Finding your voice (Part 1)
When I was a teenager, I didn't know anything about photography. The family camera was used to take snapshots of our vacations and family events. However, I learned that Fujifilm produced nicer-looking skies. That Kodak films had warmer colour, and that Agfa, at least the ones available to us, wasn't as good as the other two.
Photographers have been chasing different looks for a very long time. It was done with films, and paper, in the analog years and with several other tools in the digital.
But before I start talking about film looks, I want to talk about the process between the image captured in the sensor and the one in the resulting file, JPEG or RAW.
Sensors capture light. And they do that by separating the light with filters into red, green, and blue (RGB). Light is captured by the sensor pixels, converted to a digital value, and stored in a file.
If the file is RAW, it will contain the exact data captured by the sensor with no manipulation. The camera has a process to convert the RAW data into JPEG file format. If we open a RAW file, we will see the image looks terrible.
I'm trying to point out that we always have to apply a process to images captured by digital cameras.
When done by the camera, this process is what some photographers call the "Nikon colour" or "insert your brand here colour." And yes, it is essential to consider this when purchasing a camera.
But many other photographers don't care much about what the camera does and process the RAW file in editing software. There's no right or wrong approach; all paths are valid when developing your "voice."
There are many tools to edit your photos, from the classic Photoshop, Lightroom, and Capture One to DxO Photolab or PaintShop Pro, to name a few. They all do the same task, convert your RAW into a format that can be used.
And then we have presets, recipes, styles, plugins, etc. These are pre-edits done by other people and packaged for easy use. With one click, you'll get the edit applied. Of course, you can edit these to alter the look to your own liking.
Within these pre-build edits, a group specializes in reproducing the look of classic analog films. We have Fujifilm with their classic film emulation built into their cameras and Nik Collection with the excellent SilverFX Pro to convert photos into black and white. DxO started this before everyone with their Film Pack plugin.
Many artists started creating incredible photos with all these tools in their hands. We also have many with the view that photography should be pure and avoid excessive manipulation. In my opinion, it doesn't matter. Each photographer has to find their "voice." There's no right or wrong way of doing this.
I went through a journey in my early years as a photographer. I started in the heyday of HDR, and my early work reflects that. I cringe when I look back at those photos. I then turned down the overprocessing and settled in more subtle edits. Spending a full year following the mantra "getting it right on the camera." Don't get me wrong, I use high saturation but only when it has a purpose and still looks natural. Because nature can be very oversaturated. And I embraced black and white.
I recently purchased my first Fujifilm camera, and I'm now experimenting with their film simulations. I find that DxO Photolab has the same settings as the camera, so I can apply them without the cumbersome Fuji process (a topic for another article).
I want you to not worry about stigmas and stereotypes. Use all the tools you need to show who you are through your work. Make mistakes, learn from them, and experiment. Your style, or voice, will result from your own journey.
Because you made it to the end of the article, here’s one of my pictures for you.