Friday, September 16, 2011

It has been a bit since my last post. A lot has gone on this fall. One of the things that happened was a chance to attend a Native American PowWow here in West Michigan. It was a wonderful time with perfect Michigan fall weather. The photo ops were wonderful too. When they did the grand entrance dance they specifically gave permission for photos of the dance. I was able to get some great photos. I was shooting with my favorite 50mm f/1.8 lens. Of course when you shoot with a prime lens and are limited in how close you can get to people you need to definitely do some post processing of the photos. This is a lot like the work we would do in the darkroom in the old days cropping photos on the enlarger when making prints. Well I decided to share with you two of the photos showing before and after on the photos, and some of my thoughts on the process.

The first thing to understand is that in the old days of film keeping in mind the work in the darkroom was just as much a part of photography as was the actual camera work at the shoot. Now days instead of a physical darkroom we have a virtual darkroom using our favorite photo editing program. So on to the first photo.


The same week I took these photos I had read a great article on Chase Jarvis' website on how to process lots of photos so that you can get to a manageable number, or the good ones, pretty quickly. The article, Photo editing 101 star rating, was excellent. I don't know why I never thought of this myself, but it is a great way to get through photos. And since I can easily shoot several cards of photos in a day, well the lesson was really helpful! One thing that was mentioned was that you will fairly quickly find some photos that you really love right away. This is one of them that by the second star pass I knew it would make the cut all the way through. But I also knew it would need some darkroom work. If I had been doing more of like a staged planned shoot then I could have gotten a better start, but this was an event. The first thing I noticed was that although the man in blue was the central theme of the photo, there were a lot of distractions. When I get photos of people I want them to really stand out. This guy kind of was kind of lost in a lot of noise and clutter. So I knew I would need to crop the photo.

Even after I cropped the photo I did not like the background. It was still too busy. So I had two choices, I could blur the background so much that he really stood out, or I could minimize the exposure of the background with vignetting. I decided to go with the vignetting. Now time for an important art philosophy comment. Not everyone likes vignettes. I know a number of photographers that are not fans of vignettes at all. It is just like with black and white. I love B&W photography, and my wife dislikes it. So I have learned not to get her opinion on B&W, because she will complain that I took the color out.

Anyway, as I said, I went with the vignette. The tool in Apple Aperture is actually pretty nice for laying in the vignette. The one thing I wish the programs like Aperture and Photoshop would do is to let you set a center for the vignette. I would like to be able to do an off center effect at times. But I do like how it came out. Now the man pops from the background and becomes the central feature of the photo. I did also make some minor adjustments to the vibrancy and saturation, because I like rich colors.


The second photo took a little for me to grow into. It is the same man, but there was a lot more clutter. Actually I was not real sure early on if I would use it until I actually cropped the photo. It was so busy. He was so small in the photo. I liked the pose and the dance step. I did notice that pretty quickly. But I was not sure if I would be able to get him to pop out of the photo in the way I like to see in a photo.


Well it might make for a bit of a boring blog, but I decided for the vignette again. The thing was that putting the vignette on this one really isolated him from the rest of the background. I also used a significant crop on the photo. I regularly say that megapixels don't matter. For the most part that is true. But when you get situations like this they do. When you crop a photo you are dumping pixels, and possibly a lot of them, like in this photo. The more pixels you have in the photo, the more you will have left after the edit. If you have a low megapixel camera and need to chop a lot out of the photo you might not have enough afterwards for a good print.

So both of these are photos I love. Both of them needed some editing. Being one with the camera for these photos meant in part to be mindful and willing to use my digital darkroom. If I was shooting film like I used to years ago with the Canon fTB and prime lenses, I would be doing the same thing with the enlarger in the darkroom as I did in these photos. I just turned 50 a couple weeks ago, so I have been doing photography off and on now. I spent a fair amount of time in the darkroom too. And, although our editing software makes things easier and faster, it is very similar to what we used to do.

My wife is probably one of my most difficult critics to please. When I showed her the photo she said "Wow", which for her is a lot! I have a feeling that this will be one that will get printed and hung on the wall in my office. Well one of these two. I do have a couple more photos from that day that I will use in the next blog. I will talk more about my thought process when I discuss those in that one.


One final note. I did all the work on these photos using only Apple Aperture. If I was using Adobe Lightroom I could have done the same. I did not need to use Photoshop for any of these. I still use Photoshop for some edits, but it is amazing how much can be done in Aperture or Lightroom, and a lot faster than going through them in Photoshop. If you have not tried out either program then do yourself a favor and download a 30 day trial and check them out. I think you will be very impressed with the workflow using those programs.

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