The hardest part of photography for me is processing. The part that pisses me off the most is processing. Basically the only thing that annoys me is processing.
I fucking HATE processing.
Why? Well, there are too many options. My mind changes too often. I hate being in front of a computer, yet, spend half my bloody time there.
It must end.
Film certainly helps. I don’t do or need to do as much to scanned negatives.
Film is also the problem. I am constantly dealing with wanting my digital photos to ‘look’ as good as my film photos.
Nostalgia plays a part here. I always imagine my film photos to be more contrasty than the really were. I always seem to make my digital photos more contrasty than they need to be. I always seem to remember my film photos having more grain than they actually had and my digital photos suffer because of this ridiculousness.
While in the shower today, I had a good think about this. This past week I spent hundreds of dollars on film shit so I could go back mostly to film. In the end though, I’ll have a scanned negative and it is quite likely that at some point I’ll have no option but the digital one.
In the shower, I came to several conclusions about my photo processing and what I want from it.
The most important thing I want from my digital photos is consistency. If you’ve followed my blog at all up until now you’ll know how often I change cameras. While I don’t buy as many as I used to, I now end up with different ones even more often it seems.
The problem with changing digital cameras is that every digital camera has a different “look”… Sensors are like types of film. This makes it hard to be consistent when processing digital photos.
This is my biggest struggle these days in relation to digital photography. After my shower today, I went through a series of random images in my Lightroom catalog from different times, places, and cameras.
I should start by saying my Lightroom catalog is about as clean as it gets. I have a rule that I never have more than 200 images at one time in there. This keeps me constantly editing my images down to a manageable amount.
Anyway, after going through those images I realized several things, the first of which being a lack of consistency.
The lack of consistency came a lot from the fact that the older I went back the more contrasty my images were. Contrast is fine but it is becoming too overdone. It is becoming a crutch for shite photographers to post shite photos of shite things. I dunno if it is because of this or just the fact that my aesthetic has changed but I process my images less and less contrasty all the time now.
I found some old photos and sat down for a couple hours with a coffee and tried to process them in such a way that they all looked similar to my eye. I put a photo of mine taken with Tmax and an old Leica and had at it.
Right away I realized that I add way too much contrast to digital photos. Even though I thought I was taking a “gentle” approach it didn’t seem like it at all next to the old pushed Tmax. I intentionally processed them without looking at the film photo first and even though I thought the film photo would have more contrast, in reality, it didn’t.
Weird how our brains work.
So, one thing I realized is that film contrast is a different kind of contrast. Natural film contrast comes from pushing film and contrasty lenses. One way I’ve found lately to make my digital photos look better is to underexpose them in camera and then push them later. They look more natural to me this way.
Another thing I realized going through the group of photos is that a good photo is a good photo no matter how it is processed. The first photo, of the boy in the bus, is one of my favorite photos that I have ever taken. The version above is barely processed at all and yet I think it is much better like that than it was when I went all Daido Moriyama on it in the past.
I also realized that some of my best photos were butchered by the “old” me. Sad really, ha. Sadder even that I rarely kept the originals so I can’t even fix my own fuck-ups.
The next thing I decided I was going to do while in the shower was to not worry about cameras. Not worry about buying them or selling them. I mean, I will buy one when I feel like and not buy one when I don’t. If I can get a consistent look from my digital photos I could care less about the camera that took them. I enjoy cameras, for what they are but there is one truth:
The photos last.
The cameras don’t.
In the end, the photos are most important. I often write about loving the work of some photographers who are consistent in their approach and their photos are consistent in the way they look. While I don’t think I’m there yet, this morning shower, shave, and processing session really helped. I have a better idea now of how I want my digital photos to look and a better idea of how to get them to look like that.
I know what you’re thinking. Almost all the photos here are from Ricoh cameras so it is easier to get them to look similar. This is true, ha. I would contend though that there is quite a bit of difference between the GRD from 2006 and the GRII from 2016 which are the cameras mostly showcased here. The truth of the matter is, I end up with a lot more “keepers” from Ricoh cameras and therefore had a lot more to go from today.
The bottom line about processing is that no matter how you process your photos being consistent is the most important thing. I think the workflow I have now is the best and simplest it has ever been.
Simple is always best. As happy as I am to have had the “revelation” I had today I hated the two hours I spend in front of the computer having it. The less time I have to be in front of the computer the better.
Because obviously that is time that would be better spent doing something else.
I love film. Love it. While I don’t enjoy the darkroom as much as most guys who do it I “get” why they do. I get that it is a more complicit art form. Lightroom isn’t the same. I get spending time in the darkroom because it should be a slow process.
It is supposed to be a contemplative kind of thing. I turn on some music and just work.
Digital is supposed to be simple. It is supposed to be quick. It is supposed to be autopilot. At least, that is how I see it. People will argue the film vs digital thing to the death. I don’t get the argument. Strokes for blokes (and ladies) as they say. I love the look of film. I really don’t find digital the same.
The shadows and highlights are the key. Film renders highlights and shadows softly. Digital has a hard time with this. Digital highlights drive me mental.
I think the nostalgia is in that softness. It creates a dreamy feeling that is hard to mimic. Sad, really, that our brains work like this.
At least, mine works like this.
That is probably why I bought all that film equipment. I find it ironic that I made a workflow that is by far my favorite for digital the day after I spent those hundreds of dollars.
To be fair though, film will always be different.
Plus, I get to use this:
Iksan, February 19th, 2017.