In this digital age there are an infinte number of options when you start to process an image, so what do I mean when I refer to processing with integrity?
In my view the photographer should have a clear vision of how the finished image should appear to the viewer before any processing is undertaken. The photographer may even have a good idea of what the completed picture will look like at the time of taking, but usually I find this comes later. This image of Glengorm Castle in a remote part of the Isle of Mull on the west coast of Scotland is a good example.
This is an image I captured back in 2017 and re-discovered recently. Many of us have the time to go back through the archives and consider how we might like to present a finished photograph.
I thought it would help to explain my thinking if I shared some of the steps along the way, so I shall start with the RAW file straight out of the camera.
The light was very flat which is often ideal for black and white processing. The castle stands proud on the hill and whilst not immediately evident there is plenty of detail in the sky. There is good foreground interest and the open gate encourages the viewer’s eye to ‘walk’ into the scene and on towards the castle. Having said that I felt the castle was a little too central in the frame, and the rocks on the right are quite dominant, so a crop was required.
This is now a better balanced composition in my opinion.
Next stage. What look or feeling to the picture I am trying to create? I know I want to convert it to black and white but then what? This is the point at which certain decisions need to made before any manipulation to the image is carried out. There needs to be a plan.
In other words, there should be a clear intention, a sense of integrity in moving forward. It would be all too easy to play around with the sliders in Lightroom or some other software, in the hope that something might happen which looks okay. Worse still hitting a preset and saying that will do. Before I go further let me show you a simple black and white conversion from the cropped colour image above.
It’s pretty dull isn’t it, so what went through my mind and what choices did I make.
First and foremost I wanted to have a little fun. I wanted the final image to be much more dramatic and atmospheric, evoking the feel of a lonely haunted castle, which I had stumbled upon towards the end of the day in dark and threatening weather conditions. A place that is inviting me to take sanctuary but I do I want to walk through the gate and step inside the castle? Will the welcome I receive be friendly or hostile?
Remember this was all about having some creative play and the outcome is certainly not my usual style but by being a little over the top it does illustrate the point of this entry.
As I describe my processing choices here is the finished image again.
Tonally there is now considerably more contrast. The top part of the sky has been darkened down and the base of the picture has received a similar treatment. Importantly the castle itself, the trees to the right and the far hill on the left have been ‘burned’. This has created layers of light and dark in the picture. The gate stands out against the middle ground grasses and the castle is virtually a silhouette against the sky. I have ‘dodged and burned’ local areas of the picture as required. I have added some grain and a cool split tone both of which I feel are entirely appropriate to the original creative plan.
Lastly I decided to clone out the sheep. A small point perhaps, but keeping them in the picture made the overall look of the image too friendly for my liking. A small detail perhaps, but still in line with the original plan.
Personally I am pleased with the outcome. It is how I imagined the picture would look when finished. I stuck to the brief and processed the image accordingly. It was done with intent. This doesn’t mean it’s a great image and if the RAW file was handed to 10 other photographers, we would end up with 10 different results, each one expressing a personality of its own.
What matters to me is that processing should demonstrate integrity. Choices which are made are neither right or wrong, it’s simply that choices were made and a plan carried out in accordance with those choices.
Oh and I had a bit of fun along the way.
Stay safe and keep well.