This site requires Javascript enabled to operate correctly. Please enable Javascript in your browser, or click here

Tools of Interpretation

Mapping The Journey

Paul Gallagher

The very word inter­pre­ta­tion’ relates to mean­ing’ and expla­na­tion’, but the actions described are lit­tle more than mend­ing the inad­e­qua­cies of the flat raw file and enjoy­ing get­ting far from that ini­tial image appear­ance. In effect what you have done is embarked on a jour­ney when the Sat Nav has no sig­nal at all. Where you arrive after the jour­ney has fol­lowed much the same guidance.

I will make it clear here. Tools alone can­not make good pho­tographs. Tools and the mind of the pho­tog­ra­ph­er make good pho­tographs, and cou­pled with image inter­pre­ta­tion, can make great pho­tographs. When we are out there with our cam­eras, we make choic­es all the time. Where we place the tri­pod, the height of the cam­era, how close to the sub­ject and lens choice etc. We active­ly enjoy mak­ing these choic­es and see­ing the out­comes. Where pho­tog­ra­phers often fall through the cracks is when they get back at base and they are faced with their cam­era file for the first time.

Let’s go back to the words mean­ing’ and expla­na­tion’, choic­es at our dis­pos­al. Con­trols in Pho­to­shop, Light­room or Adobe Cam­era Raw can­not intro­duce a mean­ing in a pho­to­graph, nei­ther can they make that pho­to­graph deliv­er a mes­sage or offer an expla­na­tion. They are just tools wait­ing to be used. The most crit­i­cal fac­tor here is for the tools to become sec­ond in com­mand to image cre­ation and stand­ing at the helm should be image inter­pre­ta­tion. So, I hear you say, What is image inter­pre­ta­tion then?’. It is the process of hav­ing some sem­blance of what you want the image to look like and then apply­ing adjust­ments to the to achieve that very out­come. All too often it is sim­pler to play around with slid­ers and fil­ters and arrive’ at a desir­able out­come, but will the image real­ly relate to the rea­son you made the expo­sure in the first place?

Both the prob­lem and solu­tion are very cumu­la­tive. If you have lit­tle or no idea what you want your fin­ished image to look like, you will begin with adjust­ments and the only time you will stop is if it begins to look like a dog’s din­ner. If you are lucky and it goes the oth­er way, you may end up with some­thing look­ing desir­able. How and why you got there you will nev­er know. It all depends on how your adjust­ments cumu­late over the process. If you have an intend­ed out­come, you will embark on your image jour­ney and stop pro­gres­sion when it stops look­ing like the pic­ture in your mind. At which point you will step back and make sure you are on the cor­rect tra­jec­to­ry, the cul­mi­na­tion of which is an image that looks as you intend­ed it to look.