On Processing Photos

I’ve always enjoyed taking pictures. When something beautiful or interesting catches my eye, I like to be able to capture it, both to keep for myself and to share with others. That said, I hesitate to call myself a photographer.

While I suffer from impostor syndrome in pretty much everything that I do, I also think it is disingenuous to give myself a title that I haven’t received formal training for. So, if anywhere on this  blog I have called myself a “photographer”, please know that I really just mean “picture-taker who is trying really hard to create something nice.”

I have no formal training in photography or photo editing. I have studied a few concepts on my own. I have played with some editing software. But that is the extent of my training, and for the most part, I am okay with that. I am not passionate enough about photography to take a deep dive in to try to become a well-trained expert. I am content with what I am producing and have fun trying to capture and create scenes within my range of knowledge and abilities. Like I said, for the most part.

But sometimes there are frustrating moments when I can’t seem to convey what I want with an image, or can’t even figure out what I want to convey. I encountered one of those while preparing my last post and I thought I would share it.

On our way out of Canterbury, literally as we were walking down the street with all our luggage on the way to our car, we passed this gentleman wearing a hat and carrying an umbrella. It was a quiet morning and he was walking the opposite direction, toward the center of town. He caught my eye so I turned around and snapped a picture.

Canterbury Man 1
#1. Original Image.

Above is the original photo. I loved this dapper gentleman walking in the quaint streets of Canterbury. He seemed to fit perfectly. As I prepared to put the picture in my post about Canterbury, I decided to make a few edits in order to make him more of the focus of the picture.

As an aside, I don’t edit all my pictures before posting. Many, I don’t edit at all. Usually, what you see is what I snapped. But for some, I will do some cropping and adjusting of light, contrast, and brightness, if I think any of those adjustments will enhance the overall impression of the photo. But in general, I am a purist and try to present my images as close to reality as possible.

In my first edit to this image, I wanted to focus more on the man. I liked the simplicity of the first set of houses he was in front of, so I cropped out almost half of the picture to just show him and the first five houses. I played with the light, shadows, and contrast a bit. The cropping ended up taking out a lot of color, but I liked that some color from the houses still popped in.

 

Canterbury Man 2.
#2. First edits to the image.

I made the edits I wanted, but wasn’t happy with the result. I still find it hard to say why, but the cropping didn’t accomplish what I wanted and now I felt the image was missing something. Additionally, while I liked the pops of color, I noticed the areas in the shadow looked almost black and white. To me, that made the pops of color almost look forced and unnatural.

So, I backed up and re-did the cropping, just cropping out a few buildings and other people walking further down the road.

Canterbury Man 3
#3. A second edit.

I was more pleased with this result. It returned the image to a broader, more realistic capture of what I saw. I liked that the two distinct sets of buildings – the houses and the shops – contrasted each other in style and color. That said, I was worried they detracted from my main subject, the man. With the thought that color may be a distraction, I tried a black and white edit.

Canterbury Man 4
#4. A third round of edits.

I liked this result. The man’s attire, along with the shadow he walked in, seemed to be begging me for black and white. I think it worked here and I liked that removing color removed some focus from the shops further up the road, but their existence still gives some nice contrast in structures and textures.

Of course, never fully being satisfied, I thought, let’s try one more edit. I liked the black and white, so I wanted to see what the first, extreme cropping I did would look like in black and white.

Canterbury Man 5
#5. A fourth edit.

While I liked the result here better than when I did this cropping in color, I still felt the crop was too extreme and I missed the rest of the street scene.

In the end, #4 is my favorite processing of this image. It didn’t make it into my Canterbury post because I am still uncertain if I am happy with it. I also had way too many pictures from Canterbury to choose from! Instead I opted to give this one a whole post to itself.

I imagine that even legit photographers have similar frustrations sometimes. Even with more knowledge, skills, and equipment, I am sure there is often a lot of tweaking and fine tuning. I think many creative people are fueled, in part, by at least some self-doubt along with the pursuit of perfection.

I certainly don’t go through this process with every image I share, but it does give some insight as to why it takes me so long to prepare a post! My process usually involves: reviewing my travel notes and photos, writing the text, selecting photos, editing photos as needed, uploading and labeling all the photos, then putting it all together.

The process takes me longer than I anticipated when I started blogging, but that’s okay. I am enjoying it. With my travel recaps, which I am doing almost exclusively right now until I get caught up, I find that at first, I really enjoy reliving the trip. Then, I reach a point where I am sick of the content and am ready to be done with it. Then, when I finally feel it is complete and I hit that “publish” button, I fall back in love with the memory of the trip.

I hope you enjoyed this little peek into my process and how I think about the content I share with you. I’d love to hear if you have a preference for any of the versions of the photo shared in this post. Also, any tips, tricks, or commiserations you may have are always welcome!

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