Born to be punished

Pixels, as Frederick Van Johnson says, were born to be punished. While I do not always agree with this, it sometimes makes sense to alter images a little.

Take the rain outside, this past afternoon:

Nothing wrong: that’s what it was like outside my kitchen a few minutes ago.

But I could make it desaturated with extra presence (basically, a one click preset adjustment in my Lightroom), to accurately reflect the mood I felt, “what I felt I saw”. Then it would look like this:

More stark and threatening – and severe thunderstorms do feel like that, don’t they?

Or I could go to town and darken the outside completely. Now it doesn’t reflect what I saw – instead, it becomes something entirely new:

All three have merit in their own way, so let me reiterate my tips:

  • Do it in camera if you can! “Post-work” should not generally be a substitute for good technique.
  • That said, cropping is always OK. So is white balance adjustment, and so are small exposure changes.
  • Modify nothing (other than white balance, exposure adjustments, and cropping) if you are shooting news.
  • Do feel free to modify to get back to “what you saw”.
  • Do feel free to modify to be artistic.
  • That said, try to avoid trendy changes that you know will not be cool anymore in a few years time.
  • Realize that the more modifying you do, the less you are a photographer and the more a graphic artist.

And finally: do not forget to learn basic photography skills. No changes should be a substitute for knowing those skills. But once you know those skills – you can go crazy and edit, or do the minimum.

Now go have some fun. Learn Lightroom!


Did you know I can teach you Lightroom? Come to me for a 2-4 hour session and we will fully set up your Lightroom and file storage and backup strategy; and I will answer all your questions. $125 per hour.

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