Landscape Photography – from concept to print
When I started to delve deeper in to the world of photography and wanted to improve my skills, I spent a lot of time looking at other people’s images and I wondered why there’s were so much better than mine? Well it took me some time and a lot of head scratching to work out the answer and over time I realised that you don’t take an image but you create one and there is a series of elements involved in the process of creating an image. Only when I started to apply the process to my photography did I start to see an improvement. Over time I've developed my process and the elements involved, some hold greater importance than the others but all are essential cogs in the machine. If you want to improve your photography you need to move away from the ‘snap’ shots and start to plan, prepare, take and visualise your images. As I always say when trying to improve it is these fine margins which make a big difference. I've developed my own 'process' which works for me and I’m going to run through my photography process and why, I believe, each individual element is so important in bringing your images to life and making you a better photographer.
Preperation and Planning of the image:
So to start the process we have a little bit of planning and prep to do. I find this a key element, as there is so much we need to understand and prepare before we actually get out in the field. We need to decided on location and then we need to look at how long it will take to travel there, is there any walking involved, what equipment will I need to take, what time is sunrise/sunset, where does the sunrise/set, where will the light hit, what is the position of the sun this time of year, what the weather is going to be like etc. We really need to have a good understanding of what we are dealing with before we arrive at our location, the more we know the better prepared we will be and with the aim of the shoot running as smoothly as possible. We will also need to make sure all our equipment is ready, so we need to charge batteries and take spare batteries and memory cards, clean your camera sensor, lenses and filters. Its always worth double checking your equipment as there is nothing worse than getting to your location and realising you've forgotten your memory card or batteries. I really enjoy trip planning and it helps me to build the excitement for the actual outing.
Pre visualising and taking the image:
Obviously one of the most enjoyable parts of the process is being out in the field. There is no better feeling than watching a new day unfold or the last rays of the evening sun wash over a landscape. It is also the most essential part of the process, without the physical image we cannot complete the process. So it is vital that we execute this part correctly in order for us to move on the next stage. It’s no good making all the effort to get to our intended location if we can’t get the shot. I always like to arrive as early as possible to assess the scene I’m looking to shoot, identify my subject, decide on the type of shot I want to capture, find my composition, is it free of distractions and elements which aren’t needed, make sure all my camera settings are correct (apeture, shutter speed and ISO), make sure my focus is set, do a few test shots and review to make sure all looks good and if necessary make adjustments to all the above. Then I have a brew and wait for the light to hit knowing I'm completey prepared and ready. Try not to flit between different scenes and always look to get one image your really pleased with. After you have your main image in the bag, then you can start to experiment knowing you have the shot in the bag.
Unedited Raw file straight out of the camera:
Editing and visualisation of the image:
Editing……well this could be a whole blog on its own to be fair and I will look to do one in the future about the power and importance of editing your images. I find this can be a bit of a contentious issue and you can find some photographers will hide the fact that they edit images. Now I’m happy to put it out there…I edit my images, In fact I believe it to be an important part of the creative process of photography and helps for you to visualise and interprate the scene you have captured. My main reasoning is that, no matter how good your camera sensor is, it can never replicate what you see with your own eyes. The dynamic range in your eye will far exceed that of your sensor, for this reason we need to process the image to get it at close to how you saw it. The camera can’t convey your emotions and how you felt when you took the image, I use processing to help to interprate these emotions so people can connect with your image and when they see it, it is like they are ther and they can feel what you did. Editing is very much an iterative process and once you’ve edited it is worth going away make a brew and then come back to it with fresh eyes, as you often find that your first pass, when you go back to it might not look correct and will need further tweaking, but its worth taking the time to get it correct.
The final edited image, ready for sharing and printing:
Once you have edited the image you can then share your image to the general public. You may not think this is important part, but gaining feedback and recognition from your peers is so important. There is nothing better than getting positive feedback on an image and I find the communities of Instagram and Facebook are really good and supportive. Also never be afraid to listen to other peoples thoughts on your images and if you ask for it people will offer constructive criticism. I’d always take criticism with a pinch of salt, as Photography is very subjective, but you may just learn something.
Printing the image:
So the final part of the process and one that is so rewarding in my view. Images can look good on a computer or mobile screen but they really come alive when you physically print them out and can appreciate all the fine details in the image that we simply don't get on a computer screen. We really do live in a digital world and images these days can be confined to the computer or hard drive and never see the light of day, so it is really inspiring and satisfying seeing a physical outcome to your exploits and hard work. Printing images can also help you as a photographer. Firstly when you print images and especially when printing big, you really need to make sure your technique is on the money. All technical flaws will be visable when printed big as all the fine detail, which you often lose on social media platforms will be highlighted. Printing images makes you a better image editor as you spend time in the editing suite reviewing the images and making it as perfect as possible, removing dust spots, making sure it is correctly exposed and not over edited. I must admit, I really get excited when waiting to see how an image looks when printed and it makes all the hard work, patience and determination worth it to see the image, printed, mounted and framed and hanging on a wall for all to see......no better feeling and one of great pride.
Printed and mounted image, ready to go on the wall or to a new home:
So thats my photography process, hopefully you will take something from this and gives you an insight into the time, effort, methods and processes which are involved in capturing a landscape image and why they are all important. Ultimately you will develop a process which works for you, but I can't stress the importance of having a process or workflow for your photography, as it really helps you to get the most out of it and hopefully come away with some stunning images.