Photography: Got Signature?

I get asked about my photo processing alot. It’s a challenging question. For me, processing a photo starts before I even press the shutter.  I take a picture when it tells a story, moves me in some specific way, sings to me (really!) – all of which ends up as this fluttery feeling in my stomach that tells me “that’s the shot”.  I see it as all part of my personal point of view in life, or “signature”. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked through the viewfinder and thought… that’s a lovely picture, but it’s not talking to me. Meh. And I skip it. Because I know that when I see it later on my computer screen, my soul will heave a big sigh and say “Really? REALLY? That’s the best you could do?” And I’ll feel bad that I disappointed it. I hate disappointing my soul and do my best to avoid that at all times.


So, I could tell you about my adjustment layers, my blending modes, my sliders and which plugins I used, yada yada. But  I still wouldn’t have answered your question. Which REALLY is…

“How do you consistently get that look that makes me always know I’m looking at a Karen Hutton?” (fill in your own name here; that’s what you’re really asking about.) Personally, I think that answer is less to do with software sliders and more to do with knowing yourself. Knowing who you are, what you love, what you stand for, what your preferences are, how you want others to feel in the presence of your work – all that stuff is key. Of course, that’s easier for some people than others. But for me personally, it comes before processing or even before taking the picture.

For instance, I love stories and movies. So in my mind, every photo I take appears in my head as either a frame from a movie – or a an scene unto itself. I also enjoy my imagination. Take this photo. That day, Milford Sound felt like it was having a moody, mystical fairyland morning.  The mists would swoop in, obscuring your line of sight one minute, then swirl out the next. Those cloudy mists swirling and webbing around in front of the  mountains reminded me of the first moments of waking up. The log and rocks gave me both a leading line and an interesting foreground, and made it feel like we were moving. It’s like when you’re asleep and dreaming about something one minute, then the next thing you know, you’re rushing toward wakefulness. There’s that moment when you first open your eyes in your warm, cozy bed and become aware of your surroundings – but everything’s still a little cobwebby. “Dream” and “Awake” are the same for a second.  That’s the sense and feeling which gave me a vision for the colors, the focus, the framing, the softness vs. texture and whatnot on this photo. Hey, I’m not saying this is a perfect photo, the new cover of National Geographic or anything like that. That’s so not the point.

When you process a photo from your signature/point of view, no one will ever guess your exact thoughts.
But they will sense the imprint of YOU in it. Your signature view of the world. It’s as obvious and recognizable your voice.

Hey wait… it IS your voice! We can hear it, even in your processing. How’s that for something to ponder?