Improve, not Change

In photography and in life, there is often a fine line being danced – Improve, not Change. I did some testing in a few photography forums which I regularly visit. I posted a beautiful image that I took, explaining the concept and how I thought I could improve on the photo. Then I solicited comments to see how the other members would respond.

Improve, not Change.

The key word is “improve”. Every response to the call for comments wasn’t how to improve the photo, but instead every comment was about how to change the results of the photograph.

What’s the difference you ask? The difference is when improving the photo, you are not changing the concept; you are not changing the model or pose. Improving the photo involves adjusting settings at the light or camera enough to not go outside the concept. Improving is also achieved through enhancements made in post processing.

Light Curves test FC194476
ClaraDoll29 – Light Curves

When you add a reflector to fill the shadows, or you move the light or change the model’s pose to reduce the shadows, you are changing the photo and going outside the concept.

In the example photograph of ClaraDoll29, her left eye (our right) is barely showing in the image, but everything else is lit or shadowed exactly as planned for this concept.

If ClaraDoll29 turns her head to her right or the light source is moved, allowing the eye to be lit up, ClaraDoll29’s cheek plus more of her face and hair would also be lit up, thereby changing the concept of this photograph. Just the same would be using a reflector to help fill the shadow. The contrast, as shown, is the concept. Filling the shadow destroys the intended contrast.

For this image, the eye in shadow will need to be enhanced in post processing. Quality photo editing tools provide excellent means of enhancing images, such as bringing light to darkness. This is why we shoot in RAW format!

Light Curves FC194167
Kristine – Light Curves

Shown here is a shot of Kristine from my “Light Curves” concept.

The goal of this concept is to highlight the beautiful curves of the feminine form by using a single source light that provides deep shadows and edge lighting.

The example at the left is slightly enhanced to show some of the details in the shadow. The actual, published version of this concept the shadows are deeper to only show the curves.

The image was shot in RAW and JPG – a camera setting allows saving the same shot in RAW and JPG simultaneously.

Check out the following enhanced versions of this picture to see the difference between RAW and JPG.

JPG Version

Enhanced JPG Image
Enhanced JPG Image

In post processing, I greatly enhanced the exposure to show what happens with JPG images. Significant details within the shadows are lost because of the JPG compression.

JPG Compression works by averaging “similar” pixels within the image and making them the same. Imagine, a segment of 10 pixels by 10 pixels, with RGB coding varying around 0,0,1 and 0,1,0 and 1,0,1 etcetera. All 100 pixels are changed to the same RGB code, like 0,0,1, causing loss of detail that was hidden within the slight variation of each pixel.

There is little to no chance of recovering lost details in the image when shot and stored in JPG format.

RAW Version

As you see in the RAW version, when the exposure was enhanced with the same method as shown above, all the details that JPG compression threw away come out.

Enhanced RAW Image
Enhanced RAW Image

Having these details present on the RAW image, even when hidden in the shadows, gives us the ability to make enhancements to the image and bring out lost details.

Since I shot the original in RAW format, I am able to use my photo editing software to bring out the shadows and make this a properly balanced, exposed image. (Not shown here)

We Improve, not change.

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