On (not) being a purist

by Starla J. King on February 3, 2012

My move from film to digital photography was fraught with angst. Not because of any deep loyalty to the film process, but because of my fear of the new ability to easily manipulate the recorded image.

“Cheating,” I thought. “I would NEVER… ” I thought.

And then I started seeing the vibrancy of digital photos. And the instantaneous playback of a moment in time. And the ability to immediately delegate photocrap to the digital trashbin.

So I made the switch. With a badboy attitude and a heavy dose of impurity guilt, I took my Nikon D70s out for walk after walk, clicking away like a banshee with my newfound digital freedom.

I justified the switch by promising myself to NEVER EVER use the digital image editing software beyond maybe (if I was feeling particularly rebellious and brave) a skootch of a crop.

It was good for me, that time of purity. That time of keeping the visual “truth” (yes, in quotes) of the moment of capture and holding myself to a gazillionth-of-a-second timeframe for perfection.

And then I started noticing how much more I FELT other people’s digital photos. The COLORS, oh the vibrancy! The details shimmering off the page/screen! And the clarity.. omg, the eye-riveting CLARITY!!!!

So maybe I could make just a few teeny digital edits. Nothing to really change the photo, of course… just a light adjustment here and a smidge of color enhancement there to make it look more like I felt when I took the photo.


“To make it look more like I felt when I took the photo.”

Isn’t that what art is all about? Trying to externally convey our internal experience in a way that transcends the mere sensory experience?  In other words… activating FEELING in others?

Long story and several years short, I’ve recently discovered Aperture and Photomatix photo editing software (for Mac), and photography has become one of the most fully creative experiences I know. (Don’t worry, writing is still waaay up on that list… just in a different way).

First there’s the thrill of the hunt, the sensory opening up to possibility of beauty or intrigue.  But then… oh yes… then I get to continue the memory and experience of that captured moment as I edit the image:

  • That little yellow flag that caught my eye in the first place?  Let’s bring out that color to demand focus.
  • The heart-breaking jagged line of a home in decay against the smooth blanket of sky?  Let’s enhance those edges to bring out the pain.
  • The untrembling boldness of a crocus daring to suggest spring while snow still rules the winter?  Let’s zoom in on that and make it look the size of Goliath.

(Click photos to enlarge)

Purity has its place, most definitely.  But so does coloring outside the lines.  Give yourself the freedom to tweak those things that will express you more fully to others… and to yourself. Mix it up.  Turn over the apple cart.  Sharpen your edges one day and soften your squishy spots the next.

Now go purchase my eCourse and fire up your creativity!  The world is ready to experience YOU.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Steven February 3, 2012 at 7:54 pm

My journey has been similar. I now realize that photo editing takes at least as much thought and effort as does taking the photograph. No shame in creating what I think of as photoart.
I recently discovered Viveza which is an intuitive focal editor which makes it simple to enhance contrast, saturation or sharpness in the center of interest with just a few clicks and sliders..


Starla J. King February 6, 2012 at 10:34 am

Svn, I’m struck by a particular part of your sentence: “No shame in creating” — really the deeper point of the whole conversation here, isn’t it? Hmmm… important stuff.

Viveza? OH NOOOO not another fabulous tool ! 🙂 Adding it to my “gotta have” list. My art requires it.

I love being witness to your creative stuff.


Robert February 6, 2012 at 10:32 pm

Starla, I left a message, then somehow bounced myself right out of your site! To wit, I asked, Do we live in the same city? Mine is dreary, workaday. Your’s sings in both word and image! I love how your digital eye washes the mundane with delicious color and texture. I dare you to go back to 35mm film. And there is no shame in laboring on in the lengthening shadows cast by Starla and Steven!


Starla J. King February 7, 2012 at 11:12 am

RRobert! But wait, wait… I look at YOUR photos and wonder how is it possible that you live in the colour-drenched tropics while I live in the barrio… yet we’re mere minutes apart?

well, one thing we do agree on? That 35mm film is a thing of our past. Good riddance. And re: dares– I dare you to explore Svn’s Viveza. !

May the photography wars continue as they fuel us all to higher creativity 🙂


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