(This post is adapted from two recent updates to my ridiculously mammoth and self-indulgent yet inexplicably celebrated “Geek Creek Kitbashes” thread at HissTank.)
I’m getting fed up with my camera.
I feel that I am too much of an ignorant amateur to bother investing in anything more highfalutin’ than a point-and-shoot camera, and I have nothing but praise for the good people at Canon; my previous PowerShot served my family well for seven years, and the one time it became unreliable (before its ultimate demise), Canon fixed it free of charge. It boasted a mere 3.2 mega pixels, and yet it produced stunning photos on occasion. When it finally died, I did not hesitate to pursue another Canon PowerShot, and the replacement, which we’ve had for sixteen months now, is an upgrade in every way, from the 12.1 mega pixel count to the much larger viewfinder.
Unfortunately, the viewfinder is part of the problem. Put simply, I feel that it misrepresents photos; they look darker and crisper in the viewfinder than they end up looking on my laptop, and so I glance at the viewfinder and assume that I’ve captured a photo the way I wanted to, which later proves to not be the case.
I was whining about this to my long-suffering wife this morning, and she pointed out that I could always edit my photos. I bristled at the suggestion, ’cause while I relied heavily on ye olde “auto correct” feature back around 2005, when all my photos were comically overexposed and generally inept, I pride myself (for no good reason, perhaps) on having not performed any “post-production” work on my photos since 2007 or so. I never begrudge other photographers their decision to edit, but for me to do so would feel like cheating somehow, even though I don’t see it as cheating when others do it.
Still, today’s photo shoot proved to be a particularly bitter disappointment; what appeared in the viewfinder to be crisp blacks and vivid colors proved in the final product to be washed out, dull and uninspired. I figured, if I hate this batch of photos anyway, then what have I got to lose?
Here, then, is a before-and-after comparison photo of my latest lazy kitbash, who remains nameless at the moment. (I’m leaning towards Vapor; I’ll try to let you know the verdict soon, so’s you don’t lose sleep).
First, the photo I produced with the camera:
And here is the edited version, featuring increased contrast. I also saturated the hell out of the colors:
I for one much prefer the edited version. On the other hand, I sometimes suspect that my love of dark blacks might be exaggerated or misguided, a lingering aesthetic preference from my heavy metal-crazed teens. Perhaps I want my photos to be darker than they should be.
I admit I am excited at the possibilities of this brave new editing phase of my hobby, but I fear that I am simply mistaking “different” for “better”. Either way, I have vowed to myself that I won’t go the George Lucas route by revisiting and editing every photo I’ve taken in the past six years, and yet I thought it would be interesting to take a random assortment of photos I was happy with (versus today’s shoot, which produced only disappointments) and see what a little editing might do.
The photos on the left are the originals:
This one represents the biggest improvement, in my opinion:
For each of these photos, what I’ve done is toggle the contrast once (increasing it by 10%) and the saturation three to five times. (I probably overdid the color saturation in at least some of these photos; Bellatrix LeStrange’s face looks almost orange).
I honestly can’t tell if these edits are improving things. To my eye they are, and yet I am not the subtlest person in the world, and so I keep worrying that I am overdoing it.
If I cannot decide whether five seconds of editing helps or hurts my toy photos, then perhaps I should save myself some money and stick with my PowerShot.