Unfinished Symphonies

I never thought knowing when to stop would be so difficult.

I know that for many photographers the actual decisive moment of pressing the shutter is the moment they live for. They carry their fresh new image, hermetically sealed and protected, back to their darkroom, Lightroom or whatever their chosen editing suite is and enjoy the moment of revelation when the image they have brought home with them will be revealed for all to see. They believe that time spent on processing is time that could be better spent pounding the street, seeking out new vistas for that elusive sunrise or framing up new poses for their latest model.


Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy that. But (whisper it) I also enjoy processing my images. Most of my images are grabbed in 1/500 of a second but I can often spend far longer adjusting exposure, contrast, clarity, dodging and burning in the warmth and comfort of my own home. And I can drink coffee while I do!

Then there’s the moment when processing is complete and I can convert the image into a JPEG ready for posting online - frozen forever in its finished state like some prehistoric creature beneath the ice of the Arctic never to change again.

For the first time since I’ve been taking photography seriously I recently had a dozen large black and white images printed (thank you The Printspace - top job). There was a bit of preparation that needed doing to ensure that they reached the printers in the way that was best for them but these were basically the finished JPEG’s that I had tweaked, honed and so proudly posted online to a good reception.

However, one thing I wasn’t prepared for was the feeling that I had finished. There was to be no more tweaking, no more considering, no more trying different presets - this was what they were going to look like. Forever!

Two days later they arrived, securely wrapped and shielded in their cardboard armour. Unwrapping them eagerly, I was blown away. Not only did they actually look finished, they looked great - somehow, exactly how I had envisioned them (well dur....). How could I have created such large and professional looking prints? Yet, deep inside, there was that niggle that no matter how much I wanted to, there was no longer anything I could do to interfere for better or for worse. It was not unlike raising children to adulthood and sending them off into the world to make their own way. The images are out there now.

Not only that, they are installed in their own exhibition space - don’t even start me on what it was like leaving them wrapped and in the hands of the curator!

But, still, I must learn from this; learn to finish more and free them to be bold and confident just as they are.