Bringing It All Together

September 29, 2017  •  Leave a Comment


Melissa Southern


Gated InspirationGated InspirationPHOTO COPYRIGHT MELISSA SOUTHERN Over the last few weeks, our blogs have focused on trying new things, looking for abstracts, and visualizing your image in advance and bringing that vision to life. This photo is an example of all of these concepts.


I have been teaching various photography classes at Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Durham, NC for the last several years. I have always enjoyed exploring the gardens and helping my students "see" everything around them, encouraging them to find new ways to look at the gardens.


This is NOT what the gate at the entrance to Duke Gardens looks like, but it is how I "saw" it in my mind. I decided to shoot a portion of the gate because I liked the shapes and the "doodles" and the feel of it, but the light was terrible, and I was not getting what I was visualizing in my head. That's okay. I took the lousy photo anyway with full intention of working it over in Photoshop to recreate my vision.


I started by framing the gate in the camera the way that I wanted it, including exactly the elements that interested me and focusing solely on those area instead of shooting a generic photo of the entire gate and trying to crop it later. I was taught to use the entire sensor of the camera, filling the frame, so that no pixel is wasted. 


At home, I used Aperture (Lightroom now) to make general adjustments to the photo. Then, I went to Photoshop and started to experiment. I selectively blurred the background areas. I increased the saturation, vibrancy, and contrast to the levels I liked. I added texture filters and some brush strokes. In short, I experimented with everything that I could at that time. Some of the experiments failed and were deleted. Others were successful and were saved, contributing to the final image.


Original Photo With Aperture Adjustments Final Processed Image


In the end, there is a resemblance between the original photo and the final image, but the final image is what I "saw" when I look at that gate. Photography is an art, and part of that art is developing what you "see," whether you do that with your combination of lenses, aperture, shutter speed, filters, etc. or with your combination of software applications and your skills on the computer in the digital darkroom. Be true to your vision and be able to explain what you did and why. Some photographs are purists and will not do anything in the computer except for general adjustments. Others are masters at Photoshop and can create composites of different photos that look entirely real. Either way is fine, so long as you are honest with yourself and your audience. To us, integrity in photography is essential. Go out there and find your vision and learn how to present your vision to the rest of the world.


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