Why Photography is Hard

Post-processing photographs is something amazing and not a little like alchemy. Here’s an example.

I watched the whole thing and I am partly amazed, partly stupefied. I was amazed at the knowledge displayed and the effects wrought. I would not have thought to do that — any of it. My digital “post” is pretty basic. It consists of shooting in RAW, some RAW fiddling courtesy of DXO Optics, cropping, and some sharpening or blurring if need be, sometimes applied to particular areas. Maybe I go monochrome; maybe I bust out ON 1 Effects. That’s nothing close to the techniques this guy was using.

I guess it all goes back to how you approach your art. Me, I spend the time taking the shot, and I take a lot of shots. I’ve become more judicious about this but I still err on the side of it’s better to have a shot to discard than to have nothing. What you don’t capture is probably gone forever. Next I go through a vicious culling cycle — culling stuff that looks bad in camera, culling stuff in DXO, and lastly culling stuff I can’t make work in my photoeditor of choice, Photoline. That’s when my minimal post-processing is up to bat.

What does this say about me? If I used this approach in poetry or in music, I’m forced to admit that I wouldn’t love the work itself very much, because I wouldn’t be spending the time to refine that individual work. I’d just be focused on writing a lot or composing a lot, hoping I could find the keepers with minimal effort. Is it fair to compare two very different art forms in this way? Part of me screams “no”, simply because I don’t have the knowledge or the skills to edit at that level of detail with photography. But here’s a different point — I spend so much time in photography finding the keepers that I don’t have any time left to really refine the keepers. Nor do I know how to take the keepers from excellent to mind-blowing anyway. That is not to say that I haven’t been researching. I have. I have learned about long exposure, neutral-density filters (and whether to go with a filter system or a screw-on lens), tripods, and more.

I am beginning to see that what separates the mind-blowing from the decent or even the excellent is a level of skill and amount of time that I do not now have. Some of this could be fixed by obtaining better equipment, but that costs money, which I don’t have either.

This is a lament, and I need to be spending more time drawing so I can turn out the cover for a book which is being edited.

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