When I was 18 I was involved in making a short film. Throughout that process the refrain when anything was less than perfect was ‘fix it in post’. Sound was a bit low – ‘fix it in post’, lighting wasn’t quite right – ‘fix it in post’…terrible acting – ‘fix it in post’. I wasn’t responsible for editing the film (and I can only assume that all the parts I was responsible for were absolutely fine), but it never saw the light of day. It was buried, and even those of us who worked on it never got to see it. I think ‘fix it in post’ killed the film.
So is the same true for photography, can make mediocre images look spectacular with some lightroom trickery, or is ‘fix it in post’ simply the delusion of the not-so-great photographer with an adobe subscription? I scan most of my negatives (because I don’t have a big enough basement for a dark-room, or a basement at all for that matter). Whilst all of these digital files are ripe for some lightroom alteration I tend to not do any more to my images than I have the ability to in the dark room. This limits me to altering the contrast, making crops etc., but nothing drastic. This is as much out of laziness than any sense of the maintenance of artistic or photographic purity.
This does mean that if I do choose to print anything in the dark-room I usually have the skill level to get the image looking similar to the way I have it looking in lightroom. This got me thinking though, what if I wasn’t constrained by my ability in the dark-room and unleashed the full and terrifying power of lightroom?
So I grabbed a couple of images that I wouldn’t usually consider for printing in the dark-room, ones I think are ok, ‘nothing special’ images, and I ran them through lightroom. For each one I did the sort of processing I’d usually do, basically just messed with the contrast and got the image looking the way it should had I been a bit more careful whilst developing. Finally, I tried to ‘fix’ the images. I still didn’t stray too far from the contrast and curve tools (I certainly didn’t venture into the realms of filters), and spent a bit more time on specific areas of the images. The biggest difference really was the amount of time I spent working on the images.
So was the extra time worth it? The resulting images are much more dynamic, the editing has allowed me to pull out the interesting bits, and give everything much more depth. However, I am not sure that any of the images have been improved to the extent that they go from being so-so, to ‘good’ – you probably can’t fix so-so images in lightroom.
I did do one last edit on the composition of one of the images and I think this had a far greater impact than any of the work I did on contrast. It changes the focus, takes out the clutter on the left and reduces the amount of road at the bottom of the image.
This doesn’t really count for my great lightroom experiment though, because if I was going to print this in the darkroom this is exactly what I would have done, and in that context we wouldn’t have lost anything like the resolution we have by doing this in lightroom. Darkroom win. So finally, what happens if we decide that our bike-rider needs to be going at 100 miles per hour (ok, I had to move over for photoshop to get this amazing effect).
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