I had to make choices, both before the shoot and about what end result I wanted to achieve. There was a little room to adjust in the darkroom or via my photo lab technicians, but the possibilities of creative afterthought pale in comparison to the choices I—and we—have now.
Although my practice of artistic forethought hasn't been deliberately neglected (it took me quite some time to fully embrace digital photography), I've slowly let that part of my photographic vision atrophy. In fact, the more I shoot digital, the more I move into a methodology that allows for certain creative choices to be made after the shoot. Of late, I rarely think about the end result until I'm near the end. I hold no judgment on experiencing the art of photography either way; I just notice how I'm taking a different approach to my photographic process now.
With postprocessing, I give myself permission to play with the images after the fact, which is obviously a lot different than plotting and planning prior to the project. This shift has undoubtedly helped to hone a completely different part of my vision as an artist.
I never really did embrace the darkroom (too arduous a process for my need for instant gratification), so the digital darkroom has really opened up a new world of creativity to me and has pushed me into being much more engaged in the entire process of creating my images.
I've begun to mindfully observe myself work this other critical step of my creative process. I've paid attention to my editing tendencies, habits and preferences. I've explored the why, how and what of each step that takes me from an original image to final photograph.
What has become most clear to me in my process is that I try to allow the image itself to tell me what it wants to be. Does it need a little boost of saturation, richness added to the darks or some subtle recovery in the whites? I coddle, massage and coax it along.
What makes it look its best or convey its message? What brings it to life? It's a little different for every image. But there are certain images that beckon to be transformed into beautiful, poignant, timeless black-and-whites.