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How Photographers Can Be Like Your Annoying Friends on FB

We all have those friends on Facebook.  The ones who shit rainbows.  The mothers who are blessed with the most angelic children and must post a million status updates about their charmed lives.

  • My hubby is my bestest friend in the whole wide world.  I love you, baby.  Ha!  He’s right here next to me on the couch!
  • Boo. My baby’s sick. But at least he can stay home from school and we can cuddle all day long.  I hope he’s sick tomorrow.  LOL I’m so bad:)
  • One poopy blow-out at the grocery.  Two trips to the grocery b/c I forgot sugar.  Three fights stopped by Moi. Four arms wrapped around me in a hug.  Priceless.

Meanwhile, you’ve already settled fifty-eleven fights and you’re staring at the box of wine wondering if 1 p.m. is too early for a drink.  Yesterday your kid was sick and actually threw up all over your face as you carried him to the toilet.  And you husband was a raging asshole last night because he had a hard day at work.  You finally catch a break to see what the rest of the world’s up to on FB only to feel like you’ve fucked up this whole Motherhood thing.  Clearly your friends have it all figured out and you’re left feeling extra-shitty.

I get it.  People want to put their best foot forward.  People want to look shiny and lovely.  So they type the best stuff on Facebook, Twitter, and emails.  I usually wonder how honest people are really being.  It’d be nice to see them raw once in a while.  Make the rest of us feel more human.  Funny thing is Shiny people aren’t only on FB.  I think photographers can suffer from the same Rainbow Poop Syndrome.

When I first started sharing my photos, I felt like my images were missing something compared to other photos.  Yes, I was still growing (when do you stop?), but something was off.  Then I discovered that most photographers’ images aren’t SOOC (straight out of the camera).  Enter processing.  I started using Photoshop because that’s what my husband had for work.  I fell in love with tweaking images.  I quickly found that a lot of photographers hate sharing techniques.  I never asked because I didn’t want them to laugh: “Oh you think you can edit a photo?  Silly little girl.”  I read their rants and the hundreds of commenters who agreed with them.  I always felt they were missing the point.  Art is always a copy of a copy.  Or nicer put: art is always inspired from someone else’s work.  I will never be able to photograph like Photog ABC because I don’t have their eye.  It’s that simple.  However all that being said, if I was the first person who did the Dutch angle, shoved a baby in a basket, or did the hand heart over the pregnant belly, I might be pissed  the market is full of those shots.  Edits are a different story in my opinion.  But what do I know?

Some photographers don’t mind sharing.  I love David duChemin.  A few months ago I finally read Vision & Voice: Refining your Vision in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.  When I cracked it, I thought there’s no way that he really changes the image much with LR.  One night while I was stuck in a TGIF’s in Michigan, I was shocked all over again (You should be shocked I was in a TGFI’s.  I am every single time).  His image was strong, but the edits made them powerful.  I had been editing photos for years, but it’s always nice to see and be encouraged by someone’s editing style.  Photographers also create actions or presets which help give a similar look.  Plus they speed up the editing process.  But I don’t find that an action or preset is one click solution.  I haven’t found one action or preset that works on every single image.  You have to play and learn the basics.  More important, you need to develop your own eye for what you want your images to convey.   At first, my hand was heavy.  Eventually, I tried to process as truthfully as possible.  I’m not a fan of using textures or a bunch of haze.  I’m not knocking, it’s just not my thing.  I’d like something that will look true in a decade and won’t make me cringe at my Muted Phase.  I’d hate to have all my photos from 2011 be desaturated only to jump into over-saturated photos in 2012.  What I take with my camera is the beginning.  How I edit them is the artistic end.

I’m still loving and mainly using VSCO presets in LR4.  Recently because I was getting a bit bored with editing, I purchased One Willow’s Palette collection.  I was pretty hesitant because, in the past, her actions weren’t my style.  But Palette delivers nice and subtle changes to the image without making me fiddle with the sliders.   There’s a lot of haze options in this package which I’m not a fan of, but I enjoy the gentle pops and color boast the other presets offer.  For the past few months, I’ve been tweaking my own Black & White conversions.  Bump up the whites and the blacks and adding some clarity to the mix.  For me a Black & White conversion is more about the image.  It has to say something or else the conversion feels like I’m forcing it to be artsy.

In the beginning I felt like my photos would never measure up.  It would have been nice to know that the photographer spent some time with each image.  Instead of me thinking he/she cranked out gorgeous shit on a daily basis, I’d like to see what they start with.  I’d hate to be that friend on Facebook and only be shiny.  I figured I’d share some Before and After’s.  Show my photos’ rawness (100% SOOC) and shed some light on the blog.  I don’t mind sharing.  I love a good Before & After.  I wish more photographers did it.

