There are shots that are created as God intended. Where the conditions, the subject, the technical elements and the composition all line up to create perfection at the moment of capture. Anyone who is an accomplished photographer has experienced this synergetic beauty, and strives to recreate the magic as often as possible.
I’m no exception to this aspiration. I like to think that I’m just as likely as the next pro to make it happen on a regular basis. On the other hand, there are plenty of times when most of the elements line up, but there’s something missing. Maybe it’s a blown exposure, perhaps the subject is making a goofy face when they’re supposed to be stoic, or perhaps, as in this case, the composition is safe but far from captivating.
When I get a shot that’s almost super but not quite, I’ve found a happy solution; throw out the rules and play. Tweak the exposure, add some noise, go grayscale, blow some highlights, block some shadows, rotate, crop and otherwise hammer on the composition.
There are two things that can happen after a bit of playing. One, I’ll look at a bunch of convoluted versions of an average image and still declare that it’s less than stellar and move on to the next image. Or, two, I’ll fall in love with a couple of elements in the image and find a way to highlight these elements while removing distractions.
In this case, I knew that there was good movement in the foot drag and that the light was fantastic, but I wasn’t in love with the composition, and didn’t find myself overly attached to the colors.
When I cropped into a tight horizontal, so many of the distracting elements were eliminated that the eye now automatically goes to the dragging foot and the dynamic rock and dust explosion. A crop this significant definitely begins to generate potential image quality issues as it takes the 16MP of the Nikon D4s and reduces it to a 6MP file. To combat this, I threw the idea of a technically perfect image out the window and embraced grit. I also generated a black and white conversion that creates a filmic look, therein reducing the expectation of digital perfection. I even added some grain to prove that I’m not messing around. I wanted this image to be dirty.
Whether or not you dig the end result, the primary point stands. You only get a millisecond to capture an image, but you’ve got all of the time in the world to experiment with the results. Why not have some fun and see if you can create something better than before. The creative process for imagery doesn’t end until someone hits print or publish. It’s good to keep playing.
How do you feel about using Photoshop as a creative tool?