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Camera play

Over the last few years – ever since I began blogging regularly, really – I’ve been working on improving my photography skills, both in the taking of the pictures, and the processing of them later.

On the one hand, I think that you should be able to get a fantastic shot straight out of the camera without ever firing up Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, or the multitude of other image-editing software out there.

But on the other hand, maybe you can’t.  (Or maybe you can, if you’re a better picture-taker than I am.)  At this point in my evolution at least, it can’t be denied how much a little tweaking can bring life to an otherwise ho-hum image:

212/365

Isn’t that a little better?  I used Paint Shop Pro X2 to add some warmth to the colors and increase the saturation of the reds.  I also applied an unsharp mask to better define the water droplets, and used the burn tool to darken the background a touch.  (Increasing saturation by color, using unsharp mask, and the burn tool were all ideas I picked up from The Pioneer Woman.)

I wonder, if I were a more advanced photographer, and I knew how to manipulate all of the settings on my camera in the proper way, could I have gotten my photo to look this way without any editing after the fact?  And if not, then is this photo really an accurate representation of what I saw?  Or did my eyes really see the less crisp, less vibrant version that my camera did in the first photo?

Do real photographers do a lot of post-picture-taking processing, or are their shots fabulous from the start? Any real photographers care to comment?

I have a book that I plan to spend some time with this weekend, called How to Photograph Absolutely Everything.  I enjoyed it last year when I picked it up from the library, but I now have my own copy, and I am eager to learn!  The better my photos are SOOC, the less I have to mess around with them in software later.

Unless, of course, I am looking to give them some special effects…

Like these two, both of which started with the punched-up image above and were edited from there.  (Click on the photos for a better look – they are more impressive enlarged.) The one on the left was achieved by playing with the curves in PSP.  The one on the right was uploaded to Picnik, and cross-processing was applied.  Neither one of these looks really comes across as natural.  They seem more like they were taken in 1972 and then left in a drawer somewhere to fade.  I really love that effect.

I’m still working on a foolproof method for duplicating these looks – I seem to try something different every time – but there is a lot of inspiration out there on flickr.  Some of my favorite contacts who use that faded vintage effect beautifully are Tracy (pricklypearbloom) and Kristen (mainemomma).  You should check out their photostreams if you are not familiar with them.  The Shutter Sisters flickr pool is also brimming with some fabulous shots.

I’d love to talk “photo processing” with you, if any of you have favorite software, effects, or tips you’d like to share!

8 thoughts on “Camera play

  1. My peonies are blooming right now too Lisa! I remember a couple of years back when you talked about them I was surprised that not only were mine the identical color but they were blooming at the identical time… which is so neat since you’re in New Jersey and I’m in British Columbia Canada. The world really isn’t that big, is it?
    .-= See Cindy Lietz, Polymer Clay Tutor’s latest blog post: Dangle Bangles – Copper Metal and Polymer Clay Bracelets [Gallery] =-.

    1. No, I guess it isn’t!

  2. Hey Lisa: Before I went into public education I was in the photo biz for 20 years. Yes, real photographers use just as many editing tricks as do amateurs. Also, the picture edited is just as real and “ethical” as the unedited version. Overall, most people prefer more saturation and warmer hues. Just my 2 cents.

    1. That’s good to hear. I sometimes feel like I’m cheating 🙂

  3. While I know almost nothing about photography, I sure do miss my grandmothers peonies. Apparently they don’t grow in Texas, where I live now, at least not in this part. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    1. My pleasure 🙂 We have this one peony plant, and it usually just gives us one single bloom. This year we have a second one coming in, too, so I’m very excited. I just love the color and the smell of these!

  4. Hi Lisa, have you looked into taking the classes given by Shutter Sister, Tracey Clark? She has one coming up in July called Picture Summer. I took Picture Spring and it really inspired me to take better photos. Check out my blog for our photo prompts during the month of April when Picture Spring was held.

    Most of the time I edit with Picasa and sometimes I edit with Picnik. I have Adobe Photoshop but I haven’t been able to load it onto my computer because my disk drives aren’t working. Grrr….

    You’ve inspired me to capture my peonies today!
    .-= See Rebecca’s latest blog post: Virginia Beach =-.

    1. I’ve been thinking about taking that class, actually! It’s nice to hear from someone who’s done something similar and considers it worthwhile 🙂

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