After visiting London and France this year I went back to basics with my photography. ND filter, tripod, 1 shot. It was great. I felt refreshed. I decided to update my portfolio and in doing so refresh, reprocess and remove some photographs. There’s a lot less of the over-processed HDR style. I launched the site, got great feedback and was happy.

Unfortunately my head chose to not let me enjoy my new work. For no reason what so ever I fell into depression. I decided all my work was rubbish and had no idea what I was doing with my photography. The way I treat depression is like a cold. It happens, it will pass, stay calm. My work isn’t bad. I’ve been published from China to LA, won awards and competitions. So it isn’t really rubbish its just the way depression effects things.

Its a soul destroying mood to find yourself in and you can’t do anything to change it. I’ve tried and I can’t. So I waited and waited but found things got worse. But like a cold it slowly started to get better. I started looking at others work and started to get inspired again.

I’ve shot a lot of film this year and the best thing about it is that once I’ve pushed the shutter the shot is done. Someone else processes it and gives me the end result. I accept that as being the end result and I’m happy. The problem with digital is I’m giving too many options. Does a shot need fill light, or increased blacks, or should the white balance be corrected? What is “right”? Well nothing really is. Its all subjective. Its all about what you are trying to say. The key problem was I just didn’t know what I was trying to say.

So I’m on my way out of this now and feeling better about my photography. While I’ve had bad days before I do feel like this is something different. Its something along the lines of what Zack Arias discusses in his video ‘Transform’. I feel like someones ripped my photographic eye out and a new one has grown in its place. Thats how this feels. Its a bloody tough process but I know its for the best. I feel like I’m looking at my work with a fresh eye.

My new way of processing is a lot more restrained than before. I’m probably going to bin all my old Lightroom presets and start over because each one has issues. Every time I try one I find my self going “Clarity 100?? Ew no. 0 thanks.” Dropping the contrast down and basically trying to get a more natural out the camera look. But why? What am I trying to say with this new style of processing? I think I’m simply trying to show the things I see without caking them under layers of makeup. The real question is though, if I take the makeup off is there a good photo underneath?

Here’s a few tests. The first of each set is the original processing.

The original is your classic 1 shot HDR. I decided that wasn’t really necessary so simply converted it to black and white in Lightroom.

The first is a high contrast uber-detailed HDR. The 2nd is a simple nice colour HDR. I kept the HDR as I really had to over-expose the building to get a bit of blue back in the sky. I’d just missed the perfect blue sky as I was shooting another building.

After looking at the first one again I really felt like it was too blue. Back when I originally edited it I was perfectly happy with it. Funny how things change. I dumped the HDR as I got all the detail I wanted from a single RAW processed in Lightroom.

Its entirely possible that many people will like the originals. Thats fair enough as I did at one time. I’m a slightly different person now though. Hopefully I’ll produce better work.


2 responses

  1. That’s a really interesting post, and one that I think a lot of people could relate to in one way or another. I’ve enjoyed reading a lot of David duChemin‘s stuff recently and found it helpful, particularly around processing being an extension of your original vision for the image. I often find I’ll process a raw file for some time in Lighroom, then compare it to the original and decide I’ve just spent ages making it look worse than it was right out of camera. I think the reason for that is that I was just hopelessly trying to make the photo “look better” rather than make the changes that make the photo closer to my original vision.

    I had a similar moment a few days ago where I started to question everything, and decided everything I have done was absolute rubbish. Those moments are even harder to recover from when you’ve had precisely nothing published, and are at the very beginning of what will hopefully be a long and enjoyable photography journey!

    Anyway, I’ve rambled enough. For what it’s worth, I like the more ‘natural’ look and enjoy your work.


  2. I think all photographers go through something like this. Or I should say photographers that grow and change will all face periods like this. The fact that you are willing to look at your work and take it in new and different directions shows that your photography will continue to evolve.