What’s Choking Your Photo Creativity?

Shortly after Photoshop stormed onto the scene folks started peddling their personal Photoshop Actions and Presets in Lightroom. It didn’t take long for ambitious power-users to figure out how to make money by selling prefab effects and routines. I always thought that was a bit presumptuous to assume that others aren’t smart enough to figure their own workflow, though I did applaud their entrepreneurial fervor. To me, using someone else’s routines is sorta like paying someone else to do your homework.

Strangle Graffiti

I shot this graffiti wall in Genoa Italy hoping that someday I’d have a place to use it. Here it is.

Personally, I get a kick out of learning the tools and shaping my images my own way, so that subscription movement never really appealed to me as either a buyer or a seller. True confession… when digital imaging burst on the scene in 1990, my background in litho scanning and image preparation prompted me to write an intelligent automation plug-in for Photoshop called ScanPrep Pro. SPP did very well for itself and helped a lot of folks produce professional results. The difference was, back then people were submitting digital photos to printers without understanding the printing process. That was then.

But now the industry is filled with lookalike software packages that offer the same basic processing sliders along with a bagful of predigested image effects. To my thinking, there’s something fundamentally wrong with this. Let me propose a couple of hypothetical products outside the digital photography realm to show you what I mean.

What if we published a line of coloring books for children that offered thirty pages of pre-colored Crayola pictures. That way each child could simply choose a page, sign it, tear it out of the book and Mom could hang it on the refrigerator? Think of all the messy walls and broken Crayons we’d save.

Maybe your child’s Creative Writing class could have a workbook with scores of pre-written short stories all produced with perfect sentence structure, spelling, grammar, and punctuation. The stories could provide blanks in the sentences for your child to fill in the names of parents, friends, and pets to make it personal. Think of the frustration that would be avoided from kids having to process thought and use their imagination in such a stressful way. There would be no more misspelled words or wasted time in class. The kids would have more time for gaming and networking. Wouldn’t that be great?

I know that both of these examples are a bit absurd but you can imagine the effect that either could have on the creative development of a child. Not only would there be no artistic involvement and creative thinking in the process, but the skills and rigor of kids learning to express themselves in a very personal way would be lost.

Until recently, Adobe remained honest to the art and science. They use to provide all the image processing tools needed (and a boatload more that you didn’t need) to keep the art of photography a creative effort. Both Photoshop and Lightroom always required the user to learn, imagine, and produce their own personal work. But alas, even Camera Raw now provides dozens of canned and categorized imaging effects to help the helpless.

I know, I know, you can edit the results, but you can buy a ready-made cake and just write your kid’s name on it too! Thank you Mom for actually baking my birthday cakes.

The photo industry is making cameras now that are so smart that you don’t have to understand photography at all; just shoot. Soon, the firmware in the camera will automatically do all the thinking, set all the exposure settings, weed out any bad pictures, and automatically upload the “keepers” to all your social media outlets and then save them to the cloud.

There is a camera being developed that obeys voice commands so no buttons have to be pushed or preferences set. Won’t that be wonderful? Perfect dictated pictures every time.

Perhaps we’ll have a wearable camera soon that will sense the presence of friends and family and will take shots automatically at an opportune time. Just think of the memories that technology will capture for us and make accessible from the cloud (don’t get me started!).

Balderdash to all of it. I’m a photographer, not a social media photo-enthusiast. I like everything about the art and science of photography and I still enjoy pushing my own pixels around. If you understand my point (and can tolerate my sarcasm), why not join me on a weekly private post where I’ll teach you what you really need to know about shooting and editing you photos. Then you’ll know what you’re doing and you’ll be proud to share the real you with your friends. Just think how much more they’ll like that. I’ll detail this program in an upcoming post.

Get serious about learning photography and then stay focused. Invest in yourself and determine to understand the process. Sign up for this regular blog series by entering your email address at the top-right corner of this page.

That’s the way I sees it. Let me know what you think.

Speaking Promo

If you’d like to understand even more of what makes color work, how light behaves, and how easy it is to shape the light in your photographic images, go to http://gottaknowvideos.com and get Bright About Light!

About Herb Paynter

Herb is a published author, photographer, retoucher, color reproduction specialist and a regular writer for Digital Photography School. Download his iBook Digital Color Photography from the iTunes store and view his Light and Color video series at Gotta Know Videos.com.
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2 Responses to What’s Choking Your Photo Creativity?

  1. Berdella Gibbs says:

    I agree with your comments and appreciate the sarcasm! Whatever happened to individual creativity? That’s the art I appreciate.

    • Herb Paynter says:

      Good question. This whole imaging craze started out as an outlet for creative expression. Thanks for the comment. Let’s start a mini-revival and get this thing back on track.

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