No, it’s not what you think. Contrary to rumor, I am not on a first name basis with Sarah Jessica, exchanging up-to-the-minute fashion tips. I am not, and never have been, a fashionista. Instead, I’ve always been slightly behind on the fashion curve.  These days, post-retirement, my Manolo Blahnik substitute is a pair of black fuzzy Isotoner slippers and my preferred pants all have elastic waists.

But enough about fashion. What we are talking about today are trends in digital photography and how these trends influence our art. While our inherent style is the bedrock upon which our creativity is built, trends tend to be more fleeting, changing over time as technology evolves. This exploration into the nature of trends is another assignment for the “Find Your Eye” course – an exercise in distinguishing our style from the latest digital photography craze.

Many of the latest post-processing trends are attempts to replicate film developing. There are apps or actions to turn our images into Polaroids. We can cross-process our photos or add light leakage, blur and vignette effects inherent to images produced by a Holga camera. We can replicate lomography, green-tinged seventies developing, infrared film and vintage sepia toning.

Information abounds, almost to the point of overwhelm, on each of these trends and how to apply them to our images.

In working on this assignment, I discovered that I am in a post-processing rut. My editing steps tend to be the same for the majority of my images. While this results in an efficient workflow, it has kept me from experimenting with some of the latest trendy options.

So in the spirit of investigation and experimentation, I spent some time playing with pixels. The creation above is an example of a color palette, where the color sample grid was developed from the photograph itself. This is a trend that I can easily follow – it appeals to my graphic design sensibilities. (If you are interested in receiving a daily dose of gorgeous photographic color palettes, check out Design Seeds: a site “for all who love color”.)

Interesting, yes? The key is learning when the effect adds to the image; when it is more than eye-candy applied simply because it is the latest “thing”. That’s the part where I still struggle. Judging which image might be enhanced by the application of a particular effect.  Which story will be richer by working some Photoshop magic. Because even as much as I love the editing process, I do believe that its primary role is to serve the image.

Learning how to create the effects is easy; it is developing the artistic maturity to use them wisely that is the challenge. I would say that, in my case, the jury is still out.


Posted on September 13, 2011, in Photography, Photoshop and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. You hit it spot on Brenda, you need to experiment and learn where they can enhance the image. You can only find what’s right for you that way. It is fun to “try on” the trends, it helps us grow and learn new things and keeps us from the rut. It’s ok if you decide they aren’t for you, at least you’ve learned something new.

    Beautifully written post and such wonderful insights. I have so appreciated having your voice in the class!

    PS – Thanks for link to Design Seeds – that might come up on my blog later this week. I have more color in store!

    • Kat,
      Another challenging journal prompt. Since editing is something that I love, I was rather surprised to find that I haven’t done as much “experimenting” with the latest photography trends as I would have thought. So it was a good reminder to keep searching for new ways to use the technological developments. Trends in photography seem to work just like trends in fashion – I’m certainly not an early adopter and new trends look strange to me eye at first. But over time, the newness starts to wear off and my eye can then see how I can integrate those trends into my own look.

  2. Brenda,
    I love your post! This was a tough one for me, but I love how you put it in the perspective of replicating film developing. Your explanation here is excellent.

    • Deb,
      It’s really kind of funny that so many of the digital photography trends are all about trying to look like film. I’m not sure if that has to do with a residual feeling that “digital” isn’t as good as film. Or that it lacks the imperfect character of the film medium. Or just that photographers like the “look” of these images. In any event, I can certainly see the attraction of these effects. Still trying to figure out when to use them effectively so that they serve the image.

  3. An enlightened and enlightening post, as usual! I always look forward to hearing your viewpoint that is so often very different from mine, and I always learn something.

    This is the first I’ve heard of some of the treatments you mentioned here. That first image is really fascinating. It looks like you’ve matched your photo to paint chips! Or turned it into paint chips, which I suppose is more accurate. I like it! I wonder how it would work with an image less graphic or geometric. And I’ll be checking out Design Seeds.

