The standard photo-editing software bundled with Windows® includes something called “filters.” These are pre-set changes to photos that affect how they look: the only creative control I have is how intensely to apply the change.
When I’m editing photos this way (as opposed to selecting a set of individual changes) I don’t have a default setting, but if I did it would be “warm contrast” applied with a light hand. “Warm” because I don’t like being, or even looking at, cold. “Contrast” because adding just a smidge improves most of my photos to my eye in ways that I find hard to articulate. Thank goodness not everyone has the same problem.
Contrast in photography is the visual ratio of different tones
in an image. This difference is what creates the textures, highlights, shadows, colors and clarity in a photograph.
Yeah, yeah – visual ratio: I was just about to say that. Anyway, and finally, a “light hand” because too much warmth and/or too much contrast changes “better” to “stagey.” Artificial. Unnatural.
There are photos, though, where adding warm contrast is Plain Wrong: harsh and unhelpful in some way that I find hard to articulate. They just don’t look good, much less better.
So it is with photos of snow, I think, of which we have our first heavy wet abundance today. Every surface with any claim to horizontality, and many with clear vertical leanings, is laden with grey snow. I know it must be white but the overwhelming impression is grey, from featureless sky to falsely flat ground. In this landscape bereft of any warmth, visual or otherwise, the filter that works is “dramatic cool,” adding contrast and blue light.
Would that I had the option of applying a filter to my days: some selection that would allow them all to be warm and inviting. But as with photography, it seems that the best I can do is to try to improve the sunny ones and to get the best out of the grey ones. Maybe the trick lies in seeing not one day but my entire life as a photo with both warmth and drama, and with just enough contrast, just enough difference to make the whole better, in some way that I find hard to articulate.