If you are anything like me, you probably have folders upon folders of photos that have never been post processed. It is easy to fall into the pattern of shooting and backing up stills without ever taking a 3rd or 4th glance. When you fall into this pattern it is even easier to miss the gems that you never took the time to go through. I say this because I have experienced it first hand and today was a great example of why you shouldn’t be so quick to ignore that batch of photos. When in Telluride, CO a few weeks back I finally had an opportunity to hit the mountain and test my skills while capturing my friend Chris skiing. I brought out the Sony A7Rmii, attached it to my chest and followed Chris around the mountain looking for good light and powder.
By the end of the couple weeks I had one or two photos that I felt really good about – and a handful of mediocre photos. I still felt obligated to edit the mediocre shots but never really was impressed by what it was turning into, so I half – assed the rest of the edit. And honestly I never had much of a vision of what these photos could be so I was ready to move on from these. A few days after editing the batch and sending them off to Chris, he mentions “I think I see some potential in these but its just not there yet.” We spent the next hour or so going back and forth on the vision he had and how to make this photo more compelling. Our goal was to keep the emphasis on Chris (our ski subject). The chopped up snow in the foreground is what really made me want to toss this photo. It is a distraction from our subject and it really takes you out of the image.
This is our RAW image above. By the time Chris receives my first edit, he will see the photo below.
I originally chose black and white because I wanted to see the textures and leading lines that the harsh light would give. Shooting midday, using no ND, I worked with what I had and made the best of it.
As Chris stumbled along his words trying to describe his vision, I continued pushing the black and white values until I saw more contrast in the subject and the environment. We were getting close to our goal but our frame was still cluttered and was not pulling you into the image like I wanted.
Chris then mentions “why don’t you do a vignette or something similar in the bottom corner and maybe push the black a little farther. “
With hesitation, I clicked on the Grad filter in Lightroom. I normally strive to keep my image as natural as possible so pushing the black levels to this extreme usually is a no go for me but I soon realized that every situation (in this case, every photo) has it own set of margins and sometimes those margins are mean’t to be pushed.
After adding the grad filter, the vision became more apparent. I began adjusting the values a little more and brought the color of the subjects jacket into the image. I did this by switching over to Photoshop from Lightroom and creating a layer mask and fine tuning it from there.
At last, I added some color into the wall of smoke, in order to create the illusion that the subject is ripping through the snow… slowly shedding his color behind.
At first I was not very interested in editing this batch of photos and I had no vision and I wanted to just toss the photos but after spending the time experimenting and talking to Chris I began to see a new creative direction. I dabbled into some old tools and I pushed what I thought this photo was capable off… and then some. Out of something I thought was mediocre, I was able to create something I am proud of, which goes to show you that you shouldn’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone, use your creative energy, and experiment! It may just be a new door that opens for you.