The Photographer’s Interpretation

Here’s something interesting.

Kodak has for years, indeed all the time I’ve been a photographer, offered films to the professional market and different films to the amateur market.  They now choose to call the latter the ‘consumer’ market.  The choices to both are rather more restricted now but the principles remain the same as they ever did.

When looking at the colour films, one of the fundamental differences is that of the strength of the colour rendered.  The colour rendition in ‘consumer’ films is, in the main, much stronger than in the professional stock.

Continuing on the same theme, in a digital camera, the pre programmed ‘in camera’ Jpeg manufacturing software tends to exaggerate colour saturation. This varies from camera to camera, but the principle has continued.  Most consumers use what has come to be known as ‘point and shoot’ cameras and some use more esoteric equipment but the majority of people shoot in Jpeg mode and become used to it’s output.

Another observation I enjoy, is whenever I am invited into someone’s home and the television is on, the colour and contrast levels are usually set very high.  Obviously, some are much worse than others but the trend is invariably there and bears absolutely no similarity to what was in front of the film crew’s camera on the day of the shoot.

The other day though, I had an experience which made me smile.  I went to the home of another professional photographer which is a very unusual event.  When I arrived, he was watching television.  What struck me was the fact that it was the first time in ages that I had observed a television with a colour, contrast and brilliance set up that looked just like mine at home!  I’ll leave you to draw the obvious conclusion.

Now, let us look at colour from another point of view … that of the painter.  By that, I don’t mean Splash and Run High Street Painter and Decorators.  I mean portraitists and landscape artists and the like.

Now, here we get into one of my other things, that of photography being representational or accurate depending upon client requirements (previous blog), but there are circumstances when a photograph can touch both of these at the same time, and this is one of them.

A painter will always deliver his personal representation of what he sees.  Two painters will never produce the same picture of the same subject.  What is interesting though, is that unless one is looking at one of the more surrealist efforts where colour is often exaggerated for effect, the colour applied tends to err on the natural, regardless of the interpretation.

I have coined an expression for myself and it is “colour pollution.”  It refers to the exaggerated colour presented to us in preset electronic image files.  From a subjective point of view, this exaggeration is not necessarily evenly spread over the whole image file. It is often more obvious in the shadow regions, this being in the nature of the technology, but I will resist the temptation of expanding on this here and now. I hand colour all of my electronic colour work … just like a painter.  Indeed, before the advent of colour film, monochrome prints were often tinted manually to obtain a colour image.  The way it is done today is rather more sophisticated but the principle has a rather pleasing resonance.  My intention is to achieve a colour that doesn’t intrude. A colour that ‘rests easy’ with the fundamental tones present in the image.  So often, one observes colour which ‘blocks in’  the tones and detail which makes the image what it is …

… the photographer’s interpretation, if I may.

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