Test shot portrait in the home studio

Learning Curves

Learning curves are constants in life. Rarely a day passes without some new knowledge permeating our thick skulls. Particularly so for those actively seeking knowledge, understanding, and self development.

As a photographer I have much still to learn. I hope to be on that learning curve for the rest of my life. There is always more to learn. Always more to discover.

I’ve been producing art and prints for many years. I try new ideas and methods frequently just for fun. It keeps my interest fresh. Also, my tastes change over time. I went through a phase where all my photos simply had to be over saturated. Then, a phase where I maxed out contrast, crushing the white and blacks on every image. Then a monochrome phase. I liked the look of each. Until I didn’t. Then I changed style. My subjects rang the changes, too. At one time I fixated on kitchen items, macro shots of cutlery. These did not make it online. Most recently, birds. Landscapes. Portraits.

All these were learning curves. I wanted to know how to achieve specific goals. Photographing a bird in flight is not the same as taking a shot of a stationary rock. How best to achieve these objectives? I went and found out. After which, I had that skill under my belt, and moved on.

Photo Editing

Quite separate from the art of learning to use a growing assortment of physical cameras and lighting equipment, photo editing demands lifelong learning curves, too. The two disciplines go hand in hand. In both photography and photo editing, once the basic principles are understood the skills are transferable.

One camera does largely the same as the next. Likewise, one piece of software does largely the same as the next. Some do certain things better. There are those that spend their lives arguing in favour of one product or software program over another. I choose not to do that. I can use whatever tools are available. That makes me more flexible and productive. Hand me a camera or sit me in front of a computer and, because I understand the core principles, the underlying math, I can jump right in: I’ve already got those learning curves under my belt. It’s just a matter of finding the button I need to push, which slider to move. I can take it from here.


That is not to say that the learning curves are over. Cameras get new abilities. Software updates add new features, remove or move others. Just keeping up with updates can be a challenge. Most software has certain wrinkles, hidden things which, once known about, can turn things entirely on their head. And send a person charging off down another road on whole new learning curves. Which is fun. Case in point…

I’ve been using and teaching Adobe Lightroom since it first launched. I’m still finding new ways and workflows. Just today I discovered a new one. I created a flat linear camera profile which adds new dimension to my images. I can apply it with a click to reduce contrast and, most importantly, much of the digital noise inherent in every photograph. I mean every photograph.

It was one of those Eureka moments. The new profile has been tried on a number of images and I like the alternate looks achieveable, the subtle edits it allows, and the detail enhancement gained by the removal of much of the digital noise in the raw files.

Not Bored Now

When experimenting I routinely become my own model. Simply because it’s quick and easy and I don’t have to bring in a model for the duration. Which may be extensive, therefore expensive. This image of myself is from a quiet Sunday in a home studio set up to discover something, as part of another learning curve. I was bored. It was part of a quick test series of shots.

This and a bunch of similar images were natural test samples for the new profile, as they were originally shot to have high contrast and that added noise in the shadows. This looked great as previously edited, and still does, but when I looked at it again after applying this new profile I saw that shadow details were vastly improved. No haloing. No noise.

This could be a game changer. This might be my new style.

Test shot portrait in the home studio
Test shot selfie

The weekend will be spent wading back through images, revisiting edits previously made to see how they look with this new profile. So far, results are promising. A different look. More subtle. I really like. And I have some work to do. Work that I am happy to do.

Because even after a decade of doing this I found new learning curves today. Onward.

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