Friday, 9 November 2012

Exercise: Interpretative processing

In this exercise we are encouraged to ‘get creative’ with processing.

To choose an image open for creative interpretation. Apply different processing techniques (experiment with lots of different options). Then make three different versions of the same image, a written description of what I was trying to achieve, and how well I think I succeeded.

I went to Mt Cootha Botanic Gardens last week and thought carefully about composing some shots of the various cacti and succulent plants which I thought would make good subjects for this exercise, and future desaturation exercises where texture and form are important. I have been doing some reading about ‘exposing to the right’, so for all shots I bracketed one stop either side, using aperture priority.

Back at home, after uploading my images, I carefully looked at the clipping on the brightest shots, and kept those that were not clipped, and deleted the ones with lower exposure. I don’t want to get in the habit of keeping three versions of an image with only the exposure different. My Hard Drives already fill up too quickly, particularly with this new camera!

I then selected those images that I thought had lower dynamic range and were thus suitable for this exercise. I was quite pleased with my selection These images are shown below:
Selection of images appropriate for this exercise

I went on to choose my image to work with for this exercise, shown below without any post-processing:

I first ‘optimized’ this image, shown below:

In Lightroom I made a virtual copy of this image and started processing. I did lots of experimentation, tried tweaking all the sliders and using black and white and just generally getting a feel for what could be done in Lightroom, as I’ve mostly only used presets before. I did use the presets a bit, but also tried to understand what was being done in the presets so that I can use them in the future with more knowledge. Below is a selection of the different processing techniques and results.
Selection of processing techniques in Lightroom

I then chose my favourite four images (below):

before selecting the final three which I will discuss here (below):

First image:
Soft Black and White

In this image I was trying to achieve a soft looking black and white image, which was quite high-key and old-fashioned looking. To do this I first did a simple conversion to black and white, and then adjusted my exposure, black clipping point and highlight tones to make the image bright and light feeling. Then I went to the vignette slider (under ‘effects’) and added in a white soft vignette to the image. I also added in some grain to make it look lit it might have been shot on film. Finally I adjusted the shadows, clarity and contrast slightly.

I really like this image. It is soft and floaty, which contrasts nicely with the spiky points of the cactus. The vignette on the corners adds to the washed out feel and I think it suits the addition of slight grain. I have kept some of the blacks quite deep to retain some contrast in this image. Overall I feel it is a successful and quite different rendition of the original image.

Second image:
Contrasty Black and White

I was looking for quite a harsh, contrasty black and white image to provide a stark comparison to the previous soft image. So I chose the opposite route basically. I applied a heavy contrasty blue filter to the black and white starting image. This darkened down the image considerably, but I kept the highlights high and bright to really emphasise the tips of the plant and small spikes. There is a dark vignette applied to this image to bring back emphasis to the plant and heighten the drama.

I like the strength and surprise in this image. The plant looks so very spiky and dramatic.

Third image:
Cross-processed image

settings for producing 'cross-processed' image 

A bright, light, colourful ‘cross-processed’ image. I tried a few versions of bright, contasty, highly colourful images and decided I liked this one the best. I have not done ‘cross-processing’ at all before, but quite like the effect it has on this image. I also played a bit with the saturation and luminance of some colours to boost the effect. I like the high contrast, slightly otherworldly colours that have been brought out in this image.

The notes ask me to consider ‘how well I have succeeded’. Well I had some feelings about light/dark/bright colour but not more than that really before I started. I chose my starting image quite carefully (shot with this project and other similar ones in mind), so I guess I’ve been successful in the sense that I have imaginatively edited this image into three more interesting, different images. This in some ways for me has opened up a whole new creative side to my photography, as I have not spent much time at all before ‘editing’ images in this way (mostly choosing to stick more closely to ‘reality’, whatever that means!). This exercise shows me that a little tweaking here and there can radically alter images (sometimes for the better, sometimes not so), and that there is great variety and scale of change that can take place in one single image.

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