How I failed at recreating one of my toy photos

Sometimes you make an image that you love, but end up not entirely happy with it. There is a tiny detail that you think is a bit off. You might notice it as soon as you take it. Or it might be years later. Eventually, you decide to attempt to fix it by reshooting the image.

The sad truth is that this is not always a successful endeavor.

Continue reading “How I failed at recreating one of my toy photos”

Moving from the abstract to the concrete

I have raised my kids within the Montessori system of education which believes in the natural progression of learning that moves from the concrete to abstract. This concept is defined by the children first working with physical objects like wooden blocks and beads that represent abstract concepts like the number system and mathematical equations. Continue reading “Moving from the abstract to the concrete”

Doctor Photostein’s Monster

I always wonder about what I have created the moment I export a photograph in Lightroom. I know that on the most practical level I have acknowledged that I am happy with my decisions. I have taken my RAW file, used a number of tools to make changes to the image to fit my style and preferences, and exported to create a jpeg so the image can be shared with the online world. However, reality tells me I am really only happy with this one particular moment, which is what a photograph is anyway, a moment in time. But, the photograph is a moment in time that I already captured. A photograph shows the past. Does it get to be a second moment in time? Does editing a photo in Lightroom count as a second life? Continue reading “Doctor Photostein’s Monster”

I’m Tired of Faking It

True confession: After 30 years of being a photographer i’m tired of faking it. By ‘faking it’, I mean passing off my mediocre photography editing skills as ‘professional’. This past weekend I took a small step away from ‘Imposter syndrome‘ and one step closer to my ‘new years resolution‘.  I spent a good part of my Saturday learning Photoshop (PS). Continue reading “I’m Tired of Faking It”

One way to think about photo editing

I was asked to write a blog post about photo editing. I’m probably not the best person for this job because I try to do as little as possible. I try to capture the image I’m looking for ‘in-camera’. While I know there are many photographers that do amazing work creating luscious photos from their imagination using Photoshop,  (Zenith_Ardor comes to mind) ; that’s not me. So for now, I will simply get the conversation started. Continue reading “One way to think about photo editing”

Have You Started?

Have you started editing your photos for the Best of 2014 Photo Challenge?

I sat down last night and narrowed my choice down to 20 images, seven of which are solid choices.  Not quite the 12 that Ansel talked about, but I will take it. As I begin to choose the last five images that will round out my top 12, I keep thinking about this quote:

“It can be a trap of the photographer to think that his or her best pictures were the ones that were hardest to get. – Timothy Allen

This is definitely an editing trap I have fallen into before. It is hard to eliminate images from a group that you worked hard to get. It is so easy to get wrapped up in an image emotionally and not see clearly how it can strengthen or weaken the whole. For me, I am often entranced by a certain aspect of an image, a compelling detail, that it is hard to see it within the context of the group.

But then this is why editing is hard.

The other by product of this exercise is that I am seeing relationships I was not aware of. So many of my favorite images are taken near or in water it is almost comical. If you are familiar with my past work this makes a certain amount of sense. I also noticed my favorite images tend to be rather dark, not the usual playful imagery that you expect from Lego photography. I will have to consider lightening the mood with my final choices.

Once I lay out my book with its final 12 images I will be adding text to each image. I want you to know why I chose each image and what makes it special to me. I hope you will consider adding similar explanations in your book.

I look forward to seeing what you choose and why.

~ xxsjc

Have you signed up to partake in the great Best of 2014 Photo Book Swap?
Does your book have a theme beyond “Best of…”?
Please let us know if you have any questions, we are here to help. 


I adore this image which automatically makes it completely suspect. 

The Long Road to a Finished Photo

I am guilty of looking back from time to time. No, I am not the type of guy who only listens to old music because new stuff supposedly sucks, you know those guys, what I mean is that I have a hard time letting some of my photographs go. I return to them from time to time and re-edit them to see if the original edit can be improved. It may be just a little thing with colours, maybe with how the image has been cropped or just tweaks in contrasts and exposure. In the most extreme case it was a shoot, then a re-shoot, after that a re-edit of the re-shoot before I called it done. This took four years.

Editing photos from RAW is also not just about knowing the techniques, it’s also about choices. Sometimes I didn’t really succeed in either of those. There are things in the process I did not know how to do just a couple of years ago, and these little discoveries can make a big difference with certain photographs.

I do this because I want to learn, not because I do not like what I have done originally. By editing the same image again after a while I get a second chance with something I already know; on the second take I know what to look for. Somehow I feel this helps me to understand the editing process better than editing something entirely new. It’s like practising to play a musical instrument by playing the same song again and again.

I don’t replace the originals to the newly edited, but if there is a significant difference, I may post it again.

This one I posted again, “The Call of the Wild” (a nod to Jack London stories). The original on the right (from March 2011) is almost straight from the camera with very little edits, a tighter crop being the most obvious one. The one on the left has a new crop (or, rather, isn’t cropped at all), the composition allows the image to breathe a little, the colours are more vivid and I dug the wampa out of the shadows. Now, after three years, I think this image is finally done.

Creating a photo through intention

You don’t take a photograph, you make it. – Ansel Adams  

This quote applies to the entire photographic process; from clicking the shutter, to editing the photo, to printing it out. The simple act of choosing an image to work on is part of the process. Each conscious choice you make determines the final outcome. 

I prefer to do this the hard way. I tend to edit my photos twice, once using Snapseed for future  Instagram posts and once using Photoshop for printing. I really enjoy using Instagram as a photo sketchpad. I like to test photo concepts and play with editing techniques all the while trying not to get too caught up in my head. When I want to print an image out on paper, I turn to Photoshop for more traditional photo editing. 

When I am editing in Photoshop I want to try to capture what I created with my quick Snapseed edits. Of course when I write this out, this process seems totally ass backwards to me. Here I am with my big fancy camera and my big fancy printer and I’m trying to capture the quick, grungy spontaneity of an iPhone picture edited with Snapseed.  

Needless to say this has been a challenge. This past weekend I had the most fun with my experimentations, but for all the wrong reasons. The filters I downloaded to play with are designed to emulate film stock. After applying them to my images I discovered something I have not seen in years…film grain! I forgot how much I missed film grain. In this age of digital images and pixillation, film grain is a thing of the past. But for me it was always an important part of my final images. When I enlarged my underwater images to 40″ x 30″ (that’s really, really large) the grain was so pronounced the photos became similar to a pointillism painting. I was so happy to make this discovery, it was like coming home again. 

So needless to say I can’t wait to re-edit a few classic images with these new filters, add some grain and blow the best images up really, really large. 

What was your happiest accident?
What is your editing workflow?

~ xxsjc