The Power of Presets

I noted recently that most of the images that I’m posting here and other places are made, and finished, using the iPhone. I enjoy the way of working it’s fast easy and I can do it anywhere. If I have 5 or 10 minutes to kill I’m likely to scroll through the recent batch of images that I took and run them through one of the apps that I have on my phone.

I’ve generally been pretty happy with what I’ve been able to achieve although I have received some criticism of the processing of some of the images that I posted – mostly ones from a while ago when I was heavily using presets to process the images. Phototoaster overcooked my images! As a reaction to that feedback I’ve migrated to using Snapseed to adjust contrast and saturation and not do much more to the image if it were color. For black and white I finish the image up in VSCO using one of the black and white film emulations.

In the last week though I’ve started to play with the presets in Instagram. I’m starting to think that I’m not pushing the images as far as they can go, or at least fully exploring the possibilities. I’ve been surprised that some of the filters in instagram achieve a better result than the one that I decided was ‘done’ in Snapseed. Why is that?

I think it was Brian Eno that suggested we go to an extreme and retreat to a more useful position. I don’t think that I’m going to the extreme – pushing saturation a little harder to see what is possible, pushing contrast to see what effect it has – and that is limiting the visual impact that my images have.

How about you? How do you process your images? Do you use presets to explore the potential in the image before setting to work in earnest? I’d be happy to hear about it.

Autumnal Wanderings

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I’m sure that there must be really good uses for the various film emulation software that is available, matching the look of a project that was started in film and transitioned to digital might be one, but for me they are not much more than very expensive presets that let me try out various looks very quickly.

I can’t say that I’m overly sold on the ‘film look’ either but it’s fun to play and occasionally I stumble into something that I like. I think the more that you play with these kinds of tools the more that you’re able to imagine what the possibilities are for processing after the fact.

While I would like to think that I know what a particular lens will do, I’m a long way from this kind of fluency with the myriad of options available for post-processing. Knowing what draws you and and what repels you certainly is one way of narrowing the available options. Restricting your options to a distinct palette of tools is one way to create a signature style. This is something that I’m in the very early stages of working on but I’m having fun thinking about how it all fits together.