Since I began shooting with my new DSLR, I’ve been focused on moving my photography from the snapshot realm over to what I  (or others) could consider art. But that is far easier said than done. Subtle shifts in all variables can make such a dramatic impact in the final shot. Dialing the in finer points to perfection, has thus far eluded me.

While I’ve been making progress, I’m still finding that my shots are closer to what I  would consider snapshots than what I would frame and hang on my wall (bear in mind I may have a high standard since most of the art in my house are original watercolours done by my father and he is the one who taught me how to appreciate art with a critical eye).  I’ve changed subject matter, adjusted my aperture and shutter speeds, and jockeyed my ISO. I’ve shifted focal points, cropped tall and wide to short and tight, and become a contortionist to get a different angle… all to the same result: medium colour tones, over exposed sky or under exposed landscapes….. nothing has popped.

So I’ve changed my tactic a bit. Now, while I play with getting the images i want out of my camera, I’m taking the images I actually get and playing with some post-processing edits. I’m a bit more pleased with the resulting after-edit images, but still feel like I am a ways away from something I’d be proud to hang on my walls. I admit, I am no fan of post-process editing. I (shockingly I know) have a bit of a purist attitude to photography: if I can’t get it out of my camera, then it is not photography but computer art instead. Yes, I know most will disagree with me and point out that I am not using film so I am being a bit of a hypocrite, and you would have valid points. Yet I will stand my ground, but not to the point of never editing… just to the point where I will continue to push and challenge myself to get as close as possible from the camera itself without the need for editing after the fact.

That all said, I began playing with some edits in Google’s Picasa tool. Very basic, which is fine by me. All I want to do with editing right now is to mimic the capabilities I’d have in a darkroom if I were working with film. So I’ve limited myself to only cropping and adjusting light levels, nothing more. No fancy effects or gausian blurs. Just darkroom tools so I can pretend I am doing what I’d have done anyway….

So here you go, my first foray into post-process images. All the following were taken Sunday April 17th, 2011approximately 3:30-4pm, at Hill Cemetery just outside of Laurelwood, Oregon:

Any and all feedback welcomed. I’d appreciate a 3rd party perspective on what I may be missing to help be bridge that gap from snapshot to art.



10 thoughts on “From snapshot to art… an elusive shift

  1. 1639 was my gut instinct favorite: from the set you gave us. I think the composition combined with the more shallow focus.

    When I’m looking for ideas about photography, I like the things shared by Chris Marquardt from “Tips from the Top Floor” when he does segments on Leo Laporte’s “Tech Guy” shows (I listen on podcast, from the KFI AM 640 feed). also and the communities: and

  2. Edited… it should have been: “I think I liked the composition combined with the more shallow focus.”

  3. Hey Jason,

    take this as my amateur 2 cent status.
    I think composition wise 1639 and 1641 are your biggest winners here good composition and depth of field. Do you have the the EXIF data for the shots? It would help maybe give some ideas or suggestions. What lense(s) are you using? Filters?


  4. In studying many images that seem much more compelling to me all had something similar in that it had a visual/idea/emotion that was being successfully expressed by editing down what was essential to the frame. Images with pure digital compositions never resonated with me; nor do overly usage of current trends like HDR.

    I’ve began to view the camera as a rudimentary translation machine between the image/vision in my mind and the end product which can be shared with others. Things like color tone/pallet and small image edits like cloning out distracting elements like power lines as they provide no additional context to the image are now no longer off-limits.

    Maybe give more aggressive post-processing a try. It might be a worthwhile tool set to add to help express your vision in ways that might be be possible at the time of capture.

  5. Cat… thanks for the references to articles etc.!
    Tom… was the exif data stripped when I uploaded? Hrmpf. I’ll have to check on that. In the meantime, the important exif info for 1639 is:
    Colour representation: sRGB
    Shutter: 1/3158 sec.
    Lens Aperture: F/5.7
    Focal Length: 135mm
    F-Number: F/5.6
    Exposure time: 1/3200 sec.
    ISO: ISO-800
    Metering mode: Pattern
    Exposure program: Manual
    Exposure compensation: 0 step

    I’m was using the kit 18-135mm (f 3.5-5.6) lens with a UV filter only.

  6. Kent… I agree wholly! An image needs to tell a story, preferably a compelling one 😉 Finding something I connect with, and which I can capture in such a way that others will connect with it too is a tough one, and where the shift from snapshot to art really comes to fruition. I think I need to do two things from your suggestion: study more of the images which really resonate with me in order to de-construct into elements which I can identify and implement, as well as work on more aggressive post-processing to do the same.

  7. I think 1639 works because there seems to be more interplay between the subject and background even tho it’s blurred for better subject isolation. I think it’s because overcast skies tend to have such a diffused light that there’s no contrast with the skies in the wider field of view shots even though I think the compositions/framing are great on those. The lack of “pop” and dynamic range seem to make them seem more lackluster than they really are but this place seems perfect to revisit in different lighting conditions.

  8. Kent… Ha! You say overcast, I say sunny 😉 It was a gorgeous Oregon day… the sun was actually making shadows in spite of the clouds!

    Yes, fighting overcast days are indeed troubling when trying to capture more of that striking pop I want. Just need to find a way to work around it though, as it isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

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