by Ctein

I've observed a tendency for digital photographers to just take what their cameras hand them. Folks put up on-line galleries of their digital photographs for comment, critique, and simple enjoyment, but it's rare for those photographs to be anything different from what they downloaded from the camera.

These folks are unconsciously operating much the same way slide film photographers did (more correctly, were forced to). Unless they are intentionally trying to present the world entirely as the camera saw it, this is a profound artistic mistake.

Those of you who did wet darkroom printing before you took up digital photography should recall how you approached printing negatives.

When you would go to print a negative, you'd instinctively view it as the starting point for a finished photograph, not as the final word. You'd make a test print and mull it over. You'd decide if you liked the cropping and composition, the contrast, the lightness/darkness, and whether you needed to do any dodging or burning in (the latter you might not be able to determine until you had nailed down the other qualities). It's the mindset that's important here; you never assumed that the negative handed you a finished print; it was up to you to figure out what the photograph should look like.

(Those four basic characteristics, by the way, are good ones to think about with digital photographs, too. At least, the cropping and composition and the overall contrast and brightness. Even the simplest image-handling programs will let you manipulate those.)

You'd see the converse of this when photographers printed slides in the darkroom. Many folks produced much worse (in the artistic sense) prints from slides than they would from a negative. Because the slide already handed them a viewable photograph, they unconsciously fell into the mental trap of accepting the slide instead of treating it as the starting point for making a really good image.

Too many digital photographers fall into this trap. What they need to do is start to train themselves to see that fresh-from-the-camera digital photograph that looks 'pretty good' as nothing more than the beginning of a satisfying photograph, not the end result. Think of it as you would a negative, not a slide, no matter that it looks like one.

Don't let those bits push you around; you're supposed to push them around!

Posted by CTEIN


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