As I learn photography one great opportunity is to go out with another photographer and sort of look over their shoulder to see what they are seeing. It’s great to explore different compositions, exposures, and also what other people are not looking at through their viewfinders. But of course, this is just part of the total process because you have to get the image out of the camera and into a form that you want, be it film or digital. For the latter, the options are broad, even with something basic as “do I portray this in color or black-and-white?” This seemingly simple decision, which fork in the road to take, leads the photographer into a web of further choices all designed as tools to “develop” the image into a desired final form.
The continual lesson of photography is intention – the photographer intends to act in a certain way in order to get a final image that closely matches their vision for the scene. The multiple tools can be frustrating without this intention, a seemingly unlimited and endless array of means leading to an infinite number of outcomes. The photographer has to bring order to this through choices, some before the shutter is clicked and some during the development process.
Because I’m still learning, it’s great to see how other photographers handle their decisions. Last week I was out shooting with a classmate from school this summer and today he sent me some of his images from that day. One decision he made for a scene was to convert it to black-and-white, resulting in a great looking image. What surprised me was that I had basically deleted this option in my mind because I was concerned about the colors and contrasts. By reminding me of this simple option, my classmate reminded me to consider all the options first, then act down the path that best leads to my intention.
Above is the scene I chose to work on in this fashion – same image showing the RAW, color developed and B&W developed versions. Amazing how the different approaches lead to different emotions about the same scene.