I constantly struggle with developing my images in Lightroom. It’s not because I don’t know how or that I’m not good at it (I’m not great at it, but that’s has nothing to do with my reasoning,) it’s because I am still working to break my old habit of sharing my images as they’re captured, in an effort to be as true to the moment as I can. In my humble opinion, this was easier during the days of film and before digital manipulation was as prolific as it has become today. There is a sort of moral balance that must be achieved when manipulating your images, because at some point, the image you’re sharing may be nothing like the scene you captured.
Long before the days of Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook, we had to have our photos developed or if you were fortunate enough to have the equipment, develop them yourself and display them either through print publications or gallaries to receive any recognition. Neither of these were very viable options for me at the time when I was learning. As a teenager I had far too many other things distracting me from the potential that others saw in my photography. I’ve had the good fortune to learn photography before digital cameras were affordable or very good, but also the opportunity to learn along side the development of this new technology. While I love all of the new technology and opportunities that come with it, I still miss the days where you only had twenty-four or thirty-six shots on a roll and you didn’t know if you got it right until what was likely days or weeks later. It added to the suspense of seeing that amazing shot, and of course it amplified the disappointment if you missed it.
This brings me to the purpose of my writing today, I’m finally coming around to using Adobe’s Lightroom for more than cropping and exporting my photos. Much of what can be done in seconds today would’ve taken minutes or hours and multiple attempts, if it were possible at all with film. I don’t like the idea of shooting quickly and hoping to fix it all in post, but in a number of circumstances that’s what happens in today’s breakneck pace of life. Lightroom has enabled me to do two things that fundamentally change my photography, share my images as I saw them in my minds eye when they were captured, and salvage some shots that may have been pretty crap to begin with (you’d be surprised what you can do, even with gloomy weather pictures, see below.) I’m working on a post that goes into a little more detail about how I do this and I’ll link it here when it’s posted.
I still struggle (mentally) when it comes to doing more than cropping and basic exposure adjustments because the audience for photography is so broad today and everyone wants something different, so you have to either cater to your audience or find the right audience for your work, if you want to do this sort of thing for a living. But this brings me to an important point, I do not claim to be a professional photographer, and to date, I’ve not earned a single dollar from a single image (if you’d like to change this, please click here to visit my shop.) And while I wish I could earn enough to devote myself to my photography, I’m ok with things how they are for the time being. Right now it allows me to do it because I enjoy it and whenever I’m not enjoying it, I don’t do it. No pressure to deliver to anyone but myself. No offense to my loyal readers, I think there are a few of you out there, but I do this because I enjoy doing it and hopefully others can find some joy from it as well. This doesn’t mean I don’t have grander aspirations with my photography and my writing, but I’m just not there… yet.
So when I import my images, it’s always a wrestling match between the RAW image on my screen and the developed image that I’ve created. On a trip this past January, I had the opportunity to visit the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona in Tucson. The center itself has a small gallery open to the public, but also houses the personal archives of many great photographers, including one of its founding members, Ansel Adams. While the vast majority of his archive is in storage, there are a few pieces on display, and with a couple of them were his personal notes about how he took the negative and crafted the prints. It gave me a glimpse into his process and helped me release a little of my own reservations when it comes to developing my images. As I continue the struggle between artist, story teller and historian, I hope you’ll tag along and share your thoughts as well.