Right with light: a discussion on the tools of the trade, part 2

The ability to “see” light and then learning to control it is what separates the good from the not so good in photography. While composition plays a part in good photography, the ability to capture the lighting is what makes it great. This brings up your “vision,” which includes more than what you see when you click the shutter. Great photographs place the viewers in your moment, bring them into your vision, invoking what you felt to tell the story of the moment beyond the lens.

Since the beginning, where do to draw the line between what is reality and what is vision has been a hot topic of discussion. The limitations of the camera sometimes limit what you can capture and present. We see with two lenses, our eyes, while the camera sees with only one. This limits the camera’s ability to see the depth and dimension our eyes see. We “process” every image we see with the powerful computer we call the brain. While we all have the same basic OS, each of us has custom settings based on our experiences.

As artists we take license to present our vision the way we want the viewers to see it. In the days before Photoshop, masters like Ansel Adams spent hours in the darkroom manipulating the camera’s limitations into his vision. With Photoshop we have the tools to apply our custom settings to the limitations of the camera. While I by no means can say how far each of us should go in these applications, I can say that that this is a tool that has taken photography into a new and more powerful creative position to communicate an artist’s vision.

In our process of development as photographers we need to take advantage of all the tools at our disposal. Which of the many postproduction programs you choose to apply to your vision is less important than mastering them as you would any tool you carry in your bag. I know there are many in the profession who feel that these programs degrade the purity of photography.  I can only say that each of us must be true to ourselves.


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