I am often asked about how I am able to get my shots to look like they do. "Is it just your professional camera? - Are you using special filters? - Is it the lenses you use? - Are you just THAT good?"
The answer is Yes, I'm just THAT good. ...Kidding...mostly... ;)
While I'd like to tell you there is this one special camera and lens that you can buy to make ALL your photos look like masterpieces, but it's not quite that simple. That said, many of your photos CAN look like masterpieces, if you put in a little work to "develop" them.
Now let me say this before you get the idea that ANY photo can be a masterpiece. As long as you have a technically well shot image, you can take what looks like a really mediocre shot and make it shine. Other times, you might just be polishing "turds".
How do you know the difference? If an image is out of focus…drop it. If it’s got motion blur (unless it was intentional)…trash it. Too much noise from shooting at a high ISO…round-can it. You get the picture (pun intended)!
So you’ve got a photo in mind. Maybe it’s a little muddy to start. Maybe it’s a little too dark. Maybe it’s a little too light. How do you fix it?
A little background on how I set up my shots, and why I know you have a lot more photos that can look great than you think…
I shoot in the RAW file format instead of JPG (more on that later). But the point is, when I import a raw image into my computer…often the file without having done any post processing to it…looks well...a little unremarkable. Believe it or not, I shoot what photographers term “flat” so that I have a lot of latitude to develop the image the way I want “in post”. Some of you might look at my raw files and have a few in your library that look familiar. A photo that is flat has more room to push and pull the shadows, highlights and color to be more true to what my vision was for the image. The below image on the left is unremarkable, but look at the treasures it holds! A well guided hand through Lightroom transforms this image into a very dramatic scene.
[bais_before_after before_image="http://ricklohre.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/DSCF9598-2.jpg" after_image="http://ricklohre.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/DSCF9598.jpg"]
I suspect the image in the left above may look a lot like some of the photos you have in your archives. Raw images have even more information and latitude for editing than JPG’s so your photos may not see such a drastic change, but with Lightroom, there are still a lot of possibilities.
In the film days, we photographers had a plethora of choices...the camera, film, developing house, print paper types and other details that played a heavy roll in the way our photos looked. We had choices at each stage of making the photo that when combined, evoked a particular look and style. On the extreme scale for those of us that developed photos in an actual darkroom, we sometimes dodged, burned, step exposed, and got creative while making a print to achieve what we wanted the shot to look like.
So back to the topic...You're often left wondering why your photos don't look great. The answer...you have to spend time developing them. No, we're not talking about the darkroom...well at least in the traditional sense. Today our darkrooms are on our laptops, desktops, iPads or wherever else you store your photos. We have entered a true age of photographic democracy...the digital darkroom has put the tools of pro's into the hands of many!
Enter the digital darkroom - Adobe Systems Photoshop Lightroom
Today, most professional photographers and serious hobbyists have a similar set of choices that affect the way their photos look. It's not just like we shoot and the images come out of the camera "beautiful". For many novices and snap-shooters, that choice is to do nothing but download the card and leave the photos sit.
Adobe's Lightroom program is a software that crosses the boundaries from consumer to professional. It is both a cataloguing software as well as a photo editor. Best yet, it's easy enough for a beginner, yet full featured enough for a pro! So if you're looking to grow, this program has plenty of room for you.
I hope to continue posting about my process, Lightroom and topics on how you can improve your photography and get more from your camera.
Drop me a line and let me know if there's anything you'd like to see me cover in coming posts.