Allowing perception to mature

Ingleborough - AfterYesterday evening I was giving a talk and talking briefly about the picture editing process. As photographers we like to look at our captured pictures as soon as we get home from a shoot which only goes to show our enthusiasm for our art and craft.

We can be easily lulled into a false sense of insecurity by selecting those pictures with immediate impact and processing them for sharing them with others or printing or whatever we do with our particular pictures whether we are a professional or amateur. The professional will have a urgent need to put the proofs in front of the client as quickly as possible.

The amateur however doesn’t have that time constraint and pressure, it can be very good thing to allow a period of grace between taking the pictures and then editing for post-processing. That period of grace is a time of maturation when the pictures which we have taken mature on our hard disks. The files do not actually change but our perception of them does.

When we leave our pictures for a while we lose the immediate effect of what we think we’ve done, the excitement and emotion which we had at the picture taking stage. We forget about the other sensory inputs that we’ve had as we pressed the shutter release such as the how the wind blew, the fragrance of flowers that were there, what we heard – birdsong etc etc.

All other sensory input apart from the visual gets lost over a period of time. What is left in the end is the file – the actual values of brightness in front of the camera lens because that’s all the camera can record – brightness. It doesn’t have any emotional sense such as memory or a pool of photographic templates to which it has to conform. Cameras have no emotional intelligence, memory, perception or awareness – that’s your job as the photographer.

This period of grace leaves us in the end with the cold facts of what we actually did without romanticism or what we thought we did at the taking stage. It allows us to see things as they really are for good or ill. Occasionally after shoot when I look at the pictures I will be disappointed with what I’ve done. Then perhaps I will look at them again after awhile months or maybe years later, and then I can truly see them for what they are – good or bad and in some very rare cases masterpieces appear, in most other cases not.

So it’s probably wise not to delete files straight away off of your hard drive by allow them to mature for months or years and then come back to them later with a clear head and insightful vision that isn’t marred by the excitement of the day.

The shot above was taken at Ingleborough Common in North Yorkshire in April 2013. Its been sitting and maturing on my external hard drive for six months.

Ingleborough - beforeLeft is the raw colour original without a post-processing, the place where I started in Lightroom.

Lots of people like to see the before and the after pictures and so this is an example. It just gives you the bare facts of where I started in Lightroom so my files are no different to yours in that respect.

Unprocessed raw files are fairly unimpressive beasts however they have huge potential for being processed in any way you can imagine. Awareness and perception are key factors long before the mechanics of pressing buttons on a computer keyboard is involved.

If you can not see a potential final image or recognize a problem, how will you be able to create it or fix it?

A free top tip – make a Post Processing Plan for the picture you want to enhance BEFORE you move ANY sliders.

A big hello to a new followers on my little blog this week.

(c) Andy Beel FRPS 2013

15 responses to Allowing perception to mature

  1. Elizabeth Restall says:

    A brilliant essay, Andy. It sums up so well the feelings of disappointment I have experienced so frequently after returning from a photographic workshop/holiday, only to discover potential some months later.


    • andybeel says:

      Hi Elizabeth apologies for the delay in replying. I am glad that other people recognize the syndrome. Andy


  2. It is always surprising how the passing of time takes away the emotions of the time and place of capture, allowing a more critical and objective view of our own images.
    Thank you Andy for including before and after shots it gives us hope for our own images and it is great to see where your image came from.


    • andybeel says:

      Hi apologies for the delay in replying. I am glad that appreciate the starting point (file) is never that stunning. Andy


  3. davidlingham says:

    Well put Andy. It get dismayed when I hear a photographer who deletes images before really taking the time to asses their potential. I rarely print my own work for at least twelve months, and then it is usually not the most obvious image.


    • andybeel says:

      Hi Dave apologies for the delay in replying. Over this year I have been trying to build up a back catalog that I can return to later. I have some IR shots done in Snowdonia a couple of years ago that should be ripe by now! Andy


  4. David Thomas says:

    Your consideration makes so much good sense! Perhaps the ease and speed of our digital world has led us to make fast decisions regarding deleting images in the same way as capturing them. Sometimes allowing respected friends to browse through our old image files can be beneficial too, because they have no emotional connection.


    • andybeel says:

      Hi Dave apologies for the delay in replying. Your comment about a respected outside view is very pertinent here. Andy


  5. Very good points Andy. It made me think that perhaps making notes and/or sketches at the time of capture would also be useful. These could then me useful at some long time after the event for post processing to enhance a re-called perception. There is nothing better than capturing the light in your mind’s eye and the feel of the environment at the time of taking and then using this to make it happen on a paper print.


    • andybeel says:

      Hi Peter apologies for the delay in replying. Perhaps notes, sketches or audio notes might be useful for your type of photography. Andy


  6. I take both approaches – I dive in at the earliest opportunity, wiggling sliders to make the best photographic images I can, but I often simply park them and return at some time in the future. I do this for two reasons – one is to do with seeing the image I want to create before I take the shot and the second is to allow my mind to forget all about the images and the reasons for my original shot and consequently explore the possibilities. (many of my black and white images are black and white in my mind when I push the shutter, not as an after thought – on the other hand some of my black and white images become such after I’ve lived with their coloured versions a while)
    Of course, with the approach you suggest, there is a ‘danger’ of becoming two separate entities – the photographer and the printer…… now where have I heard of that idea before. ๐Ÿ˜‰


  7. Adrian Lewis says:

    I totally agree about not jumping in at once with the processing after returning from a shoot – I often find that I’m quite uninspired by my images at that stage – going back to them later, sometimes much later, works far better. But I can’t go with your Post Processing Plan, Andy – I’m much more trial and error! Adrian


  8. andybeel says:

    Hi Adrian apologies for the delay in replying. I am glad that other people recognize the syndrome. Andy


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  1. […] Getting on for nearly a year ago I did a post called “Allowing perception to mature” that was very well received, see it at […]