Sunday, March 18, 2012


It must be the time of year.  In parallel with my flirtation with pinholes and lens adapters, I've been having a little fun with Photoshop filters.  In general, I regard these as the work of the devil, as they encourage the sort of lazy, complacent non-achievement that "instant" results of any sort do.  I get the impression that painters and printmakers feel much the same way about photography, but we won't go there today.

But sometimes, if one has a general interest in image-making, it can be instructive to see what happens when you relax the strict boundaries that, inevitably, you end up placing around your "practice".  I am always mindful of the life drawing classes I did 40 years ago, when we were set exercises such as, "do a one minute drawing using ink on a pointed stick", or "draw a series of cross-sections through the model's body", or "draw the space around the model", etc.

The purpose of these exercises was not to produce finished drawings, but to open your perceptions in a useful way.  As George  Clinton said, "Free your mind, and your ass will follow".

The original photograph

An Henri Rivière lithograph filtration

A Samuel Palmer aquatint etching effect

The ones I have chosen to show are hardly radical transformations, but I think the interesting thing is how these "pictorial" filtered versions reveal what are both shortcomings and hidden properties in the original version; things that could be worked on to improve it.  Notice, for example, how the "lithograph" version enhances the sharpness and definition of the shapes (look at the bricks and branches), whilst simplifying the colours, and how the "aquatint" version pulls the tonalities together in a more satisfying way.


Martin said...

I've played with some of these filters, in a non-scientific way, you understand. I don't believe I ever managed what you've achieved in the third photograph. It just goes to show, that pleasing results can come from careful application, even where SFX are concerned.

Mike C. said...


Most of the canned filters are unsubtle, but can be useful if you ignore the label on the tin, and just find out what they actually do, and what kind of image they work best with. The fact that a filter is called "stained glass" doesn't mean that's the only way you can use it.

I think the filters could be most useful in the hands of someone who knows how to use layer blending properly, but that's not me... Yet, anyway.