‘What filter do you use?’

July 20, 2018

WHERE THE MAGIC CAN HAPPEN

A question I was asked recently.

Ever seen someones photography website or social feed and wondered why you can’t make frames like them? Ever thought, ‘I’m rubbish compared to that guy/girl?’ I have. Still do. Regularly. There’s some serious talent out there some known and some under a bushel.

Normally, when I look at a photographers work, it is their eye that catches mine and makes me think, ‘I wish I’d seen it like that’. I can rattle off names until the cows come home of the people I admire in what they see and how they see it.

But, is it all in the composition and lighting? Technically, yes. There’s no way to edit something quickly or without tremendous Photoshop skills if the base canvas you have is actually rubbish. Photography is, when all is said and done, about the light. That said, there is a plethora of post production techniques you can use to lift an image. Colour grading is one of them. It isn’t for every application. If editorial and speed is required, you need to do most of it in camera (a little sharpening and a crop perhaps) but then it needs to go out the door. Quickly.

But since the explosion of Instagram, filters have made everyone a photographer hasn’t it? Not really, you still need a good eye but you get the idea that we all have some form of editing tools that we use to enhance an image. So, I thought I’d show you some really quick things so that you can see the differences.

Here’s the original image as shot:

Editorially speaking, it’s a detail close up that might work as an insert image to a piece about the car, the history and driver as part of a set. But as a standalone image, while I like the lighting, it doesn’t have any depth, it has no space around it for any copy and it’s more grab that composed.

Taking the image across to Photoshop, I apply a LUT (look up table) and give it a more vintage feel, I then add a flare to compensate for the hot spot on the bonnet and to add some mood:

I then bring the image back into Lightroom where I add a preset I built to give it a little grain and more of an old, bleached film look and feel. I then crop to my preferred 16:9 until I like the balance and that’s it:

The main reason I want to show this is that I get asked if I can shoot in a style of ‘X’ photographer. My polite reply is, ‘no, but here are their contact details so you can call them for a quote’. That doesn’t stop me from looking at others work and working out how they may have processed an image but my suggestion is that if you are making your work look like someone else’s, or you are doing nothing other than moving pixels around until you have their look, then you’re not helping yourself or them. I try and understand a technique and see if it helps my own style or look rather than ape someone else. Then I’ll try and capture some images that may benefit the technique rather than trying to shoehorn an image into a technique once it has been shot.

Hope you like it. If there’s something I’ve done that you like and want to know more, drop me a line.

The camera doesn’t lie. Photoshop does…

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