Monday, June 11, 2012

The Trees and the Forest

This post is inspired by a transaction I saw on a forum somewhere. No names, since I don't mean to point fingers and the anyways it's the sort of thing we all do.

Someone posted a picture of a cute little girl in front of a wooden fence, and requested help in black-and-white conversion. Someone replied with a quickly pulled together sample, in which the fence was beautifully rendered by the child looks blotchy and dark-skinned when in fact she was neither.

The helpful individual had gotten distracted by getting the fence "right" in the b&w conversion, and had been fooling around with sliders and curves and who knows what else. The result was the that the fence looked like a fence.

Here's the point: When you're processing something up like this, focus on the right thing. The picture wasn't a photograph of a fence, it was a photograph of a little girl in a white dress. The fence Does Not Matter. If you're anywhere in the ballpark, the viewer will see it's a fence and move on. This applies broadly. If you're doing an HDR, what's the point? If you're trying to render the pews deeply shadowed inside the church visible and visually appealing, go ahead and do that. Don't get your "workflow" right, get the damn pews right. Don't correct the white balance to some mechanical notion of correct, get the skin tones looking nice and then leave it alone. When you're applying effects or burning or whatever it is you're doing, have a reason and a goal, a reason and a goal within the current print, and focus on achieving THAT.

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