I am now, and have always been, a firm believer that making images is about much more than just the technology – like a ‘sharp knife’ available to anyone is significantly more valuable in the hands of a surgeon. A good photographer achieves and maintains a level of fluency in the implementation of the tools of his art – cameras, lenses, film and digital capture, darkroom and digital post-production, methods of reproduction.
A better photographer uses the means afforded by those tools to create, interpret and engage – to present images with the concept, intent and nuance that IS the art of communication through imagery. I’m always working hard to be a one of those ‘better’ photographers.
To create an image, concept and point-of-view are the first phase. Research, contemplation and communication with a client define the intent and style for an image or a project, and lead to the shoot itself. The shoot – phase two – is where an image is captured (within the constraints of the situation – be they time, location, budget, crew size, weather etc). The images from the shoot are raw materials, and hold the potential of the final image. The darkroom, whether traditional or digital, is the third phase in the creation of a successful photograph. Processing the digital file, retouching, compositing, color-correction, emotional interpretation, selective emphasis and mood are just a few of the enhancements that can be refined at this stage. Only the final image – print or digital file – conveys the completed vision of the photographer.
My process includes all three of these elements – concept, capture and finish. My work reflects my committment to this process for creating compelling and successful work – whether I’m interpreting the needs of my clients, or working for my most demanding ‘client’ – myself.
I have, since 1993, developed and refined my digital process to a level of fluency and efficiency that allows me to create images that were previously much more expensive and time-consuming because that work was done on location during the shoot and the final image was created in camera. That meant more lighting, bigger crews, more time per shot and therefore fewer shots per day.
I now work almost exclusively using digital capture, finishing and output. I finish the images in digital post-production, and am able to accomplish some of the things which previously had to be done on location. That means my shoot days are more productive and clients have more to choose from, while the quality of the work has actually increased. By the way, that is not to say that digitial photography is cheaper than film – a common misconception among clients. It’s not – not by a long shot. It does mean, however, that some of the work that used to take place during the shoot now takes place afterward, in post-production.
The contribution made by the post-production control I exercise over my images is often difficult for clients, and potential clients, to recognize when they see the final image. That’s a good thing, after all, since the success of the finished image should not involve any apparent effects, tricks, gimmicks or “hot” trends of digital finishing. It should simply look right – and work. But without an understanding of the impact post-production has on the effectiveness of an image, clients often consider it unnecessary.
Below are a few examples of how I use the post-production phase of my process to enhance the raw capture (the ‘negative’) and complete my intention for an image. Roll over each image to see the ‘before” version. And please understand that I intentionally plan finishing into my vision for its ability to enhance and complete, not ‘fix’, the raw materials created during the shoot.