A few weeks ago I did a post on the potential of photographic art using a before and after picture. The response was good enough to inspire me to do another. So this week we will look at a before shot of a tea rose I captured in a garden one very hot, muggy, and sunny day.
As you can see, this is a nice shot of a tea rose. It also, unfortunately, looks like millions of other tea rose photographs. We want to change that. One of the ideas behind photographic art is the use of a picture as a canvas of sorts. We want to enhance the subject and give it the power that photography has as an art form.
As is right now, this photograph has some challenges we need to address. Namely, because of the bright sun, I used a photographic filter on the camera that works like a pair of sunglasses. The upside is this filter allows for more detail in bright light, the downside is that it mutes the colors.
I also want to bring out more detail. So visit us next week when I post the results of this tea rose and discover what type of artistic flair I will bring to the image.
In the meantime, form a mental image of what you think we can do with this rose.
Last week we started off with a picture of a strange-looking flower blooming off the side of a palm tree. The starting unfiltered picture is typical of what you find on the Internet. It’s certainly not a bad picture per se, but it does have issues that we will need to contend with before one can look at it and unabashedly call it a work of art.
One of the biggest difficulties in the picture is the heavy dose of sunlight affecting the overall image and is robbing us of detail that would enhance the picture. This has everything to do with the time day I took the picture. In this case it’s a trade-off between technique and artistic imagery. If I were to take the picture at an earlier or later time so that the lighting is perfect, the sun would not be at an angle in the sky to flow directly on the flower. Lighting is what gives an image its dramatic power.
So, one of the first things to do is to rebalance the image reduce the sunlight glare from blowing out our image. Once we mange that, both on the camera through a lens filter and then again in Photoshop, we pull out more detail and move on to any color issues.
The picture is green predominately green and white. It’s a plant so that is to be expected, but I want to enhance that drama we were talking about earlier. I do this by simply changing the image to a black and white one. The advantage is that the white will remain but the greens will turn into varying shades of blacks and grays thus not only preserving our drama but enhancing it.
After this transformation I work with the contrast and brightness and make sure that there is an area of pure white and pure black in the image for aesthetic reasons.
I then move on towards working with a modern day version of dodging and burning the picture to further enhance both the dark areas and the dramatic white. The last step is to make sure that no digital noise has crept in the photograph robbing the image of a silky smooth look. So I use a denoise filter designed to take the noise out .
You may ask why I’m not giving specific details about the exact settings I use in Photoshop or how many filters I may apply. It’s not that my answers are full of trade secrets. Rather, the reason is that there are no set hard fast rules for applying filters and using dodge and burn on your images. Some images may require 3 filters, some 13. It is dependent upon your artistic eye and the individual image.
Thus I am left with the enhanced image below.
Hope you enjoyed this look at a simplified version of taking and image and working it step by step and filter by filter into a work of art.
Some artists start their creative process by looking at a blank canvas. They envision the scene they wish to portray and think on what colors or tools they will need. They may begin with a sketch and some painters even begin with a photograph.
It’s a personal inner vision that tells them what the next step to creating their art is and what they need to do. Then they use their experience as an artist to tell them how to accomplish it. It really is no different for the photographic artist. As you would expect, it begins with a photograph.
No, wait, it begins even before that. For me, it begins with my camera. I will walk down seemingly endless amounts of garden path and corridors looking for anything that strikes my eye. I look for things that are different, full of color, or makes a statement in some way. Then I have to ask myself about the angle of the subject, the lighting conditions, and even what settings I might need on my camera. Soon after all that, I take the shot.
Once I have these various tasks done and I’ve finished my picture-taking for the day, I take my undeveloped artistic blueprints to my office. There I start the mental and physical process of choosing what will work and what will not.
Cameras have limitations, and no camera will always manage the impossible feat of matching the human eye. So, if I deem 3-10% of the number of pictures I take on a shoot as having some potential, then I’m happy.
I call those pictures a blueprint for that is the best description of what raw unformatted pictures are to a photographic artist. Those pictures are my canvas, or my sketch, and from them I ply my inner artist to create, simplify, expound, and develop my inner vision.
On a recent trip to Florida earlier this year, I found this palm tree flowering in a courtyard. The sun was shining and the sight of this strange flower sufficiently struck my curiosity. I immediately saw potential with this flower. This is the raw unfiltered image.
At this moment it’s just a picture. Nothing has been done with it. As a photographer I could sit here and ponder the exposure, the depth of field , and all of the photographic niceties that make a good picture and traditionalists usually do. But as an artist, I’m looking beyond the technical at an image that can be transformed into a living work of art.
What kind of potential do you see for this photograph?
This week I’ll use it as my canvas and next week I’ll show you what I see.