Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pushing the Image

I have been spending some time lately taking second looks at some of my photographs. One was a picture of a group of people that had an ambiguous subject, and the most obvious thing about it was that I caught one person in a sidelong glance that looked aggressive. It was not an accurate capture of the scene and I was about to hit delete when I decided to mess around with it. The end result, cropped and stripped to its essence, is a powerful portrait.

Don't Mess With Me

With that revelation I decided to revisit a handful of other photos for the sake of taking my crude editing tools (only iPhoto, no Photoshop) and myself to interesting edges.

Here is a stark image of a pair of dancers. The image is cropped, dodged, and pushed to the stops on a few controls.


Here is the original:


I prefer the reworked image. It has a whole lot of punch. This next one was taken on my camera by ace photographer Mick McKiernan. The way I had the camera set resulted in an image that was a tad overexposed. I decided to blow the exposure out to the stops and see what happened.

Out of the Mist

And here is an original from the same series taken a second after the one above.
Gargoyle Twins

One more. This shot of Reena of Pagee Go Go on stage at the Majestic was a pretty good band photo using my homemade cardboard snoot to focus the flash. This version is cropped, dodged, and manipulated within an inch of its life. Reena liked the lack of distinction between her glittery dress and the lights in the background. She merges into the night sky-like background. The lady is made of stars...

The Lady Wears Stars

Here was a nearly identical shot taken a moment later:
Reena on Stage

I hope you enjoyed this exploration. For a long time I have resisted the urge to manipulate my photos with software, prefering to be a better photographer than computer jockey. To some extent that feeling still holds, and I am not planning to run out and buy Photoshop anytime soon. Yet I do understand that there is little difference - really - between manipulating a photo with Photoshop and the old skool techniques in the darkroom like dodging and burning, and specific choice of paper. The computer simply makes all that faster and easier.

And the real point is, can I make a photograph tell a more compelling story? You tell me.

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