Warning – rant approaching! This subject is something that’s bothered me ever since my college days, and although it’s not all that common in the professional world, whenever I’m on Flickr I find examples of it all too readily.
It’s not enough to take a crap photograph, and then muck about with it in photoshop for ages, adding filter after filter, and hope that the results will be acceptable. They won’t. It’ll look like you took a shit shot, and tried to polish it. Likewise, it doesn’t work at the camera stage. Taking a boring shot, and then shooting it through a fish eye lens doesn’t make it any better. It’s still boring, but now it’s really distorted and boring. Well done.
Likewise, you can’t mimic the “Dave Hill Look” or the “Jill Greenberg Look” (to give but 2 examples) by simply twatting your shot with, say, a load of high pass filter and a bit of reduced saturation. Post processing is inevitably a part of many photographers workflow, but someone’s look will be the result of everything they, and the rest of the crew have done. Lens choice, lighting, hair and make-up, styling, location, casting will all have a much larger role to play than many people think. You only have to browse through some of the forums on Flickr to see thousands of charming examples of this. “Look” cries someone, “I’ve done a Dave Hill shot!”. No you haven’t, you’ve taken a shot of your dog, and not a great shot at that, and you’ve pumped so much high pass filter onto it that it looks like its’ fur’s on fire. Someone like Dave Hill brings together good lighting, styling, strong composition, and careful use of photoshop to produce a stunning result. One element alone is not enough.
High pass filters, cross processing, desaturation, vignettes, fish eye lenses, orton effects and the vast panapoly of zany, wacky and far out things you can do to your shots all have their place. Generally that place is to be employed with restraint, and used as part of your overall plan for the shot rather than as a panic button after you realise you’ve taken a turkey. Or, as all professionals will secretly admit, they can be employed to dazzle a naïve and easily impressed client. Never done this myself though, oh no……