An artist friend I respect said something at a gallery reception recently that keeps buzzing around my head like a horse fly in my face. What she said was something about using presets in Photoshop or Lightroom to achieve the same effect over and over. And it keeps buzzing around my head because in the context of our conversation … wait … is THAT what you think I do?! No!!
For the uninitiated, a “preset” is a series of commands used in sequence in photo editing software that are recoded into a single command. It’s very useful for photographers who need to process a series of photographs taken under essentially the same lighting conditions; for example, at a wedding or a sporting event. Instead of making the same adjustments to three dozen photographs, one can simply click on a preset and apply those adjustments to every photograph at the same time. It’s a tremendous time saver, as I say, for photographers. I’m not a photographer – I’m a photo artist. Presets do not work in art because the techniques applied to the photographic capture are much more sophisticated and much more a play between the lighting present for the original photograph and the will of the artist.
As proof I offer today’s work. The art shown here is created with a technique I have only been able to achieve twice, including this one. The first, which has received awards and been very well reviewed, was created using a color digital photographic capture. Today’s work is created from a black and white film image. Even if I’d created a present after the first work, it wouldn’t have worked here because the original photographs are so different.
Since the first work, I’ve gone back and copied all its techniques and applied them to maybe a dozen other works, and every time it failed to create what I wanted, because the technique has to integrate with the unique lighting of each. It’s an almost intimate relationship, and now that I’ve made it work a second time I’m even more aware how each technique has to be carefully applied to each exceptional circumstance. Presets do not work in art. Only an artist’s instinct and expertise create a work that stands as ‘Art’. That is true whether using the computer or a brush.
This work began as a black and white image using Ilford Delta 100 film. That image was digitized, adjusted in Camera RAW, then opened in Photoshop where I worked separately with six different sections of the image using a couple dozen levels of filters and adjustments. Again, this effect has only worked twice.
Will it ever work again?
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NOTE: This post is the final in a series examining the application of digital techniques to film photography in creating photo art, done in tribute to the closing of the last regional retail photography stores.
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.