I am a quote collector. (As if loving cameras and computers didn’t make me enough of a geek…)

So naturally she had my interest when a friend referred to this quote by Ansel Adams:

“The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance. Each performance differs in subtle ways.” – Ansel Adams

Prints are the Performance

What does this mean to us?

  • Do you look at a bunch of music notes and feel the way you do when you hear it played? (assuming you’re not a musical genius).
  • Would every person play those notes exactly the same way?

Straight out of camera shots (often referred to as “SOOC”) often show potential, but don’t yet have the emotional power they could. The print or final digital image if it’s for web (although prints are usually more powerful than images on a screen) – is where you truly convey your point-of-view to an audience.

A photo portrait of photographer Ansel Adams, ...
Image via Wikipedia

Photo Editing like Ansel Adams

Another Ansel Adams quote (yep, it’s my inner-geek again):

“A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.” – Ansel Adams

We could each have the same digital negative to work with. Each of us could edit the image and have our version printed and then we could compare the prints. Chances are they would be different because of how we each feel about the image.

Ansel Adams knew how to take a great photograph. But he also knew his way around a darkroom. He could dodge and burn, use filters, and other techniques to create his performance – his print. This is what would evoke emotion.

Today we have Photoshop and other post-processing programs to help us take our digital “negative” and turn it into a performance.

When you pull up your promising “digital negative”, think what you want your final product to look like and what you want it to do.

  • What effect do you want your performance to have on people?
  • How will it differ from what someone else’s performance?

Some basic photo editing tips:

  • Sharpen your picture according to the mood you want to convey.
  • Change the levels to your satisfaction.
  • Dodge or burn (the same effect can often be achieved by using the masks on level adjustments also).

“Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships.” – Ansel Adams

  • Think about the color balance and saturation. Consider how it will transfer to print.

Ta-da! You’re ready to present your performance.

One more thing and it’s very, very important: The Printing Part

Make sure to have your work of art printed by a lab that will do it justice. The local pharmacy or cheapest internet lab isn’t usually a great choice. There are lots of professional-grade online labs if you don’t have a local one. Or you can invest in an awesome printer. Calibrate your monitor so that you know “what-you-see-is-what-you’ll-get.” The printer is part of your performance so make it great.

“You don’t take a photograph, you MAKE it.” – Ansel Adams

Enjoy making wonderful performances!