Putting Perfume on a Pig

April 27, 2015  •  2 Comments

The other day, I walked around downtown Tinley Park (a suburb of Chicago) and was taking pictures. I liked some of the compositions, but the lighting was flat. It was mid-afternoon and the sky was overcast. But, it wasn't a dramatic sky. It was the kind of sky that produces dull photographs.

Initially, I hoped to capture a baseball team photo during this time. The overcast lighting would have been perfect for that subject. This kind of lighting produces low contrast--which makes it ideal for being able to see a face under the bill of a baseball cap. Unfortunately, the team was missing a player so the team photo will need to be taken at a later date. Hopefully, I won't be dealing with harsh sunlight during the replacement date!

Since Tinley Park is just a few miles from where I live, it would have been best to just pack up the gear and return in better lighting conditions. But, I got caught up in the compositions and didn't place enough consideration on the light. As a result, I spent an hour or so taking a variety of pictures that are mediocre at best.

As my post processing skills improve over the years, my chances of saving some of these mediocre files improve. But, regardless of editing skills, I've learned that nothing replaces a quality file that's captured at the time of the exposure. Trying to save photographs in Photoshop is kind of like "putting perfume on a pig."

When I was younger, I played the trumpet. During one of my music lessons, I added some "vibrato"--a bending of the pitch up and down while holding a note. My instructor stopped me immediately. He said that adding a vibrato isn't necessarily a bad thing. But, it's not a good thing at all to use the vibrato to try to cover up the inability to create a pure tone. You need to start out with a quality tone before playing around with special effects. I think this applies to photography. I must strive to create a quality file straight out of the camera in order to consistently produce better photographs.

Here's one of my images (straight out of the camera except for the crop) from my Tinley Park session:

Oak Park Avenue StationOak Park Avenue StationOak Park Avenue Train Station at 6700 South Street in Tinley Park, Illinois on April 24, 2015 I think it's really dull. So, I made some adjustments during post processing to create this picture:

Oak Park Avenue StationOak Park Avenue StationOak Park Avenue Train Station at 6700 South Street in Tinley Park, Illinois on April 24, 2015 I think it's improved. But, this kind of "Photoshop lighting" will never match the real thing. On a side note, there's no way that the above image would be accepted into any of the microstock agency portfolios. The extent of the post processing manipulations has all but destroyed the image quality at the detailed level.

For comparison purposes, here's an image from my previous photo shoot of the Orland Park Train Depot with very few edits in post processing:

Orland Park Train DepotOrland Park Train DepotOrland Park Train Depot at 143rd Street & Southwest Highway in Orland Park, Illinois on April 13, 2015 One good thing about my visit to Tinley Park is that I have a better understanding of the compositions that I like for my return visit in better light.


Glenn Nagel Photography
Thanks Gary...I appreciate your comment. It motivates me to continue writing blog entries! Glenn
Perfume on a pig, I like it. I've always known it as putting lipstick on a pig. Either way, it describes what I've been doing with my photography, and because I went down that path years ago I'm not enjoying photography today as much as I should be. I'm going to try and change that, thanks in no small part to your post.
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