“If you follow the rules, it’s your own fault.” ― Marty Rubin
[one_half padding=”4px 10px 0 4px”]Life is busy for everyone and it is quite nice that we have at our disposal now a variety of tools and applications to help ease just a little bit of the strain here and there so we can better focus on the truly important aspects of whatever it is we’re doing. One of the applications I have installed assists me with catching common grammar errors. More than just spell checking, it looks for proper subject/verb agreement, makes sure the verb conjugation is correct, and that I’m putting the most appropriate punctuation in place. When I’m typing quickly, and especially early in the morning when I’m still on my first cup of coffee, the tool saves me a lot of time going back and proofreading, especially since I’m really lousy at proofreading.
There’s a problem with this application, though: it doesn’t like the Oxford Comma. Personally, I quite like the Oxford Comma and find that the meaning of some word lists changes significantly depending on whether the comma is used. If I have a sentence, or thought, or fragment, or phrase such as this one then I am going to use the extra comma every time. Unfortunately, the application marks it wrong every time and attempts to correct the matter. I end up having to take extra steps, and time, to keep the comma in place and assure that the list is going to infer exactly what I intend.
Image processing software is no different. Applications such as Lightroom and Photoshop are full of little guides and measuring devices to provide photographers and graphic artists with multiple checks and balances so as to, hopefully, prevent errors that might result in bad print. However, none of those tools is accurate 100% of the time and relying on them too heavily can sometimes result in even larger errors than if they hadn’t been used at all. Certainly, the tools are helpful and are included with the best of intentions, but in the end there’s no substitution for pulling a hard print and going with what your eyes tell you is best.
Today’s image is a perfect example of the tools not always being the best judge. This is also an example of just how much the appearance of an image can change from one computer monitor to another. [/one_half]
[one_half_last padding=”4px 4px 0 10px”]When I shot this image in 2011, I processed it using the most current version of Photoshop, but on a Frankenstein computer I had been carefully rubber-banding together since 2005 using a monitor that dated even older than that. While the monitor was calibrated to the best of its ability, I knew from experience that what I saw on the screen was not a true match when pulling a print. So, I tried making adjustments as best I could and most of the time I was at least within the ballpark.
The primary challenge of this image is one of exposure. The model’s hair is jet black, to the point that one has to dramatically open the shutter to even begin picking up any highlights. Without a high level of exposure, her hair would appear to be nothing more than a black mass sitting on her head. In a studio, that problem is easily resolved by putting a light specifically on her hair. We’re not in a studio, though. We’re using natural light and even with a reflector there wasn’t enough natural illumination to pull out the highlights in her hair without risking over-exposing the entire left side of the image. I made specific choices and was pleased with the result.
Then, a couple of years ago, I got a new computer and monitor and loaded newer software. Going through the archives to see what needed to be revised, I brought up this image and it instantly showed a warning that the left side was over exposed. I tried correcting the image to what the software said was appropriate, but doing so left the photo flat and dull. Finally, I had no choice but to pull a print and, wouldn’t you know it, the over-exposure was still within gamut (barely), and the image looked fine.
Exposure can be a very tricky thing at times and while generally running highlights out of gamut is a no-no, there are times, arguably including this one, where the risk is worth the effect. Are we going to make mistakes? Yes. Is everyone going to agree with our choices? No. But again, what matters is whether the image generates the emotion the photographer intended. At the end of the day, perhaps a little too much light is better than not enough.[/one_half_last]