Combining In-Camera Techniques With Post Processing
Many aspects in nature photography come together to provide a strong image. All of the elements play a crucial role in the workflow leading from the initial act of taking a picture to the final print. To excel in nature photography, it is important all the elements combine to make an image that moves the viewer. Too often I hear that it is what you do with the camera that is important; other times I hear is what you do in post processing that makes the image. I believe the answer lies in knowing how to combine all of these elements. Knowing how to capture what is needed in-camera while out in the field is just as important as knowing what to do in post processing to bring to life how you pre-visualized the scene.
When I imagine how the image will look when I am at the scene, I have an idea of what I need to capture in camera. There are many elements I will need to capture in-camera that cannot be replicated or fixed in Photoshop. For example, a wide-angle scene that contains many ingredients will take more consideration then just snapping away at the camera. If a nature scene provides many subjects together, each has to be considered in its own right. For example, if the scene contains flowers in the foreground, layers in the mid-ground and a sunset in the background. Each of these subjects must be considered separate when combining the image in camera. Such that the foreground flowers must be tack sharp, the mid-ground must have detail, and the sun setting must not be blown out.
To capture this in camera considerations must be made in terms of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Also, the elements of nature play into the equation as well. If the wind is blowing, then the shutter speed and aperture must be changed to capture detail in the foreground flowers without movement. This cannot be fixed in Photoshop. Avoiding a blown out sky is another consideration that cannot be fixed in Photoshop. Thus, it is important to know in camera how to capture each of the subjects within the scene to cohesively bring it all together.
In post processing my goal is to bring this scene as close as possible to the moment when I took the picture. It is important, to have the post processing skills to bring a raw image in final print is close to the scene as naturally possible when you felt the scene. How one processes the image is at the heart of digital photography. How far is an artist allowed to take the image in post processing?
As a nature photographer, you choose to be an artist or a documentarian. I choose to reflect a style in my photography that invokes an emotion in the viewer as close as possible to the mood I was feeling at the time of the image I was feeling. Does this mean that all my images look exactly the way they were when I took the picture? No but, they do reflect how I felt at the time the image was taken. This is the difference between a nature photographer who shoots from his heart or one who shoots to document how something was. I choose to participate in nature photography because it moves me; when I am standing in front of a scene where everything lights up and his magical, a certain mood overtakes my senses and is this that I want to convey to my viewer. Is this right? Well the answer is not whether it is right or wrong, but whether it continues to move you as an artist. The day that photographing out becomes work is the day to start another career. Photography at its core must come from mood and reflection. Each artist must be recognized for his or her individual style born from this mood.
All of this leads to the important concepts that each element in photography is important. Knowing what to do each step of the way makes you in the end a better photographer. In field, a photographer must be able to recognize what makes a good scene. They must know how to react to light, patterns, and composition to bring out the best in a scene. In post processing, skills must be used to enhance all of these important elements. With each scene they are critical parts that either make or break an image. The important ingredients that make digital photography bring these parts forward. Understanding each of these elements in its own right is essential to growing in photography.