    • Lee,
      I’m glad that my post shared information that you found enlightening – since writing this one was somewhat of a struggle.

      I think you will find that the “color palette” effect is VERY appealing with all kinds of photos. If you check out the Design Seeds site, you will be amazed at the various photographs that are used for color inspiration. While I created my own Photoshop template for this effect, I was inspired by a free “Color Bar” template that I found here at a great blog called TheCoffeeShopBlog. Basically, you copy in your photo and then use the eyedropper to create “color chips” from colors in the image.

  4. Another wonderful post, Brenda! You really summed up the issue of post processing so well: It is developing the artistic maturity to use them wisely that is the challenge. I enjoyed seeing your experiments with processing your photos, I especially like the last one. Thanks for all the info — I will check out design seeds. Colourlovers is a fun site too — have you seen it? Now I’m off to try to blog on the topic of trends.

    • Gina,
      As always, thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on trends. To me, the whole issue comes down to knowing when a certain post-processing trend will actually enhance the image – make it stronger, the story clearer. Using trends “just because” isn’t very effective. Of course, that is the whole conundrum isn’t it – the knowing when. A skill that I am still developing. Thanks for the Colourlovers link!

  5. I wish I had read you post before I wrote my journal. You’ve helped me see clearer what the current trends in photography are. I’m so new to photography that I really didn’t know what’s new! I love the idea of trying tends and finding which ones, if any, we could use. Love the images you’e included. The last one is my favorite! I love windows! I’ve really enjoyed your posts during this class. I’ll be visiting your blog often!

    • Cathy,
      I am so grateful that we have been able to travel this road together and that we will continue supporting each other. I still have a lot to learn about trends and how best to use them creatively in my work. I think the important thing to remember is that the image itself is still the important component – you can’t make a bad image better by applying the latest post-processing craze. Once we get the image right, we can explore other artistic possibilities.

      Oh, and yes, windows are so much fun!

  6. Oh my, I LOVE the Holga image. It is so dreamlike. Very inspiring.

    For me, what you say here resonates so well with my writing (you have the best creative insights). I always have to decide if my phrasing and word choices serve the story, or if I’ve just fallen in love with a particular combination. It’s hard to cut those darlings! I’m still learning, and this is a great reminder. Thank you!

    • Lisa,
      Oh, I’m glad that you liked the Holga experiment – wasn’t sure if that one worked or not!

      I can certainly use this reminder in my own blog writing. Sometimes I try to be just a shade too clever and I give myself “high fives” for a witty turn of a phrase and then realize that I am merely entertaining myself. Deletion is painful but I am slowly learning that witty is no substitute for honesty.

  7. Hey Brenda-
    Been a crazy week and I’m finally getting around to seeing how others did with the “trendy” subject. I know that your editing skills are what led you to photography, so I’m glad you chose this subject.
    I’m so out of it that often I can’t tell when editing has been used. I missed the sentence that said that you were including examples below….and just thought that I liked the images, especially the last two. I can guess that the Holga effect centers the focus and can see the Polaroid effect (which I don’t like in general, because I remember disliking those images as a kid…seems like bad processing originally why duplicate, but what do I know?), but I have no idea what was done to the final image. I just like it.
    Thanks for your insights and definitely looking forward to journeying with you again in October.

    • Susan,
      Thanks for your kind comments. While I am a great fan of editing (as you know), I don’t always stay up on the latest trends nor remember to try them out – so this post was all about experimenting.The last photograph was processed with a Lomography action – which basically results in a very saturated, colorful image. I tried it out on quite a few images before finding one where I liked the final result. The original image was very pink/orange/golden in tone and I liked the color shifts that occurred. For me, its really just about playing until I think the results make for a better image.

      I look forward to October and seeing where our continued journey takes us.

I greatly appreciate your comments!

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