Wouter Brandsma has done it again and just now raised yet another interesting topic on his blog… the sharing of post-processing techniques. In his particular case, black and white conversion techniques.
Well, I find it interesting anyway because not so very long ago I discussed something similar here.
The thing that intrigues me about this is, what does a person (the recipient that is) hope to gain from such sharing? And is it that they’re interested in post-processing techniques in general, or how specific images have been post-processed?
If the former, then to some extent I can understand it. But what can be gained therefrom that cannot be gained, for example, by experimenting with the many different filters and effects that come shipped with (or can be added on as plug-ins to) most of the various image editing apps that are available?
That said, I can well understand that the sharing of “tips and tricks”, in a very general sense, could be amazingly helpful. Indeed, I’ve benefited from such myself in the past.
But if the latter, then I find I become rather more uncomfortable with the notion.
Much I suppose depends upon the motivation of the enquirer. Is it that they are genuinely interested in how the “style” or “atmosphere” of an image, or some indefinable quality of an image that renders it compelling, was created because they are so fascinated by the image that they quite innocently want to know all there is to know about it? Because the image “speaks to them” in some way and they want to fully understand the language?
Or is it that they’re seeking to emulate that same style or atmosphere in their own images?
And it is here that I have mixed feelings. On the one hand it’s good to share. In an abstract sort of way. Explaining how things are done, and why they’re done one particular way in preference to another. And so on. And it would be quite legitimate to use a photograph as an example of the application of a particular effect or parameter adjustment… without necessarily going into all the other variables that may have been manipulated.
In such a case, it as as though the explanation comes first, with the photograph almost being secondary. But if we’re talking about taking a specific photograph (or set of photographs) and explaining in detail how it (or they) have been processed, then I am hesitant.
This hesitancy is (I think) caused by the way I perceive the whole post-processing thing. For me it seems to be an intrinsic part of the entire creative process.
Yes, there are certain general “rules and guidelines” I suppose, but ultimately I see it as part of a unique “conversation” that occurs between the photographer and the photograph in the various stages that precede the appearance of the final image.
A conversation that is unique to a particular image, and likely not readily transferable to just any other old image at random. Not in specifics at least.
Moreover, a conversation that (so it seems to me) is very personal and intimate, possibly not even very clearly understood by the photographer him(or her)self… something “sensed” rather than fully articulated in the mind.
I like how Wouter describes the notion of sharing all this as sharing something of himself. Yes indeed. That is almost exactly how I feel about it and, were I in his position, whether or not I would want to participate in such sharing would depend almost entirely upon who I’m sharing with.
Undoubtedly there are many people that are willing to share their innermost thoughts and feelings, their fears and doubts, their aspirations and desires, with all and sundry. They wear their heart on their sleeve, un-self-consciously and un-embarrassedly. Nothing wrong with that, if that’s the sort of person you are.
And I wouldn’t be at all surprised to discover that many creative people are indeed like that.
But neither is there anything wrong with not being like that. With being more private, more unrevealing of one’s innermost self. And I guess (despite occasional appearances to the contrary) that I fall into this alternative camp.
Perhaps this is just a manifestation of that alleged “national characteristic”, the famous “British reserve”. Though I prefer to think of it in terms of exercising discrimination in my relationships with people; having varying degrees of “off limits” according to where a person ranks in my social circle as it were. Some things are ok to be shared amongst many, even amongst chance acquaintances or strangers, whilst others are reserved for those to whom I’m particularly close.
Is this reading far too much into what is, after all, just “messing around with pictures”. I think not. Not if, as Wouter says, the whole post-processing bit is very personal and sharing it is like sharing something of yourself.
What is given to the world at large is the finished image. Let that be sufficient. At least for the general audience.
Wouter also makes the very valid point that his post-processing techniques are, in his own words
part of my style that I developed and keep on developing
And again, yes indeed. He’s undoubtedly much further along the path of developing his own style than am I (or so it seems to me), but I too am now conscious of something that’s clearly been occurring with me for quite a while yet had hitherto passed unnoticed by me… slowly, ever so slowly, the development of a style. Or, perhaps more accurately, an approach.
I’m not entirely sure what its final form will be, if indeed there will ever be a “final” form (for is this not a dynamic and ongoing process, that is forever subtly changing and shifting?).
Nor am I deliberately striving toward a particular style or approach. It feels to me rather more like standing back and watching something emerge of its own volition, with as little conscious or ego-driven input from myself as possible.
The emergence, if you like, of a tangible form that expresses all those many things (thoughts, feelings, experiences) that inform the way I perceive the world.
Moreover, I wonder whether the act of taking this, grasping it firmly, analysing and dissecting and explaining it for the benefit of another, or an even larger audience, would in some way impact that emergence? Would cause it to change and become something else? Something perhaps less natural… more artificial, more contrived, more deliberate and consciously manipulated? Even more “rule driven” maybe?
And if it be that such an act of analysing and explaining is simply for the purpose of helping others to develop their own unique and distinctive style, a part of me wonders how truly helpful such sharing is?
Surely the process of developing one’s own style or approach should be driven from within oneself, and not simply the result of “trying different things on” in the hope of discovering a “best fit”? How can that possibly be a true expression of one’s own personality and being?
And of course, there’s always that cautionary thing about not casting one’s pearls before swine!
Or am I missing something fundamental here?