Considering special effects

September 29, 2017  •  1 Comment

"artistic filter", equipment, "museum of glass", tacomaIn the Hot ShopMuseum of Glass, Tacoma. Artistic filter.

“But if less is more, just imagine how much more more will be.” - "Frasier"

Thanks to digital technology, today’s photographers have an almost unlimited variety of creative tools at their disposal.  We have the means to add special effects in-camera as well as during post-processing.  Playing with these tools is great fun, and I think they can often jumpstart creativity and help us to see images in a new light.  But I’ve started to rethink how, and when, to use special effects.  More and more often, when editing images and considering the use of a special effect or filter, I find myself questioning the process.  Does it make the image stronger?  Does it convey the story that I want the image to tell (or reveal a story that I didn’t realize was there?)  Does it create an image that immediately shouts “special effects!”?  Yes answers to the first two questions are good - but a yes answer to the last question immediately makes me stop and think.

Ever vigilantEver vigilantLaws Railroad Museum, Bishop, California. Artistic filter. One thing I’ve been doing is dialing back on the strength of special effects - filters in particular.  When I decide to change a photograph by adding an artistic filter, I’ll duplicate the background layer (which is always a good idea anyway, since it reduces the chance of ruining the original image file).  Then apply the filter to the duplicate layer.  Then experiment with reducing the opacity of that layer.  It’s interesting how often I find that the artistic effect is more pleasing when I reduce its opacity by 50% or more.  

The images shown here were the result of that restraint.  Both of them were images that suggested carefully arranged still lifes, with objects that were well worn.  After applying an artistic filter that seemed to bring out the best in the image, in each case it seemed even better when the “artistic” layer became more transparent and blended with the original.  Is it possible that I’m learning the art of subtlety in my old age?


Carol Leigh(non-registered)
Yes! Yes! Yes! Your second image especially caught my eye. The red bucket is terrific. I can't identify the things in the first picture, and as a result bypass it to check out the red bucket again. And again.
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