I just finished up a landscape editing course for ON1 and it got me thinking after seeing some questions I’ve gotten recently. See, I’ve really tried to include more of the “why” in my tutorials lately. Rather than just show you “how” something is done, I think understanding what’s going on in my (or any teacher/coach’s) mind while they’re doing something can help.
I’ve been doing it for the better part of this year and it’s been working out great. People are really resonating with it. But that’s old news.
I have a thought that’s been swirling around in my head for a while and I think it’s just as important, if not more sometimes, than the “why”. The idea behind this thought is mood and circumstance. Should they not be part of your editing as well?
So often we get caught up in workflow. You watched a tutorial and were taught to do something in this order, and use this tool. And when we see a deviation from that we want to know why. And sure, sometimes it helps to explain why… that is if I know why.
But what happens when I don’t know why? When I deviated just because I was in the mood to? Also, what happens when the circumstances change. For example, when I did a 20 minute tutorial on how to darken the sky without darkening the trees and used some complex selection techniques, etc… But then a month later, I did another tutorial where I darkened the sky, and also darkened the trees a little in the process, but got the job done in 60 seconds.
Imagine someone following my YouTube channel and watching these tutorials. They’re probably like “What the heck! Which tutorial do I follow?!”.
So… Which one of those tutorials is right? They both are! In the first example, I was probably editing a photo I loved. A photo I thought I would print large, or put large on screen in an online portfolio. In that case, it was worth it to spend the time and energy. But in the second tutorial, it was a photo I just kind of liked. Not every photo is going to be your favorite right? And because of that, not every photo should be edited the same as another.
I’m realizing more and more lately, that these thoughts need to be part of the tutorial. They’re not necessarily an answer to “why”, but they’re still important. Sometimes the answer is just that I was in the mood to or I simply liked a photo better than another one.
See, I get a lot of questions like “When should I apply a preset, or profile, or LUT?”. Or when should I replace a sky, or where should I sharpen the photo. I guess it’s because consistency is good right. Get a good consistent workflow and all will be good in the world.
But in the real world, my taste changes. And I wish I could say that it only changes every few years. But sometimes, it changes in a few days!
I think that a missing ingredient in a lot of tutorials and education (regardless of the industry) is mood and circumstance.
Mood comes in to play because one day, I may feel like adding a quick preset to a photo. It could be because I don’t like the photo as much as others, or maybe I don’t have the time, or maybe I happened to click on the preset and thought it looked cool.
On the very next day, I may go through an hour of editing on a photo, and use a Luminosity Mask, and layers, and filters, and all the bells and whistles. Why? Because I was in the mood to. I know it’s hard to hear, and many of you want a more concrete answer, but sometimes that is the answer.
My Ego is Huge!
I’m very grateful in that I often get told that I’m a good teacher. And I really appreciate it – it’s those comments that keep me going. But, in this field, I think we can do a little more. Teaching is more about having a concept, presenting that concept and having someone understand it. But many times, that doesn’t prepare you for when things deviate from that concept. For me, I kind of like to think of what I do more as coaching.
Let’s take my son’s swim team coach as an example. A good coach looks at the person they’re working with and their strengths and weaknesses. They also look at the environment around them and assess it compared with who they’re coaching. One week they may be facing a team that requires a difference strategy than another. And then they develop a plan to work with that person. So, in essence, they’re doing more than just teaching a person how to swim.
I like being the coach. Now, obviously I can’t work with all of you individually right? But there are some things that I can do, like explain a little more about the softer skills in editing, and the intangible aspects of a photo a little more. And hopefully those topics help you embrace the “mood” behind your photos and that the circumstances behind every photo can be different. And, most importantly, that it’s TOTALLY okay and normal.
Anyway, if you’re a moody photographer or you just find it difficult to figure out what to do with your photos sometimes (and an ON1 user), I hope you’ll check out my new landscape course (check your email for an extra $20 coupon). I really try to present you with various options, without going overboard. And I try not to just show you one example of a technique. But rather talk about different moods, and when / why this technique works and give you a few options that it may work best on.
Have a good one!