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.

Playing Around with Presets

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Rare are the days when the photograph that pops up in lightroom is close to what I had imagined it should look like and a few tweaks and I’m done. More common are the times where I have some playing to do in lightroom and then photoshop but I know where I’m heading and then there are those images that I just wonder what I was thinking. Believe it or not, the image above started out in this last category.

The image out of the camera is shown below.

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After a few moments of not really knowing what to do with it I started clicking through the presets built into the develop module. I haven’t been a big fan of presets preferring to know exactly what slider I was changing and why. Clicking around though it quickly became apparent that this photo should be black and white. The five built in presets gave the following ‘looks’.

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Look 1 Look 2
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Look 3 Look 4
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Look 5

I liked looks 2 and 3, with not a lot to choose between them for me. I chose version 3 as a starting point and made it a little darker and a little grainer. The image below was the result.

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A little bit more clean up and I was done. I must admit that this experience changed my outlook on presets. They’re great starting points, to be pushed further or dialed back, and invaluable to get a quick sense of what different processing could do to your image. Even better if you make your own and share with friends.

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