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Creating Dynamic Images

New Direction

I think that something that is more important than a photographs technical execution is its ability to be dynamic.

Base Photo

Hitting all the technical specs such as correct exposure or framing is only the first step, the whole point of hitting all of those technical highs is only to give yourself a good photo that is evenly balanced so that when you take it into Photoshop you have the range to do whatever you like with it.

The Base photo should be balanced with detail in shadows and highlights and a good range in between. Later on you may choose to blow the highlights in processing or even recover details. I often use the analogy that “A base photo is to a photographer what clay is to a potter, you’re only collecting the best material to work with” Like a potter you then need to take your clay (photo) and shape it into what you want to convey.

Dynamic Tools

There are a lot of ways to make your base photo more dynamic, the first thing to consider is the software you wish to use to process your image. I personally use Adobe Lightroom for archiving my photos and from there I export it to Photoshop.

Things that make a photo aside from the content is the play between tones, colours shadows and highlights. Every artist has his or hers photo cook book otherwise known as workflow, Some choose to work on light and shadows first and others will work on colours first. As you work on more and more images you will naturally fall into one of the two. There is no right or wrong way of going about it so just play with it.

Tools to consider when playing with your photos tones, colours shadows and highlights in Photoshop are:

  • Curves
  • Levels
  • Dodge and Burn
  • Brightness/Contrast
  • Exposure
  • Vibrance
  • Hue/Saturation
  • Colour Balance
  • Channel Mixer
  • Selective Colour
  • Gradient Map

Of course it’s not a case of using them all but choosing some based on which would bring out the best from your photo.


Something I really want to get across is that there is no right and wrong with photography even though some would have you believe otherwise. Online I come see a lot of photographers who ram a lot of “photo is no good because highlights are blown” about people’s photos when their own photos with recovered highlights and detailed shadows look so dull I need to be put on suicide watch. It’s knowing when to be reserved and when to push a photo’s dynamic range that will separate your work from others. I dare anyone to Google their idols and search through their work and you will find that they did not play by rules so why should you.

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