Sam And Janet Evening

Sam And Janet Evening

They may see a stranger across a crowded room – and somehow they’ll know, even then, that they’ll be photographing them again and again.

But there’s a problem – Sam has been welding pipelines for years while Janet has been the usher at the local Roxy – as a result of their jobs Sam can’t see any colours duller than 90 on the saturation slider and Janet can practically see in the dark. They are continually fighting with each other over who left the seat up on the Photoshop program last.

It gets worse. Sam has a big old DSLR that is practically glued to the factory program settings – he’s managed to reset the colour and the rendering to ultra-vivid but other than that he just takes what it writes. It seems natural to him.

Janet, on the other hand, has fine-tuned her mirrorless compact camera to see just above the threshold of vision – with a fine nuance of what might be red, blue, or green. No-one else is sure as the pictures look like barely tinted monochromes – we just take her word for it that that’s what she sees in real life.

The Sam and Janet Studio so far has had limited success in portraiture. Clients pose willingly enough but once they are presented with the electronic proof sheets you can hear their laughter echoing through their dreams.

They’ve got it bad, but we’ve all got it to some extent ourselves. All our eyes and brains are individual, though we may share the same equipment with others. Once the signal passes our own retina, it’s ours, and whatever our brains do with it literally can colour what we do with the files.

Sometime cameras help – they can reproduce a look time after time. As long as we specify what the signal will be processed into inside it, we can get jpegs that look similar. If we decide to bypass the camera’s opinion and make our own mistakes in post processing, we can do so with the RAW files in any number of programs. But we’ll find ourselves doing one of a number of things:

a. Opting for the contents of the tin – like Sam – without making any effort to change it.

b. Doing like Janet and reducing the information to what other people see as practically nothing.

c. Doing as we’re told – a client is the important factor here. If they know what colour red they want their soup can to be, that is the colour it should be. The hand that signs the cheque rules the post-processing room…believe me. Arguing with the customer is nonsense, no matter how right you are or how wrong they are.

e. Doing what gets you awards. This is customer payment of another sort. Plaudits, trophies, and titles may not be as desirable and spendable as cash, but they might be the only thing on offer.  If you are into gathering them you may need to listen to the judges and give them what they want to see to get them to give you what you want to have.

f. Being scientific. This has had a bad name when it comes to making H-bombs, but can still be seen as a viable approach with colour renditions. You can do red, green, and blue as numbers and also render hues, saturation, and brightness as degrees or percentages. Get a recipe for the soup can red in the proper numbers and even if it looks wrong to you, it’ll look right the the people who can it.

No denying that different cameras render colours and contrasts in different ways – that’s what the factory sets them to do, and it might be done for cultural as well as artistic reasons. It’s also true in most cases that the rendition can be changed  in the menu settings to alter camera A so that it sees like camera B.

And those people who are addicted to never finally making up their minds about anything* there is always the chance to cruise the net and gather formulae for film simulation with your camera. Tables of recipes for historic films and treatments. Many of them for the same film stock but totally different at the same time. That’s the result of the various experimenters all having their own memories of the originals.

The safest practice may be to take a RAW image from your picture box and do your experimenting within a good editing program. If it enables you to save custom combinations you can formulate your own book of looks. The most successful people who have done this  – and who have found clients who wanted those looks – can trade on them for decades.

*Like me. Or maybe not. Not decided yet…

Heading Image: Jasmine at the WAMED Grand Bazaar

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