To Fade Or Not To Fade.

(Disclaimer: This is an opinionated post about my own journey as an artist, and does not intend to bash anyone who’s style resembles the subject matter.)

Avan Patel 1

Avan Patel(Top image is the orginal image. Bottom was edited by me. Photograph by Avan Patel)

Filters and presets should to help accentuate your style, not rely on them. Create stronger images and then the presets will just polish them up. No amount of filters can save a boring image.  But the wrong level of adjustment can make an interesting image fall flat. I see an oversaturation of the emphasis on filters, or gear online and to me, loses focus on what I feel is most important.

Im always battling with myself about what I think looks good to me, and what looks good for other people. I’m often so focused on presets and final polished edits. It’s like I can’t escape it. I instantly want to try a trendy style, copy it. Make it my own and potentially find some use for it in my own work.

While stealing is a natural part of the creative process, I’d like to beg the question, at what point is stealing just being lazy instead of being a source of inspiration? Some days I am confidant with my images. They stand out amongst the sea of other images. On good days I see cohesive styling, at least with colors and contrast anyway.  But this perspective weighs the shallow features of the photo more heavily than the content. Lately my focus has been wanting to showcase colors and contrast heavily. To me, they stimulate the senses. They enhance the moment, letting the memory stay vivid forever. 

Astelle Shoot-18.jpg

(One of my images taken early this year. Slight faded blacks, giving an even tone throughout the image. Whereas the faded image, mutes the vibrant colors and makes the photo seem two dimensional.)

But then I see an image, that has a eye catching model and background, and their black point (essentially how faded or deep their blacks in the picture are) is way up, faded to all hell. Sure it may look good on a screen and that is because it will only ever end up there. I guess I cater to that as well. I’d say maybe 1 in every 5000 of my pictures may get printed.

Working in a photo print lab though has made me a purist when it comes to immaculate prints. And let me tell you, any fade filtering on an image will show up as washed out or bland on most good quality photo papers, and in my opinion weakening the image. I guess I want to stay true to the rather rigid print requirements just in case but also want to give the most appealing image. And that’s where I am. Stuck in between my past and my present.

Now I’m not exactly sure where the faded fad came into existence. My guess is with the come back of film and the millennial adoption of the medium. Because film is in rather short and expensive supply any CVS roll is usually fine for any teen with their grandparents K1000. They take the shots, get them developed and scanned for the Gram of course. Most often the shots will come out with a grain or faded look which is all the rage these days. I get it. Film is a more demanding medium compared to digital. No instant gratification, only a small (relative to digital) number of shots to available. It is more rigid and thus requires more skill from the photographer to get pleasing results. These days we have it easy. With a click of our trackpad we can slap a near perfect Kodak Portra preset on a picture and BAM! its ready for tumblr or trendy Pintrest board.

So I guess what I am getting at here is that I see this emulated emulsion everywhere. It’s got that nostalgic flavor underneath the surface that people can’t get enough of. We are the most nostalgic generation in a long while after all, so I suppose it’s only natural. Don’t get me wrong, it’s popular because it works. I have experimented with it and have even incorporated a scaled back use within my own retouching. But I have seen and used it to excess far too often.

I have tried to tone down my editing to try and give it a slightly more natural feel. The photographers that I am starting to really learn and look up to don’t rely on these gimmicks for their images to blow us away. They have all the power they need within the frame rather than what’s on top. The subject matter is ALWAYS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF A PHOTOGRAPH! Maybe I am at a place where I have been editing the same way for so long that I have forgotten why I edit the way I do. I like the vivid colors, deep blacks and crisp whites but those are just reactionary preferences to those details. 

I’m all over the place with this post. So apologies for the half thought out ideas and rambling paragraphs. I think I’ve reached a point where if I don’t post this now, I will edit it into an unreadable garbage fire. If I was able to resonate with you, amazing! If not, that’s awesome too. We don’t all have to agree on everything. I like it better that way. Contrasts of ideas can stir the creative process rather well. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the Fading Fad in the comments below. Keep your head up and trust your struggle.

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