I’ll frankly admit that in the past I’ve failed to use a steady, and studied, approach to post processing my images. Instead, my practice has been to make somewhat arbitrary changes that made my photos look good or at least better than the original captures. But, this practice has a problem; while it sometimes leads to pleasing results, it’s essentially random and, as a result, leads to unpredictable outcomes. And since I’ve set no clear goals for my images, that approach, such as it is, lacks discipline, order, and, in the end, effectiveness.
So, I figured there must be a better way. And as it turns out, there is. Several resources pointed me toward a more practiced and reasoned strategy for enhancing my images in post. First of these is Guy Tal’s essay “Obsession, Joy, and Torment” in his recent book, Another Day Not Wasted. Tal argues that color and luminance, which are processed in separate parts of the brain, can and should be used expressively. As he puts it, the purpose of editing images is “to elicit some meaning, rather than just to illustrate an appearance.” In other words, both color and luminance, if thoughtfully managed in editing, can enhance the meaning conveyed by an image, rendering it more than just a pretty picture. Tal’s essay inspired me to seek out practical ways to find and portray such deeper meanings in my own images.
Second is Marc Muench’s book, The Art of Luminosity, a valuable resource on post processing techniques. This short volume, available for free from the Muench Workshops web site, examines how to capture luminosity effectively in-camera and then how to manage it in post processing. Muench gives excellent verbal and visual illustrations of his methods for editing different types of images and provides an inspirational and instructive guide to adjusting luminosity levels to achieve more effective results.
Yet another valuable resource teaches color theory, how different colors affect the brain, and how to use them to best advantage. It’s See It: Photographic Composition Using Visual Intensity, by Josh and Ellen Anon. This book is the best resource on using color I’m aware of. It does for color what Muench does for luminosity.
Taken together, these resources provide the tools for enhanced post processing methods. However, they leave open the question of how best to apply them when editing. So, drawing on these resources, I set out to build a set of practical actions to help me reveal more meaning in my images. Inspired by Tal’s provocative essay, I’ve boiled them down to five steps (see the SIDEBAR below).
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