The Formula

Sometimes I think this whole photography thing would be much easier if there was just one simple formula for creating a good image; something you could memorize and apply each time you picked up the camera.

A special photographic algebra – if you have the value of “a”, everything would be in balance. Rules and formulas appeal to me – “if you do a, followed by b, the result will be c”. There is something extremely satisfying about knowing there is a single correct answer.

But then, even as I wish for that secret formula, I also understand that art doesn’t follow a recipe. While we can continuously improve our technical skills and knowledge, in the end, the resulting image is some strange alchemy of skill and art and vision and creativity. A product of noticing. Of seeing the world in our own unique way. Of experimenting and exploring. Of trying and then trying again.

I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Texture Tuesday Processing

  • In Adobe Camera Raw, apply the Coffeshop Blog Scorched Honey Preset
  • Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment, lowering the saturation of the yellows in the image
  • Process my midtone contrast action to increase the texture and sharpness of the trees
  • Add the formula image, transforming to fit the space. Set blend mode to Color Burn and opacity to 40%
  • Add the Stained Linen texture, blend mode set to Multiply
  • Add the Vintage Vellum texture from Pixel Dust, blend mode set to Soft Light
  • Add a Levels adjustment, increasing overall contrast, especially in the highlights

Below are the original image and the Photoshop layers palette:











Linking with Texture Tuesday, hosted by Kim Klassen 


Posted on July 2, 2013, in Photoshop and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. I love formulas, but they don’t pair with art very well-and in fact I think if art becomes a formula it misses the emotional zing.
    I love that algebraic formula you put atop the photo though. That is way cool and gives that mix of picture and text I seem to like. I don’t do much texture-wise, but stained linen is one I reach for when needed.
    Hope all is well in Brenda land!! Happy day my friend.

    • Susan – I have to admit there is a tiny part of me that would really like a formula for creating – an “easy” way to creative success. But I also realize there is no shortcut – we have to work at it and have the courage to fail.

      I, too, love the shapes of textual formula – I have a whole collection but this is the first time I have added one to my own photography. I’m glad you liked it.

  2. If there had been an algebraic formula to creating a good photo I can guarantee that would have put me off picking up a camera entirely! I love your phrase ‘a product of noticing’. Yes, that’s exactly what it is and exactly what I love about it. Gorgeous image, love the honey tones and the ‘da vinci’ effect of the algebra formula.

    • Becs – I always had a fondness for algebra – weird, I know 🙂 And I like your description of this combination of photo and text as the “da vinci” effect – who better to emulate?

  3. I am totally lost with formulas so I really prefer the tried and true methods of photography and also the keep learning that photography gives me. I would like like it with a formula myself but I suspect it is because I was always terrible with algebra.

    • Barbara – photography continues to teach me as well – including the fact that there is no creative formula 🙂 We all have to find our own way.

  4. Now this is so very creative — the subtle formula adds a special flair to your image. If we all used simple formulas, we wouldn’t get images like this. Showing the world a unique vision is what makes photography so fascinating to me.

    • Gina – I’m not sure why it took me so long to try this – to add one of the formula illustrations that I have collected to one of my photographs. But I do like the result – I am so grateful for the positive response as well.

  5. Love this image, Brenda, and what a great post to go with it.
    Happy day to you!

    • Thanks Lisa. I’m not quite sure where the inspiration came for this treatment – something about the angle of the sidewalk reminded me of this illustration – and they just seemed to go together.

  6. Love, love, love how you created that wonderful image to go with this post. It’s the Brenda formula and no one can copy it.

  7. I really like this. I don’t know much about post-processing, just some simple things, but I do know that the “formula” you used on this image is perfect! I love the antique look it has and the text. It would be beautiful on a canvas!

    • Cathy – I’m so glad you liked this one! I wasn’t sure about it at first, whether my “formula” worked or not. But now I’m glad I put this one “out there”. 🙂

  8. A wonderful post and something to think about!

    • Thanks, Pat! I haven’t quite figured out where the inspiration for this image came from – it just sort of popped into my head. I’m glad you enjoyed my formula search.

  9. Oh, I just love what you’ve done here, Brenda! An image transformed into something more…It’s perfect. LIke you, sometimes I wish there were a formula. It might help during those times when I feel lost, when I’m learning and haven’t mastered, and am living with the growing pains, and the discovery. But, then, again, I wouldn’t really want to miss all the steps. It’s all part of it. Thanks, Brenda..such a great image, and post!

    • Thanks, Juli – it was an experiment that turned out well, I think. There is a very large part of my personality that likes certainty and the right answers and would find a creativity formula a good thing. But then I realize that there really isn’t any easy way to reach what we are searching for except to search and discover.

  10. I do love order and control, but I’m bad with formulas. This is why I cannot cook. Every recipe I look at seems to say, “but, what if . . .” Let’s just say that works in writing, but not so much in cooking!

    • Oh, this made me smile! I can you picture you going down one of your “what if” trails, with a given recipe as a starting point and not quite ending up where you wanted to be. I can see why imagination (except for those talented chefs) may not be the most successful way to approach family cooking 🙂

  11. Another bit of magic for sure…formulas are useful for almost everything (I depend on them too) but when it comes to art, I think it’s one’s heart and vision that matter most. You have both, my friend.

    • Wanda – yes, I have a very large part of my brain and personality that is formula-oriented, seeking that one “right” answer. It is sometimes hard for me to live with the uncertainty of my creative side. My challenge is to balance the two.

I greatly appreciate your comments!

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