Creating a Masterpiece in Photographs

January 30, 2021

In today’s world where everyone has a camera, everyone is a photographer, and competition is strangling the internet… we should hone our works to represent the very best we can offer when creating a masterpiece in photographs.

Creating a work of art

I used to think that to alter a photograph was wrong. My belief was that for an image to be a amazing, it should be captured it as it was. I thought that is what made a great photographer. As an amateur, I was still learning the camera, and trying to understand the settings. That left me with plenty of under-average images, and huge developing fees. Tough combination for a struggling newbie photographer.

It would be years into the digital world before I took the earlier advice from a photographer friend that had shown me the ropes and whose talent I had tremendous respect for (AM), that I got my first editing software. Then I started the painful task of learning to do the basics. Straightening, removing blemishes, basic color, cropping, etc.

The reality… at first it felt dirty to me to be using it. Almost as if I was cheating. But as I improved, I also notice so did my images. I stopped worrying so much about trying to take the perfect image, and learned to create the perfect image using the tools I had at my disposal. Over the years I grew as a photographer and unexpectedly, I think I also grew as an artist.

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Dr. Wayne Dyer
HONING YOUR CRAFT

A lot has changed since the dark rooms of the past. Honestly… I never have used them as my photography career barely had begun and digital was right around the corner. So for me the transition was simple.

It’s really not much different from any other fields of work. Surgeon, farmer, bricklayer, pilot, UFC fighter, or even a blogger (as I’m currently finding out). They all have learning curves, require massive dedication and effort, and it often takes years to get skillful.

Even the photography darkrooms of the past had tricks of the trade. I’m still in awe when I try to understand how they got the image to just appear on the paper from the film by just floating it in liquid.

Times may have changed with digital photography and so have the outlets for creative expression. Don’t be afraid of change. Reach out of your comfort zone and use what’s available. The good news is with digital, you can try as many combinations as you want. It doesn’t cost anything extra.

TIP: Always remember to work off a copy. Keep your original safe and uncompromised.

WHERE TO START

Though we all may start off with a decent image if there’s enough pixels and an interesting subject, sometimes you have to work it to make it stand out from the rest. Very rare does an image have perfect composition right out of the camera. It does happen, and I am always thrilled when it does. But more often than not, the lighting, the weather, or man made obstacles make a disappointment out of your perfect image plans. So after a day of shooting you get home and realize, you’ve got some great shots that require no effort, that’s awesome! But you also have plenty of good shots too. There is no reason to waste those images. Create the picture you want and go from average to outstanding. Sometimes, all it takes is a keen eye, an unseen vision, and effort. Find one that has promise, sharpness, or something else that captures your eye and then start the process of working each one until you pull from it your rendition of the image.

If we all started out with the exact same basic shot, everyone will see something different, and not all will want to spend the extra effort to make it their own unique image. But here is the thing. Your vision is what’s different from all others, and that’s what sets us all apart. Use that to your advantage and make your magic!

BEFORE AND AFTER

Here I started with an bland image of a flock of snow geese in flight at Ladd S Gordon Waterfowl Complex – Bernardo WMA Unit. I started with a basic image with bad lighting straight from the camera. I had a bunch of similar ones, but this one had a bird in the center that caught my eye. There was nothing special about this image other than I felt compelled to work it.

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I added my standard enhancements but still felt it wasn’t worthy, but it had promise. I know I can do better.

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Next I changed it to black and white, and though I like those results, I still felt it was lacking.

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WHEN TO GIVE UP

I could have just given up and left it sitting as is, never published, hidden in a file with thousands of other images that haven’t been developed, but I was driven to take it farther.

A few more changes using Photoshop Elements 2020 artistic filters, blending, and layers and finally….

I had my masterpiece!

When I started, I really didn’t know how it would turn out. I just knew it had potential.

Now this photograph has become a digital creation I am proud of.

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My advice to all: when creating your masterpiece in photographs… don’t worry about the little things. Labels and expectations mean nothing in the whole scheme of things. If you are creating things that make you happy… just go with the flow. Through trial and error, you too will create your own works of art.

For more images from Bernardo Wildlife Area, click here.

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For viewing this masterpiece at FLICKR

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