For example, on a recent trip to Nantucket, I had combed some lightly tread beaches in my early morning walks along the shoreline, and found some fairly sun-bleached snail shells that were large and whole. After returning home with them, and later that evening, I tried arranging them and shooting a bunch of exposures just toying with shape, shadow, depth-of-field and various lenses on an old picnic table.
When the trip was over and I reviewed the images, none seemed terribly special immediately. I could make out muted colors that would probably have been more brilliant had I used a spray bottle to mist the shells. But even so, I selected a few images out of the bunch to play with – like the original (Before) image shown here.
I knew I could punch up muted color, enhance the dynamics range of the images, fiddle with effects for local and global contrast, enhance sharpening and softness, and push the limits of what the images kept hidden in the captures. Using techniques that I teach in all of my BetterPhoto courses (Photoshop 101, Color Management for Digital Photographers, Correct and Enhance Your Images, and Leveraging Layers), I did just that and started to see results. I ended up finding several images that were keepers in the bunch.
Once you know how to explore an image to redefine the color, tone and dynamics, you can make even flat images spring to life. It requires a little effort to learn the modern, digital darkroom, but the creative levels that it unleashes are well worth the effort. As my skills continue to grow in image editing (even after 15+ years of full-time use), editing and adjusting captured images has become as much an exploration and adventure as the capturing. I unravel and adorn each image as a unique object, exploring its intricacies in post-processing to create a finished piece.