Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Harnessing Potential Energy = I need a job

One of the things I have been working with over the past few months is doing more extensive work in my post-processing. Not necessarily trying to "photoshop" my way to a good image, but rather playing with the image the way a painter might push into his still wet paint to try to draw some of the lower layers of paint into the uppermost wet areas.... or the way one might erase areas of a drawing only to go back in and redraw something on top of the old. I see it as a more creative process, rather than simply not achieving my goals in-camera. I know that for purists, getting it right the first time is the absolute goal. For me, post-processing is like having a darkroom minus those smells and stains on my clothes.

In the self-portrait at the top, I deliberately picked my least favorite image from the photo session. I hated the extreme contrast. Really don't love how much of my face is so dark that the detail is gone. Normally, I wouldn't even give the image a second thought. I would just move on and select a better image with better tonal range, maybe a touch of fill flash on that side of my face, etc. I decided this time that I would try out some new software from OnOne called Perfect PhotoSuite 7. Inside PhotoSuite 7 is a program that works either within Photoshop, Lightroom or as a stand-alone product, called Perfect B&W.

Normally my go-to software for black and white adjustment is Nik Silver Efex Pro. Sometimes I can get by with presets I made in Lightroom. Trying out Perfect B&W felt very awkward at first. I know most folks grab a preset and generally are happy with the results. I know what I want LONG before I touch a slider or a preset. I tend to find presets pretty limiting. I only make them if I am working on a series that is shot in very similar lighting conditions... then it pays off in terms of speeding up my processing time, saving me and my client money.

So what how do I feel after playing with Perfect B&W this week? I love it. I want to spend more time pushing the limits on what it can do before I make a serious declarative judgement... but for now, it is my go-to software of choice. The reason: the masking feature is mind blowing. The whole suite uses an incredibly smart system of masks. I was awed by how easy those masks are to create, but also how they could be used between different layers and effects! I am sure there are folks out there that do this day in and day out in Photoshop. If so, try OnOne... you might be surprised.

In the lower image, I was asked my a friend to see what I could do to "play" with his image. He wanted it to feel more moody, more creepy. The plan is to use this image to become a book cover for his short story. Knowing the needs of the end user, both in terms of how the image will be used, but also what sort of tone they want... all of that makes my job more enjoyable. It allows me to adjust aspects of an image that otherwise I would never consider messing around with.

In this case, I was not responsible for the original photograph, I dont have the raw file, and I can't go back and reshoot the scene. Forced to work within those limitations, and knowing the tone of what the author wants was very freeing. Rather than going my usual route, I decided to take a low-tech approach and imported the image into Snapseed on my iPad. One of the attributes of Snapseed that I love so much is that you can work on an image over and over again, using all the different tools within Snapseed. Not quite like layers, but still a very intuitive process. In the end, after not a lengthy edit, I stumbled onto a few ideas, saved them, shared them via email directly from the app, and was finished. Normally I would worry that the resolution of the image wouldn't be adequate.... certainly not enough megapixels to satisfy that pro-photographer who sits on my shoulders. I immediately turned to OnOne again and used PerfectResize to get the image to exactly the size and resolution needed. This image never saw Photoshop. How cool is that?!

Okay, enough geeking out on post-processing computer-photography mumbo-jumbo. Back to morose depressing stuff.

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