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Presets And Peacock Tails

May 21, 2012

I wanted to follow-up a bit on my previous post about presets. And what better way than to post some comparative examples of how they can be a powerful tool in the photographic tool kit.

It’s one thing to take a pretty photo of  a flower or peacock feathers and something entirely different to end up with a photo that can make a lasting impact. I’m fond of saying it’s pretty hard to take a bad photo of a rose. The rose cooperates. It hangs around until you’ve exhausted every angle and taken so many shots that in the end you pretty much guarantee that you’ll have one you like.

But how many photos of a rose will stay with you, will make you feel as though you are seeing it in a way you never have before?

I’m fond, as most people are, of peacock feathers. They are one of nature’s most flamboyant and joyous creations. It’s hard to imagine a bad photo of one. But, as a photographer my goal is do more than take a simple photo of a peacock feather. I want to make an image that stops the viewer and forces them to take a deep breath and re-discover such a familiar, well-loved object.

This is where presets come in very handy.

I can run the same image through multiple presets in a fairly short time. I can assess them for impact. Hold out for that moment when my analytic mind shuts up and I sit back in my computer chair and go wow! I live for that moment. I’m learning not be satisfied with an image unless that moment arrives. That’s why I take hundreds of thousands of photos, so I can discard the acceptable ones and feel excited about the images I keep.

So, here’s an example of a photo I took last Wednesday of a peacock tail.

Straight out of the camera with a little clarity and contrast tweak.

It was bland out of the camera and even tweaking it with small contrast and saturation corrections didn’t produce any wow. So I went into preset mode and began experimenting.

Peacock tail with a vivid preset touch. Heavy on contrast and saturation. Bold!

And this:

Accentuating the greens, also high contrast, but warmer in colour tones. Bringing out a sense of the hot climates the peacock is native to.

and this:

Bringing out the cooler blue tones, and taking away the colour saturation in some areas to add impact to the eyes of the feathers.

Do I have a favourite of these three? Not yet. They all speak to me. They stand out each in their own way and give me a sense of discovering something unique in each one. They aren’t exact representations of the tail as I saw it that day, but that’s only one aspect of photography; creativity and artistic license is also important.

I grew up admiring the images I discovered in National Geographic magazine. That early exposure means that my taste in photography runs fairly true to that style. Photo documentation of the natural world in one of the major reasons I pick up the camera. Until now, I’ve lacked the confidence and the skill to break out of that and play with interpretation.

Presets give me that confidence. What they don’t give me is the answer as to which one of these I like best. ::sigh:: So, if you have one you prefer, please let me know. I’m extremely curious to find out which one carries the mostimpact.

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