That shot is perfect, straight out of the can.” So goes one of the phrases still left over from when we all took pictures on film. The can” referred to the aluminum, plastic, or sometimes metal tubes used to store film. The concept is that the image required no manipulation beyond the standard development process. Everything should be straightforward and easy.
The truth is that developing photographs has always involved a range of decisions that could affect the outcome of the image. Even black and white images can be “toned” by changing the type of emulsifier or using a silver solution during processing. Once color images became popular, there were even more decisions that had to be made to ensure consistent color across all the images. One didn’t have to manipulate the content of the image at all to dramatically alter its appearance. From the choice of film, to the brand of the solution, to the time left in the pan, to the grade of photo paper being used, every seemingly insignificant choice made a difference in the photo.
Today, with digital processing, what was a few dozen processing decisions has blossomed into hundreds of thousands of choices. A photographer can manipulate everything from white balance to color saturation right on the camera and even more choices are available once the image is brought into manipulation software such as Photoshop. Getting a set of images to look exactly the same may be more difficult now than it has ever been.
I never have been enthused about having images look exactly the same, though, especially when working with portraits. Three images in and everything starts feeling redundant. If someone wants to keep my attention through more than five photographs, they need to mix things up a bit.
That is exactly what we have done with these pictures of Emily. Sure, Kat changed up her hairstyle a bit and made sure her makeup was on point, but for each image, we spun the mental wheel of fortune to determine what processing method we might use so that each one would be significantly different from the other. In one case, we even tossed in an old look from the 1980s!
I know some people like consistency, find value in every image having exactly the same tonal structure across a full set and that’s totally okay if that’s how one wants their photography to be identified. We’re intentionally different, though. Where others find value, I find boredom. I’ve been taking pictures far too long to give in to boredom now.
So, here’s the multiple methods of editing Emily. Having her in front of the camera again was a blast, especially since a certain Panda kept making sure there was a smile on Mom’s face. As always, click on any of the thumbnails below to view the gallery full sized. For best results, view on the largest monitor available, or turn your phone or tablet horizontal. Thanks to Kat Franson for the hair and makeup and to John Hoyt for stepping in and holding lights for me.