Do you always need to spend hours and days editing your images, or are there ways to speed up fine art processing? My answer is in this article.
WHEN, WHERE, WHY
I shot this image a couple of weeks ago in New York after my (en)Visionography workshop and I consider it a gift the city made me in a very gracious way, without me needing to do much for it. For which I can only say: thank you New York!
It is part of a project on night photography that I’m working on for a couple of years already but from which I haven’t published much. I am going to do that in the future and I’m quite excited by this project. I’ve shot by night in many cities over the past few years, and even if this can give you the chills sometimes when you’re alone in the streets, in the middle of the night, in an unknown city, carrying a load of gear with you, it has become quite addictive and I am now doing it systematically despite the risk. After all, there is no art without struggle, and no good things can come out if you don’t risk sometimes. Happily for this image I didn’t have to risk but it has offered me in a very generous way.
I believe, and this is what I’m also trying to pass through my writings and my teaching, that one should strive to create the best representation of his vision in the image he creates, no matter the photographic material he starts with, scene and conditions, because this in my opinion is what art does, re-creating the world, and by extension this is what fine art photography does. I consider photography as a tool just like other tools an artist can use to create art, like painting, drawing, sculpting or designing, so the end goal of using photography to express your vision is not to present a subject but to present the artist. I have written about this more extensively in my article Top 5 Tips for Creating Original Fine Art photography
AUTOBIOGRAPHIC FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHY
Creating the best representation of one’s vision in an image means to me that one should re-create reality to show it in a different way, a way that looks like himself and not like the reality he starts from.
I call this making autobiographic work and this is what I aim to do in my photography, not necessarily by telling the story of my life, which autobiographic would mean in a literal way, but by using photography to interpret the word in a way that is as unique, just like I am as an individual. I don’t believe in masses, I believe in oneness and that each of us has a different way of reacting to reality and can express a different and unique emotion in his work.
Most of the times this means working on an image you took from outside and re-creating it from many points of view, one of them being the light chart of the image which can take many faces depending on our artistic intention and the feelings we want to instill into the image. You can read here and extensive tutorial showing how I usually process my fine art architectural images.
FINDING YOUR VISION READY IN THE WORLD
Sometimes though, I admit not very often, you find an image outside that is ready for you and that expresses exactly your thoughts, or at least it is very close to what you need in order to transform the scene into (en)Visionography. This was one of those moments when the Empire State building just like the entire city was covered in diffuse soft fog, a phenomenon I had seen for the second time in New York and which always moves me deeply and instigate my imagination to create stories.
On a practical level what finding these conditions ready in front of me meant was that I could spend less time editing the image and found a way to speed up fine art processing.
THE DECISIVE MOMENT IN FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHY
I could call this a decisive moment, as I think Henri Cartier-Bresson would call it, and I’m grateful I was there to capture it.
I’m always going into great lengths to re-create the word in my images but I am also ready and happy when I find an image that expresses me so well that I hardly needs to do anything to change it. This is one of my quickest published image after its capture and one of the ones I’ve done the least processing to. My feelings were already there and for once, all I had to do was to be attentive enough to recognize them and capture them.
PROCESSING THE IMAGE
SPEED UP FINE ART PROCESSING
Night Photography. Handheld image with support.
– Camera settings:
1/6sec. , 28mm @ f/4, ISO 250,
CAMERA: Canon 5D MKIII
LENS: Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS
Black and white processing – Photography Drawing (PhtD)
– LR5, PS CC , Topaz B&W Effects (Topaz Labs B&W Effects 2 Full Review) +Topaz DeNoise + Topaz Detail + DxO View Point
You can see below how the image was looking in the color version with a little geometric correction I applied with the DxO ViewPoint and some basic processing I’ve done using the Topaz plug-ins.
Also you can see my layer palette, and those who know the way I’m processing my images generally will understand that this is an exception to my role as it contains so few layers and such limited processing.
What I did here was to work with general adjustments mainly, one of the thing I always say should be just the first step, but in this case it was a big step. The second thing I did was to work on the contrast and intensity of light by adding and removing it using bright and dark gradients applied selectively on the gray tones.
By publishing this article I also want to respond to those who asked me, and there were quite a few lately, if one really needs to spend hours and days working on an image or if there is a way to speed up fine art processing.
What I answer to this question is that this mainly depends on what you want to do with your image and how far you want to go with transforming it, but this also means that on the occasions you were lucky to find conditions close to your vision already there in front of you, then you may need a very limited amount of processing.
What is the moral of the story?
Photography is so vast and so wonderful that it cannot be enclosed in hard and fast rules, but these rules have to be just a guideline. Another conclusion is also is that spontaneity is paramount in photography and that the photographer is a photographer 24/7 and not only when he decides to go out shooting. We need to think and live as photographers, as artists, 100% of our life, even when we do other activities, because everything we see around us can be a subject for creation and can move our feelings and imagination so we can, in our turn, move the feelings and imagination of the viewer.
Flexibility, openness and curiosity are essential in finding and giving shape to your vision, and it has happened more than once that some of my favorite images were taken when I wasn’t even out shooting intentionally but had the camera with me so I can capture everything that moves me.
This is what happened this time, as I took this image while I was out with friends in a rooftop bar close to the Empire State Building and we were waiting to be seated. How much more of a deceive moment could you wish for?
FURTHER STUDY RESOURCES – FINE ART BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY, ARCHITECTURE, LONG EXPOSURE
You can find more tutorials on fine art black and white photography, (en)Visionography, long exposure photography and architectural photography in my extensive collection of photography tutorials. To receive my future tutorials directly via email you can subscribe to my website.
More about how to create fine art photography, from vision till processing and the final image you can read in my book From Basics to Fine Art – Black and White Photography, with co-author Joel Tjintjelaar, and in my video tutorial Long Exposure, Architecture, Fine Art Photography – Creating (en)Visionography a hands-on tutorial accompanied by an eBook presenting my processing workflow, or attend one of my workshops.
Julia Anna Gospodarou – (en)Visionographer
Julia Anna Gospodarou is an internationally acclaimed photographer, author and educator, teaching workshops and lecturing around the world. Founder of (en)Visionography™ and Photography Drawing™, co-author of the best-selling book From Basics to Fine Art, with high distinctions in the most important photography competitions worldwide, published internationally in numerous books and magazines, Julia is passionate about art and striving to spread it into the world.