Shades of Roxi

Roxanne Gregory

You’ll often hear photographers talking about ‘capturing it in camera’, the basic principle being that if you’ve captured exactly what you’re looking for in the camera, then the post production work is kept to a minimum. It’s an idea that I’m growing to like. I’m finding that the day job is, unfortunately, keeping me more than a little busy at the moment, and the opportunities to spend a ton of time in post-production are, for the moment at least, not practical. The downside of this approach (for me, anyway) is that often, I’m not sure what the image is going to be like once I get it back to the computer. I know there’ll be a ton of photographers tutting at that admission, but I’m not going to let that worry me.

In the majority of instances, I’ll have everything planned out. I’ll have a very clear idea of what I’m looking for, what I’m shooting, what I’ll do with the image on the Mac, which bits I’ll do in Aperture, which in Photoshop, and that’s all fine. Often though, at the end of a session, presuming I’ve got what I planned, and there’s time left, then I’ll noodle. This is often the most exciting part of a shoot-stuff that isn’t planned ahead, and just happens on the day. Sometimes, the result-through no fault of the model-isn’t so great, but sometimes you get something that’s worthwhile.

The image here, and the various versions of it featured below, is from such an occasion when I was shooting with the wonderful Roxi. And, one of the reasons I wanted to write about this particular image was because I thought it was a chance to give a little bit of insight into the post production work that might go on with an image. Like I say there’s a lot to be said for capturing it in camera-a quick tweak for colour balance, a nudge on the saturation, sharpen, and you’re done-two minutes tops. Occasionally, though, you'll feel that there’s more than one way to finish it. Usually, of course, you’d want the one definitive version of an image out there-many variations seems to illustrate a lack of decisiveness, or something, but in this instance, I think it shows the many (too many…) choices available, even after you've finished the shoot.

And another reason for not having many variations out there are those ‘which looks better?’ posts you occasionally see on the various forums. They always read to me as ‘look at me! look at me! Say something nice about my photos!’. Maybe I’m too cynical, though, and certainly, the irony of blogging about my photos, whilst grumbling about ‘look at me!’ posts is not lost on me...

For this blog, I’ve given the base image a number of different treatments. I created the ‘definitive’ version early on, and that’s the one which I posted to fb, and elsewhere linking to this blog, and above. Even having done so, I thought this image could bear different interpretations. One of the reasons is not least because the image is almost abstract. In the straight from the camera version, raw and unedited, there’s a sense of abstraction-it’s about the shapes, and light, rather than the subject. It’s certainly not as abstact as a ‘bodyscape’ but equally, it’s not so much about Roxi, as the fabulous shapes she was making. So, to illustrate some of the thinking that photographers go through when they have the image, and start to work on it (or maybe not photographers, maybe just me) I though I’d present several versions of this same image.

The one above is the definitive version, in my eyes. It’s still moderately tweaked from the original. I’ve done very little of my usual post production on it. I’ve cropped it, upped the saturation and colour temperature to give it a really hot feel. I’ve upped the contrast to bring out more detail/depth in the wood, and then tweaked the black point to bring back the light/definition around the base of Roxi’s back. Sharpened a little, and that’s it. The definitive version.
Roxanne Gregory
But, worth looking at different versions-a few remixes, if you like. First off, I wanted to look at solarisation. First discovered by accident by Man Ray and Lee Miller, and perfected by Man Ray, this is effectively an intervention in the usual processing of a negative. If you wish to, you can read a little more about this here.

I’ve created two versions here-a colour, and mono version, using Color Efex Pro.

Roxanne Gregory
To be honest, I really like the colour version-I’m a sucker for strong, vibrant colours-as much as the mono version.

But, I feel that both of these seem to bring something different to the original image.

Next up, the one which is probably closest to what I’d do if I were looking for a definitive mono version. This one’s got a slight vignette applied, a contrast and exposure rework, and a cyanotype tint applied, all in silver efex pro. It’s then had the saturation reduced slightly in Aperture afterwards. In this kind of mono, whilst it’s a nice enough finish, it doesn’t appear to have the same ‘life’ that the colour master does.

Roxanne Gregory

Finally, a mono version that, to my eyes anyway, does appear to have more life about it. This time-again using Silver Efex Pro-I’ve boosted the structure and contrast, so the detail in the wood becomes a much stronger part of the image, and the figure becomes almost a silhouette. A very faint blue tint applied, and that’s it. I’m not quite sure why, but of the mono versions here, this one is probably the most evocative. It feels darker than the others, I think, in more than the literal sense alone. If I were finishing this up properly (rather than just having a bit of a quick noodle) I’d probably want to take the right hand side of the image down, to give it the same brightness as the left, but otherwise, this is done. And, curiously, if I were putting a definitive mono version out there, this is probably the one which I’d put out there. As I noted, the one above is probably closer to my usual approach, but this one does feel a lot more evocative.

Anyway, there you have it-one image, several versions, each of which has a different feel from the others. Well, to my eyes, anyway. And again, despite what I’ve said above, I’d be interested in views on the images. Not to help me select, but just out of curiosity, really.
Roxanne Gregory
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