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A Pro-Post Post

November 5, 2010

When I began taking photographs, I posted everything to Flickr.  As my skills developed, looking back at my past work became more and more of embarrassing experience.  Of course, images posted on Flickr are not engraved in stone or even paper for that matter.  It’s pretty effortless to delete them.  No one would know.  The first photo I ever posted likely hasn’t been looked at in over three years.  And yet, it’s quite satisfying looking through my photo stream to see how my photos have evolved.  Aside from composing better shots, I’ve also become a much better editor.  Here’s a quick look at the evolution of my post-production.  In most cases, I’ve taken the best examples of each phase.

June 10, 2006 – I think this is the first shot I ever “edited.” Back then it would of been in iPhoto and would of been no more than moving the saturation slider to MORE SATURATION.  Back then, you could never have enough.

July 25, 2006 – A month later, most of my post-production work looked something like this.  For a long time, this was my favorite shot.  At that point in time, I believe I had decided that taking pictures of small inanimate objects was my “thing.”  For the next few weeks or so this type of photograph was all I did.  I can’t say I know what my work flow looked like then, only that I had switched over to Photoshop.

August 19, 2006 – Ah yes.  Shadow/Highlight.  A tool in Photoshop that allows brighten shadows, bring down highlights and create a lot of mid-tone contrast.  After being let in on the secret, I made it my mission to use to all the time, regardless of whether it served the photograph or not.  I also started using textures and vignettes at this point.  I actually still really like this photograph.  I would edit it very differently but I would take it the same way.

January 3, 2007 – My use of texture continues unhindered.  I had also purchased a macro lens by this point so I began taking a lot of close-up portraits.  By now, I had begun making my own textures by photographing walls, crumpled paper and other surfaces so I didn’t have to keep ripping off other people.  In many cases, my use of texture was completely unjustified.  However, in this case I think it serves the photograph.

May 25, 2008 – Yup, still going.  I believe this is one of the last photographs I ever added texture to before cutting myself off completely. In this image, I  spent a lot of time working them into the background while leaving the foreground grit free in order to create an interesting contrast.  I had also begun to make extensive use of layer masks at this point in order to selectively lighten and darken specific areas of the photo.

May 31, 2008 – One fateful day, I tagged along with a few other photographers to photograph these two abandoned buildings.  The light was incredible.  Because I was shooting in RAW, I was able to alter the white balance to further enhance the lighting aesthetic.  Up until that point, I had nearly always gone with the camera’s white balance reading.  Following this trip, I began opting to choose select extremes on the white balance scale in order to achieve bold, almost unnatural color.

July 24, 2010 – I’ll leave you with a shot taken this summer.  Recently, I’ve been working at achieving a more subtle look while still maintaining a high level of polish.  I believe I’ve succeeded in this particular case. I’ll likely go back to a more vibrant look in the future, but for now I like where I’m at.  Maybe in four years I’ll look back and cringe.

Taylor Summach is a photographer from Manitoba who also writes for Parade. Check out his website.

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