I’ve opined before that photography is principally an editorial art: one selects from the wide world just this to frame and show. It’s all about making good decisions (hence the title of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s masterwork The Decisive Moment).
There have always been multiple stages of decision-making in photography:
- spotting the image
- framing the picture (lens choice, image edges)
- exposure (aperture, shutter-speed, filters, and—back in the day—film)
- developing (darkroom or digital post-processing)
- editing/curating (which photographs you chose to share with others)
- context (where they appear—alone, in sequence, medium, environment, institution).
Digital photography has given us more choices. It’s easier and essentially free to take lots of pictures from which to select. Non-destructive editing of the RAW file gives us amazing creative freedom to experiment with different ways to render the original capture. Now everyone and her brother have access to all kinds of fancy-pants software filters with which to punch up their images. (Check out instagr.am to see the popularity of “art filters” among iPhone owners. What I find fascinating is the appeal of imperfection and the patina of nostalgia; as a culture, we still value the apparently personal and handmade. Even if it’s ersatz.)
I’m all in favor of doing whatever it takes (photographically speaking) to wind up with an image you’re happy with. Sometimes that means turning all the dials to 11. For me, though, I often find it means backing away from the high-contrast, high saturation, “big finish” approach. I don’t mind if a picture doesn’t grab you by the eyeballs and yank. I’m okay with the notion that plenty of people will just slide on by without noticing that anything at all is going on. I do, however, want to reward the folks who pause to take an image in.
I chose to go quiet with this picture (above, as always, you can click it for the larger version in the Gallery). For comparison purposes, I offer this version of the unedited raw file (click it to see it larger in a new window). What choices would you have made?