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!
Just enrolled in your new course and I am looking forward to the next 6 weeks with you. I am a Lightroom and Photoshop subscriber trying to improve my skills in both programs. The one nagging question that I have is “will Adobe ever improve the CLONE/HEAL brush capabilities in Lightroom” That feature of te software truly SUCKS, especially when compared to other software. The fact that I have to leave Lightroom, go to Phtoshop (or something else) and correct the problem, then return to Lightroom should be an unnecessary step in the edit process. The need for a layering capability is another issue and going to Photoshop is understandable, but routine post processing should not require Photoshop. This is one reason other programs like ON1 are more efficient in basic post processing. I have tried using Lightroom many times and the process and end result consistantly SUCK,
Hi. I guess I would ask back, what are you looking for. I personally think it’s great. It’s not for everything, since it requires something in the photo to be there to fix it and patch from. But it’s non-destructive on the raw photo. There are no other editors out there that have as good a clone/heal tool that’s non-destructive.
When you compare it to the industry’s best, Photoshop’s Content Aware tools, it’s not as good. But that’s to be expected. It’s what happens when you leave the non-destructive world and go in to the pixel world in Photoshop.
So… I think you’ll find it works great for basic things (telephone wires, blemishes, spots, and things that are surrounded by a lot of texture that is repeatable). As for them improving it, I don’t know. Haven’t heard anything about it.
Matt: Is there a way to put unique captions on individual photos in a LR slide show? In my case, I have photos of different birds seen on various trips, and would like to put the bird’s name on each photo. Thanx, Bob
Hi Robert. Try adding a caption to each photo and then going to Slideshow module and choose the “caption and rating” preset. Hope that helps.
My longevity has allowed me to “revisit” old photos, made ten or twenty years ago, some in the analogue realm, made into digital files.
The reality of mood, or new perceptions, guide me into new interpretations of an old vision and I seek the means to enable myself in such direction. Although I prefer to talk black & white, sometimes the silver salt process (print) does not suit my “mood (perception) and I resort to the monochromic character of old platinum/palladium “feeling”. On1 offered a preset with such designation, which I would further tune in Photoshop.
MK coaching has expanded my capacities and his later approach into “why” suirs me to perfection since I have always asked myself:”Why should I make this photo?”
The How, should be second nature, as knowing your own camera controls and capabilities. It is the why that enables a sense of purpose to any photo we make and, in so doing, facilitates the development process to be followed to achieve such objective. Thanks MK.
why, mood, circumstance- we are tip toeing around the elephant. Why was the photo taken in the first place? All the tricks, tips and tools at our disposal still need to serve a purpose. We are magicians we are making illusions of 3 dimensions from 2. It all still comes down to the holy trinity- light, subject and composition. When these come together to invoke a feeling or an emotion- you have a great photograph. Art is emotional and circumstantial. So, I agree the workflows need to be towards a predetermined goal or end to invoke an artistic expression of an emotion or feeling and different techniques will be needed to that end.
I very much liked nwiegman’s comments because it reminded me of Ansel Adams and his own concept that he pre-visualized what he wanted his photos to become, then shot them and went to the darkroom to bring them to fruition. Except that his “Moonrise…” prints from New Mexico changed over time, getting darker overall and with stronger contrast. So thinking ahead of what you want your photo to be is a good start, but it seems to be acceptable to change your mind in the editing stage, maybe even more than once.
What is a LUT?
LUT is (Matt’s) Less Understood Tutorial. Only kidding, it’s Look Up Table and is, in a not-entirely accurate phrase, a group of settings that apply like presets to a photo.
I agree that why is of more importance than how. I fully agree that mood and circumstance may be of even more importance some of the time. That means that teaching and the production of tutorials will become harder or more questionable. Simply because of the fact that mood and circumstance even more than why are strictly personal. That’s why I valued the recent dual production by Blake Rudis and Jim Welninsky. In its own right that touched at this same point.