved this challenge because it reminded me that creating a photo is sometimes more than having tech skills and being at the right place at the right time. For me, editing is part of the meditation of photography, a chance to get personal with the pixels.