Last year, I wrote about how I was on a mission to change people’s approach to photo editing. Well, I’ve learned a lot in this process and I wanted to share it with you. It relates a lot to things I’ve learned while looking at thousands of photos (that you’ve submitted as a group), specifically while finding photos for my latest No Light, No Problem (Volume 2) course.
But even if you’re not buying the course, this mission and the things I’ve learned about photo editing are still 100% applicable to everyone, so please read on and I’d even love it if you shared with a photographer you think could use it.
Plus, please leave a comment below and let me know how far along this journey you are, and if this resonates or not. I’d love to hear what you think.
First, to recap… I left Kelby about 5 years ago. Went to ON1 for about a year, but decided it was time, instead, to start my own training platform at MattK.com. Since then, I’ve done something different. I’ve made my contact information very available. Anyone that has emailed a question (non customer support, like billing or downloads) to my Support address has gotten an answer from me. I wasn’t really able to do that in my previous life as an educator because the “job” was just so busy.
But now that it’s my company, I spend about 60-90 minutes a day just answering questions. And let me tell ya’… it’s been eye opening!
A New Trend In Questions
As time went on I started to notice a trend in the questions. Nobody was asking what the Exposure slider did. Nobody asked what Shadows and Highlights did or the Temp or Tint sliders. But yet, of all the courses I released as well as others, that’s the topics we covered. Sure… if you’re new, you need that “Start here” training. And trust me, there is no shortage of material out there for you to learn from.
But I also know many of you reading this aren’t brand new, and you’re looking to take your editing to the next step.
But I think the disconnect is that many people feel the next step is just more advanced sliders or settings – and I don’t think it is. I know that people think it’s the next step because the majority of questions I get are about things like sharpening, noise reduction, and lens corrections. And also things like keywords, metadata, XMP files, hard drive choices, and catalogs.
All things that have 0.0001% impact on how your photo will really resonate with people when you share. Not one of those things will change anything about how your photo looks to the rest of the non-photographer world.
It Got Me Thinking…
It got me thinking. See, I’ve changed my courses up from just editing my photos. In most of my new courses, I’ve solicited photos from my community so that I get a wide variety of genres and problems to work with. After looking at these photos I started to notice something in common with most of my thoughts on them. I realized that “technically”, the photographer did everything right. It was sharp, and for the most part well exposed.
But what almost all of them were missing was the “art” behind the editing of the photo. Whether it was the crop (yes, cropping is an art), the subject being darker than all of the distractions around the subject, or a “flat” look to the image. Almost all of my comments were the same and went something like this: (by the way, this is photo from my recent course, photo credit Jacinthe Brault)
“…first I think it’s a great travel photo and you’ve captured a really nice expression which is first and foremost. From there, I’d say his hat is the brightest thing in the photo – and his face is the darkest. Let’s start by fixing the hat…”
“Then try toning down the background so we’re not drawn to it. When we can’t control the lighting, the background is often the brightest part of the photo and we usually need to change that.”
“Finally, let’s use some of the selective adjustment tools like the Radial filter to contour some natural light to his face and eyes, so that he’s the star of the photo, and not the hat or anything else around him. And we need to make it look natural, and not like we just shined a spotlight on his face”
Your Camera Doesn’t Work!
I believe that, for the most part, our cameras don’t capture what we see. They’re limited in range and our eyes see WAY more. And even if they did capture exactly what we see, I think we’d still be surprised at how much editing we still need to do to make our photos look like we imagined they looked when we were there.
Why? Because we were there!
We know exactly what we were looking at and experiencing. The person in the photo was all she was paying attention to, so of course nothing else jumped out to her. Our eyes (and our brain) would have naturally toned down the brightness of that hat so the scene looked even.
But when that photo hits the computer, and our intended audience online, all of that 3D personal experience goes away. And our photos sometimes tend not to live up to our expectations of what we thought.
But I believe getting them there is a creative process that CAN BE TAUGHT!
My Mission Continues
So where is this all going? Like I said last year, I’m on a mission. And while I can tell that the mission has had an impact on many of you, I still think there’s room for more.
I’ve taught plenty of the what and how in photo editing. Now I’m on a mission to talk more about the why behind everything. It’s much harder that way. As you can imagine it’s easier to do a video and just tell you what I’m doing and never explain why. Heck, sometimes I don’t even know why at first. I’ve done it enough, that moving the sliders just happens.
And trying to put what I’m thinking in to words takes WAY longer.
But that has changed, because… well… I’ve been listening to you. I believe the magic behind photo editing isn’t in “what” sliders and settings we use. It’s WHY AND HOW we use them. And that the most important tools we have are the Brushes and Gradient/Radial filters because those are the tools that let us direct attention to various parts of the photo.
Step 1 of this mission has already happened and if you’ve watched any of my tutorials lately you should have seen it. But another key step is to continue to create courses that focus on this, and preset you with new photos, challenges, and ideas to work with.
In fact, in these courses I almost defiantly guarantee you that you WILL NOT LEARN ANY NEW TOOLS. That’s my promise 🙂
You already know the tools! Just like me, as an intermediate guitar player, I know the notes on the guitar. But I need as much creative input as I can to learn how to really use those notes. And that process never stops.
It’s why I decided to create my new No Light? No Problem (Volume 2) course. Not only does it take a very popular problem which is, sometimes we aren’t graced with great light in all of our photos, but does that mean we shouldn’t have the photo we hoped for. But it also tackles the why behind my editing. I try to explain what I’m looking at, and why I think it needs to change and why I use a certain tool to change it.