Friday, February 1, 2019

Just Flush It

Every photographer I know captures images that qualify as "stinkers'.  By virtue of poor concept, poor composition, poor craftsmanship or any combination of the three some images are just crap.  I know that I contribute more than my proportional share to the digital methane burning a hole in the ozone layer of the photographic ecosystem.

Original 'stinker' - I so wanted this one!

'Flushed' version - after hours of 'polishing'

You might think that serious photographers would be discriminating enough to just flush these losers down the digital porcelain throne. But for reasons of pride, lack of self-criticism, unrealistic hope, grand delusion or desperation we often try to make winners of these losers.  We spend hours tweeking the sliders of our processing software hoping that we can buff a great image from a flawed capture.  One leading photographer referred (indelicately, but appropriately) to this process as “polishing turds’.

Even fully aware of the futility of such questionable heroics I find myself having difficulty fighting the urge to “save” marginal images. To compound matters, many popular photography mentors, educators and vendors have developed bundles of presets - ‘development’ recipes - designed to squelch the ‘stink’ of photo ‘bombs’, magically replacing them with usable imagery. These bundles might be considered ‘digital imagery air fresheners.’

To their credit, these gurus caution us that their digital solutions aren’t intended to rescue bad digital captures, nor will they compensate for poor imagery. But these vendors underestimate (or perhaps they know all to well) how delusional we can become with our images and the lengths to which we will go to pull a miracle out of the toilet, so to speak. If truth be told, when used appropriately these ‘extreme’ preset solutions really do come in handy in some tough situations. When it comes to misuse ‘we’ rather than ‘they’ are the problem.

So, what’s my advice? Next time you have an image swirling around the proverbial bowl - just flush it. Rather than wasting time polishing a doomed image use the time saved to go out and capture new, better, ‘stink-free’ images.

Now, if only I can follow my own advice.

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