Free­man on…

In­stead of play­ing with all those slid­ers, why not first sit and think what you want your hard-won im­age to look like?

NPhoto - - Photo Contents -

Our res­i­dent ex­pert ex­plores the whys, rather than the hows, of pro­cess­ing

Pro­cess­ing (some call it edit­ing, but see the side­bar on page 79 for why I use this word) has a special role in pho­tog­ra­phy. It used to be sim­pler and cruder, but now there are so many dif­fer­ent pos­si­bil­i­ties and such so­phis­ti­ca­tion in the com­pet­ing soft­ware that there are ar­guably too many choices. The re­sult is con­fu­sion as to what im­ages ought to look like. I see two kinds of bad pro­cess­ing reg­u­larly: one is a sim­ple fail­ure to bring the best out of an im­age; the other is over-pro­cess­ing, mean­ing ex­ag­ger­ated con­trast, colour, lo­cal con­trast and more. Here I want to pro­mote a so­lu­tion to all of this – the idea of pro­cess­ing with a well-de­fined pur­pose. It should nei­ther be a bor­ing duty nor a chance to play around. To be ef­fec­tive, your pro­cess­ing needs to fol­low your shoot­ing and stick to the ideas you had at the time of shoot­ing.

More­over – and this may sur­prise you – it should never be a cre­ative ac­tiv­ity. If that sounds dog­matic and con­tro­ver­sial, con­sider what your pri­mary cre­ative medium is. If you see your­self as a pho­tog­ra­pher, then your creativ­ity is in­evitably con­cen­trated on the mo­ment of shoot­ing, the cap­ture. It’s per­fectly le­git­i­mate, of course, to broaden your ‘job de­scrip­tion’, and if you see your­self as a cre­ator of im­ages by any means, then you are re­ally a photo-il­lus­tra­tor. As a photo-il­lus­tra­tor, you can be as fan­ci­ful and imag­i­na­tive as you like, and make full use of all the pos­si­bil­i­ties in Pho­to­shop and other im­age-edit­ing soft­ware, and yes, be cre­ative dur­ing the pro­cess­ing.

But if you are first and fore­most a pho­tog­ra­pher, the cam­era is where the cre­ative ac­tion lies. It isn’t com­pat­i­ble to try to be cre­ative in two places – shoot­ing and pro­cess­ing. For pho­tog­ra­phers, pro­cess­ing is a craft. It’s a very im­por­tant one, and one that can take years to per­fect, but nev­er­the­less it’s a craft, sub­or­di­nate to the ac­tual pho­tog­ra­phy.

I knew I wanted a flared sun in this shot to an­i­mate it and add a sense of just com­ing across this street scene, so I an­tic­i­pated that in pro­cess­ing I would need to re­tain the blown high­lights, and re­cover de­tails in the shade un­pro­cessed

Our glo­be­trot­ting Con­trib­u­tor at Large, renowned pho­tog­ra­pher and pro­lific au­thor Michael Free­man, presents a monthly mas­ter­class that’s exclusive to

N-Photo. Michael has pub­lished dozens of books on pho­tog­ra­phy, in­clud­ing the best­selling Per­fec­tEx­po­sure. pro­cessed

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