If “what do I want to say” is the question I ask myself when I put the camera to my eye, then “how do I want this image to feel” is the question I ask myself when I go to post-process.
In last weekend’s workshop, David talked a lot about making very intentional decisions at the time of capture to convey what we want to say. But we also talked about the role of post-processing and how he uses it. He shared some examples of images he’d edited and said, “Did it look exactly like that when I captured it? No. But this is how it felt to me.” Warm or cool, dreamy or contrasty, all of these are choices we have in our post-processing to further the expression of the image.
This coastal scene from earlier in the summer is an example, edited early last week to prep for an exhibition submission. Was the light this pink on the evening I captured it? No. But the processing captures the emotion of the moment for me. The connection of mother and child is there in the bicycles and the figures in the background, and the warm feeling of that connection is in the tones.
This conversation comes at a time when I’ve already been thinking about my creative process and the relationship I have with post-processing. On my recent trip to England I realized how incredibly important post-processing had become to me as part of creating images. I didn’t quite know how important until I was without Lightroom, my primary tool for editing. Sure, I could make very, very basic adjustments, but it wasn’t enough. (Not to mention any edits were painfully slow in the netbook I had borrowed.) I felt, literally, like my hands were tied. I could see where I wanted to tweak highlights and shadows, maybe shift the white balance a bit. I could see where I wanted the images to end up. And I couldn’t get there. I couldn’t make the images say what I wanted them to say, feel how I wanted them to feel, without this step of the process.
The RAW files my camera captured have become just that… raw material. Incredibly important raw material — you can’t create a final image you love without the composition and exposure and choices at the time of capture spot on — but raw material nonetheless. Not finished. Not yet conveying what I want them to convey, feeling how I want them to feel. Not yet ready to share with the world.
This was an incredibly important realization for me to make. It’s a dramatic shift from where I used to be; where I thought I was. I’ve been learning photography for 12+ years but I’ve only used Lightroom for 1 year. I had no idea how integral it had become to my process. But because I now better understand my process, I can more intentionally express myself through my images. I can more intentionally tailor what I do to get the end result I want. I don’t have to follow someone else’s process or choices, I can stand up and say, “This is who I am and how I work as an artist.”
How I work right now, at least. It will change. A month from now or a year from now I’ll have some new realization. But right now…
This is who I am and how I work as an artist.
Yeah, that feels good.
How about you? Do you understand your process, and how it helps you create work that expresses yourself? Let’s discuss here in the comments.