The word metamorphosis is in itself very magical and mysterious and the process that it refers to is equally mystifying and enchanting. A profound transformation of the form by a natural or magical process. An alteration in condition looks or spirit.
One of the most common examples of metamorphosis is also one of the most spectacular. The transformational change of the caterpillar into a butterfly. Other instances of metamorphosis abound in the natural world but the concept of transformation change is also integral to the creative journey. At a basic level, the photographic process is all about transformational change from one state to another. When we see a scene in the real world. We then use our cameras and light sensitive chemical emulsion or light sensitive digital sensors to transform that scene.
The transformations to apply to most photos are not extreme makeovers that turn an image into something totally different, but adjustments to the basic components that make up photographic images. Before we get into the particulars of some of the techniques, let’s take a look at these essential components to better understand the most effective ways to transform and image.
Before you even start pondering whether to use curves or levels, you should take a good look at the image and see what it tells you. To help you concentrate on only the image, press the F key once and place the image into full-screen mode with the menu bar. Then press the tab key to hide all of the photoshop palettes and tools. Now you’re viewing only the image with no other distractions.
At the most fundamental level, the adjustments that we make to images can be distilled down to four basic areas. Lightening, darkening, adjusting contrast and if the image is color, changes to the color balance.
Before you start thinking about procedural details of how to accomplish something in photoshop, you should look at the image and think in those broad terms of lighter, dark and more contrast or less. The human eyes are attracted to lighter areas and to contrast.
How might such adjustments help guide the viewer’s eye through the image? With adjustments to tone and contrast, can you more effectively emphasize certain areas of the images or alter the mode of the scene?
Once you’ve determined what the image needs, then you can think about which tools and techniques in the digital darkroom might help you achieve those ends.