Stairs

Steps in Georgetown

As I‘ve mentioned before, I used to be a militant photographic fundamentalist.*

  1. THOU SHALT NOT CROP.
  2. THOU SHALT HAVE NO PHOTOSHOP FILTERS BEFORE ME.
  3. THOU SHALT NOT RETOUCH AWAY UNFORTUNATE OBJECTS OR OTHER BLEMISHES.
  4. THOU SHALT NOT USE NEWFANGLED TECHNIQUES SUCH AS HDR.
  5. THOU SHALT ACKNOWLEDGE IMAGE STABILIZATION AS A TOOL OF THE DEVIL.
  6. LIKEWISE AUTOFOCUS.
  7. VIDEO IS THE MEDIUM OF UNBELIEVERS, THOU SHALT NOT BOW DOWN BEFORE MOVING IMAGES.
  8. NOISE IS GRAIN AND GRAIN IS UNCLEAN. THOU SHALT NEVER EXCEED ISO 400 EQUIVALENT.
  9. IF THY IMAGE CAN BE IMPROVED BY ADDING SATURATION OR VIBRANCE THOU ART DOING IT WRONG.
  10. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO COVER UP THY FAILURE TO GET A SHARP IMAGE TO BEGIN WITH BY APPLYING SHARPENING. THE LORD THY GOD CAN TELL.

Now, I prefer to think of these as “The Ten Suggestions.” And I mostly honor them in the breach rather than the observance.

Here’s the unmunged photo as it came out of the camera, through Aperture via RAW:

I think we can all agree: yuck.

Now here’s the adjusted, tweaked, best-I-could do photographic version:

Steps in Georgetown, DC

I imagine that many of you will prefer this example to the one featured at the top of the post, and in the Gallery. The third is more contrasty, has more detail, and is “clearer.”

All that is true, but I prefer the highly-munged version because, for me, it comes closer to the feeling evoked in me by those stairs, that ironwork, the varieties of brick and the bare tree branches. I wanted something looser, less documentary and more… well, I suppose, “aspirational.” (Not the right word, probably.)

If I weren’t currently pining for the Côte d’Azur, perhaps I would prefer the straight-up version too.

*Exaggeration.


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3 Responses to Stairs
  1. Wolynski
    February 24, 2011 | 8:26 pm

    Why wouldn’t you use any of these things? I worship auto-stabilization.

    When film was used, just by its very nature, one manipulated the shit out of it, according to the film developer used, the paper used, dodging and burning etc, etc. Why not do the same now that it’s digital?

    A professional photographer will cut down on post-processing, because it’s time consuming. Getting the perfect image in the camera means less work later.

    But if the image his client wanted is imperfect for whatever reason, thank heaven for PhotoShop.

    I don’t understand how these commandments are practical. Shouldn’t RAW be on this list? Personally, I hate over processed images, but tweaking them slightly can be a huge improvement. Unless you have an $8000 camera, slight (emphasis on slight)sharpening, especially on architectural images, can really make your photo pop.

  2. NT
    February 24, 2011 | 8:58 pm

    I completely agree. I will use whatever tricks and tools I can lay my hands on to improve or make something interesting out of an image.

    I used to work my ass off in the darkroom (gosh, that sounds funny). Obviously, the better your negative/RAW capture, the easier it is to get a good result.

    I actually find that there is an excessive fetishization of process and software, though. People are really persuaded that it’s the software that makes for a good image, when usually that’s the last and least of it. (Hmm, I sense a post coming on that as well one day.)

    Really, my attitude these days is: anything goes if it gives you a result you’re happy with.

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