I've been struggling to find a verb that accurately describes what I do between deciding to make a photograph exist and showing it to the rest of the world. It's all 'process' to me, but the connotations of 'process' and 'post-process' and 'editing' and 'adjusting' get in the way of what I think I'm doing.

I like the simple, somewhat brutal term of 'process', though. It calls to mind a methodical sequence of actions, applied carefully to a particular means.

I cannot easily show you every single step, because not all of them are visual, and not all of them are easily shared from my world to yours.

Here's an image produced after I have exposed the film (which happened at the time and place of the image), developed it (which happened weeks later in the darkroom), scanned it (during which the scanner, which is just a very specific kind of camera attached to a computer), but before applying any adjustments beyond what I did in the scanner software:

Here's the same image, after I applied a 'curves' adjustment layer in Photoshop:

And here's the actual curve itself:

There are a few things you can read from that screenshot. In the background of that chart is a histogram that tells you how much of each tone of pixel there are in that image. The diagonal line is a reference point for 'make no changes to these pixels'; the curve, by default, follows that line. In the middle of that curve, I pulled the line upwards to make that bulge; this tells Photoshop to do some math and make the greyish pixels slightly darker.

The ability to do this is not unique to Photoshop. My phone's camera app has a 'curves' option, which shows the exact same interface. If you're really careful, you can write a script to apply those edits directly to the file itself. In the darkroom, it's possible to do this by using different contrast filters to adjust how much each part of the image gets exposed.

It's all process.

11 January 2015

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