Processing Street Photographs in Classic Chrome

There has been a lot of black and white imagery on this site lately as I shared my “96 Hours in Paris” series, so I think it is definitely time for some colour.  In this post I’d like to share 15 new street images that I have taken recently, talk a little about Classic Chrome and highlight a few steps in my post production workflow.

One of the questions I get asked a lot via email, and one of the things we discuss during my street photography workshops, is how I post process my images.  While some people consider “post processing” to be a dirty word (I know, I know, it is two words), the truth is that working with images in post has been done since the early days of photography.  I definitely subscribe to the “get it right in camera” approach, but I also recognize that many images benefit from a little extra work.  My goal then is to get the photo as close as possible in camera through the careful observation of light and good camera skills; and then, I give the image a final polish in post production as needed (maybe 30 seconds to 2 minutes per image max).

I LOVE using the Classic Chrome film simulation found in the Fuji X Series of cameras for colour street photography.  There is something about it…the colour palette matches my aesthetic perfectly and has a look that I was immediately attracted to when it first came out.  I think it is worth emphasizing that last thought though… “it matches my aesthetic”.  This article is about processing colour street images the way I like to make them, which usually involves contrast and bold colours.  Other photographers may have a different look or approach that they like and that is 100% okay.  After all, art would be boring if we all did it the same way, wouldn’t it?

I have used Classic Chrome extensively since its release and I find the key to making compelling images with it (as with most photos actually) is to have the right light.  When the lighting is flat and muddy I definitely don’t have the same success with Classic Chrome that I do when I have good light.

Let’s use the following image to look at my processing workflow.  Here it is, shot in RAW, straight out of camera in all of its unedited glory:

For context:

I was walking from a meeting with one of my students in downtown Vancouver when I saw the elements of this photo coming together quickly:  the bright, late afternoon sun casting light on the building, the shadow of the pole on the wall, the orange colours and the subject walking toward the intersection.  This photograph is an example of why you should always be ready when on the streets.  Now, being ready doesn’t have to mean being intense, being “in the zone”, etc… but you should always be seeing and your camera should always be ready (you can click here to see how I set up my cameras for street photography).

The first thing I do when I am editing images is decide if it is going to be a keeper or not.  Sometimes this is obvious, other times less so.  This photo came out a little under exposed and the white balance is off a bit, but I love what is happening at the centre of the frame (the light, the subject, the shadows, the colours, etc).  There are a few distracting or unnecessary elements in the scene though, like the car on the right, but a square crop should clean those up:

That’s better.  The exposure isn’t quite where I want it yet, but I like the frame.  I usually wouldn’t crop this much out of a photo, but the moment happened fast and I was across the street when I took it.

Now, let’s apply the Classic Chrome film simulation:

See how the contrast changed?  I love contrast.  I get giddy when I see beautiful shadows to be honest.  This is usually where I adjust my blacks and whites to maximize the tonal range, then make a slight adjustment to the white balance as needed.  I find this is where Classic Chrome comes to life for me:

That’s what I’m looking for.  At this point I always take another look around the photo and see if there are any distracting elements that may lead the eye out of the frame.  In this case, I think there is a hotspot along the lit wall at the top of the frame that is distracting.  Luckily, this is easily fixed with a local adjustment:

That is pretty close.  A bit of export sharpening and this one is good to go.

Could I achieve this look in camera shooting jpeg only?  I could definitely get close by selecting the Classic Chrome film simulation and pushing the blacks and whites, but I find I still often make little tweaks in post.

Here is a series of street images captured over the last few months at random times, all taken because I saw the light first and then processed as described above:

In a future post I’ll also go through my workflow for processing black and white street images; and, if you are interested in learning more about making images like these (and many others) definitely consider attending one of my street photography workshops!

Until next time,

Ian

p.s.  If you enjoyed this article I also have one on shooting silhouettes on the street that you may find interesting.

2018 Street Photography Workshops

I am pleased to announce new dates in 2018 for my 20 hour street photography workshop!

