Editing photos to enhance the mood

Almost none of my digital photos are not good enough straight from the camera. I don’t know anything about digital camera technology, but I’ve noticed over and over again that there’s at least some amount of electrical interference in the photo processing that the camera does for you. I usually don’t like the colours and the contrast that the camera gives. The basic settings almost always seem to be a bit off.

On film though, I usually get a pretty accurate representation of the mood that I’m going after. Maybe it’s because there isn’t any digital processing behind it. It is just sunlight, optics, chemistry, mechanics and the laws of physics.

I shoot both film and digital. At the moment though, I’m really interested in shooting film. I think it has soul. One thing in digital bugs me. I think the photos come out somehow lifeless very often and they look like computer processed. Not always, but often. Not a big deal, since I like fiddle with Photoshop anyways, but just in case you haven’t noticed before, digital photos very often need some extra love in post editing.

Something like this happens all the time. I’m on a walk on the country side. It is summer. The weather is awesome. Then you feel it is about to rain and the entire atmosphere suddenly changes. You see massive clouds moving in and you sense that it is about to rain. There is a distinct feeling in the air. The clouds are closing in and they seem almost threatening. A breeze of wind blows as you reach for your iPhone trying to capture that distinct feeling. You look at the photo and… damn! It just looks flat. You know it is the same scene, but somehow you just failed to capture that atmosphere. Why? It should be exactly the same — it is a photo after all.

Original snapshot with my iPhone, that just doesn’t make justice to the distinct atmosphere I was witnessing.
Quick edit in Snapseed restored the right kind of atmosphere. This is much closer what I saw and caught my eye. The landscape in it self isn’t what I was after but the sense of the inevitable rain.

Maybe the camera made questimations, that just didn’t fit. Maybe it was the massive clouds that contributed to the feeling, but somehow the photo just doesn’t do justice. That’s when the edit comes handy. You can try to restore the things that made the scene special. Maybe there were something about the lighting or the colors in the landscape that caught your eye and your iPhone of course couldn’t pick the same nuances up.

Early spring day in Helsinki. Shot on black and white film. Event though there are no colours, the mood is perfect. You get enough information from the lighting and the long shadows to get the sense, that this was a beautiful day to have a coffee outside.

Let’s imagine that you’re having a perfect day. It is sunny and it is hot. You just went to the beach and you smell like the ocean and tanning lotion. There’s is sand in your butt crack. How can you capture these kind of things in a photo? What are the image constructing tools to build this kind of image? Maybe the lighting and the colors are the contributing factors? Maybe they have to be just right to bring just this kind of imagery. You reach for your iPhone and take a selfie. Ok, there’s your photo — it’s ok, but you realise that you just weren’t able to capture the feeling exactly like you experienced it. It may be hard to put your finger on why is that. It of course boils down to how good you are at capturing images, but I bet that there is something about the colour scheme and the visual style that just doesn’t represent accurately that distinct feeling.

You are probably romanticising the picture in your mind. You feel good and expect the photo to capture it. If the camera fails to capture it, there’s nothing wrong trying to enhance that feeling in post. I think it’s more than ok to approach the photo files merely as a starting point for a finished piece. It is not cheating at all enhancing the photo to your liking. Digital camera after all is a computer and cannot know what you’re trying to capture. Some cameras seem to interfere more than others and annoyingly try to compensate. There’s no need to go over board with the editing. A good edit is one that doesn’t look like it’s been edited. You can always try to make the photo to do justice. Right, and don’t think that slapping a filter or two will correct the photo. Learn to do some basic adjustments first to really get the most out from your photos. I like to use Snapseed. The interface isn’t perhaps the nicest to use, but it is very handy and making some basic adjustments and restoring the photo what it should have been, usually takes me no more than few minutes.