My exposure was off during these photos and I’m pretty sure my camera’s focus is going soft.  I try really hard to get exposure correct in the camera because it means less editing time and sometimes you just can’t save a photo.  Becks was being Becks and I wanted to photograph it.  I used VSCO Fuji 400H and intensified the shadows and warmed up the little bit of evening sun.  I tweaked the shadows tones, soften his cheek just a tad, and sharpened his eye (remember my focus is going).

Pretty much ditto as the first photo but I highlighted his sunburn with some red.  Sorry, doc.  They got burnt this weekend and I figured I’d show it in the photo.   This photo also made me realize that my focus is shifting.  Got to fix that pronto.

I used One Willow for this edit.  I wanted the dark and light to be the star of this photo.  It was about 10 p.m. and the boys were surviving by that light.  I bumped up the blacks and used warm filter near the lantern to highlight the glow.

And because I love this image so much, I’m sharing it big.  He deserved to be in Black & White.  I didn’t want color to distract from his face.  After a basic B&W conversion, I made the blacks really blacks and made his eyes pop a bit with some dodging (lighten).  And then I add some clarity for the wrinkles.  Basically I think the edit let his wisdom and gentleness shine without all the extra stuff.  That’s my opinion and processing lets me scream it.

I’m not an expert.  Don’t ask me for specifics only to try to prove my amateur status.  Editing is all about what you like.  It’s about how you’re going to tell the story of your photos.  And how you want to remember the story two decades from the shutter’s snap.  I have definite opinions on editing styles.  There are things that I hate, but it’s only my opinion.  Everyone has one.  I’m sure you have thoughts on how I chose to edit these photos.  That’s fine.

I really wish more photographers would share B&A’s.  I’m not suggesting it all the time.  I like the magic and the shiny over the mucky Before’s.  I much prefer Baywatch Pam Anderson to the “Girl Discovered  in the Football Stands” Pam Anderson.  I just wonder what’s the hang-up about sharing 100% Before’s.  Maybe photographers don’t share techniques because they’re afraid of being replaced by the photographer who uses those techniques.  But I think most pro-photographers agree that being replaced is easier now than ever: skills or no skills.  Maybe photographers don’t share a lot because B&A’s are so glaring and full of contrast.  Or maybe photographers are afraid that B&A’s will make you think they’re a hack.  But you can’t polish a turd.  Photoshop hasn’t created an action called Shit Covering.  LR4 has some great improvements but doesn’t have a Poop Clearing filter.  You love a photographer because of how they see the world.  Their editing style is part of their storytelling similar to how a particular author constructs a paragraph.  The story is why you come back and their processing helps tell it.

Feel like getting raw?  Share a Before and After shot on my Facebook page.  I dare you.

  • Staci Lee - Such a great post. I am pretty new to photography. I have learned so much from photographers who were willing to teach me how to this or that. Thank you.August 2, 2012 – 11:00 amReplyCancel

  • Marisa - Thank you! I’ve been feeling my images are missing something, too, and I know it has to do with my editing. (Well, and sometimes the light, but I usually know when I have crappy light.)

    I really appreciate b&a posts. I’m going to check out that book and keep plugging away in LR.August 2, 2012 – 11:44 amReplyCancel

  • Xanthe Berkeley - And this is why I adore you so….
    I should probably add to the email I already sent you and tell you about the processing from the workshop… Let’s just say you are on the money. But you know that, right?
    Re: your msge today, only reply when you can… it’s summer and things are always a little slower.
    Big love X. xxxxAugust 2, 2012 – 4:22 pmReplyCancel

  • Susan Keller - hey, I resemble this post … oh well. I think I’m pretty sure that I think all passionate photographers go thru editing phases (for at least a short, or even long, period) – it’s like a rite of passage. your post gave me the push to finish a before/after post I’ve been meaning to do since June. Blogging during the summer is just painful…August 2, 2012 – 5:26 pmReplyCancel

  • allison mcd - thank you for this.
    and you just keep on keepin’ it real.August 3, 2012 – 5:06 pmReplyCancel

  • One photo: before and after » T Morris Photography - […] was visiting a fellow photographer’s blog last week and came upon one of her best posts ever. I have always appreciated Erika’s raw honesty and willingness to be vulnerable so the post I […]August 6, 2012 – 4:08 amReplyCancel

  • Martini Rc - You catched my attention, I love your style!June 11, 2016 – 11:10 pmReplyCancel

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