My goal with these 2.5 day workshops is to help you find your own vision as a street photographer,  to enhance your creativity and to give you the tools to make the images you see in your head.  During the workshop you will learn about:

  • The history of street photography
  • Legalities and ethics
  • How to prepare yourself and your camera for a day on the streets
  • Considerations for crafting story-telling images
  • How to work effectively with light and shadow
  • Composition
  • Techniques for shooting candidly
  • Techniques for approaching strangers and making portraits on the street
  • Editing and post processing

Along the way you will gain confidence, have fun, make new friends and capture great images!  And, through it all, I will be there right beside you offering advice and feedback.  I have been teaching for over twenty years now, up to and including at the college level, and I love everything about the process of helping a student achieve their goals.  Multiple diplomas in Adult Education and Curriculum Design, plus thousands of hours in the classroom, have provided me with so many incredible moments and memories and I can’t wait to spend more time in 2018 doing what I love the most… teaching.

Here are some of the things previous students have said about their workshop experience:

“Practical and inspirational are the two words that describe my feelings about the workshop I just completed. An evening of theory and classroom instruction. Then a day and a half of shooting to have lots of time to implement the theory and techniques. Then a half day of image review.  Small group and individual instruction. Ian keeps checking in encouraging you. I increased my confidence and now have a great set of techniques and compositional elements to work on. Workshop started and stayed on time. No wasted time. I highly recommend taking Ian’s workshops.  Thanks again for a great weekend. I hope to see you on the streets sometime.”

– Paul

“I found the course to be fantastic and totally worth the weekend!  I really enjoyed the interaction with the other students and seeing the pictures.  Their feedback was so valuable to my development as it allowed me to gain perspectives otherwise not available in the private workshop.  Thanks!”

– Jeremy

“Ian’s style of teaching is easy to understand and I found him to be accessible to me and to everybody.  I especially appreciated how he set aside time for each student, since that personal touch is what I am looking for when I take any sort of class. I liked how he “set us free” on Sunday to wander on our own and put what we’d learned to some independent use. I also was impressed at how he clearly explained some of the features of the Fuji X100T/F that I had not understood, even though I’ve had my camera for 18 months and tried to school myself on its various features. The possibilities are endless with this camera in my hands.  I knew that BEFORE this weekend, but AFTER the weekend I’m even more certain the investment was money well-spent.  What can I say??  A huge thank you, Ian.  I love your approachable and organized teaching style and look forward to meeting up with you again down the road.”

– Susie

“Truly excellent workshop. The skills I acquired over the weekend resulted in four of my favourite urban images, photos I would never have have taken prior to the workshop.”

– Doug

The following 2018 courses are now available for registration (click each link for more information and to register):

Montreal Street Photography Workshop:  May 25th to 27th, 2018
Vancouver Street Photography Workshop:  June 15th to 17th, 2018
Paris Street Photography Workshop:  July 13th to 15th, 2018
Vancouver Street Photography Workshop:  August 10th to 12th, 2018
Toronto Street Photography Workshop:  August 17th to 19th, 2018

Note:  All of these workshops sold out in 2017,

so don’t hesitate to book early!

I look forward to working with you and to helping you develop your vision and confidence on the streets!

Best wishes,

Ian

96 Hours in Paris – Part Four

A few years ago my PTSD raised its ugly head, a hidden scar from years of working as a paramedic that plunged me into darkness.  The long process of healing, of becoming whole again, taught me a lot about mindfulness and purpose.  It led me to re-define my entire life, for the better.  In a strange way PTSD ended up being one of the best things that ever happened to me because I, like many others before me, built a new life out of adversity.

This trip to Paris, which came on the heels of teaching a sold out workshop in Amsterdam, was a celebration of this new life in a way.  There is a saying you hear every now and then that goes something like “build a life that you don’t need to take a vacation from”.  That, right there, is exactly what I have done over the past few years.  On this trip I walked the streets of Paris for 96 hours, a camera in my hands, creating art.  Art that I will write about.  Art that will be sold as prints.  Art that I will share on stage during my presentations.  Art that I will use to support my workshops and the books I have in development.  Not art made on a vacation, but art made as part of the creative life that I built and choose to live.

And, to get to do it in Paris, a city that I love dearly, is a beautiful thing.  After all, Audrey Hepburn said it best:

“Paris is always a good idea!”

I hope you like the final set of images from this series.   I have really enjoyed processing them, and I am very thankful for all of the kind words and comments that they have received.  Sharing art is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?

Until next time!

Ian