Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Enhanced... a little or a lot...which is best?

That question is bugging me quite a bit lately as I'm following several groups that are all about Photoshop composites which are freaking amazing. I begin to look at my boring humdrum images and think "wonder if I should be doing composites and crazy things to these to make them unique?"

Then I review the process in my head of everything I already do. I know there are a bunch of purists out there who tell you that every single image they import from their camera is perfect. I call bullshit. There are a few folks out there who have the talent combined with the amount of money it takes to buy equipment that will put out a sharp, bright, non noisy image right out of the camera. I'll buy that. But I don't think there are nearly as many as  you would think.

I've had a number of cameras in my life and each one I thought was the best one ever with no flaws and it was just me who couldn't put out a good image if it saved my life, but then I realized there is a reason that we have all those millions of editing programs. There's a reason I "rent" the Adobe CC Suite every month. Because no matter how great my image is out of the camera, it always needs a little polish. It just depends on how much polish I want to put on it and how much time I want to spend polishing it. Is it a great image??? Will it make people stop in their tracks and gasp in amazement? Nah. None of my images do that because I'm really not planning that when I take them. Most of my images are documentary images. Trips I take. Abandonments I explore. Things I see that I need to remember. Then there are the few paid gigs I get to make images that will make other people smile and sigh when they remember those moments.

I'm not yet an artist. Like a photoshop fantastic artist. I like my images. Then I bring them into Lightroom or Photoshop and I like them more. Then I tease out the details and apply some filters. And pretty soon I'm actually falling in love with some of them.

We recently went to Turner Falls in Davis, Oklahoma. It's a beautiful place! I can't believe I've never been there (well I was partially there once but didn't pay to go in...and it seemed different 20 some odd years ago). It's the "winter" season there now meaning half price and less tourists. No one trying to swim in the water beneath the falls. I kinda want to go back this weekend and next weekend and every weekend until I'm bored and have seen every inch of that park but with a 2.5 year old trach baby in tow, it has to be fair weather and no wind so I go through and edit my pics. Try to make them interesting. Different. Compelling.

I'm not getting there but here is the one I worked on for 30 minutes this afternoon. I love reflection shots. Trees, or clouds or whatever, but I love reflections on the surface of water. So, because I do not understand HTML and making things go to their proper places, the following are my edits.
The first was the sooc (straight out of camera) shot made smaller for the purpose of decency.
The second is the cropped image, getting rid of the blown sky and the chromatic aberrations that even lightroom wouldn't remove completely. Fiddled with the sliders and dehazed a bit.
The 3rd was the image after importing to Photoshop and adding a Nik Color Efex filter or ten.
The 4th was the same image by adding a few more tweaks to be more autumn like.

So....which one is better? Or do they all just suck? I'd like to know. Feedback welcome. Unnecessary rude criticism NOT welcomed ever on my images or anyone elses.

SOOC image. Chromatic abberation, blown sky, just blah. 

Cropped and edited in Lightroom to bring out the colors and contrast. 

Exported to Photoshop, enhanced with Nik Color Efex
Still in Photoshop Nik Color Efex made more dismal, dark and halloweenish.


  1. I tend to thrive on sharp clarity. So my take would be the Lightroom version (#2) I have NIK efx too, but rarely used them.

  2. I like the variety here - to me, when I process, I do 1 of 2 things. I either enhance the picture to best capture what I was seeing or feeling about the scene at the time, or I explore and creat and see what other feelings, emotions or visually interesting elements pop. When I process, it is almost like taking another photo walk, digitally exploring what else might be there that I missed the first time. I think your processing shows the range of feelings that one photo can produce. The first one seems more like an enhancement, and the others are more exploratory in nature.

    I love the range of mood in all of them. And I think I like them differently depending on the context - for nature photography, the LR version is best. The second one really brings the focus on the single tree and its reflection, and 3rd is dark and haunting. One photo, but 3 very different results, all equally enjoyable to me :-)

  3. I like the subtle changes for nature shots. I have never been one for over editing with the exception some of my urbex shots and I am sure I don't have to go into detail with you on why that is.

    I must be honest though - I don't like the crop. I know the sky is blown out but that is just what happens when you shoot on particular days. I used to love exploring on rainy/overcast days because it added to the gloom of the abandonments. I realized that this ALWAYS results in blown out skies. In your shot the crop makes me feel like the tree got chopped up. It's like portrait photography - you cut off the tree's head. I would love to see the lightroom edit with more sky. Maybe the only reason I don't like it is because I saw the original and the tree top would otherwise not be missed.

  4. I personally like the Lightroom version best because it has a lot more shadow detail then the Nik versions. Having said that I understand the "Dark Halloween" was done for mood effect and you have achieved that well with that process. Now for my personal taste I would crop the Lightroom version right at the line of darkness above the shore and clone out the tree trunk leaving only the reflection in the water, for me this would be more ethereal and haunting. Just my two cents, lol. Nice processing btw!