I was a graphic designer first. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved photography, but if you asked me what I saw myself doing when I started college, it wouldn’t have been my immediate response.
I loved the commercial side of imagery. I loved noticing typography, layouts, the way words and pictures came together to convey an idea to an audience. I would have told you that my “dream” career was at an advertising agency brainstorming and creating for products or magazines. I think I like the psychology behind attracting an audience to those things. Also, while I am a creative, I am also a control freak. I think graphic design affords me the opportunity to fill that need to control things.
The thing is, I didn’t pursue that career in advertising. There were too many things in life that I wanted to do, so I couldn’t choose just one career path (and I still don’t, lol!). I’ve spent years floundering between industries, creative & business. I find I need both. As an independent photographer, I have found that I can melt these together and it satisfies my “crazy”.
When it comes to creating images, I am drawn to bright, vivid colors as well as stark black and whites, I’m also drawn to extreme textures from soft, creamy bokehs to sharp, edgy contrasts. Am I aware that most artists pick a niche/style and focus their energy there? Yes. Do I care? No. 😉 I’ve been made aware on more than one occasion that I don’t do things “right” in finding where I fit. I now embrace that I don’t really fit anywhere and it’s my decision to focus my energy on all-the-things! Sometimes, I just want to take an image from the camera and leave it alone, only tweaking the tiniest of things. A highlight here, a shadow there. Other times, I want to take an image I really-really LIKE out of the camera, and enhance it in a more dramatic way into something I LOVE.
I’m not talking about throwing a filter on and calling it a day. Here’s a taste of how the magic happens!
An image before vs. image after...
Photographers get lucky a lot! It’s an art of observation so we notice things and know when and how to capture that. But, there’s also a side that is not at all a “happy accident”. It’s all planned and carried out meticulously because we want to make it SEEM like it just happened that way (or in some cases, we want to make it extreme and obviously not as it came out of the camera)!
Take this image I've shared recently, for example:
Wardrobe? Planned. Location? Planned. Time of day? Planned. Lighting? Planned.
I was thrilled with the set because I got to have that control I crave. I was thrilled with the images because I realized I could dive in a bit deeper!
This was shot on my Nikon D7500. We were wrapping up at our final stop of 3 locations and the sun was going down. I use a MagMod Pro Kit with Godox speed lights in a lot of my shooting because I like to play with light and shadow. It allows me a lot of ease with wireless capabilities. Off camera flash is even helpful during midday shoots providing a great fill light to lessen the harsh lighting on a sunny afternoon.
For this shot, you can see, the sun was to her back and low, we were losing it pretty fast. I placed my off-camera flash to illuminate my model rather than have her in the shadow. The sunset was providing a little bit of warm glow to the tree line and ground which was exactly what I wanted. My plan was to keep the frame wide, so I kept that in mind when placing my light as it would have to be edited out.
I post process using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. I like the image with some minor color enhancing right in Lightroom, but something made me want more so… since I had to edit my light out in Photoshop, I decided to make a few additional changes. In the original, once the light source had been removed, one would be left to wonder how her face was lit given the sunset was to her back... I decided to source a different sky and then enhanced that with sun rays.
Photoshop works in layers. This meant selecting the original sky and popping the new one in that shape (in its own layer).
The sun rays are another layer which had to be screened to remove any other information from that particular overlay. This step created too much of a haze over my subject, so I selected her and the foreground in the original layer carefully, copied those details into a new layer and placed that on top of the others. The subject and foreground layers were then adjusted to brighten and sharpen them. A few other tweaks here and there, and then the image was flattened to create the final product!
Not all sessions are built for this and not every image can’t be altered in the same ways. There is a lot of thought, planning, time and experience put into the details!