You know, it doesn’t take much to turn a snapshot into a great shot. Most of the time, envisioning the end result—what you can do in the digital darkroom—is the key. Hey, if it worked for Ansel Adams (using film and the wet darkroom), it can work for you, too! Ansel Adams was the master of previsualizing the final image.
Other times, turning a snapshot into a great shot is a matter of careful composition. As Edward Weston, another master photographer, said, "Composition is the strongest way of seeing."
In this article, I’ll share a few before-and-after examples of making pictures rather than just taking pictures, that is, snapshots. I made these pictures at the Southeastern Railway Museum and Old Car City USA, two locations not far from Atlanta, Ga.
1 | The opening image for this article, taken at the Southeastern Railway Museum, is an HDR image created from these six images. Due to the bright light outdoors and very low light indoors, I knew (envisioned) that I needed HDR to make an image where I could see into the shadows without blowing out the highlights. The key here was "seeing the light," the very high-contrast range in the scene. If you learn how to see the light, you’ll know when to use HDR, or to add light to the scene to reduce the contrast to a point where the scene can be captured in a single image.
2 | This is my favorite image—the end-result image I envisioned—from the Southeastern Railway Museum. The tip here is to make a creative image. Onsite, I moved the chair into position and shot with a wide-angle lens set at a small aperture for maximum depth of field. When I processed the image, I corrected the wide-angle distortion (Photoshop > Edit > Select All > Transform > Perspective), changed the color (Photoshop > Image > Adjustments > Color Balance) because I like blue better than green, cropped the image slightly, and as the final step, added a border in Nik Color Efex Pro (Filter > Image Border).
3 | Here’s my original image. Well, you have to start somewhere, right?
4 | This close-up of an old Buick grill at Old Car City USA has impact due to the super-saturated color, which I added with the Spicify filter in Topaz Adjust. You can get a similar effect in Photoshop and Lightroom by boosting the saturation, contrast and sharpness. Exaggerating color, as did the late Thomas Kinkade, can often result in eye-catching images.
5 | Here’s my original image. Kinda dull compared to the previous image.
6 | Yet another method for making a picture more artistic is to remove some of the reality from the scene, such as adding an effect that we don’t see with our eyes. In the case of this Southeastern Railway Museum image, I added a soft blur to the edges of the image. And, yes, once again, a tighter crop improved the image.
7 | Here’s the straight-out-of-the-camera photograph from which I made the previous shot. It’s okay, but surely not as artistic as the end-result image.
Well, my friends, I hope these examples inspire you to envision the end result, which is part of the creative image-making process.
Our friend Rick Sammon has been writing for this magazine for more than 10 years. Visit with Rick at ricksammon.com to learn more about digital imaging.