Intent in Processing

In between my day job work and a ton of portraits (practice practice practice) I’ve still been working on post processing in Photoshop. I was writing an email to Richard and Linda just now, part of which was going to be about this work. I thought that it was an idea I’d like to share here.

Photoshop is amazingly complex; like sitting at Mission Control: rows of knobs, buttons, and levers all with cryptic labels. Without some foundation it’s almost impossible to get anywhere useful. I’ve been reading quite a bit and watching lots of YouTube howtos and feel like I’m starting to get the hang of at least the basics.

But now, I find that the real challenge is not in the details of Photoshop, but in what I really need to do with each image. It’s like I’ve got all the tools to build a deck but no idea where to make the cuts.

A few weeks ago Life-in-the-Pumpkin-Shell Ange hosted an after party for a Heart Association Heart Walk. They went all out, renting a huge air driven play house for the kids. I thought it would be fun to put up some lights, so mounted my SB800 on my tall light stand and shot away.

Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve realized that a big part of the problem is that I didn’t go into these photos wanting to apply the lights to some purpose.

Take this photo for instance. I knew what I was after: I wanted motion blur in the background with a sharp rider. Easy enough when you know what your after.

My trouble in Photoshop is that beyond the basics of cloning and contrast I often don’t really know what I’m after. I create layers and curves and push till I get something that looks cool, but pretty often it’s just over the top saturation with a few twigs removed.

I’m currently reading and enjoying Michael Freeman’s The Photographer’s Eye. He writes about great stuff like rhythm, flow, balance, and dynamic tension. In Richard’s email he linked to this post by Jonathan Penney on building image impact in Photoshop. I’m hoping to apply these sorts of ideas to my post processing to shift from just processing for cool to processing for purpose.