Keeping it simple

People seem to love filters… I know I do, have you seen my Instagram feed lately? (Plug, plug!) So often I see commented on 500px or Flickr or Facebook, “what filter was that?” or “cool plugin”. What did we do before retro filters? HDR? OnOne software or photoshop actions. Is it time to put down the aperture presets. I may even put down RAW for a short time. I think I need to appreciate what my camera can do.

Taken from a catalogue shoot for Portrait edit from JPEG with added diffusion.

Taken from a catalogue shoot for A portrait edit from JPEG with added diffusion shot with my portable studio lighting set up.
Model: Jenny Holmes

Inside the camera you have picture presets which are pretty useful. The usual selection is Standard, Natural, Landscape, Vivid, Portrait and Monochrome. And for even more variation these are different from camera brand to camera brand. On my nikon I’ll be honest the Standard preset is my favourite. Though I have tweaked it. To add even more customisation and control to your images most cameras give you the option to customise these settings so don’t be scared to play around with them and make notes or even save a custom preset. Personally I love a bit of punch to my images so i pop up the contrast.

I understand the reasons for shooting RAW. It’s just so flexible. I can change everything. If I mess up the white balance I can fix it afterwards. If my exposure if off by a bit I can adjust it. I can create HDR images and expand my dynamic range just from one RAW file.


Kirstie Costar posing for a shoot which was directed by Artist Laura Daligan. Portrait edit from a JPEG with added colour to selected greens and reds.

I know that film is the past. But we learn from the past so I’m going to talk about it for a second. What happens when a film photographer wants a specific look to an image? They pick a film stock which has the contrast or saturation or grain that fits their needs. Then 24 or 36 frames later they change rolls. All of the planning and thoughts about the look of the image happened before the shot was taken. I’m sure some photographers where so happy with the look of specific film stock that they only ever shot one or two types. And that was their look a part of their photographic style. Maybe some dodging and burning happened in the printing stage or they did cross processing in development for cool effects and a filter was something you put on the lens to achieve a specific effect.

As a digital photographer, how does making all my decisions before the shoot benefit me? Well, just think about how much time you spend sat at the computer? Lightroom, Aperture or photoshop are a part of the digital photograph workflow for sure, but be honest how many of you click through the different presets searching for that “Look”? Which look do I want for this shoot?

The last three shoots I’ve done. I used my usual workflow. I look at the Jpegs and make my picks. I then bring in the RAW files for my top images and give them a tinker in aperture then as needed I bring images into photoshop. However before I opened up photoshop I reset my adjustments and switched the image back to the Jpeg. I just preferred the look of the JPEG and had difficulties replicating that look with aperture.

Wiccan Artist Laura Daligan posing in nature. Portrait edit from a JPEG shot under natural lighting.

So I’m going to put more effort into what happens before I press that shutter. Maybe I’ll see a shot and think that’ll look good with some tonal contrast, or soft focus, or whatever.

The point of all this is I’m going to try and make my decisions before I press that shutter and enjoy the quality of image my sensor and lens gives me.



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