Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tip of the day: See the forest from the trees

If you haven't read this TOTD post about histograms. Read this first as I'll be referencing the other post heavily.

I know I just told you to read the histogram. The histogram is great for back-solving but don't get hung up on it. Like everything else it's just a tool. Don't be discouraged if you can't make your histogram identical to that of another image. It's just a reference. Besides, if you keep trying to push your histogram to look like that of a different image, you might very well end up down the wrong path.

How do I know this? I've been down the wrong path plenty of times. In the end I've learned "to see the forest from the trees".
The histograms from two separate images will never look exactly alike. It's (almost) impossible.

If this doesn't yet make immediate sense, then you aren't reading deep into the histogram yet. Just wait, this post could apply in the near future :)

But if this stuff is making sense then I will continue. As an example, I've referenced many images when researching B&W techniques. In trying to emulate the histograms of those reference images, I've lost my own image over and over again. Essentially I forgot what I was trying to accomplish, which was to "enhance" my image. Instead I wound up with something that was totally out in left field that neither A) looked like the references picture nor B) looked like a better version of my own picture.

It can be all bad.

Stepping away from the histogram allowed me to see my own images for what they are; unique and independent captures that need adjustments potentially different from adjustments needed by other images. We can get so caught up in the nitty gritty, details, techniques, equipment that we totally lose sight our original goals. In this case my goal was to create/enhance a picture. While this example has been specific to retouching, it happens all the time to me with many things not limited to photography. Getting bogged down by the details can sidetrack you every which way from Sunday.

Doing things right is about the details. But there's a fine line between getting the details right and being overwhelmed by the details. Seeing the forest from the trees is about knowing when to stop sweating the details.

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